College looks to former dean as possible replacement for Denise Rotondo, forgoing formal national search

 Provost  and Vice President for Academic Affairs Stacey Robertson asked SUNY Brockport professor of management Mary Ellen Zuckerman to come to campus as though she were a finalist in a national search for the position of Dean of the School of Business, instead of holding a national search.  The administration decided not to organize a search for a new dean due to the unique circumstances, according to Robertson. (Tucker Mitchell/The Ithacan student newspaper)

The Geneseo administration has invited SUNY Brockport professor of management Mary Ellen Zuckerman to campus to potentially fill the role of Dean of the School of Business to replace former Dean of the School of Business Denise Rotondo. The decision would bypass the usual process of conducting a national search to fill the dean position. 

The college originally invited Zuckerman, who served as Dean of the School of Business at Geneseo from 1999 to 2008, to fill the position on a temporary basis while it would conduct a national search. After Zuckerman declined to become interim dean, members of the administration, like Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Stacey Robertson, decided to bring her in for an interview to assess if she will be a good fit for the permanent position. 

“I spoke to various people at the institution to see if this would be possible, would we be violating any SUNY regulations or policy or procedure, if we were to bring her in as if she were a finalist in a national search,” Robertson said. “We found that this did not violate any policy or procedure. It certainly was out of the norm of what we’ve done to search for deans, but this was a really unusual situation and we had such a terrific candidate.” 

Due to the nature of an interim position, Zuckerman said in a phone interview that she could not take the position temporarily while the college conducted a national search.

“I think because of my leadership style, I felt if I was going to take the position, I really wanted to help lead the school,” Zuckerman said. “In the interim you can do that, but in the space of six months to a year, you’re not going to be there doing that [as much].”

“It’s a different kind of leadership position. I think I’m just better suited to leading when I know I’m going to be looking forward for a bit of a longer timeframe,” Zuckerman said.

The School of Business faculty will serve in lieu of an official committee that would traditionally lead the national search. After the process finishes, the faculty will hold a vote. This recommendation will be sent to the president and the provost, who will make a final decision, according to Robertson. 

Robertson similarly indicated that she would largely follow the guidance from the School of Business professors. 

“If they decide ‘nope, she’s not a good fit for us,’ we’d be done and we will immediately secure a search firm to help us in a national search,” Robertson said. “Everything that I’ve seen in the School of Business to this point following the departure of Dean Rotondo, the vote has been very large one way or the other. I would say that it would give me great pause was there not a pretty serious majority in favor of this hire.”

Before Zuckerman was considered as a candidate to fill the position, the School of Business  faculty conducted a vote on a resolution regarding a national search, according to professor of accounting Harry Howe. 

 The faculty voted 26-2 in favor of such a search, Howe said. In a separate vote following the administration’s suggestion that Zuckerman be considered to permanently fill the position of dean, the faculty had a 26-2 vote in favor of bringing Zuckerman to the college as though she were a finalist in a national search, according to Howe. 

Associate professor of marketing Jeffrey Gutenberg attributed some professors’ support for the unconventional process to doubts about the immediacy of a national search.

“I think some of the faculty supported bringing [Zuckerman] in because there was this concern about what would happen if they didn’t,” Gutenberg said. “The administration hasn’t provided any assurances that there would be a prompt national search if they didn’t hire her.” 

Forgoing the standard procedure of conducting a national search could reflect poorly on the college, Gutenberg said.

“I’m worried that people from outside [the college] might see this move as unprofessional since we’re not going through the proper process to find a candidate,” Gutenberg said. “They also might view this as potentially unfair, since we’re not keeping it open to people who might want to apply for the dean’s position but aren’t given the opportunity to.”

Rotondo was removed from her position as dean on Jan. 3. This caused some distress from School of Business faculty and members of the college community, according to an article from The Lamron article published on Jan. 25. President Denise Battles allegedly tried to remove Rotondo previously based on the belief that Rotondo was trying to stage a vote-of-no-confidence.Various School of Business faculty members denied that Rotondo attempted to stage such a vote, according to a Feb. 15 article in The Lamron. 

Members of the College Senate Executive Committee similarly discussed holding a vote-of-no-confidence in the College Senate at their Jan. 30 meeting, but decided against it at the time, according to The Lamron’s Feb. 15 article.

Zuckerman expressed no concerns about the way that Rotondo was removed as it pertains to her potential employment. Zuckerman also said that if she were chosen to replace Rotondo, she would attempt to follow the vision of the School of Business when it was led by Rotondo. 

Rotondo will begin serving in the position of Dean of the School of Business at Canisius College starting on June 4, according to an article from Canisius College’s website. Rotondo declined to comment on the situation and multiple members of the School of Business faculty could not be reached in time for publication. 

“I’m pretty excited about the possibility of this opportunity,” Zuckerman said. “I really look forward to going through the process and meeting various constituency groups … and hearing what they have to say.”

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