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Hiring process lacking transparency

U of R president Vianne Timmons smiles like there's nothing wrong
U of R president Vianne Timmons smiles like there’s nothing wrong

Contract extensions, internal hiring criticized by faculty

Professor Dennis Fitzpatrick says the hiring of out-of-scope employees, who make up the administrative aspect of the University of Regina, is too secretive and results in more internal hiring.

“Hiring of out-of scope employees used to be done in an open and transparent manner. At one time, everybody, with the exception of the president, was interviewed in a open public process,” says Fitzpatrick. “Now, the university has this policy which gets rid of the public aspects, which makes the hiring process very arbitrary and very secret. The chair of the committee has all the power to recommend their own candidate.”

At the same time, Fitzpatrick sees a disconnection from the principles of the policy, which hopes to recruit outside talent, but has yielded five internal hires in the past two years. Judy White, Dean of Social Work, was appointed interim dean after what Fitzpatrick says was “not a real search for external candidates.” She was appointed permanently.

Fitzpatrick went on to claim that several other hires, such as Dean Harold Riemer and Jennifer Tupper, were illegitimate. Reimer was “not a real hire, as there was no search committed. The old dean stepped down and after [Riemer] was acting dean for a while, and then was appointed dean without a search”. Tupper’s hiring was the result of a “failed search,” says Fitzpatrick.

In regards to another internal hire of Dave Malloy to vice-president of research, Professor Chris Yost says, “The issue is about process, that’s where I see a problem. The out-of-scope hiring process isn’t transparent. This won’t be news to President Timmons; I was very vocal about process when she drafted the committee for the hiring of the vice-president of research. There’s a relatively new policy where the chair gets to pick the search committee members and that chair, by default, is the President. We had to fight to get a grad student on the committee, and grad students drive research. How can you have a committee to choose the vice president of research and leave out a big sector of who that concerns?”

Yost also lamented the lack of adequate faculty input during the hiring process. “At the end of the day the university is home to the faculty. They are the ones here for 25, 30 years. It’s not wonder they’re interested in who gets hired.”

Out-of-scope interviews are also now conducted in closed interview settings. The idea is to protect the confidentiality of the applicant, so that if they apply from an outside institution they don’t have to notify their current institution that they are looking for another position. Yost takes issue with this.

“You don’t have an opportunity to have input on the decision, and you don’t know the reason someone was hired. You can only speculate. You don’t know who’s interviewed. It was no surprise, though, that Dave Malloy was applying – he made it very clear. You are hiring leaders under this process. I don’t think that if someone feels the need to keep it secret, that they are leaders. I don’t know of anybody else other than Dave who was applying for the position, because he was the only person who made it clear. The committee is also forced to sign a confidentiality agreement so we have no idea who applied.”

Closed searches are supposed to hire top caliber candidates from outside the institution. However, under the policy, the majority of recent hires have been from inside the University of Regina.

Fitzpatrick brought his concerns about hiring and contract extensions for out-of-scope employees to the Carillon after reading the Board of Governors minutes and stumbling over an extension of President Vianne Timmons’ contract into 2018. Fitzpatrick says this extension was “double secret, because nobody knew it was going to take place and nobody bothered to publicize it. It seems that they weren’t about to tell us.”

The reason this was not publicized was because the extension was supposed to be a simple correction of an “error,” according to Natalie Tomczak, communications strategist at the U of R. Tomczak had initially sent the original contract from 2012, and later stated the correction “was not something we were aware of.”

The 2012 contract states, “the parties wish to terminate the original agreement as of June 30, 2012, and enter into this agreement… being a 5-year term commencing July 1, 2012 and ending June 30, 2017.” The out-of scope policy notes that each appointment is normally renewable for one subsequent 5-year period and that “renewals beyond the subsequent 5-year appointment will only be under exceptional circumstances.”

In this case, the correction of the “error” changes the end date of the contract for 2017 to 2018, meaning the second contract extends to six years.

A press release from Nov. 5, 2015 (After the Carillon’s inquiry) states, “the Board renewed the President for a second five-year term from July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2018.”

However, the contract in question seemed to give credence to the fact that original contract was being terminated in 2012 and creating a new agreement from 2012 to 2017.

“The process in the past involved more input from the faculty, and I think the board of governors seems to be a little out of touch with what’s going on at the university. President Timmons came within one vote of going to a non-confidence motion” says Fitzpatrick.

Other faculty members were concerned about the extension as well. Professor Stavrinides of the Biology Department says, “It surprised me. I would have thought that when this happened someone would say: ’hey by the way your president’s contract has been extended.’ One of the things the new strategic plans says is that the university wants to improve transparency, so I just don’t see how this fits in.”

Yost remarked that most of his colleagues “have no idea this happened.”

Fitzpatrick told the Carillon, “The out-of-scope policy and the contract extension of the president just show that there’s a lack of transparency in administration.”

Mark Brigham, faculty member of the Board of Governors, says, “The president is hired, fired, and paid by the board. It’s nobody else’s decision. That’s the nature of our job. Faculty have every right to speak to the board, and speak to the president directly, but the power is vested in the board. Faculty would like to have a say, but they have no responsibility. At the end of the day, they don’t have all the information, and if faculty is saying we should fire this person, the responsibility isn’t on them when the decision is made – it’s on the board.”

About Derek Cameron