Provost search a worthwhile endeavor

The new provost is the old provost. The faculty is grumbling about a decision that USF President Judy Genshaft made. This is hardly a new thing. This time the grumbling came mainly because she did not make a decision, which many thought was a foregone conclusion, fast enough. But since the appointment will affect USF for years, the administration was wise to take its time and ensure that the right decision was reached.

The six month search officially ended Monday when Genshaft announced Renu Khator would be the new provost of USF, the second most important position after the president. Khator, former dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, had been interim provost since July and had been positively received among many faculty members.

It is no surprise that the faculty favored Khator as the best choice. She has, after all, said that one of her “goals is to provide competitive salaries for our faculty” and that there was an immediate “need to raise faculty salaries to competitive levels.” Since the bargaining agreement ran out in January of last year, the faculty has been without a formal contract. A provost who will champion their rights while a new agreement is being reached will not only be popular with the faculty, but will also salve the rift between faculty and the administration that has existed for some time.

So why did it take so long to come to this decision? This question has been heard from many faculty members. For many professors The Oracle talked to in the months leading up to the announcement, the decision was no surprise. Yet a nationwide search for other candidates had been conducted, flying three other candidates in at USF’s expense to conduct lengthy job interviews.

If the compensation other departments receive after hiring a professor in their department are any indication, this whole endeavor was quite costly. The History Department, for example, receives about $2,000 to compensate for costs such as transportation and lodging it has to invest in order to hire someone. Candidates for the position of provost, being so high profile for the university, will likely cost much more. Costs like these, some faculty members argue, could have been spent more wisely, especially since USF’s budget is slim to begin with.

Yet the search may have been necessary to ensure that the best person was hired for such an important job. By hearing what plans other candidates had for the future of the university, the administration and faculty have also been exposed to new ideas. The result is a strengthened community that not only knows it has a leader that will perform well, but also one who is the best choice for the job.