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UND aviation department head says concerns with provost are not new

The head of UND's aviation department said he still believes that President Mark Kennedy should remove Provost Thomas DiLorenzo from his position.

Last week, the aviation department called for Kennedy to remove DiLorenzo as provost in a detailed, two-and-half page resolution.

The resolution was passed by aviation faculty 32-0, with two members abstaining.

Kennedy penned a letter last week to department chair Jim Higgins and the department outlining their concerns and plans to address them.

In the letter, posted to the UND Today blog, Kennedy claims that the department's concerns were not brought up to the administration beforehand.

"I remain perplexed as to why you or the leaders copied did not seek a meeting to bring these issues to me prior to the faculty deciding to take this action," Kennedy wrote.

Higgins said he understands why Kennedy may feel that the resolution was sudden, adding that the department is also surprised it got to this point as well.

However, the issues the resolution brings up are not new, Higgins said.

In 2015, a survey was conducted by faculty members regarding the transparency and openness of each administrative office, including the provost's office. Around 350 of the 836 faculty members at UND responded to that survey which showed that more than 70 percent of respondents thought DiLorenzo was "not at all" or "not very" transparent and open in the office. More than 70 percent of the respondents also lacked confidence in the provost's office.

"I can assure you that these issues were long-brewing, long-simmering," Higgins told the Herald Tuesday, adding that the faculty felt that now was the right time to go forward with the resolution.

Kennedy told the Herald last week that he plans to leave the provost in place, but expressed concern about the resolution.

"Clearly when our aviation department is concerned, I'm concerned," he said. "They're a premier program for us, one of the jewels of the university that we at the university level are committed to keeping a jewel into the future."

Kennedy met with faculty members with aviation department last week to discuss their concerns.

"We're still hopeful that the president will go with our resolution and do the right thing as we outlined in our resolution," Higgins said, adding that faculty members appreciate Kennedy taking the time to meet with them and express their concerns.

The choice to write the resolution did not happen overnight, Higgins said.

"It was a long-standing situation, but probably the last straw was the removal of the financial decision-making with our flight training rates," Higgins said.

DiLorenzo is requiring that flight training rates paid by aviation students be subject to the review of a committee lacking any aviation experience, according to the resolution.

The aviation department has set the rates for decades because the department knows how things should be funded to ensure that flight instruction is safe and they have the proper resources, Higgins said. He added that the department worries about what the long-term implications of having a non-aviation committee could mean for safety going forward.

"When it comes to aviation it's just absolutely critical that the aviation expertise people are the ones making those critical safety and operational decisions," he said.

Weekly meetings have been planned for the next several months with DiLorenzo, aerospace Dean Paul Lindseth and UND Vice President of Finance and Operations Jed Shivers. In addition, Kennedy has committed to meeting with aviation faculty members on a monthly basis.

Higgins said while he thinks it's a good thing when people gather to discuss a situation like this, the department is "critically stressed." The department hopes that having these "high-level talks" will help them be "resourced appropriately."

"We have a lot of students here with waiting lists and we need classrooms, we need all kinds of things," Higgins said. "We're very thankful for the fact that we have an increased number of students, the university needs that right now for sure, but we also need the resources to adequately handle that."

As outlined in their resolution, Higgins said the department has had a shortened length of time to hire new faculty to help lower that ratio. Higgins said that those looking to make a move in academia typically begin their job search in December. This year, their request to recruit new faculty for the fall 2018 semester wasn't approved until May.

Higgins hopes going forward problems will be able to be resolved and their concerns addressed.

"Hopefully going forward we're going to be able to solve this and move on and heal," he said.

Sydney Mook

Sydney Mook has been covering higher education at the Grand Forks Herald since May 2018. She previously served as the multimedia editor and cops, courts and health reporter at the Dickinson Press from January 2016 to May 2018.  She graduated from the University of South Dakota with a bachelor's degree in journalism and political science in three and half years in December 2015. While at the USD, she worked for the campus newspaper, The Volante, as well as the television news show, Coyote News. She also interned at South Dakota Public Broadcasting and spent the summer before her senior year interning in Fort Knox for the ROTC Cadet Summer Training program. In her spare time, Sydney enjoys cheering on the New York Yankees and the Kentucky Wildcats, as well as playing golf. If you've got an idea for a video be sure to give her a call!

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