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UW president assembles new team -- and ruffles feathers

Nov 5, 2013 - The Associated Press

LARAMIE -- The decisions and management style of new University of Wyoming President Bob Sternberg are drawing pushback from some faculty and students, including at least one call for Sternberg to be fired.

Sternberg said he is unsure of what the climate on campus is, but he said he probably did "too much too fast" and is willing to meet and listen to anyone with concerns.

"When I say any unit can improve, and any person can improve, that includes me," he said Monday.

Five administrators and three deans have resigned their positions in the four months since Sternberg took office on July 1.

Law school students sent Sternberg a letter decrying his decision to assemble a task force to review the College of Law, and his decision to hire a consultant to look at the UW football and men's basketball programs also caused a stir.

Charles Ksir, professor emeritus of psychology and neuroscience, sent an e-mail to the UW Board of Trustees asking it to "begin the discussion of how to end his (Sternberg's) presidency soon."

"My impression is that Dr. Sternberg has no respect for anyone or anything other than his own opinion, no matter how little he actually knows about something," Ksir wrote. "He is so clumsy at bringing about change that he's hurting every program he touches."

Trustees President David Bostrom backed Sternberg, saying it is normal for a change in leadership to set off other changes within an organization.

"There are some changes in the philosophy going forward and we are going through a process to make sure we find the best people," Bostrom said. Bostrom said it's far too early to draw conclusions on Sternberg's presidency.

Since Sternberg took office, provost Myron Allen, associate provosts Carol Frost, Andy Hansen and Nicole Ballenger, associate vice president Dave Cozzens and the deans of the UW schools of law, business and education have resigned.

Sternberg -- who came to UW from Oklahoma State University, where he has served as provost and senior vice president -- said he needed to create a team that shared his vision for the university.

"When new presidents come in there is a lot of anxiety, especially if, as in this particular case, the person comes from the outside," he said. "I'm not planning any further personnel changes. I think where we are is where we want to be."

Last week, Education Dean Kay Persichitte and College of Law Dean Steve Easton were the latest to resign their positions. They are both expected to stay on as faculty members.

Easton cited a lack of "meaningful consultation" in high-level decisions regarding the law school for his resignation. He took issue with Sternberg's decision to form a task force to look at whether the school needed more emphasis on oil and gas law.

About 40 law students sent a letter Monday that said Sternberg appeared to be trying to appease the energy industry by focusing on natural resources law.

Sternberg denied any influence by industry on his decision and said the task force will only provide advice and has no power to impose changes.

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