August 20, 2019 | 81° F

Faculty disapprove business school dean

Photo by File Photo |

Students attend the Fall 2013 opening ceremony of the Rutgers Business School building, located at 100 Rockafeller Road on Livingston campus.

Dean Glenn Shafer of the Rutgers Business Schools in Newark and New Brunswick believes his faculty is united — yet in an informal survey initiated and distributed by a handful of professors, 36 out of the 49 respondents said they do not approve of the dean’s performance.

The survey was sent to all 79 full-time RBS tenured faculty listed in the RBS directory. Only four supported the dean’s performance, and six favored him to be the next dean of the RBS.

Benjamin Melamed, a distinguished professor in the Supply Chain Management and Marketing Sciences Department in RBS who helped initiate the survey, said the dean did not respond to it.

In the comments of the survey, several professors expressed that the dean’s direction for the Rutgers Business School has focused on access and diversity rather than excellence.

“RBS needs a dean who can bring the school in academic excellence. ‘Jersey Roots, Global Reach’ cannot be achieved with too much emphasis on diversity and access,” said a comment in the survey.

Shafer said the faculty could initiate a “popularity poll” about him amongst themselves if they wish, but he does not approve of the survey posing the same questions discussing vice deans.

“I report to my superiors in the administration, and it’s their responsibility to evaluate my work. ... I don’t approve of people who maybe didn’t like some decisions [the vice deans] made going around and campaigning to get a popularity poll saying they don’t like the vice deans,” he said. “I don’t think that’s an appropriate way to run a university.”

Rutgers Business School has approximately 170 full-time faculty members and 100 part-time faculty members, Shafer said. At least 80 are tenured, and at least 120 are either tenured or are on the tenure track.

But less than 20 professors, faculty and staff members who attended the first meeting of the dean’s search committee in early March voiced their desires to move toward excellence.

The school is undergoing a dean search as Shafer’s three-year term nears its end. The school also recently had an accreditation visit, which Shafer said he expects to hear results from soon.

On the matter of the dean search, Shafer said applications are treated confidentially.

“The only way to be a dean is to act like you’re going to be dean forever,” he said. “You have got to move forward, or you’re going to move backward.”

While several comments in the survey mentioned the declining rankings the school is facing, the Rutgers Strategic Plan also noted the decrease in rankings in the undergraduate programs in the business school.

“Some of the Rutgers University-New Brunswick’s key undergraduate disciplines are also lagging: For example, in 2013, U.S. News & World Report ranked our undergraduate engineering program and undergraduate business programs in the bottom quartile of public AAU members,” according to the Strategic Plan.

But according to the 2014 rankings from U.S. News & World Report Graduate Business School Rankings, the school’s part-time Master’s of Business Administration program is seventh largest in the nation, and the Master of Accountancy in Governmental Accounting, an online-only program, was ranked as the 27th-best online graduate program in the nation.

Sengun Yeniyurt, an associate professor in the Supply Chain Management and Marketing Sciences Department, said he wants to see the business school become one of the best in the country.

“[Most of] the faculty are unhappy with the situation. … With the integration into the Big Ten, we think it is increasingly more important that we have a strong business school,” he said.

Yeniyurt said the dean’s office is not concerned with the declining rankings at all.

“There are tenured faculty that normally would not move [who] are actively looking for employment … and right now they’re talking to other schools to see if they can find a job,” he said.

Yeniyurt has no qualms about the business school pushing access and diversity, but he feels the school should also try to move toward excellence. He strongly believes RBS has the know-how, the faculty and the student body to be ranked in the top 30 in the nation.

Shafer said many other schools push for accessibility, and Rutgers’ core values in the Strategic Plan mention access and diversity as well.

“Access to excellence, which is more important, you can’t have access to excellence without excellence,” he said.

But Melamed said while access is laudable, the school cannot handle access and excellence with the limited resources it has.

“If we are trying to become … an AAU-grade university, [access] cannot be the first priority,” he said. “We have no choice but to be selective. In this sense, the schools should be separated mission-wise, and yet, they should stay together to present one face to the world.”  

Yeniyurt and Melamed expressed their disappointment when Shafer cut the MBA program in New Brunswick, keeping only the part-time “Flex” MBA program, which is the seventh largest in the country, according to U.S. News & World Report Graduate Business School 2014 Rankings’.

“We did have a full-time MBA program in New Brunswick, and one of the first things [Shafer] did was he cancelled that program,” Yeniyurt said. “Now in New Brunswick, we have a part-time and undergraduate program, and that’s it.”

Melamed said the Ph.D. program is also centralized in Newark. He noted that the dean and other administration cut a program last summer that used to be situated in New Brunswick, Rutgers University Center for Operations Research, or RUTCOR, a first-rate Ph.D. program.

Shafer did not want this Ph.D. program to compete with the centralized one.

