Search for new provost opened up to USF community

Paavani Lella

Contributing Writer

The provost search committee and advisory committee meet over Zoom. Courtesy of Evelyn Ho.

Following former Provost Donald E. Heller’s decision to step down from his post in February, USF is on the search for his successor. Prior to Heller’s resignation, more than 80% of the USF Faculty Association members participated in a vote of no confidence against him, of which 92% voted “no confidence.”  

Since then, Tyrone H. Cannon has filled the vacancy and is the chair of the search committee for the new provost. There are currently two committees working toward filling the position. The aforementioned search committee’s primary role is to read applications and conduct semifinalist reviews. The second is the search advisory committee; its role is to get a sense of what qualities different stakeholders on campus (i.e. students, faculty, and staff) want to see in the new provost by holding listening sessions. 

Evelyn Ho, chair of the search advisory committee, said, “I think especially one of the things we’re learning, having many of these sessions, is that it’s a good reminder of the culture at USF.” Ho said she believes the committee takes the input of different constituent bodies on campus very seriously and that the practice of having these listening sessions is practical. These listening sessions are not a new idea; the previous search for a provost, which ended in the appointment of Heller, incorporated listening sessions as well. 

John Iosefo, president of ASUSF Senate, was one of the hosts of the undergraduate student listening session, held Sept. 8. He is the sole student member of both the main search and search advisory committees. Iosefo started off the listening session by going into what the role of the provost is. “We haven’t created a final draft of the job call yet so part of the purpose of these listenings is to actually draw the boundaries and to see the kinds of the things that we want to require our candidate to have,” he said.

Hector Bustos, senior politics major and former ASUSF president, was one of the students present at the undergraduate student listening session. Bustos said, “For me, one of the biggest things I really want to see in a provost is somebody who, for a lack of better words, ‘walks the walk’ when it comes to Jesuit values.” He added that he would like the University to hire someone who has lived up to Jesuit values prior to coming to USF by doing work around these values in their community. 

Senior sociology major Joanne Vieira Norman voiced her opinion on what she would like to see. Norman said she would like the new provost to be someone who has experience working with communities of color. “If we look at the things that are being demanded of USF right now currently, they are coming from a lot of students of color and low-income communities,” she said. Norman also said when a person walks on campus they see people from diverse backgrounds, but that diversity is not reflected when looking at the University administration. 

Junior sociology major Noelle Scanlon was also present at the meeting. They said that the new provost should, even prior to beginning their role, listen to the community. “I think communities are best at coming up with solutions for themselves rather than those who are not in that position,” Scanlon said.

Bustos emphasized Scanlon’s point, mentioning how he wants to see someone who’s willing to work with students to reach solutions. “We know what the University could do for these students, but we need to see it. We want USF to be better, we want USF to do better, and that happens with us working together and finding solutions together,” he said.

The input that the provost search committees receive will be used to craft the job description for the position. Witt/Kieffer, an outside search firm, will use this information to find candidates to fill the vacancy. Once all applications are received, the search committee picks out semifinalists. The semifinalists will then be interviewed by the committee, who will choose the finalists. 

 There will be another round of open sessions involving the finalists that students, staff, and faculty can attend in order to learn more about and question the candidates. At that stage, the advisory committee will encourage feedback from attendees about their favorite candidate.

 “I think it’s kind of important to clarify one thing, and that’s that the president ultimately will be making that decision. Our role as the search committee is to provide him with options,” Iosefo said. “The provost position has a massive impact on the USF community, and you can’t search for somebody for that kind of position without knowing what the community wants.” 

Bustos said that he hopes the search committee will be honest with provost candidates about the state of campus life “because we need a leader who will come into this position knowing what’s ahead of them, knowing that they, truthfully, have a lot of work to do and a lot of slack to pick up.”

Individuals with concerns or comments about the hiring of the next provost can express them anonymously through this survey.

If you would like more information about the Provost position and its search committees visit: https://myusf.usfca.edu/human-resources/provost-search

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