Home Education Third OU presidential candidate surrounded by allegations of causing hostile work environment

Third OU presidential candidate surrounded by allegations of causing hostile work environment

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At the third Presidential Candidate Open forum, Robert Frank, president of the University of New Mexico, discussed his specific experiences as a university administrator in dealing with cost control, diversity and commuter students.

His experiences as provost at Kent State University and Dean at the University of Florida supported his stories and initiatives at UNM.

Frank said he backed intercollegiate athletics funding, noted the retention rate of students at UNM has increased with Hispanic students leading the way at 83 percent, tentatively supported student activism — saying that he supports “all kinds of civil dialogue” — and spent some time on whether maintaining the tenured faculty population was the best option presented.

“Tenure track faculty are one of the cores of the university, but is a very complicated conversation that needs a strategic vision,” he said.

Conversation around Frank as a candidate has centered on his interactions with faculty and staff at UNM. A report ordered by the UNM Board of Regents says his treatment of his colleagues “may rise to the level of bullying,” according to the Albuquerque Journal. However, they went on to say the report found “shades of a hostile working environment” but did not find that Frank had violated the law.

These concerns of violence were also refuted by retired senior vice chancellor for the University of Nebraska Terry Hynes in a reader’s letter to the Journal.

“In his relatively brief time as head of UNM, Frank tackled some of the university’s most challenging goals, including: integrating the Health Sciences Center’s governance structure into that of the university as a whole (a campus equivalent of world war); reassessing UNM’s central information technologies services operations; resolving the U.S. Dept. of Justice concerns about UNM’s sexual harassment/sexual violence policies and procedures; raising student retention rates; raising the six-year graduation rate of undergraduates; advancing UNM in the face of multi-million-dollar decreases in state budget allocations; increasing UNM’s fundraising effectiveness; and engaging UNM more fully with local, state and national constituencies (as evidenced in the launch of Innovate ABQ). Frank is the first to acknowledge that all accomplishments in these and other areas are the result of a team effort,” Hynes wrote.

Frank’s contract at UNM was not renewed for a second term, but he brushed those concerns away.

“We have never had a two-term president in more than 30 years there (at UNM),” he said. “I was told by the search committee that they eat presidents for lunch.”

Frank signed an agreement in early December to leave office before the end of his term and to not sue the university for defamation. In return he will receive six months paid time off and a job as Director of the Center for Innovation in Health and Education, which originally had a salary of $350,000 and recently dropped to $190,000.

The last presidential forum will feature Pam Benoit, executive vice president and provost at OU from 2009 to the present, on Jan. 17 at 4:30 p.m. in Baker Center Ballroom. A livestream of the event can be found here.

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