UA Prof: ‘No hope that this was going to be a fair search’

by Chris Horne

This is the story of how an administrator from the University of Toledo with a vagabond work history and weak academic record was voted “unacceptable” as a candidate by six of the 11 voting members of a search committee but still came out on top when University of Akron President Scott Scarborough announced his selection. August 1, Dr. Lakeesha Ransom started work as the university’s new vice provost and the dean of the Honors College, receiving a compensation package almost $98,000 higher than her predecessor, a patent-holding researcher who founded and led the college for 15 years and began his post-interview evaluation of her with “This candidate is not a good fit for the Honors College.”

six unacceptable votes

Screenshot from a document compiled and emailed by search committee chair Dr. Susan Clark

Only one person, Dr. Kathy Liszka, was willing to use her name with this story, but a few faculty members on the search committee spoke to The Devil Strip about their experiences. They asked for anonymity, including tenured faculty, because they fear retaliation from the administration who, they say, could “make our lives hell.” Though Liszka is the only attributed source, we are only publishing the parts of her story that are either confirmed by multiple sources or by the emails and documents released by the university. While we’ve received these materials, The Devil Strip is still awaiting the university’s response to the questions raised by this account of the Honors College dean hiring. We will update as necessary.


False Starts

 

The search committee met for the first time on November 25, 2014. It was a quick meeting and started with a bang.

Screenshot of Dr. Rex Ramsier from the University of Akron website.

Screenshot of Dr. Rex Ramsier from video of a very boring quiz show hosted on the University of Akron website.

Vice Provost Dr. Rex Ramsier told the committee Scarborough did not want the final candidates ranked. Liszka asked why and says Ramsier “went on a rant, an angry rant. I wasn’t even sure what he was saying because he was angry.”

Then it got quiet and she says Paul Herold, Scarborough’s special assistant, spoke up and calmly explained, “The President does not want a ranking in case he should choose a candidate that is not number one in our (the committee’s) selection, and if one of the other candidates, who wasn’t selected, who did rank number one, requested the public documents and found that, they might sue or question why they weren’t selected if they were ranked first.”

In the same meeting, Herold presented the ad for the job listing. Typically, someone pens a draft and the committee workshops it. Sometimes they sit on it a while then discuss once more before posting it. But when feedback started coming in, Herold stopped them, saying the ad had been sent out two hours earlier.

“There was stunned silence,” Liszka says. “It was a done deal. They encouraged us to share the ad with anyone who might be interested in the job.”

But the pool of candidates that December didn’t satisfy the committee, or at least didn’t satisfy Ramsier, who some on the committee say shot down every candidate proposed for a phone interview. Without speaking to a single candidate, they effectively closed the search. Ransom was not one of the applicants.

According to emails released by the university to The Devil Strip, the committee reviewed 47 candidates in December and eliminated 44 from consideration. Three were carried forward: T.J. Arrant, Jeffery Chamberlain and Douglas Robinson. They received 19 more applications before releasing an updated version of the ad on April 1.


Déjà vu all over again

 

“I had no hope this was going to be a fair search,” Liszka says.

A full professor of computer science who specializes in online security issues, says she had been down this road before. About 15 years ago, when she was a newly tenured professor, she was asked to join the search committee that ultimately hired Thomas Gaylord to be the university’s information and technology chief. When the committee was told not to rank the candidates, she says she knew the fix was in. Gaylord was someone it seemed former UA President Luis Proenza wanted to hire so she says “he was smart about it” and wrote the job ad so specifically that “almost no one else in the world” would be able to fit it. In the end, Gaylord was investigated by the Inspector General and fired by Proenza for misspent funds and accepting gifts from vendors.

It isn’t that Liszka fears this specific history will repeat itself, but she does think the university made the kind of mistake that could take the shine off its academic crown jewel.

“I wouldn’t talk if she wasn’t such a bad candidate,” Liszka says.

The University of Akron’s Honors College was designed for its best and brightest undergraduates. It lives at the heart of UA’s best efforts to attract the kinds of high-performing students who raise the academic profile of the university. The next dean would ideally be a strong academic who can set an example and lead; a solid recruiter to attract the best; and a resilient fundraiser to help build the college’s future.

