Duncan Debacle Divides Faculty

Disagreement among Wittenberg’s faculty members surfaced at the faculty meeting held on Tuesday, Sept. 9. At the meeting, Provost Christopher Duncan’s absence and President Laurie Joyner’s appointment of Mary Jo Zembar, professor of psychology, as interim provost were questioned.

While some faculty members are empathetic towards and even supportive of Joyner’s administrative decisions, many others believe that Joyner did not comply with the by-laws of the university’s constitution when she appointed the interim provost without first consulting the Faculty Executive Board (FEB).

Members of the FEB cited Article V of the constitution in defense of their opposition, which states that, “faculty shall participate in the establishing of policies and reaching decisions regarding appointment, retention, promotion of Faculty members and participate in decisions relating to the establishment or abolition of academic administrative offices.”

Joyner defended her decisions, saying that she was operating under severely limited time constraints and was forced to make the appointment quickly during the weekend before classes started. She also stated that the university’s constitution does not establish any specific guidelines for the appointment of interim positions in particular.

“I am not aware of any established process for selecting an interim appointment,” Joyner told The Torch. “I looked at the obvious candidates as highly competent and experienced potential choices.”

Joyner also continued to express full confidence in Zembar in taking on the roles and responsibilities of provost for the foreseeable future, despite many voices expressing concern for her sudden appointment.

While many faculty members were critical of Joyner’s handling of Duncan’s sudden absence — from appointing an interim to the way the university was informed of the situation — many others expressed support for her decisions, given the abrupt and delicate nature of the issue.

While she could not comment on the timing or details of Duncan’s sudden departure for sabbatical, Joyner stated that the eligibility for sabbatical was determined in Duncan’s individual contract when he was hired four years ago.

“All I can tell you is that we have both a provost and an interim provost,” Joyner told faculty members at the meeting. “Hypothetically speaking, if at some point in the future we need a provost, we will conduct a national search according to the University Bylaws.”

Joyner assured that if there were ever a national search for a new provost that students, faculty, and staff would be included in the process in an effort to remain transparent.

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