After what amounted to a vote of "no-confidence" by the faculty, the fate of University of Utah President Chase N. Peterson was in the hands of the State Board of Regents Tuesday.
And the regents won't decide for more than two weeks whether they want to evaluate the U. president's leadership.Shortly after the U. Academic Senate questioned Peterson's leadership abilities Monday afternoon, Higher Education Commissioner Wm. Rolfe Kerr and regent Chairman Douglas Foxley met and agreed that the faculty request will be brought to the 16 regents at their regularly scheduled meeting June 22.
"There is substantial institutional and individual interest involved. The Board of Regents cannot make a quick or hasty judgment. It is very important that the entire board deliberate this matter," Kerr said.
He gave no indication of how long an evaluation of Peterson would take if the regents agreed to do it.
Following the senate vote - believed to be the first vote of "no confidence" in at least the past 40 years - Peterson was unavailable for comment. However, a U. spokesman said he might issue a statement Tuesday afternoon.
any decision by the regents and the U. Institutional Council, he still has confidence in the leadership abilities of Peterson.
"The governor has been supportive of President Peterson, and while he (Peterson) has made some mistakes, overall he has been a great asset to the University of Utah, and the U. is fortunate to have an individual of his abilities as their leader," said Bud Scruggs, Bangerter's chief of staff.
At the Academic Senate, which includes mainly faculty members and some students, members overwhelmingly voted Monday to ask the U.'s governing body, the Institutional Council, and the governing board of the state higher education system, the State Board of Regents, to determine if Peterson should keep his job.
Peterson was not present during the senate debate.
"The academic senate respectfully requests that the Institutional Council and the Board of Regents examine the question of whether continuation in office of the current president is in the best interest of the University of Utah and of the community which it serves," said the resolution, which was made by history professor Sandra C. Taylor and seconded by several faculty members.
Actually, by law, the regent board is the only body with the authority to fire and hire a college or university president. Any involvement by the Institutional Council would be at the regents' request.
The faculty senators made it clear that they were not calling for Peterson's resignation, nor were they censuring him. They said they are tired of continual controversy swirling around Peterson and want it moved out of the public arena.
"I think this proposal is one that we can objectively debate out of the press. This institution has been hurt enough, and it's time for an objective body to look at the facts. . . . If this motion passes, I hope everyone will cut out the rhetoric. We owe that to the president and to the institution to stop the public bloodletting that has been going on," said law professor John J. Flynn.
One medical faculty member assessed the resolution's focus as one of effective leadership, saying the university had been besieged by one crisis after another, the latest being the flap over the $500,000 "anonymous" donation to the National Cold Fusion Institute. The money actually came from the University Research Foundation, which uses surplus funds from Research Park leases and rentals for U. research endeavors.
Science faculty, led by Hugo Rossi, dean of the College of Science, last week criticized Peterson for leaving the impression that a private donor had invested in cold-fusion research.
Although they weren't specified during senate debate, issues raised by the faculty in the past have criticized Peterson for his overall handling of cold fusion, especially its initial announcement, the proposed renaming of the U. Medical Center because of a $16 million donation by James L. Sorensen and the elimination of the office of academic vice president, which faculty members traditionally had seen as their voice in the administration.
The latest controversy led to the formation of the Academic Restructuring Committee, which has proposed changing university governance and elevating the academic and health science vice presidents to senior status. Faculty members have hailed the proposal as a move to greater faculty involvement.
Board to pick auditors
Auditors for the University of Utah's National Cold Fusion Institute will be picked on Thursday by the state Fusion/Energy Advisory Board.
The board is scheduled to meet at 12:30 p.m. in the Governor's Board Room at the Capitol.
Raymond L. Hixson, chairman, said the board's executive committee is recommending a full scientific review and financial audit - and a complete management audit of the independent corporation.