On Friday, Sept. 13, the Black Faculty and Staff Association (BFSA) sent President Stuart Bell a letter outlining a list of concerns and demands for creating a safer environment for African American students and employees at the University.
Now, 13 days later, members say only one of their demands have been met: to make details of the search for a new vice president of student life public.
“We are concerned about the composition of the vice president of student life search committee,” the fourth demand in the letter stated. “Additionally, we are concerned that the names of the search committee members have not been made public. BFSA needs a full member representative on this search committee and for the members of the search committee to be publicly announced to ensure a spirit of transparency. We strongly suggest the public release of committee member names be added as part of the process of conducting searches for upper administrative positions.”
BFSA is concerned about the circumstances surrounding the resignation of Dr. Jamie Riley. Here is a letter outlining our concerns that was sent to President Bell. pic.twitter.com/Pudt72BUdN
— UA BFSA (@bfsa_ua) September 13, 2019
David Grady, who served in the position for four years before resigning in the summer, was responsible for the hire of former dean of students Jamie Riley, whose resignation was revealed on Sept. 5, just a day after a Breitbart article surfaced his past tweets. Currently, Kathleen Cramer is serving as the interim vice president of student life.
At a town hall meeting held by BFSA to address concerns surrounding Riley’s resignation, BFSA president André Denham advised audience members to attend any forums held, as well as to vet students selected for the searches for both the vice president of student life and the dean of students.
“We need to be finding out where they’re coming from, what actionable things they’re doing that are important to students of color,” he said.
The Crimson White received no comment on the nature of Grady’s resignation nor received any details about a search until Sept. 17, about two months after the original announcement of his departure on July 26. Last week, associate vice president for student life Steven Hood confirmed that a search for a new dean of students would occur shortly after the search for the new vice president was completed.
A website released earlier this week, (ua.edu/vpsl), now shows the full timeline and search committee. The application is now open and interviews will begin in mid-November. Open forums will be tentatively held for finalists and the public in mid-January, which means that the search for a new dean of students may not take place until the spring semester. University spokesman Chris Bryant said that currently, the dean of students’ duties have been reassigned among existing staff. It is unclear whether an interim dean will be assigned before a new search is conducted.
The search for the vice president of student life will be conducted by a national firm, Academic Search, which has been around since 1976. The national firm that conducted the search for Riley in 2018 was Spelman and Johnson, which formed in 1991 and also specializes in higher education.
According to Academic Search’s website, 81% of all dean appointees hired through their firm have stayed in their positions for at least five years, and 54% of searches in the past five years have resulted in the hire of a female or minority appointee.
By contrast, 54% of Spelman and Johnson’s student affairs searches have resulted in the hire of a woman, while 26% of hires were people of color, according to the firm’s website. A higher percentage of people of color (68%) hired through this firm has retained or been promoted from their positions than women hired through the firm (62%), though it’s unclear what the criteria for retention are.
The 11-member committee is chaired by chief administrative officer Chad Tindol and includes two students: Student Government Association (SGA) president Harrison Adams and Courtney S. King, who was honored by the BFSA for her academic achievements last year. Eight members of the committee are white, and six total members are women.
“We try to make sure there’s diverse representation both from a staff/faculty perspective,” Hood said. “There’s a balance of the art of looking at how many searches may be going on in a specific unit, and you have to be mindful of tapping into your resources of staff and students.”
On Thursday, Sept. 24, the BFSA launched a social media campaign to raise awareness about Bell’s silence on other concerns the organization stressed, which included demands such as: a statement affirming free speech for all; a plan to recruit and retain diverse faculty, staff and students amid the fallout of negative press; a plan to enhance recruitment, hiring, retention and promotion of diverse faculty, staff and administrators; and to make the EEO and Title IX autonomous offices under the jurisdiction of the Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
“It has been 12 days since the Black Faculty & Staff Association sent President Bell a letter outlining six concerns our members have and actions the University should take to address them,” the post stated. “Only concern #4 has been addressed. We need all concerns to be addressed.”
We are still waiting for UA to let us know that #blackfacultyandstaffmatter.
Our letter to President Bell can be found pinned to our profile. #aminextua pic.twitter.com/4pmX36ZfUr
— UA BFSA (@bfsa_ua) September 24, 2019
The BFSA also suggested details about future searches for administrative roles be made public. Since the summer, however, several role changes have already taken place.
Below is a list that The Crimson White compiled of those changes, some of which were advertised via UA News and some of which were not, such as Riley’s departure, the departure of Shane Sharpe and the renewed search for a director of the office of student media, among others.