“Everybody objected to it, but they went ahead and cut it,” he said. “Everybody wrote letters to [Richard Edwards, interim chancellor of the New Brunswick campus], but it did not matter. They just killed it,” Melamed said.

Yeniyurt was a part of the business school’s building committee when the recently opened business school building on Livingston campus was in its planning stages. He believes Shafer made all the decisions about the building without input from the committee.

“I strongly believe the new building is better than what we had before … but it is not enough. … We do have enough space, I don’t think it is allocated the way it should be allocated,” he said.

Shafer said the committee was created to provide advice to the administration, and its advice was “often not taken.”

The administration and the architect made many decisions that the faculty was not particularly in favor of, he said. He would have opposed it, but since he joined in the middle of that process, he was not involved in many of those discussions.

Several faculty members have complained about the lack of windows in office rooms. Shafer said the planner made some last-minute changes to increase the number of offices with windows to make some of the faculty happy.

Several professors and students have voiced other concerns about issues in the new $85 million business building.

Yair Aviner, a teaching assistant for the business analytics and information technology major, said the building put design before utility.

“There are lab rooms that have these huge all-in-one, 20-something inch screens, but no professor wants to use them because you can’t save any data on the system. … Do I think it’s the best classroom building on any Rutgers campus I’ve been to? Yes, but it also has a lot of flaws,” said Aviner, a Rutgers Business School senior.

Jarrett Alderfer, also a Rutgers Business School senior, said one of the most common complaints he heard is that a great deal of space is wasted, and many claim that not enough thought went into the planning and layout of the building.

He has trouble seeing and hearing in certain lecture classrooms as they extend far back and are equipped with small projectors.

Michael Crew, a distinguished professor in the Department of Finance and Economics, said the large lecture halls are not providing students with the best education. He said there is also a shortage of office space for faculty in the new building.

“We’re not doing anything innovative in these large classes,” he said. “That’s another problem, the rooms are not very good for the purpose.”

Melamed and Crew said the building is more of a teaching institution rather than a research and teaching center for the business school.

Shafer has heard complaints about the large auditorium, which holds 400 students, and that work is scheduled over the summer to correct those problems.

“My perception is, overall, our students are delighted in this building. We haven’t signed off yet, the contractors still have a few things to fix,” he said.

Shafer said the school is putting together plans to build a hotel and convention center adjacent to the new business building in New Brunswick.

The larger issue behind the survey is whether RBS administrators favor the Newark campus, where the business school first emerged in 1929 as the Seth Boyden School of Business, according to the Rutgers Business School website.

“When we started out, we were a very small unit, and it was justified to have us as a satellite of Newark,” Melamed said. “Right now, we enroll more undergraduate students than Newark, and we are still in the growth trajectory. We cannot be run from Newark — we are bigger.”

In November 2011, 397 seniors from the Rutgers Business School completed the Major Field Test administered by the Education Testing Services. All of these students enrolled and completed the capstone course in the school, “Business Policy and Strategy.”

In the fall of 2011, the results showed a mean of 34 percent for Newark and 98 percent for New Brunswick passed the exam, according to a document obtained from RBS. In the spring, Newark had a mean of 59 percent and New Brunswick a mean of 99 percent.

But Shafer said Newark’s location is advantageous for business and Newark reaches a larger population than New Brunswick. The school is closer to New York City, giving them the advantage of access to transportation and businesses.

Shafer said fussing between the two schools and arguing over which school should have a bigger focus is irrelevant.

“It’s true there are a few people for a variety of reasons who say we should be less Newark and more New Brunswick, but that’s not a way to move forward,” he said. “The vast majority of our faculty do not want the school to split, do not want to see us as moving things from one place to another. They want to see us as serving a whole university.”

The survey initiated by professors also provided space for comments where recipients left long and short comments, such as “the administration has made a mockery of faculty governance.”

“Dean Shafer is an imaginative leader but he has two drawbacks — (1) an unwillingness to compromise and (2) a strong bias against New Brunswick,” said another comment.

By December 2013, all three faculty councils on the Rutgers campuses approved a resolution to add strong shared governance between faculty and administration into the Strategic Plan.

“The faculty wanted this [shared governance] and [President Robert L. Barchi] accepted it,” Crew said. “It has been accepted — it’s not just the faculty councils coming up with this, he accepted it from my understanding. ... We haven’t operationalized it yet.”

Crew said some in the school have complained against Shafer, on the grounds that his behavior violates the letter from the councils pushing shared governance.

Piotr Piotrowiak, chair of the Newark Faculty Council, said the resolution is about the faculty having a major voice in the direction of the University.

He is unsure how this affects day-to-day situations and how it will be implemented, but shared governance is a strong reflection of what the faculty want and the voice of what Rutgers will be down the road.

By Julian Chokkattu

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