University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto is planning to quickly replace Provost Tim Tracy, who announced Nov. 1 that he’s leaving to become the CEO of the Cincinnati-based Aprecia Pharmaceuticals. The search will be internal, not national, and he intends to choose someone by mid-December.
The search also coincides with the start of Capilouto’s evaluation process, and it presents an opportunity to address an issue that has plagued Capilouto since he arrived in 2011: the lack of diversity in his inner circle.
Last month, interviews with various campus stakeholders revealed a similar pattern from previous ones: They consistently praise Capilouto’s work in building $2.4 billion in new residential and academic buildings, fundraising, budgeting and planning, but they are concerned that he surrounds himself largely with white men.
For example, in the survey presented at the Oct. 19 board of trustees meeting, respondents had specific praise for Capilouto’s leadership in making “improvements to the campus’ physical plant,” but concerns about “improving gender and racial diversity among university leaders and faculty.” Under “organization,” those surveyed cited concerns about a “large administration and a lack of diversity among the senior leadership team.” The survey’s “future consideration” section praised Capilouto’s strategic plan and vision” for UK and had concerns about “more leadership in the area of diversity and inclusivity.”
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Of the 10 people who directly report to Capilouto, two are women: vice president for research Lisa Cassis and vice president for institutional diversity Sonja Feist-Price, who is black. The rest are white men. That hasn’t changed much since 2013, just before Capilouto hired UK’s first female provost, Christine Riordan. She left after about 18 months and was replaced by Tracy.
In 2016, women represented 54 percent of the student body and 40 percent of faculty at UK. Underrepresented minorities made up 14 percent of the student body, and of that, 6.8 percent are black. Black professors make up just 3.6 percent of the faculty.
This issue continuously angered former UK trustee C.B. Akins, pastor of Bracktown Baptist Church in Lexington, whose term on the board ended this year.
“It’s no secret that I was not pleased by the lack of attention given to past evaluations,” Akins said in a recent interview. “One of the top recommendations was the expansion and diversification of his inner circle, and he’s never done it. Why keep doing evaluations if you’re not doing suggestions from other evaluations? He has not responded to previous directives from the board.”
Capilouto declined to comment directly on this issue.
UK spokesman Jay Blanton said Capilouto believes strongly in diversity. Capilouto has required “unconscious bias training” across campus, including the board of trustees, and he hired seven direct reports since 2011 that included three women: Riordan, Cassis and Feist-Price.
“Three — nearly half — have been diverse in terms of either gender or race,” Blanton said. “The president has worked on a number of levels in an intentional way to make diversity and inclusivity a priority. That doesn’t mean our efforts and focus in this critical area shouldn’t continue.”
Anastasia Curwood, a history professor who directs UK’s African American and Africana Studies program, said it’s hard to diversify the top ranks of the university if more efforts aren’t made throughout the school.
“The problem is that we don’t have very many people in the pipeline,” she said. “It’s important for students to see themselves reflected in the administration and for the administration not to reproduce itself. The answer starts with hiring more faculty and then promoting women and people of color to chair positions, because that’s a conduit to upper administration.”
And that’s why faculty trustee Lee Blonder said she’s concerned about the search for the next provost, both the tight timetable and the fact it will be limited to internal candidates.
On Nov. 9, Capilouto announced that a committee would review applications for UK’s number two spot on Nov. 20, with candidate forums the week of Dec. 4. “I am confident we have the on-campus talent necessary to finding our next chief academic officer,” he wrote in a campuswide email.
Blonder said most provosts come from the academic ranks of dean or above. Seven of UK’s 19 deans are women, and one is a black man.
“I’m disappointed we’re not doing a national search,” Blonder said. “If we have qualified internal candidates, they can compete in a national search, but an internal search limits it dramatically.
“The modeling of diversity starts at the top.”
Women make up a large part of the administration below Capilouto’s direct hires. For example, in finance and administration, six women report directly to executive vice president Eric Monday, including the chief budget officer, the chief facility officer, the chief human resource officer and the treasurer. In the provost’s office, three of five associate provosts are women.
Blanton also said that two of Capilouto’s hires, Cassis and Feist-Price, were internal, so he thinks it’s “unfair” to say that an internal search will limit diversity.
“President Capilouto talked to dozens of people leading up the formation of the search committee,” Blanton said. “There was a strong admonition from folks that a sense of urgency — moving quickly and deliberately — is important here. The institution is at a critical juncture in a number of areas where the provost provides direction and leadership.”
UK’s Provost search
University of Kentucky President Eli Capilouto has set a short time line to hire a replacement for Provost Tim Tracy. The eight-member committee, co-chaired by Nancy Cox, dean of the College of Agriculture, and Eric Monday, vice president for finance and administration, has posted a job description and will start reviewing applications on Nov. 20 in order to identify one to three finalists. Finalists will meet in open forums the week of Dec. 4; Capilouto will make the final decision shortly thereafter. For more information, go to www.uky.edu/president/provostsearch.
The search committee members are:
▪ Kim Anderson, Professor, College of Engineering
▪ Bob DiPaola, Dean, College of Medicine
▪ Sonja Feist-Price, Vice President, Institutional Diversity
▪ Elizabeth Foster, Vice President, Student Government Association
▪ Jon Gent, Chair, Staff Senate
▪ Andrew Hippisley, Professor, College of Arts and Sciences
▪ Katherine McCormick, Chair, Senate Council
▪ Genia Toma, Professor, Martin School of Public Administration