The University of Utah faculty may question the leadership abilities of President Chase N. Peterson, but there is no doubt about Peterson's competence in the minds of two men who oversee boards governing the U.
Both Douglas Foxley, chairman of the 16-member State Board of Regents, and James S. Jardine, chairman of the U. Institutional Council, praised Peterson in wake of the U. Academic Senate's overwhelming vote asking the council and regents whether Peterson's continuation in office was in the best interest of the university.Only the regents have the statutory authority to hire and fire college and university presidents.
"I think President Peterson has consistently been one of our most outstanding presidents," said Foxley. "Obviously, the last year has been a difficult year, but Chase is highly regarded, respected and thought of by the regents."
Council chairman Jardine said: "We greatly admire President Peterson's abilities and his many contributions to the University which the faculty may be overlooking in the feeling of the moment."
He singled out Peterson's lead in fighting the tax initiative, which would have severely curtailed state funding for higher education.
"He was one of the heroes in that debate," Jardine said.
The U. will hold a "president's dinner" Friday to honor the donors who raised $200 million for the U. during a five-year capital campaign.
Foxley, a lobbyist, has observed Peterson closely on Capitol Hill as he pressed higher education's - and particularly the U.'s - case with legislators.
"I think the university has been incredibly served by Chase Peterson. He has a rare talent in relating to legislators across the board. I think the U. couldn't have been better served. Chase has a style that is a rare gift," Foxley said.
Peterson himself has kept a low profile since the senate vote Monday. He did, however, issue a short statement through the U. public relations department Tuesday afternoon.
"Monday's action by the Academic Senate in recommending a review of the president must be taken seriously by the Board of Regents, the Institutional Council and myself.
"The university is an arena of important ideas where differences in attitude, priority and values among its members are freely expressed. The process by which we address these differences must be open, thoughtful and constructive, with a view to the best interests of the university.
"This week the university celebrates the significant achievements of our students at commencement. We also gather with hundreds of donors to mark the successful end of a five-year capital campaign. When these celebrations are completed, I anticipate discussions with the regents, Institutional Council and faculty members," the statement read.
Foxley said the regents plan to consider the faculty resolution June 22 at their monthly regular meeting. "There is no question that any time a faculty group makes a request that the regents will listen intently," he said.
The regent chairman said the regents may decide to move up one of Peterson's regularly scheduled reviews.
The presidents of the state's nine colleges and universities are periodically evaluated with the help of outside reviewers. These formal reviews are conducted once after three years and then every five years. Peterson is due for his eight-year formal review in early 1991.