SHSU to be praised for dean search revisions

Sam Houston State University rebounded well two years after botching a dean search in 2011.

They have hired search firms for both the College of Humanities and Social Science and College of Education dean searches, which haven’t yet announced finalists.

Roberta Sloan, dean of the newly-created College of Fine Arts and Mass Communication, stepped down Feb. 16, 2012 after serving only seven months supposedly due to health concerns.

But, sources deep within SHSU administration told The Houstonian that Sloan was given an ultimatum after basically continually making bad decisions within the college – especially with regard to curriculum.

This was complicated by information that surfaced showing how Sloan jumped from job to job, including a former faculty member at University of Central Florida John Bell who said they also didn’t “dig deep enough.” Bell said they relied too heavily on application materials like resumes and references.

An anonymous source at UCF pointed me in the direction of several lawsuits and her employment history that should’ve thrown up red flags, at minimum, for the search committee at SHSU that was headed by College of Business Administration Dean Mitchell Muesham. This included faculty grievances, police reports, and two anti-Sloan Facebook pages – one of which is no longer active.

At the time, SHSU performed dean searches by accepting applications and letting a group of SHSU faculty comb through the application materials. Unfortunately there was no attempt on their part to analyze her past or even ask around of her reputation, which to be fair was mixed of good and bad reviews. I was told by members of the committee that they took everything given to them – including for other candidates – before letting them tour the campus.

In performing the interviews for the original stories, I don’t necessarily blame the individual search committee members, including Muesham, for plucking a bad apple. The university administration should have had more rigorous and thorough searching process.

The university has made a policy change that insofar appears to be fruitful. They now hire outside search firms to seek candidates that fit the needs of SHSU before shipping over the candidates to the local committee.

It’s not uncommon. A Forbes report discussed the rising rate of search firms being used in looking for head coaches. Other colleges, like Butler Community College, use them for higher administration positions like presidents and deans.

From there the finalists are selected and brought to campus. The university chose Ron Shields to permanently replace Sloan. If he is the type of candidate the university would’ve gotten in the first place, the more than $77,000 we paid the search firm was well worth it.

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