Programs of Distinction face uncertain future


Stacks of folders bearing the names of prospective Management Fellows covered a table in the McDermond Center at which Gary Lemon sat early Thursday afternoon. Lemon selected applicants to interview for the program knowing he would not be the one overseeing them in the fall.
Three days after the announcement that Lemon, the director of the Management Fellows and Robert C. McDermond Center, would not return to his position for the 2014-2015 academic year, the futures of the program and of other fellowship programs remain unclear.
While Lemon is quoted in an article printed in The DePauw on Tuesday, Feb. 4 saying Vice President for Academic Affairs Larry Stimpert fired him, both Stimpert and University President Brian Casey said that was not the case. In a phone interview Thursday morning Casey said Lemon did not agree with proposed changes to the McDermond Center. As a result, Stimpert and Lemon decided he would leave the position of director, but would remain at DePauw after a one-year sabbatical as a tenured professor of Economics and Management.
"I think that they reached a mutual decision," Casey said after expressing disappointment over Lemon's comments in the newspaper. "We decided this is the direction we're going and that was something Gary was not going to be interested in leading."
Lemon contended this was not the case. He said after a series of disagreements with Stimpert over the future of the McDermond Center and the Management Fellows program, Stimpert informed Lemon in the fall semester that he would not be asked to return as the center and program's director for the 2014-2015 academic year.
Noticeably more depressed Thursday than he was immediately after the announcement broke on Monday, Lemon said he did not understand the reasoning behind his not being re-contracted.
"I wasn't in the inner circle and that was more than okay with me because I was free to do my own thing, you know? I didn't have to really answer to them," Lemon said. "I got the best students I could, I got the best internships I could, I got students employment, and they didn't know it. And that was okay with me. That was self-satisfaction. It's not my goal to be in the inner circle."
An e-mail sent to faculty, staff and trustees from Stimpert said Lemon would leave his position at the semester's end in May but did not mention why.
Stimpert in a phone interview on thursday night said, "I do not think it is appropriate to discuss matters of personnel publicly."
With Lemon's departure from the position, three of DePauw's centers remain without directors for the coming year. Dave Bohmer, director of the Media Fellows program and the Pulliam Center for Contemporary Media will retire in May, as will Bob Steele, director of the Janet Prindle Institute for Ethics.
Both said their retirements were planned.
A committee of faculty members announced the beginning of the search for a new head of the Prindle Institute Monday, saying it would extend beyond the university. Casey said the search for a new director of the Media Fellow Program and Pulliam Center would begin internally. As for the Management Fellows program and the McDermond Center, the search will begin internally.
Stimpert said, "We'll do some kind of search to find a great replacement. We'll go all out."
"I don't see them as three related things," Casey said about the open positions and searches. "They are three very different narratives."
Lemon said there might be a chance for administrators to make substantial changes to the centers and programs with himself, Bohmer and Steele out of the picture.
"It's a way to wipe the slate clean and they've got a clean sheet of paper now. And they can rearrange these things as they so choose. And whoever comes in here is going to have to say yes to whatever they say; otherwise they shouldn't take the job," said Lemon. "So whatever changes they have up their sleeves, the person who takes my job and Bohmer's job and Steele's job will have to buy in to their vision. And then all of that becomes easy for them."
Stimpert said the administrators involved were not attemtping to destroy the Programs of Distinction in any way.
"I want to clarify, too, that while some are saying that we are trying to remove or disesemble these programs, that could not be farther from the truth."
Another concern for Lemon and Bohmer as the programs come under new leadership is whether the internships, which have been exclusively for fellowship students in the past, will fall under the jurisdiction of the Hubbard Center.
In an interview Thursday, Raj Bellani, dean of experiential learning, prepared to meet with the board of trustees at their annual meeting in Florida and explained some of his goals for the Hubbard Center in the coming year. Among these, he said he hoped to see internships made accessible to all DePauw students, whether in honor and fellows programs or not.
"Our goal is the same, we want every opportunity at DePauw to be just for DePauw students and it doesn't matter where that student comes from at the university," Bellani said. "Whether they're Honors Scholars, whether they're in a different major, it doesn't matter, we want them all to take up this experience."
Lemon said he had discussions with Bellani in the fall, but hoped Management Fellows internships would not be accessible to all students. He said Management Fellows undergo special training for the internships and that he finds and oversees the internships himself.
Should the internships be open to all DePauw students, Lemon said, the potential for students to not perform well or to not receive proper oversight would increase.
While Bellani said he talks with program directors "constantly" about streamlining internships, Bohmer said he has not been reached out to about Media Fellows internships.
As he sorted through Media Fellows applications scoring essays Thursday afternoon, Bohmer said the loss of exclusivity in the internships would seriously damage the program.
"To bureaucratize these programs would be a serious mistake," Bohmer said.
Both Bohmer and Lemon brought up the "hoops" required by the student engagement center in applying for an internship. They also said losing the exclusive internships would be a crushing blow for the Programs of Distinction.
"If you're not going to distinguish, if you're going to give everyone equal access to these internships then do away with the programs," Bohmer said. "Because if the programs don't have a significant benefit associated with them, then what's the point?"
Casey said there would be benefits to the directors working with the Hubbard Center to share internships and support students in applying.
"I would really encourage them to start working with the Hubbard Center. Maybe not under it," Casey said. "But I think the relationships with faculty members should remain."
Another issue in the programs emerged just after Winter Term ended when Marilyn Culler, assistant director of the Media Fellows Program, pointed out to Diane Pierce, who works in admissions, what she saw an error at a meeting regarding Honors and Fellows weekend in early March.
"Right before the meeting broke I said, 'I think there's a typo on the agenda, it says Honor Scholar and Fellows Programs.' And she said, 'No, that's the new name of the programs,'" Culler said. "No one in the room knew that that change had happened and so that was the first time we found out about it."
The new title, which Christopher Wells, head of communications and strategic initiatives, sent in an e-mail to the directors of the Programs of Distinction on Feb. 24 was intended to redevelop a phrase that was "demonstrably confusing to students."
Directors composed and sent frustrated emails saying they were upset to not have been involved in the decision. Additionally, faculty members contended that the new name glorified the Honors Scholars program while the other programs seemed less important.
Culler said stationary addressed to students notifying them of their potential acceptance to the Programs of Distinction must be marked as belonging to the Honor Scholar and Fellows Programs.
In an e-mail to program directors, Wells said the title may be up for discussion in the future. DePauw's website currently reads "Honors and Fellows Programs."
Prospective students will soon read from letterhead bearing a new name, "Honor Scholar and Fellows Programs." They will be evaluated and interviewed by Bohmer and by Lemon. But who will direct them in the fall remains unseen, as does what their experiences will look like.