USF’s incoming vice president of research carries with her a stellar resumé, but Karen Holbrook also brings some baggage.
She boasts terms as president of Ohio State University and vice president of research at the University of Florida, but USF faculty and researchers did not consult on her hiring, and her arrival comes after a less than ceremonious exit from OSU.
Although the University has offered the position to Holbrook on an interim basis and thus is not required to form a search committee, any time faculty are excluded from the process of selecting the administrators that oversee their work should be a cause for concern.
In Thursday’s Oracle, Sherman Dorn, head of USF’s faculty union, summed up the concerns of some the faculty he represents: “Regardless of the professional quality of person appointed, the University is supposed to be governed collegially. It’s not good to have (a hiring like Holbrook’s) happen without faculty involvement.”
Holbrook will oversee the faculty Dorn speaks of, and her interim status is shaky grounds for omitting their opinion.
It is unethical that faculty had no say during the process of her hiring, especially when one considers the circumstances under which she left her position as president at OSU.
Though Holbrook resigned, the buzz in local media was that the University’s trustees gave her little choice in the matter.
At OSU, she was accused by students of ignoring undergraduates and was constantly criticized in the student newspaper, The Lantern.
Additionally, statements she made while interviewing for the position of president at Florida Gulf Coast University showed signs of a disconnect with undergraduates, as well as a total lack of discretion.
During the interview, she said OSU had “a culture of rioting … When you win a game, you riot. When you lose a game, you riot. When spring comes, you riot. African-American Heritage Festival, you riot. They think it’s fun to flip cars, to have really drunken orgies.”
It’s understandable why USF faculty is worried about her surprise arrival. There is a place and a time for comments without inhibitions, and a job interview for the presidency of a university doesn’t qualify. It’s unprofessional and embarrassing that the president of OSU felt that way about her own students and was so public about it.
Let’s hope she shows a bit more discretion and restraint, as well as respect for undergraduates, during her tenure with USF.