Summarized by Kent Larsen
Brown U Recovers From Departure of its LDS President
BrownU Daily Herald 29May00 P2
By Shannon Tan: Herald Staff Writer
PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND -- Three months after the abrupt resignation of
Brown University's LDS President Gordon Gee, the University is recovering
nicely, although Gee's reputation on the campus is not. Gee, who was an
unusual choice for Brown's president according to the Brown Daily Herald,
served as President for just 25 months, the shortest tenure of any president
in Brown's 236-year history.
In his previous presidency, at Ohio State, Gee was so beloved that when word
of his impending departure got out, a group of students, wearing T-shirts
that plead "55,000 Students Need You," linked arms in front of his parking
space and sang OSU's alma mater. In contrast, two days following the
announcement that Gee would leave Brown to become Vanderbuilt's Chancellor,
students at Brown held an "anti-Gee party."
According to the Daily Herald, Gee tried hard to connect with Brown's
administrators, faculty and students. But faculty worried that his
credentials were more professional than academic (Gee has doctorates in law
and education) and students seemed to expect that he would be more like his
predecessor, beloved Brown University President Vartan Gregorian.
Gee tried hard to reach the students by setting a goal of having every Brown
student over to his house. He visited an English class to share the story of
his late wife's battle with cancer, and he even decided to forgo a formal
inauguration ceremony, saving the University $150,000, which he put towards
financial aid and library funding. And these efforts seemed to be working,
raising his approval rating among students to 56%.
But many still criticized Gee's projects, such as his plan for an $80
million life sciences building, which was criticized because it 'neglected'
the humanities, and his attempt to simplify the University's administrative
structure, which they claimed actually made the administration more
complicated. Even Dean of the College Nancy Dunbar admits, "We're not an
easy place to come into," and adds, "Maybe we can rethink the way we
welcome a new president."
But while the University community was graudually accepting Gee, he was
courted by Vanderbuilt, who had extended tenure to his wife, Constance, at
Vanderbuilt's college of education. Vanderbuilt then put together a package
for the couple of about $1 million. Brown Chancellor Stephen Robert decided
not to make a counter-offer, and Gee decided to leave.
In leaving, Gee explained that Brown wasn't the right "fit" for him or the
University, which he said lead to the criticism of his administration. But
again critics said that the real reason was the financial package, and his
wife's tenure at Vanderbuilt.
Now Brown has moved on. Two days following Gee's announcement, Sheila
Blumstein was appointed interim President, and the University continues to
fill major administrative openings, such as the Dean of Faculty, Dean of
College and Associate Dean of College.
And one administrator, Provost Kathryn Spoehr, says that the University is
better for the experience, "We learned a lot about ourselves -- that we're
stronger than one person," she said. "We found out that we had resources
within ourselves to do the things we needed to do."