COLUMBIA — Matthew Burns, professor of educational psychology at the University of Minnesota’s flagship campus, is one of two finalists for a position at MU’s College of Education.
Burns is vying with Larry James to become division executive director of the College of Education. The position involves oversight of nine graduate academic programs with 60 faculty and 29 professional staff, according to the job description.
James’ candidacy has garnered criticism from his work as director of the Behavioral Science Consultation Team at Guantánamo Bay in 2003 and 2007. This same team, again led by James, later operated out of Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, according to James’ curriculum vitae. His roles at the detention camp and prison have raised ethical questions regarding the involvement of medical professionals in a military setting.
According to a previous Missourian report, James refuted the allegations that he was involved in the implementation of unethical interrogation tactics.
“Absolutely not. I did not have command authority,” James said. “I was a consultant to a commanding general.”
In a phone interview Wednesday, Burns said he didn’t know about James. “This is the first I’ve heard of it,” he said.
He learned about the position through an email about job listings.
“I found it intriguing for a couple of different reasons,” Burns said. “I believe the College of Education is well positioned for some exciting innovations.”
Burns has been a professor at the University of Minnesota since 2004, serving as coordinator of the School Psychology Program since 2006. He also functions as co-director of the Minnesota Center for Reading Research, in which he is responsible for overseeing research regarding children’s learning methods.
As Division Executive Director, Burns said he hopes to draw upon his entrepreneurial background and history as a collaborator to not only engage cross-departmental education, but also the greater community at large.
Burns, who has already participated in an initial interview with the search committee via Skype, will be in Columbia on Jan. 30 for an in-person interview.
James is expected to arrive at MU for his interview the first week of February.
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