Interim President Thad Seymour Jr. and Interim Provost Michael Johnson addressed former provost Elizabeth Dooley's suspension during a Faculty Senate meeting on Thursday.
Seymour began his report to the Faculty Senate by reading the statement he sent out to faculty earlier that day which assigned College of Sciences Dean Johnson as the interim provost.
Seymour said that he made this decision because there was no defined timeline for Dooley's leave. Dooley was placed on paid administrative leave on Jan. 10.
He admitted that Dooley's suspension had caused some confusion and was under review. Because both Dooley's privacy and the vetting process needed to be respected, Seymour said he would not discuss the issues publicly.
"I can say that the reviews of the concerns are ongoing," Seymour said. "And it's going as swiftly as possible with no defined timeline, thus the decision to make the change."
Senator Margaret Ann Zaho raised concerns about how Dooley's suspension will affect the presidential search. She said the suspension might cause potential candidates to lose interest in becoming the next president.
Zaho asked how UCF would explain what is happening in the administration to a potential presidential candidate. Owing to these changes, she thought, could lead to concerns about UCF for potential candidates.
"It feels it might put us in a great disadvantage in who might ponder the possibility of coming here and working with us with what is currently happening," Zaho said. "How do we sell this now?"
Johnson delivered his first report at the meeting, expressing both regrets at Dooley's suspension and optimism about the responsibilities of the Office of the Provost.
He said his main focus is to do an excellent job in the new position and to hear the concerns of faculty. The office has been changing to better support the faculty and students, he said.
"The office is reshaping in some very important ways into a unit designed to help faculty carry their work and focus on the success of students," Johnson said.
He continued his report by stating that the greatest danger of a scandal or some leadership turnover is not the outside impression of the university, but slowing the university's forward motion.
Johnson said not meeting the needs of the faculty is a problem for the university.
"It's a threat to us to see professors look around and say this isn't the place for me," Johnson said. "This is worse than the legislator being mad at us."
After the report, Senator Ron Weaver made a comment to Johnson about the distribution of information from the administration to faculty.
He said that the lack of communication between the administration and the faculty has been frustrating throughout the process of Dooley's suspension. The only information they could get about the matter was through outside sources, he said.
"I think we feel better, for the mood and the morale of faculty and staff, if the administration would consider a simple and clear explanation about somethings that are going on," Weaver said. "So, we don't have to rely on external communication that doesn't know the inside information."
Senator Mason Cash said that most of the information people in the community and faculty have are rumors about Dooley's suspension.
"Correcting the rumors that we know for sure are not true might be a way of damage control," Cash said. "So we don't let the accusations get out of control before the investigation is finished."
Johnson explained that, historically, some universities, including UCF, tend to keep things private after addressing that somebody did something wrong.
However, he said he disagreed with that statement because the public needs to know the truth.
"Almost everyone here is honest, hardworking and do their best," Johnson said. "But there are some bad people. I rather we acknowledge publicly, that we address it when it happens."
Johnson said at the end of his report that he would be better able to help run the university and give back to UCF. After 30 years at this university, he said, he has seen it continuously get stronger because of the work of faculty members.
"I believe we are on a path to be a prominent university that is both recognized for our research and for our determination to educate successfully a tremendous amount of a diversity of students," Johnson said.