After serving only one year at the college, Provost and Dean of Faculty Susan Steele announced she will resign from her position at the end of this academic year, causing mixed reaction from the campus community.
Steele said that the reason she is leaving the college because of differing definitions of her position.
“I thought that what the college needed and wanted was strong academic leadership,” said Steele. “I knew I could do that. “
However, there are some segments of campus that want academic leadership and other segments that don’t, said Steele.
Steele said she wants the college to move forward and does not want anyone to put all their energy into a conflict over her job.
She said she feels a tremendous amount of guilt over leaving.
“Steele enjoyed working with members of the Mills faculty over the past year and appreciates their willingness to work with her, said President Janet Holmgren in a memo to faculty and staff.”
“I think this is a wonderful place and I wish it all the best,” said Steele.
Holmgren said that Steele’s resignation is a personnel matter.
“It is inappropriate for me to comment beyond my public statement to the faculty in order to preserve her [Steele’s] privacy rights,” said Holmgren.
The announcement of Steele’s resignation caused mixed reaction from both faculty and students.
“It did come as a surprise,” said ethnic studies professor Melinda Micco. “It was very much out of the blue.”
Some students said they think that Steele was forced to resign.
“She wasn’t very professional,” said Senior Eliza Riley. “She wasn’t listening to the students. She wasn’t paying attention to the tradition at Mills in general.”
Riley said that what she means by “tradition” is that the students are in charge of their own academic futures and that their voices count and that Steele did not understand that tradition.
According to Holmgren’s memo, Steele has accomplished many things during her year at the college, including bringing several faculty searches to successful completion, developing a new multicultural grant from the Irvine Foundation, providing assistance to the college’s strategic planning process, and implementing new methods for managing the academic budget.
“During her time here at Mills, Dr. Steele demonstrated her enthusiasm for strengthening women’s education and establishing better connections to the local community,” said Holmgren.
Steele said that she does not know what she is going to do once she leaves the college.
“I have two books that are each roughly half done and I’d like to finish them,” said Steele. “Other than that, I’m waiting to see what happens.”
Holmgren said that she asked the Faculty Executive Committee to create a search committee that would make recommendations on qualified candidates from the Mills faculty to serve next year as provost and dean of faculty.
The new provost “would be a senior professor… with administrative and leadership experience,” said Holmgren.
Holmgren said she plans to announce the results of this search by the end of the semester so that the new provost can assume the duties of the position as soon as possible, in the new academic year.
“I’m not sure if I will be able to make an announcement [on the results] by Commencement,” said Holmgren. “My intention is to make an announcement by before the end of May.”
The Provost and Dean of Faculty position had been without a permanent appointment between 1999 and 2001. History Professor Bert Gordan served as Acting Provost prior to Steele’s arrival. Before Steele came to the college, she served as Vice Provost at the University of Connecticut between 1998 and 2001, according to Weekly archives.