Former Sloan coworkers reveal past stories, warns about future searches
Published: Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, April 17, 2012 02:04
Faculty members from a Florida university recently have come forward questioning the search committees that hired a former Sam Houston State University dean after her sudden resignation in February 2012 after only six months on the job.
Two former coworkers from the University of Central Florida say search committees did not do a thorough job of looking into the past of Roberta Sloan, Ph.D., former dean of the College of Fine Arts and Mass Communication, whom worked at the UCF from 2004 to 2006.
John Bell, now head of the division of performing arts at DeSales University in Pennsylvania, knew Sloan during her time at UCF and served on that university’s search committee that selected Sloan.
“In conducting the search, we simply didn’t dig deeply enough to get the full portrait of the chair’s prior employment identity,” Bell said. “We simply relied too heavily upon the application materials that the candidate proffered.”
Bell said those actions proved to be a valuable lesson after Sloan left UCF upon accepting an offer from Temple University, which she held until being asked to step down from her position as chair of the Department of Theatre in May 2010 by interim dean Thomas Jacobson.
“I have since come to realize that colleagues are often so eager to have a leader leave that they remain quiet about the candidate’s employment record or leadership style,” Bell said. “That’s a weakness within the academy. Search committee’s should do due diligence and, when asked, academicians should not be afraid to share honest opinions.”
Mitchell Muesham, Ph.D., dean of the College of Business Administration and chair of the COFAMC dean search committee, said their committee relied on the references the candidates listed and the application they provided.
“You can only hope that the interviews throw up red flags,” he said. “We had two people sitting in on every call to make sure that we had an objective process and to try and read between the lines.”
Muehsam said that the problem is that references tend to speak more about the good than the bad of the candidate.
He said at the time of the search, Sloan was the most impressive and well received candidate by faculty on campus.
“When the candidates come here, the faculty gets to vet them,” Muehsam said. “In this case it did not work out. However, it’s healthy to look back at how we can adjust our procedures.”
Muehsam said there was no to see any complaints from Sloan’s past and was surprised she suddenly stepped down.
“I’m actually flabbergasted,” Muehsam said, “so I can’t speak about that as much as a member of that college can. I’m not saying what’s being said did or did not happen though. [Sloan] and I have had very limited contact since she’s been here.”
One UCF faculty member who worked under Sloan and chose to remain anonymous, agreed with Bell that search committees have failed with looking into Sloan’s past.
“If they had scratched the surface at all, they would have seen it,” the faculty member said. “The fact there was a lawsuit, that was public record. There are people floating around academia that there is no logic as to why they ever get jobs. I wish there had been somebody at our university like your Provost to recognize her behavior.”
Provost and Vice-President of Academic Affairs Jaimie Hebert said Sloan resigned due to health reasons.
The UCF faculty member said Sloan allegedly assaulted UCF professor Lani Harris in a dispute in June 2006. Harris filed a report with the UCF police department and pressed assault charges.
The report, which was obtained by the Houstonian, alleges Sloan physically attacked Harris by pushing her into a printer while Harris was on the phone with campus security.
Harris’s statement alleges that she repeatedly asked Sloan to leave her office, but Sloan wouldn’t comply.
“I gave the dispatch her name and description, she lunged at me and tried to hang up the phone,” Harris said in the report. “She pushed me into the wall to the left of my desk where I banged into the printer. She wrestled the phone from me and hung it up.”
The statement then alleges that other faculty members ran in to see what was happening as Sloan left the room.
Sloan filed her own statement to the police countering Harris’s allegations.