Dean Ransom with a student outside the August 12 meeting of the Board of Trustees (PHOTO: Shane Wynn)

Dean Ransom with a student outside the August 12 meeting of the Board of Trustees (PHOTO: Shane Wynn)

Ransom’s candidacy was riddled with question marks from the beginning. She didn’t include a cover letter with her curriculum vitae. More than one committee member said they tossed out any application without a cover letter, including hers, just to narrow the field. After all, this is for the Dean of Akron’s Honors College. It’s important. What serious candidate would skip that step?

When she “fell into” the final round, those concerns grew louder after her poor performance in interviews. She confessed to hiding in the bathroom at her first fundraising event. She struggled to express why she was interested in this position after taking Toledo’s dean job in only 2013. In person, her engaging personality and energy couldn’t completely cover for her limited experience as an academic, having taught just seven classes and listing only 10 total papers and presentations on her CV—not including her doctoral dissertation, which she defended in 2007 but left off her vita. She claimed to be the founding dean of Toledo’s Jesup Scott Honors College, but it started in 1963 and only experienced a “rebranding” under her watch, a move driven by Toledo’s former provost, Scott Scarborough.

As the Toledo Blade reported at the time of her Akron hire, “Ms. Ransom worked with a consulting firm before she was hired by UT in February, 2013, as part of an effort championed by Mr. Scarborough to rebrand and expand Toledo’s honors program.”

Her work history is full of sudden changes. After working in management at Best Buy corporate headquarters, a couple of internships, an unpaid stint as a reagent for the University of Minnesota and 13 years as a consultant, she leapt straight from a visiting professor position at Assumption University in Thailand to the deanship at the University of Toledo. In evaluations shared with the committee, some Honors College students who liked her personality were nonetheless apprehensive about her potential commitment to Akron because she seemed to hop jobs every three or four years.

There’s another way to look at it.

In an email suggesting changes to a summary of the group’s opinions, Dr. Jon Miller, who Ramsier requested Herold add to the search committee a day before the first meeting, wrote, “…her background in business contextualizes the fact that she has changed jobs often. This is much more common and even expected in the business world, I think, than it is among people rising up through the academic ranks as faculty. It is significant in that it suggests that the candidate might be more focussed* on achieving short-term results while looking to move onto another, better job. It is does not reflect poorly on her, however, as someone with a background outside academia.”

*While commonly spelled in the US with one S, it is not incorrect to use two Ss. I regret using the [sic] to infer it was wrong. Apologies to Dr. Miller. – Chris H.


The Do-Over

 

job posting 4-1 to 4-24There was a sudden rush in late March to get a new version of the job ad out, gather up candidates and vet them in the hopes of bringing them to campus in May. This time, the committee worked some on the new ad before it was posted on April 1, and the difference shows.

Where the first version had been light on details and full of vague, jargon-y personality-based attributes, like “Is a catalyst, comfortable leading change and empowering others,” the new one was much more specific.

Example:

  • Enhance and oversee an exceptional curriculum and related academic opportunities that prepare Honors College graduates to excel in their chosen paths;
  • Recruit and retain an Honors College student cohort that is diverse in all aspects and includes international representation;
  • Create innovative and unique experiential learning and co-curricular programs that can distinguish Honors College graduates and that evolve to meet the changing needs of students and the global community; and
  • Employ strategies to broaden and enhance the robustness of undergraduate student research projects within the Honors College and throughout the university.

In her experience, Liszka says most committees make phone interviews to promising candidates and then winnow down the prospects until they could put together a top three list. On this search committee, Ramsier grabbed a note pad and asked each member for their top ten choices, jotting down names and tallying hash marks for each mention, based solely on their CVs.

The committee members that spoke with The Devil Strip each independently said Ransom was not in most of these individual top ten lists and didn’t make the collective’s top five on the first pass. That changed when Ramsier looked at his pad and said something like, “Oh, I tallied that wrong.”

“One candidate fell out of the top five and Ransom fell on,” Liszka says.

