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Dean search procedures under senate scrutiny

Although the focus of the special senate meeting last Tuesday was on UNB’s search committee procedures in general, the confidential search for dean of law Jeremy Levitt was a topic on many senators’ minds.

The special meeting was held after a request by student senator Lyle Skinner. Although he was prompted to make the request following the unusual nature of the hiring process for now-resigned dean of law Jeremy Levitt, Skinner wanted the focus of the meeting to be about the larger structural issues at UNB.

But at the meeting senators kept coming back to the issues at the law school. The consensus of many senators was that, although dean search processes worked well in most faculties, the problem lies in their implementation in certain faculties.

“The last two [law dean] searches haven’t been as wholesome as those at other law schools,” said Nicole O’Byrne, senator and assistant professor in the faculty of law.

One main issue with the law dean search process was that it was kept confidential given the “high-profile candidates.”

“Where did [the search committee] get the authority to put it under cover?” said senator Norman Betts, adding that they “should insist that Senate vote or discuss whether [the process] should go undercover.”

“What is a high-profile candidate needs to be defined,” Betts said.

Much of the first half of the meeting was spent discussing whether the meeting should happen in the first place, with a suggestion by George MacLean, dean of arts, that it be referred to the senate nominating committee.

No motions were passed at the special meeting. Instead, recommendations based on the discussion will be sent to a senate nominating committee to consider.

Despite the meeting being held one hour before the regular senate meeting, Skinner said that the discussion was productive.

“I am very pleased with the outcome of the meeting. The fact that Senate discussed revisions to Search Committee procedures in a public forum shows the strength of UNB. It can be difficult for an organization to be self-critical. Senators spoke in a frank and honest manner,” said Skinner.

Law faculty appointing interim dean after Levitt’s resignation

The faculty of law will be looking for a new dean now that Jeremy Levitt, their dean since September, resigned earlier this month.

Dean Jeremy Levitt announced on March 17 that he had voluntarily resigned from his position of dean of the Faculty of Law, effective immediately.

Levitt released a statement explaining his reason for his resignation saying, “I am grateful to President Eddy Campbell for providing me with the wonderful opportunity to serve as Dean of Law and Vice-Chancellor’s Chair at the University of New Brunswick. I have decided to return to, and help advance, my home institution in Florida. I offered to voluntarily resign because I believe that it is in the best interests of my family and I.”

“I am convinced that resolving internal debates about the vision and mission of the Faculty of Law is vital to its future success and UNB’s. UNB has excellent students and staff, a vibrant core of deans, and a loyal and dedicated alumni base. The future of UNB is indeed strong.”

UNB released a similar statement. In it vice-president academic Tony Secco wrote that Levitt decided to resign “because he believes that it is in the best interests of his family and himself as well as that of the students, alumni and faculty of UNB Law.”

Levitt will be on research leave from UNB until July 31, 2015 to complete “ongoing research activities.” Following this he will return to Florida A&M University College of Law.

Levitt took a two-year leave from Florida A&M in order to take up the deanship at UNB. He has been on an unexplained leave of absence from UNB since the end of January.

Until a new dean is hired, the faculty of law will appoint an interim dean from within its faculty members. Consultation with faculty members is already underway.

“Tony Secco has already met with faculty, staff and students as part of consultations toward appointing an interim dean,” said UNB spokesman David Stonehouse.

The timeframe for the hiring of a new dean has yet to be set.

Levitt’s resignation also brought an end to the external investigation into the issues of the faculty of law. The results of the investigation will not be made public.

“In light of Dr. Levitt’s voluntary resignation from the position of dean of the law school, the university thereby concludes the independent investigative review process,” said Secco in a statement from the university.

The external investigation of the law school began in January when the university brought in professor emeritus Neil Gold from the University of Windsor. The purpose of the report, according to a UNB press release, was to “investigate and report confidentially relations between the dean [of law] and certain faculty within UNB’s law school.”

Secco received the results of Gold’s investigation at the end of February.

The results of the investigation will not be released to the public because of confidentiality.

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