University Studies director to be replaced

An interim director of University Studies will take over the position for the 2006-07 school year, replacing the program’s current director, Judith Patton.

Patton’s three-year contract, the second she has served over the last six years, expires at the end of this year, and the administration has decided not to renew the contract for a third term.

Terry Rhodes, vice provost for Curriculum and Undergraduate Studies, said the administration will begin a nationwide search for a permanent director this coming fall to replace the interim director after the 2006-07 school year.

Patton, who has worked within the University Studies program for nine years, including six as director, originally planned to continue working as director of University Studies, but will now teach University Studies classes as she did before her tenure as director.

The Review Committee for University Studies wrote a recommendation suggesting that a new director of University Studies be hired to replace Patton in its April review of the program. Rhodes said the committee should not have made this recommendation and that the decision the administration made to find a new director had no connection with the review committee’s recommendations.

“I think it was wrong of them to say that,” Rhodes said. “I argued to the chair that it was inappropriate and unnecessary. It is not their role to make recommendations about personnel.”

Chair of the review committee, computer science professor Cindy Brown, was away from Portland State and unavailable for comment. Rhodes said the decision not to extend Patton’s time as director is due to an effort to develop the University Studies program.

The University Studies program has received national recognition and awards for its development, he said, and because of this the administration is looking to hire a person of national caliber to fill the position.

“Judy has done a wonderful job of strengthening and establishing the program,” Rhodes said. “We’re at a point where we can go national and recruit top-notch people from across the country.”

Rhodes and Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Roy Koch informed Patton that she would no longer occupy the position of director as of Friday. Patton said she did not know exactly why the administration is looking for another person to fill the position, but that she did hear that individuals believed she was a barrier to developing the program.

Patton said that beyond rumors, no other direct complaints about her performance were given. Both Patton herself and Rhodes said she has helped develop University Studies into the strong program that it is today and bring to it national recognition.

Rhodes said that the change was not made because Patton did not perform, but because the administration believes a new person with new ideas will help move the program forward.

“The campus needs to recognize that this is a nationally recognized program,” he said. “We’re not making the change because something has been messed up, but because we have the opportunity to recruit for the best people in the country.”

Audrey Ward, a senior mentor in a freshman inquiry class, said her experience with University Studies has been positive. Ward said she has interacted little with Patton during her time in the program, but said Patton has carried the program. Ward said the only complaints she heard about Patton were rumors that freshman inquiry professors are unhappy with the way Patton runs the program.

Patton said changes in administrative positions, like Koch’s designation to provost last summer, have left her questioning how the university prioritizes University Studies.

She said the University Studies program has never been fully funded and that because of budget cuts, the administration has looked to reduce the cost of the program.

“Where does the program stand in terms of priority?” Patton said. “What kind of institution do Dan [Bernstine] and Roy want?”

Rhodes said the University Studies program is a high priority to the administration and that this search for “the best people in the country” is part of showing its priority. Candidates from PSU will be considered, Rhodes said, and will be given the job if they are the best for the position.

The interim director will serve only for a year, and the administration is currently considering several names, according to Rhodes. He said establishing an interim director, rather than extending Patton’s contract another year, will make the process of establishing the new director more fluid.

“It allows for an easier transition for the new person to come in,” Rhodes said.