As Ohio State celebrates its sesquicentennial, four members of the administration have stepped down from their role. Credit: Amal Saeed | Photo Editor

In the midst of what might seem to be an unusual exodus of administrative officials, the recent Ohio State departures aren’t out of the ordinary.

As Ohio State begins the transition of Michael V. Drake ending his six-year tenure as university president, other parts of the university, including the Office of Student Life, College of Medicine and the Ohio State Agricultural Institute at Wooster, are also facing leadership changes in January. When compared with other Big Ten schools, this kind of turnover is not that different.

According to a Lantern analysis based on Big Ten universities’ websites, the average term length of a university president who has served between 1990 and 2018 is 7.63 years. The average term length for an Ohio State president in the same time period is 6.33 years. University of Minnesota was not included because of a lack of comprehensive information on its website. 

The national average for a university president’s term length decreased from 8.5 years in 2006 to 6.5 years in 2016, according to a study from the American Council of Education.

Anne E. Dorrance was appointed associate dean and director for the Wooster campus — the senior-most position at the regional campus — effective Jan. 1 to replace David Benfield. Melissa Shivers was appointed vice president for student life at the Columbus campus effective Jan. 6 to replace Javaune Adams-Gaston after she became president of Norfolk State University, according to Ohio State’s website. Additionally, Dr. K. Craig Kent, dean of the College of Medicine, will become vice president for health affairs at the University of Virginia beginning Feb. 1.

Drake announced his retirement from the presidency Nov. 21, 2019, and will assume a faculty position, according to previous Lantern reporting. Drake will stay in his current position until at least the end of spring semester.  

The amount of turnover Ohio State is experiencing is “nothing atypical,” Ben Johnson, university spokesperson, said in an email.

“Ohio State employs nearly 50,000 people, and the amount of turnover the university experiences at all levels is typical for an institution of our size,” Johnson said.

The University of Wisconsin, Michigan State University and Penn State are facing similar changes in senior leadership, according to the universities’ websites.

Herb Asher, a retired professor of political science at Ohio State and an adviser to five of Ohio State’s presidents, said the change in the average could be the result of multiple factors, such as a changing media environment, state-budget crises and changing government regulations around higher education.

According to the University of Wisconsin’s website, a search is underway for a new vice provost for enrollment management after Steve Hahn announced he will soon leave the position to take a job with Huron Consulting Group. He served in the role since 2015. 

The University of Wisconsin is also searching for a dean of the College of Letters and Sciences after Karl Scholz, who served in the role from 2013 to 2019, stepped down to become provost in August. 

Margaret Raymond, dean of Wisconsin’s law school, announced she will step down from the role she has held since 2011 at the end of the 2019-20 academic year. Shortly after the announcement, she was named a finalist for the University of Kansas’ provost.

Michigan State University has been in an interim period since September 2019 for its provost and executive vice president of academic affairs after June Youatt resigned from the position in the wake of the Larry Nassar scandal, according to the university’s website; she served in the role from 2014 to 2019. 

Its College of Law is in the process of hiring a permanent dean after Lawrence Ponoroff stepped down at the end of December 2019; he had served in the role since 2016. Mark Largent, associate provost for undergraduate education and dean of undergraduate studies, was recently appointed after serving in the interim position for the past 16 months.

Penn State recently appointed Roger Brindley as vice provost for global programs, effective April 6, after Michael Adequmi left the position this past January to join the Institute for the International Education of Students, according to the university’s website. 

The university is searching for a new dean of the Eberly College of Science after Douglas R. Cavener announced he will return to his full-time faculty role to resume teaching and research at the end of the 2019-20 academic year; he has served in the role since 2015. The university is also searching for a new vice president of business and finance; David Gray intends to retire from the role in which he has served since 2012 this summer.

Asher said this amount of turnover is normal, no matter the university, as administration officials look for career advancement and commonly find it elsewhere.

Kent and Adams-Gaston parted with Ohio State for more prominent positions at other institutions, which Asher said can be because Ohio State is a recruiting ground for administration leadership.

“If you are looking for a provost, you look at Ohio State to see who are the vice provosts,” Asher said.