By Anna Lynn Winfrey and Sergio Salinas
In an email sent to staff and faculty on the evening of Sept. 1, 2020, President Donal O’Shea announced that Provost Barbara Feldman has “vacated her position.” Associate Provost Suzanne Sherman will serve as acting provost until a replacement is selected.
“I feel very surprised, but I also feel prepared to take on the responsibilities of the Provost position,” Sherman wrote in an email interview. “I love New College. I’ve been here for over 30 years as a member of the faculty and I’ve served on nearly every faculty standing committee.”
O’Shea outlined a multi-step selection process for a new provost, who will most likely be selected from the faculty. He hopes that a new provost will be chosen before the end of September, but added that Sherman will remain acting provost through the end of the semester if the new provost is unable to immediately step into the role.
“We cannot function long without a provost and we have a number of faculty members who would be excellent in the provost role, so it makes sense to start with an internal search,” O’Shea said in an email interview.
O’Shea sent the email to all staff and faculty. When asked why he had not alerted students, alumni and the public, he responded, “I will send a general announcement when I can say more, but wanted to get a search started right away.”
O’Shea declined to comment on what prompted the sudden change in leadership and whether Feldman herself made the decision to depart, citing confidentiality of matters related to employment status.
With Feldman’s departure, the core staff of the provost’s office has gone from four full-time employees to three.
“In my function as Associate Provost, students and faculty are used to hearing back from me pretty quickly when they need my assistance,” Sherman said. “While we hope to provide that same level of service to students and faculty, we may be a bit slower for a short time.”
Sherman also hopes to continue expanding academic offerings and career readiness programs.
“Last year New College added a number of new AOCs and several certificates to our academic program,” Sherman said. “These efforts, along with the work of the Center for Career Engagement and Opportunity and others, are strongly enhancing career-targeted opportunities for students.”
Sherman’s former responsibilities will now be shared by the Provost’s Office and the Office of Student Success and Advocacy. Both departments will collaborate to quickly respond to student concerns.
“I certainly have more to learn, but I feel very supported by many people,” Sherman said.
Managing Editor Ky Miller contributed reporting.