A Fox in the Chancellor’s office

    While UCSD chancellor nominee Marye Anne Fox has an impressive resume, it is one marred by several controversial moves. Her nomination for the position has been, in fact, only slightly less controversial.

    So far, it seems that fortune has not smiled too brightly on the process. Due to an information leak in North Carolina, UC President Robert C. Dynes was forced to announce Fox’s status as the finalist in UCSD’s search for a chancellor on April 2, the same day Fox announced her candidacy to trustees and executives at North Carolina State University. Several people have criticized the appointment of a candidate with a history of questionable administrative action. Consequently, Fox will likely have to work harder to prove herself — which, as a motivational factor, may not be a negative.

    An acclaimed teacher, author and scientist, Fox will, if appointed, preside over UCSD’s eight vice chancellors. In an April 2 statement, Dynes wrote, “In the end, my decision was guided by my belief that Dr. Fox brings the combination of skills needed to build on UCSD’s reputation as one of the finest universities in the world.”

    Fox was previously considered for the UCSD’s chancellor position (and, for that matter, a White House advisory position under President George W. Bush). She has her name the “Who’s Who” listings of America, the World, Science and Engineering, American Education, Women, and Men and Women of Science.

    Indubitably, Fox has an obvious penchant for academia as well as athletics. Her five years at NCSU were a decided boon to the school’s sports programs: For example, she defended men’s basketball coach Herb Sendek, who was recently named ACC Coach of the Year, against calls for replacement. Despite protests, she fired football coach Mike O’Cain and hired Chuck Amato, who considerably improved the team’s standings and reputation.

    If Fox has the same devotion to the collegiate sports programs at UCSD that she did at NCSU, UCSD would almost certainly benefit from the presence and policies of such an athletics-minded chancellor.

    Fox’s reputation in the scientific field holds promise for UCSD’s strong program. She’s received scores of science-based awards and fellowships and has published in American Scientist, ChemWorld and various other publications, and is a renowned physical organic chemist and researcher.

    However, this apparent bias toward scientific fields will likely do nothing to improve UCSD’s other programs, which already receive less attention and maintenance than the school’s science and engineering programs. Currently while UCSD offers a myriad of majors in the field of biology alone, yet there is no traditional English major. There are just over 40 visual arts classes offered this quarter, but more than double that in biology.

    Under former Chancellor Dynes — who was also an award-winning physicist — a laboratory was founded in 1991 to study properties of semiconductors, superconductors and metals. Also during Dynes’ tenure, a new pharmaceutical school was established and the existing research budget increased by 36 percent. In February 2004, under the supervision of Acting Chancellor Marsha A. Chandler, UCSD recruited Nobel Prize-winning chemist Mario J. Molina. He joined the ranks of UCSD’s other 16 Nobel Prize winners, the vast majority of whom had received merit for their science or economic achievements. If appointed, Fox should follow the University of California’s declared credo of diversity in academic disciplines and concentrate on building the school’s other neglected programs.

    To improve UCSD’s overall quality, Fox should not follow Dynes’ precedent too closely in focusing primarily on scientific research. At NCSU, Fox aimed to make the school a premier research institute. From a business standpoint (which the UC Board of Regents will likely assume when deciding whether to appoint Fox), increasing research at UCSD would boost the school’s reputation but it may ultimately prove harmful for students who would benefit more from improved teaching and curricula. To improve UCSD’s quality overall, Fox should not follow Dynes’ precedent too closely in focusing primarily on scientific research.

    Fox brings with her a controversial — albeit impressive — history. In 2003, she fired her two vice provosts against the wishes of Provost Stuart L. Cooper, who resigned in protest. NCSU’s Faculty Senate voted overwhelmingly in favor of censuring Fox, whose motivation behind the firings, according to Fox’s own statements in response, was the vice provosts’ failure to adhere to Fox’s vision. The provost was, in fact, the second of his position to have resigned since Fox’s appointment in 1998.

    Fox unapologetically told North Carolina’s The News & Observer, “What I was trying to do was say, ‘There had to be changes that had to be made.’ The fact that Cooper was unwilling to go along with that meant I probably would have had to make another change if he hadn’t resigned.”

    It comes as little surprise that Fox has been disparaged as difficult to work with, and has even been called a “generalissimo” on par with a “third-world dictatorship” by a student senator at NCSU, according to The News & Observer. The same I’ll-do-what-I-want attitude at UCSD could easily prove harmful both for Fox (particularly as a new and relatively uninitiated employee) and UCSD. If Fox applies her similar goals as at NCSU for UCSD, it is likely that she will encounter heightened opposition. However, students who have met Fox contend that she is a “student-friendly” administrator.

    As the mother of a blended family of five college graduates and an award-winning teacher, Fox has the kind of background that could lead her to prioritize students’ concerns.

    A.S. President-elect Jenn Pae, who served as a student representative on the chancellor’s search committee, said, “What impressed me most was that students responded to her. She had won past awards for [teaching], including an award that the students voted for.”

    Fox’s appointment has great potential — but potential that could be used either for UCSD or against it.

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