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New post brings questions

Faculty leaders are working to clarify the duties of a new administrative post which has caused concern for some professors.

President Janet Holmgren and the board of trustees created the position of executive vice president and promoted former vice president for planning, research and multicultural programs Ramon Torrecilha to fill it over the summer.

Many faculty said they believed the executive vice president’s duties, including coordinating the college’s strategic development, managing the other vice president officers and standing in for the president in an emergency, were unclear and may usurp the power of the provost. The dean of faculty and provost is the voice of the faculty at Mills.

“We wanted clarification as to what the job would be and are making sure it doesn’t interfere with the responsibilities of the provost and dean of faculty position,” said chair of the executive faculty committee, Paul Schulman.

The committee met with the president to get clarification of Torrechilha’s new role and will create a memorandum of understanding in which both groups lay out what they believe the role will be in a future meeting with Holmgren, said Schulman.

“Other than the issue of acting head of the college, our concerns have been resolved,” said Schulman.

Holmgren said the position would not interfere with the provost’s role. “This position is no way meant to take away a provost’s power in setting the academic agenda of the college, ” she said.

The position was partially developed to help offset problems caused by high turnover in the provost position at Mills, Holmgren said. Mills’ last provost, Susan Steele, left the college last semester after serving less than a year. Other than Steele, there has been no permanent provost since at least 1999, according to Weekly archives.

“Given the fact we’ve had some disruptions in the provost position, this new position is needed,” said Holmgren.

Faculty leaders noted that having clearly defined roles for the provost and the new executive vice president is particularly important now that there is a search committee looking for a person to permanently fill the provost position.

The final sticking point in negations is that the new vice president would act as the head of the college in an emergency. “This is traditionally the role of the provost,” Schulman said.

Holmgren noted that the new position might not be a permanent part of administration. “We plan on evaluating how well this new job meets the needs of the college,” she said.

Torrechilha said many of his new duties were tasks he already performed. “A lot of the things I am doing now are things I was already doing,” he said.

Torrechilha said he would continue his work in much the same way he had before. “I think what I’ve been trying to do at Mills is approach every issue that comes my way by asking two questions: what’s the best for the college and what is the best for students?”

Schulman said that the faculty’s concerns were not about Torrechilha, but about the position itself. “Our concerns were about issues of administrative role and clarification,” Schulman said.