By next month, the top candidates for provost of the University of Kentucky should be on campus for interviews in the most-watched job search since President Eli Capilouto came on board in 2011.
UK's top academic officer will be in charge of improving educational offerings in an uncertain and underfunded future. But observers say the hire could also be important in creating more diversity in UK's top leadership group, which is dominated by white men.
The 11 people who report to Capilouto consist of 10 men, one of whom is black, and one black woman, J.J. Jackson, vice president for institutional diversity. The only black man in the group, Vice President for Student Affairs Robert Mock, reports to the provost on a day-to-day basis but has a secondary report to Capilouto on long-range strategic initiatives.
In 2009, the 11 people who reported to President Lee T. Todd consisted of eight men, including a native of India, and three women, one of whom was black.
Neither Todd nor Capilouto, both of whom are white, created leadership teams with a gender make-up similar to UK's student body. Women make up 51.5 percent of the 28,928 undergraduate and graduate students at UK this year, compared to 9 percent of Capilouto's cabinet and 27 percent of Todd's 2009 cabinet.
"This is a well-recognized issue on campus, including by the people who make decisions on hiring," said Robert Grossman, a chemistry professor and vice chairman of the University Senate Council. "It's a problem that President Capilouto needs to get a handle on ... the provost search is an opportunity."
Former Provost Kumble Subbaswamy left last year to become chancellor of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Subbaswamy, a native of India, was widely praised as a chief academic officer, including his emphasis on improving diversity.
In the past decade, the number of women and minorities at UK in faculty and managerial ranks has improved. According to statistics reported to the federal government, the number of female administrators went up 56 percent between 2001 and 2011, from 155 to 242. The number of black administrators jumped 86 percent, from 15 to 28.
In contrast, Capilouto has added three white men to his cabinet. His two biggest hires — General Counsel William Thro and Executive Vice President for Financial Affairs Eric Monday — were both white men. He promoted another white man, Tim Tracy, dean of the College of Pharmacy, to interim provost.
Jackson said she and others are hopeful that the provost search "will yield a competitive and diverse pool of candidates. ... I would say that's been the hoped-for outcome in all of the senior searches we've run in the past few months."
In a statement, Capilouto said he remains committed to diversity.
"The Provost needs to be a master of organization and vision to facilitate exceptional learning and advancement of creativity, scholarship and funded research," he said. "With that in mind, continuing and enhancing our efforts to create an even more inclusive and diverse university undergird those fundamental missions."
Diversity in the higher ranks of academia is a problem everywhere, according to a new study from the American Council on Education.
The study of 149 four-year schools found that while the number of women in top jobs had increased slightly, the number of black, Asian and Hispanic chief academic officers had fallen between 2008 and 2013. The number of women in those positions rose from 40 to 43 percent, but black chief academic officers declined from 3.7 percent in 2008 to 2.3 percent in 2013. Asian-Americans declined from 3.7 percent to 2.4 percent, while Hispanics declined from 1.5 percent to 0.8 percent.
Across the nation, women make up almost 57 percent of enrollment in four-year colleges and universities, according to a National Center for Education Statistics report from 2010. Black students make up 14 percent of enrollment, and Asian-American students make up 6 percent.
When Tracy was promoted to interim provost last year, he reorganized the office, trying to reduce the number of people who report directly to him from 35 to 24.
The reorganization resulted in a net decline of women with a direct line to the chief academic officer. Not counting deans, the provost used to have 18 direct reports, half of whom were women. After the reorganization, the provost had six direct reports, about a third of whom were women. Five of UK's 18 academic deans are women.
As part of the reorganization, two men were promoted to new senior vice provost posts, while three male associate provosts either retired or left the university. Their positions were absorbed into other departments.
The two men promoted were Dan O'Hair, dean of the College of Communications, to senior vice provost for student success; and Vince Kellen, UK's chief information officer, to senior vice provost for academic planning, analytics and technologies.
Meanwhile, four women saw their roles and reporting lines change. Women who no longer report directly to the provost include:
■ Carol Jordan, a part-time assistant provost for strategic initiatives, who returned full-time to her job as director of the UK Center for Research on Violence Against Women;
■ Heidi Anderson, who was the vice president of Institutional Effectiveness and Planning, one of two black women in vice president positions at UK. Anderson's position was downgraded to associate provost in the reorganization, and now reports to Kellen, the senior vice provost. Anderson is leaving UK to become provost of the University of the Sciences.
Other women in the provost's office who changed roles or reporting lines include:
■ Jeannine Blackwell, who lost her title as associate provost for academic administration and returned full-time to her position as Dean of the Graduate School. As a dean, she still reports to the provost.
■ Susan Carvalho, the associate provost for international programs, who now reports to O'Hair, the senior vice provost for student success. Carvalho has a secondary report to the provost for long-range strategic initiatives.
"Student success must be our fundamental priority and our organizational structure should support — not inhibit — that mission," Tracy said in a statement about the reorganization.
Anderson said that she had not heard any concerns about diversity, and that she hoped the next provost would be the most "effective and competent" person.
None of the other women affected would comment for this article.
Diversity a high priority
Mike Reid, chairman of UK's physiology department, is co-chairing the provost search committee with Charles Carlson, a UK psychology professor. Reid said the search firm Witt/Kieffer is specifically seeking and cultivating diverse candidates for the pool.
"We will not recruit on diversity alone. Our goal is to bring the best possible candidate to campus," Reid said. "Diversity is a high priority; having women and under-represented minorities is essential for us."
Reid said the pool has diverse candidates, who will be interviewed in out-of-town locations during the next month. He hopes to bring three to five candidates to campus in April.
Staff trustee Sheila Brothers said the pool of women and minorities is still not big enough for top jobs in academia.
Brothers said she has heard concerns about a lack of diversity at UK, but "people don't feel the administration is doing it on purpose.
"You will never hire a black woman if there are no black women in the pool," she said. "I would be thrilled to see a bit more color and gender diversity at UK, particularly at the administrative level."
John Thelin, a higher education historian at UK, said academia has now funneled a cadre of women through its ranks into top leadership jobs in universities all over the country, particularly in the Ivy League.
"I think what's happened is there really have been gains in access, there's been this wonderful critical mass of superb candidates," he said. "That's where the real energy in leadership and intelligence is; if you don't heed that, you're not only missing out on half the population, you're missing out on the better half."
Search chairman Reid agrees, but he also said UK is hampered by fierce competition, including from the Ivy League, to attract women and minorities.
"That is true at every level, for our graduate students, for our faculty, and for administrators," he said. "I'm really excited about some of the candidates in this pool who are women. That might work out — we'll see."
Of the 11 leaders who report to UK President Eli Capilouto ...
nine are white men ...
Women: 51.5 percent
White: 76.8 percent
Makeup of the leaders ...
... compared to the students
Men: 90.9 percent
White: 81.8 percent
... and two are minorities.
Linda Blackford: (859) 231-1359, Twitter: @lbblackford