CAS dean interviews for new job amidst departmental cuts

The Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences interviewed for a new job, sparking concerns from faculty amidst the proposed cuts being made to the College. 

A faculty member revealed that Dean Bill Falls visited North Carolina last week for an on-campus interview as a finalist for the Provost position at UNC Greensboro, along with concerns that Falls may be jumping ship after controversial CAS cuts.

Falls said concerns from faculty that his recent decisions to make cuts in CAS were an attempt to appear tough-minded for a new position are not logical.

“Making these decisions because I want to look good to get another job means that I’m looking for a job where they want someone to be a hatchet man,” Falls said. “I don’t want that job. This has been the worst four months of my career.”

In an April 27 post in UVM United Against the Cuts, Nancy Welch revealed that Dean Falls is a candidate for Provost at UNC Greensboro.

“If Falls has subjected the college to such body blows these past months in order to position himself as a tough-minded candidate for the national higher ed admin market, shame on him,” Welch wrote.

Falls said he was contacted about the opportunity in February and is now one of four final candidates.

“I don’t know that I need to look tough. In the Greensboro interviews they didn’t want someone who was tough,” Falls said. “The last thing they want is someone who suggests that programs close.”

Falls said he has no desire to jump ship or walk away from the challenges of the current situation in CAS.

“It’s one of these unfortunate things where word gets out and people get all upset and anxious and they start jumping to all kinds of conclusions,” Falls said.

He said this has been the worst time of his career due to the uncertainty he has inflicted on his colleagues.

“[The application process] has been very, very stressful to me, so if this doesn’t work out, I just can’t take that stress anymore,” Falls said. “If this doesn’t work out then I’ll happily finish out my time.”

Falls wanted this interview process to remain in his own hands, but it has since been spread throughout his college and the University.

“A faculty member in my college knew someone at UNCG and shared that I was a candidate, even though they were asked to keep it confidential,” Falls said.

Falls said that at his level of experience, it is common for search firms to reach out each fall with a set of new job opportunities. When this began for him, he said he reached out to his mentors in his college for advice.

“The advice I kind of got uniformly was it doesn’t hurt to try. You might learn a lot about yourself and about other institutions,” Falls said. “They said if it doesn’t feel right, you can always say no.”

Provost Patty Prelock said in an April 29 email that this is a logical step for Dean Falls, as he would be closer to family.

“This is a professional growth opportunity for him and a logical next step for his leadership career,” Prelock stated in the email.

In recent years, Falls has been a candidate at the University of Maine, Clark University, and State University of New York Albany, but chose to remain at UVM, he said. 

“For most of them, I don’t think I could be successful there from what I know of the institution, or I’m not interested in that job or maybe it’s a region of the country that I don’t think I want to live in,” Falls said.

Falls said he chose to explore this particular opportunity largely because of its proximity to his new granddaughter, but that he will likely remain at UVM.

“What I told folks at the places where I’ve thrown my hat in the ring over the last couple of years is that I’ve made a career out of taking opportunities. Opportunities that feel good. Doing things where I think I can be successful and make a difference,” Falls said.

Falls’ job at UVM is challenging, especially with the changes occurring now, but he is doing his best to work with his colleagues in CAS, he said.

“I make decisions because it’s in the best interest of the College, it’s in the best interest of all of the faculty and all of the students, and I understand that decisions I make may not please some people,” he said. “I try to make those decisions in full view.” 

Even if he is offered the position at UNCG, he will likely stay at UVM, Falls said. 

“I don’t think they’re gonna offer me the job, but if they do, one of the big decision points is, is this the right time for me to leave the college,” Falls said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do and a lot of things to finish.”

The narrative that CAS will eliminate 27 programs is false, but the plan to create a School of the Arts and a School of the Languages will go through and the Religion major and German major will remain, Falls said.

“I made these decisions because of the challenges we’ve had and I’m really grateful to my colleagues for rolling their sleeves up,” Falls said.