Arts, Sciences Dean At UA To Step Down

Stalemate Over Evaluations Cited As Reason For Leaving

Robin Roberts
Robin Roberts

The dean of the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville’s arts and sciences college tendered her resignation notice Monday, citing a stalemate with leaders of the college’s academic departments concerning an evaluation system.

Robin A. Roberts, who has been dean of the J. William Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences for less than two years, will remain at the university as a faculty member in the college’s English department once she leaves the dean’s post later this summer.

“She did announce today that she is stepping down Aug. 1,” Provost Sharon Gaber confirmed Monday afternoon by telephone.

The university will conduct a national search to replace Roberts, added Gaber, UA’s chief academic officer.

Roberts couldn’t be reached for comment Monday by phone or e-mail.

In April 2011, the campus announced it had hired Roberts, then 53, as dean of the Fulbright College, effective July 15, 2011.

Around 9 a.m. Monday, Roberts notified tenure-track faculty in Fulbright of her impending resignation by e-mail. The message, sent through Fulbright College spokesman Darinda Sharp, read “An Important Message from Dean Robin Roberts” in its subject line.

Roberts opened by saying she’d been honored to serve them as dean and summarizing her accomplishments.

“However, while I began addressing issues with the evaluation system last year, and have continued to meet with the chairs to develop a new process, we have not been able to reach agreement,” Roberts wrote, referring to faculty administrators who lead the college’s individual academic departments. “While I was willing to continue to work with the chairs, and had meetings scheduled on the subject this summer, it was decided the progress was insufficient.

“Therefore, I have tendered my resignation from the position of dean, to be effective August 1. I look forward to working with you to improve the college and the university as a full-time faculty member in the English department.”

Gaber also sent a message to faculty and staff members Monday morning announcing Roberts’ resignation, planned departure date, the university’s plans to conduct a national search and its decision to appoint an interim Fulbright dean - Todd Shields, dean of the Graduate School and International Education - during the transition period.

“I appreciate Dean Roberts’ taking on new initiatives during her tenure,” Gaber wrote.

Roberts earns $190,735 as dean, UA spokesman John Diamond said Monday.

The Fulbright College is home to numerous academic departments in the arts and sciences including such fields as art, drama, music, physics, geosciences and math. It also teaches the mandatory “core” courses not specific to certain majors but nonetheless required for graduation.

Roberts came to UA from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, where she was a professor of English, women’s studies and gender studies and a former associate dean of its College of Arts and Sciences. She replaced William Schwab, who had served as interim dean beginning in 2008 followed by a two-year appointment to the dean’s post beginning in 2009.

At the time, the university described Fulbright College as its largest academic college, with 7,740 students - more than a third of its enrollment - as well as 19 academic departments, 25 undergraduate majors and minors, and more than 15 research centers bringing in more than $20 million a year in outside research funding.

In a news release the university issued shortly before 4 p.m. Monday, it summed up Roberts’ accomplishments using wording virtually identical to Roberts’ e-mail to the tenure-track faculty earlier in the day, noting the college under her watch had “received an increase of more than $11 million to its hard budget” from the university; raised more than $22 million in cash, planned gifts and future commitments from donors; hired 21 new tenure-track faculty; increased faculty diversity and added new joint appointments.

Northwest Arkansas, Pages 7 on 06/11/2013