University of Maryland President Wallace Loh’s surprise announcement of the pick for the graduate school’s new dean in a campuswide address has some graduate students asking the administration for more transparency.
On Aug. 28, Loh sent an email to the campus community discussing the state of this university, first commenting on recent cases of hatred and white supremacy, and later introducing new projects, faculty and staff. In a short paragraph welcoming the newest members of this university’s academic leadership, a single line announced Juan Uriagereka, a linguistics professor, had been appointed to dean of the graduate school, which houses some 11,000 students.
“Welcome to three new members of UMD’s academic leadership, all long-time faculty colleagues: Jennifer Rice, Dean, College of Education; Gerald Wilkinson (Biology), Interim Dean, CMNS; and Juan Uriagereka (Linguistics), Dean, Graduate School,” Loh’s statement read. “And thank you to Jeffrey Franke of the Graduate School for serving so ably as Interim Dean this past year.”
“I was making a whole bunch of announcements and just thought, ‘Well, I’ll just toss that one in,'” Loh told The Diamondback. “The only announcement I’ve made is that, and I said, ‘Congratulations, he was offered the position.'”
While Uriagereka has been offered the position, this university has not announced whether he has accepted the position, and Loh said the process was ongoing. Officials from the dean’s office declined to comment on the dean selection or the appointment process.
Some graduate students were unhappy with the statement and expected a more formal and detailed message from the provost, who had made the decision to offer the job to Uriagereka, Loh said.
“This way of announcing the new dean of the graduate school summarizes the attitude of the president and the provost towards grad students and where we are on their priority list,” said Graduate Student Government mechanical engineering students representative Roozbeh Bakhshi.
Interim Dean Jeffrey Franke, who has filled the role since July 2016, was not considered a candidate for the graduate school dean position because he did not meet the university requirement of being a professor, Loh said. Whether Franke will return to his original role as assistant dean of the graduate school is unclear, but Franke said he will remain the interim dean through the fall semester.
Two students sat on the graduate dean selection committee, tasked with narrowing down a pool of viable candidates on behalf of the entire graduate population. The rest of the committee’s seats were held by faculty and staff.
“The next dean is going to have full power over the graduate school, the policies, the education, everything,” Bakhshi said. “His decisions are going to affect 11,000 students, but still there [were] only two student representatives on the selection committee. Grad students’ opinions are not asked in any of the major issues and selecting the next dean is just one of them.”
The GSG has recently struggled to get this university’s support for a General Assembly bill that would grant student employees’ collective bargaining rights. The GSG has also called for the city to lower the cost of graduate housing and for the administration to reduce fees for international students.
Despite some qualms about the search process, GSG legislative affairs Vice President Adria Schwarber is excited to welcome Uriagereka to the dean position and hear his plans for addressing student concerns, should he accept the offer.
“Grad students are the TAs, the RAs, the AAs who keep this campus functioning,” Schwarber said. “I think it would pay a great service to graduate students if the new dean engaged with the students, faculty and staff to really try to create a realistic but also an idealistic goal for graduate education on campus.”