Thursday, February 22, 2007

Radford University president removes provost

One of the most prominent hires, Ivelaw Griffith lasted less than a year in the position.

RADFORD -- Radford University President Penelope Kyle on Wednesday demoted Ivelaw Griffith from provost of the university, its second-highest administrative position. Senior Vice Provost Wilbur Stanton is now interim provost.

Speculation about the move had been swirling about campus. A Roanoke Times article last week cited an e-mail from a high-ranking school official that indicated Kyle had ordered Griffith to resign and had been refused. Radford's student newspaper, The Tartan, had a front page story Wednesday on the situation.

Griffith lasted less than a year as provost after coming to Radford from Florida International University, in Miami, where he was dean of the honors college.

He was arguably the most prominent hire by Kyle, a former Virginia Lottery director with little experience in higher education when named president in 2005. Kyle announced Griffith's demotion in a statement e-mailed after 5 p.m.

She wrote that Griffith, who has tenure, will now work "examining our Honors Academy and our International Education program to develop strategies that will attract diverse and well-qualified students to these programs."

Griffith sent a lunchtime e-mail to colleagues at Radford under the subject line "Provost Removal."

It read, in part: "I want to thank you for the opportunity to be your colleague and Provost for these past six-and-a-half months. God help us all!"

Two hours before the announcement, some students at Radford's campus were concerned by reports of friction at the highest levels of their school, but others were unaware of the situation despite the press it had received.

"The students for the most part haven't shown as much concern as I would like," said Meredith Friedman, a sophomore who serves in student government.

She called Griffith "one of the few administrators walking around campus that will know my name and say hello every time."

But Michael Conner, editor of the Tartan, said the issues between president and provost had generated few conversations between students that he had seen.

"I think that most people don't really know who he [Griffith] is yet, because he's so new," Conner said.

Messages seeking comment from both Kyle and Griffith were not returned. R.J. Kirk, rector of the Radford University Board of Visitors, could not be reached. Faculty Senate President Claire Waldron also could not be reached.

Griffith is under contract as provost until late June, but Kyle's statement said she removed him "immediately."

Sylvester Thompson, a math professor who is president of the school's chapter of the American Association of University Professors, said Griffith had not contacted him about challenging the demotion.

The Tartan article quoted Griffith saying he has an attorney.

Kyle's announcement gave no substantial explanation for her decision.

In a Feb. 9 meeting with Griffith and the deans or acting deans of Radford's colleges, Griffith said the reason Kyle demanded his resignation was "insubordination" according to an e-mail sent to 18 department heads in the College of Arts and Science by its acting dean, Judy Niehaus.

Minutes from meetings of Radford's faculty allude to conflict between Kyle and Griffith in general terms. A Jan. 16 entry indicates Kyle and Griffith "have considerably different perspectives on various issues of vital interest to and impact on Radford University."

Griffith's removal adds another high-ranking position to those the school will be looking to fill. Four of its seven colleges have dean's posts to fill.

Wednesday afternoon, shortly before Griffith was officially removed, Nichole Garrison, 18, was walking across her campus.

"I'm sure it will affect us," she said of the provost's then-rumored removal. "Until they get the position filled again, it's sure to be a big gap."

Radford will conduct a national search to replace Griffith, Kyle said in her statement.

In his earlier announcement to colleagues, Griffith wrote that: "The president voiced the expectation that all the negative publicity the university was receiving over the past few weeks will disappear and that things will get 'back to normal.' "

Staff writer Greg Esposito contributed to this report.

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