Then, she moved up to the 4 spot but they were only inviting the top three choices and on second look, Ramsier noted the third candidate was out of the country. No way to bring that one to Akron next week so… Dr. Lakeesha Ransom received an invitation to do a job talk, which she delivered on May 7, the second of the three candidates to address whichever faculty members and students could find the time during finals.

“[At the start] it was inconceivable the search was going to go into the middle of May,” Liszka says.

But it did and it was part of the plan.

In an email dated April 3, Herold writes Ramsier and Clark to make plans for their meeting at the end of that month. Herold writes, “At that time, we need to decide next steps with the understanding that we either need to move directly to campus visits or hold campus visits after the spring semester has ended. Regardless, we need to have three finalists recommended to the president and provost by June 1.”


Feels like the first time

 

Then-retiring Honors College dean, Dr. Dale Mugler, interviewed Ransom and Cooke, sending separate evaluations of each. For Chamberlain, a holdover from the first pool, Mugler attached a report from Honors College staff and students. The comments he shared were glowing for Cooke (“the most highly qualified candidate interviewed this past week”); lukewarm for Chamberlain (“an acceptable candidate”); and this for Ransom: “…her academic background is not in the same league as the other candidates. Students in the Honors College need leadership that has an academic background that they respect.”

mugler ransom

Though they weren’t allowed to officially rank the candidates, each of the committee members who spoke with The Devil Strip kept a mental list. All but one, who had placed Chamberlain highest, put Cooke at the top. One committee member said the tenor after the interviews changed, that there was a stronger current against Ransom than for any other particular candidate.

The exception was Ramsier. He seemed to some in the group to be pushing for Ransom in a way no one else was, even among those who were accepting of her. The group had met individually with each candidate over breakfast, and during those interviews, multiple committee members said Ramsier was cold and “borderline rude” to Cooke and Chamberlain. But when Ransom arrived “[i]t was like they were on a first date.” Someone said Ramsier giggled once as she spoke to him.

Mugler’s evaluations were forwarded to the committee by Dr. Dimitria Gatzia, a member of the group. It included an earlier email from Mugler to Gatzia and Liszka that read, “As of today, I will have sent the attached three evaluations to Paul Herold. I thought it would be good for you to have copies of these as well.”

Ramsier forwarded the exchange to Herold with two, short sentences: “Collusion. I will handle it.”

On May 13, as members of the committee fired off suggestions for ways to summarize their discussion about the three candidates, Herold sent Clark his own version of the summary and suggested she “accept all changes so my name is not attached. I think that anything coming from the president’s office is seen as offensive by some of our faculty colleagues.” Herold’s version and the final version seem nearly identical, which makes sense after Clark responded that his idea was “wonderful and a good approach, especially considering the comments posted today.”

Paul writes version of consolidated report


All’s well that ends… well…

 

The committees whose searches ended with the hiring of CAST Dean Todd Rickel and VP of Advancement Larry Burns sent a letter and a matrix of strengths and weaknesses to Scarborough. The Honors College search ended with only a verbal report to the president, says university spokesman Wayne Hill.

“There is no requirement for search committees to develop specific documents,” Hill wrote in an email to the Devil Strip on August 11. “In this case, the Search Committee for Dean of the Honors College did not prepare a formal strengths/weakness matrix for the candidates and made a verbal recommendation to the president reflecting the views of committee members.”

However, on May 14, in an email titled “Information for our meeting today,” Clark sent Scarborough—with Ramsier, Herold, Marcia Fletcher and Kristin Brummond CC’d in—two documents and these words: “Please find attached some information that will be helpful for our 2:00pm appointment today.”

One, “Discussion Points 5-11-15 consolidation attempt final (2),” compiles the discussion from the committee. (Click here to read it all.) The following appears near the top: “In sum, of the 11 Committee members, 10 concluded that 2 candidates were acceptable and 6 Committee members concluded that one was unacceptable. Chair Clark did not participate.”

