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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Hiring of new Architecture Dean raises questions at SU

The recent appointment of Southern University's Dean of Architecture has raised questions in local media outlets.

Questions university officials are now ready to answer.

On Saturday, Feb. 24, the university announced the promotion of Lonnie Wilkinson to the Dean of the Architecture Department.

Local media outlets questioned Wilkinson's appointment because, unlike administrative hiring practices in the past, a background check was not performed on him.

According to system president Ralph Slaughter, the normal procedures for hiring university administration consists of a national or local search for the available position. Once the search has been completed, the SU Board of Supervisors develops a pool of potential applicants that meet the university's requirements and standards.

Slaughter said the university committee then makes three recommendations to the chancellor for approval. The hiring decision is then forwarded to the President for recommendation before returning to the university board for ratification.

"The architecture department has had four to five deans within the last four years," Slaughter said. "We are looking for stability."

Slaughter said the normal procedures for Wilkinson's promotion was waived because of an accreditation visit, instability with past deans of the department and because Wilkinson was appointed as acting dean of the department by the university committee and SUBR Chancellor Edward Jackson, who requested the background check be waived.

"Don't take me wrong about the national background search, I'm in favor for it," Slaughter said. "But I believe the national background search should only be used in extraordinary cases when (we) ask the board to document the basis for potential candidates to fulfill the job position within the university."

Due to a prior obligation, Jackson was not available for comment at press time, but officials stand behind his decision to waive the background check.

"Wilkinson has been doing the job as dean of the department before he was promoted," Slaughter said. "Chancellor Jackson made a great decision to appoint him as Dean of the Architecture Department."

Since being promoted, Wilkinson said he has not had any problems with his role as the department's official dean.

"It doesn't feel any different," Wilkinson said. "The work load is still the same, (and) it doesn't change the focus of the work."

On the department's recent accreditation, Wilkinson said, "I may be the person to credit for the rally and getting the job done but it was a joint effort."

"It was an effort of faculty, staff and students to get the architecture program reaffirmed," he said. "That is why we were successful."

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