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NDSU faculty reject resolution urging swift removal of research VP

Kelly Rusch, vice president for research at North Dakota State University.

FARGO—Faculty senators at North Dakota State University rejected a resolution that would have urged the president and provost to remove the outgoing vice president for research by the end of February instead of allowing her to stay on until her replacement is named.

The resolution, which was debated and voted on Monday, Feb. 12, said a recent comprehensive review of Kelly Rusch, the vice president for research, "has clearly revealed that collaboration, cooperation and trust to be lacking," and called for the "shortest possible time line for re-establishment of a functional relationship between faculty researchers" and the office of the vice president for research.

Rusch announced in January that she would be leaving NDSU after the results of the review, which included many critical comments from university researchers who complained that Rusch's management style was intimidating as well as stifling, and that research had suffered as a result.

The motion, which needed a two-thirds majority to pass, failed by a vote of 15 in favor, 21 opposed and six abstentions. An earlier vote, to delay Rusch's urged departure from the end of February to the end of March, passed by a vote of 24 in favor, 16 opposed and two abstentions.

Rusch, who became vice president in 2013, can remain in the role until her successor is on board, a process expected to take 10 months.

Wenfang Sun, a senior professor in the chemistry and biochemistry department, introduced the resolution at the request of three faculty constituents who she said wished to remain anonymous.

"People are concerned about the continued damage" that will result if Rusch is allowed to stay in her administrative role, Sun said. Rusch is a tenured professor of engineering and could assume that role instead.

Samuel Markell, an associate professor of plant pathology, said he polled his constituents and the unanimous sentiment was that Rusch should go sooner rather than later. An interim vice president would be able to mend damage and restore confidence, he said.

"We need somebody to come in and build bridges because there's been some damage done by this position," he said.

But faculty senators spoke against the resolution, including Dinesh Katti, a professor of civil and environmental engineering.

"This is definitely a new low for NDSU," he said. Rusch has voluntarily resigned, and should be allowed to remain until a successor is hired, as many other administrators at the university have been allowed to do, he added.

The search for Rusch's replacement is already under way, Katti said.

Molly Secor-Turner, an associate professor of nursing, urged passage of the resolution, saying faculty should send the administration a message after administrators ignored repeated complaints about Rusch.

"She really treated people poorly," Secor-Turner said. "Somewhere that statement needs to be made."

Dennis Cooley, a professor of philosophy and ethics, offered an alternative resolution expressing full support for "all reasonable efforts to quickly and efficiently fill" Rusch's position "with a highly qualified individual who can guide the unit toward achieving the university's research goals, and offers the services of the NDSU Faculty and Faculty Senate to assist in this process."

Cooley's proposed resolution got a majority, with 24 yes votes, 12 no votes and six abstentions, but fell short of the two-thirds needed to pass.

Patrick Springer

Patrick Springer first joined the reporting staff of The Forum in 1985. He can be reached by calling 701-241-5522. Have a comment to share about a story? Letters to the editor should include author’s name, address and phone number. Generally, letters should be no longer than 250 words. All letters are subject to editing. Send to letters@forumcomm.com

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