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Floyd steps in as UMKC head resigns

Some faculty disliked chancellor’s leadership style and decisions.
Sunday, December 5, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 3:37 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 1, 2008

University of Missouri system President Elson Floyd will split his time between Columbia and Kansas City during the next few months, until he names an interim chancellor for the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

UMKC Chancellor Martha Gilliland announced her resignation Friday amid faculty displeasure with her leadership during the past 4½ years.

She will serve as chancellor through the end of December and continue as a tenured professor in the UMKC School of Computing and Engineering.

“I believe it is in the best interest of the students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends of this great institution for me to step aside at this time,” Gilliland said in a release on the UMKC Web site. “Recent events have placed me in the spotlight, and it is best for UMKC’s future to move forward without such distraction.

“I am grateful for the tremendous outpouring of support I have received from this remarkable community,” she said. “Together we have achieved great things, and I am confident the university will maintain the same momentum into the future. I know I can count on the people of Kansas City to continue their support of UMKC as a vital part of Kansas City’s future.”

Floyd applauded Gilliland’s efforts to strengthen the school’s ties to its hometown.

“UMKC has achieved great momentum toward its goal of becoming a great urban research university,” Floyd said in a release. “I will do everything I can to continue the unprecedented interaction between the UMKC campus and the Kansas City community.”

Faculty members have been at odds with Gilliland since shortly after her arrival from Tulane University in April 2000, according to reports in The Kansas City Star. Gilliland paid a consultant, who also was her friend, to lead workshops to help the faculty envision the future of UMKC that some faculty members thought were distracting from their academic duties. The school has also had high dean turnover rates, with replacement searches that have been deemed unsatisfactory.

Faculty members have repeatedly said Gilliland made decisions without taking into account the wishes of the faculty, the Star reported. She has continued to consider moving the law school downtown, although professors have opposed the change. Gilliland also made a decision to take 5 percent from each school’s budget in order to finance building projects that didn’t attract sufficient private support, the newspaper reported.

The most recent event to cause faculty unrest was distribution of a restructuring proposal by Gilliland, according to The Star. The paper, which faculty received in their e-mail boxes, proposed radical changes to the university that would combine the schools of law, education, engineering and business into a College of Professional Education. The proposal also suggested joining units from Arts and Sciences to other schools, resulting in the dissolution of Arts and Sciences.

On Nov. 19, four faculty groups publicly stated they lacked confidence in Gilliland’s leadership. These groups, made up of professors from arts and sciences, business, law and part-time instructors, joined the School of Biological Sciences and the campus’ chapter of the American Association of University Professors in expressing displeasure with her leadership.

Gilliland’s efforts as chancellor have also received praise from professors at the university. Since she has been at the school, a 550-bed dormitory has opened and ground has been broken for a new health sciences building.

Floyd visited the university on Nov. 23 to hear professors, staff, students and trustees’ opinions about Gilliland’s leadership. He returned Monday to meet with community leaders, gathering opinion on her ability as chancellor, according to The Star and The Associated Press.

On Thursday, the UMKC Board of Trustees and the Civic Council of Kansas City publicly expressed their support of Gilliland, board member Hugh Zimmer said Friday. Zimmer was angry at what he sees as Floyd’s dismissal of the trustees’ commitment.

“Both, especially the trustees, told Floyd that they would work together with he and Martha to mediate any differences with faculty,” Zimmer said. “The feelings and concerns and opinions of the business and civic communities of Kansas City were totally ignored by the president of the system.

“I have supported and continue to support Chancellor Gilliland very much,” he said.

The governing University of Missouri Board of Curators had been scheduled to meet Friday morning to discuss an undisclosed personnel matter. However, the meeting was canceled shortly before Gilliland’s announcement.

Mary L. James, president of the Board of Curators, in a release credited Gilliland’s efforts “to promote strong and effective partnerships between the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the Kansas City metropolitan area.”

“I am confident that University of Missouri President Elson S. Floyd will continue to work closely with all campus constituents to encourage effective two-way communications on campus and sustain the progress that has been made under Martha’s leadership,” James said.


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