We have confirmed four “unacceptable” votes for Ransom, which points to her being the unnamed candidate in the summary. Traditionally, this would have ended her candidacy so she wouldn’t go before the president for consideration. Faculty union leader Dr. John Zipp says there’s a logic behind that. A search committee represents the faculty in the hiring process, so it would be “unfair” to the candidate and the faculty for someone voted unacceptable by a majority of the committee to move on and face representative disfavor.

ransomNonetheless, on June 10, the Board of Trustees approved Scarborough’s recommendation to hire Ransom. That may have a little something to do with the second document Clark sent, “Honors + College + Candidate + Evaluations _051415,” which summarizes unattributed evaluations that seem to compile impressions from outside the search committee, like students and other faculty.

Out of five evaluations, Ransom received three rankings on her “Overall Suitability”: a 5 (on a 4 point scale), 1 and 4. One of the two of the favorable comments listed in her section reads: “Dr. Ransom is a rare find. She stood head and shoulders above the other two candidates. She would be an exceptional Dean and Vice Provost of Honors College.”

Scarborough clearly agreed, explaining his decision this way in an email to the search committee: “Selecting a leader for the Honors College is a question of who is the best fit to accomplish what the Honors College most needs to accomplish for the college, itself, and the University as a whole. We need a Dean who will build on the great work of Dean Mugler. At the same time, we need a Dean who will adapt the Honors College to the changing needs and expectations of students and society.”

Though the search committee gave Clark feedback on drafts of her summary of their comments, they never saw the final report presented to the president. But all those who spoke to The Devil Strip said they had long concluded what the end result would be so they weren’t surprised when they received Scarborough’s email thanking them for their time, which each of them felt had been wasted in a sham.


SIDE-BY-SIDE COMPARISONS FROM THE COMMITTEE SUMMARY:

***This is copied directly from the report submitted to President Scarborough. It lists three years of experience for Ransom at the Jesup Scott Honors College, but her CV lists her start as 2013, which would be two years.***

DR. JEFF CHAMBERLAIN

  • Would serve as a traditional honors Dean operating the program we have
  • Many/Several committee members felt the candidate is likely to bring new ideas to the Honors College
  • Shows capability to serve as Vice Provost, but currently reports to a Dean
  • Operates by cultivating one-on-one relationships with faculty
  • The committee was divided regarding the candidate’s ability to be strong in front of business, community, etc.
  • Comes from university similar in size to UA; Program not diverse
  • 8 years’ experience operating an honors college; founding director
  • Very interested in individual student success
  • Had good ideas about course development
  • Research inquiry is history; Holds rank
  • International connections
  • Some members of the committee felt that the candidate was not concise in answering questions; others felt the candidate’s answers were thorough and appropriately academic

DR. KATHY COOKE

  • Would serve as a traditional honors Dean operating the program we have
  • Many/Several committee members felt the candidate’s skill set would allow her to be an innovative dean as well
  • Comes from small homogenous private college
  • 10 years’ experience operating an honors program; founding director
  • Concerned about adequacy of resources for the college
  • Very personable
  • Understands interdisciplinary research; History of science is a strength; Holds rank
  • Remembered names; anticipated questions before asked
  • Obtained grants
  • Some committee members felt that the candidate has the skill set to serve as Vice Provost, while others felt that the candidate is “scalable” to serve as Vice Provost
  • Answered questions well and asked insightful questions

DR. LAKEESHA RANSOM

  • Would serve as a Vice Provost and not be a traditional Honors Dean; the committee was divided as to whether being non-traditional would be a positive or negative
  • 3 years’ experience operating an honors college
  • Appears to require team of subordinates to serve in Dean role
  • Does not have a research background; Does not hold rank
  • Would present well to larger community, business; however, the candidate shared an anecdote that cast doubt for some committee members and to them suggested that the candidate did not appear to like fundraising
  • May not be hands on with individual students and parents
  • Changes jobs every 2-4 years
  • International connections
  • Personable; great energy
  • The committee was divided regarding the candidate’s abilities to focus on diversity and high-impact and to increase enrollment
  • Has higher ed administrative experience; Strong management skills – perhaps not leadership skills
  • Did not interview or answer questions well; appeared to be unprepared
  • Did not submit cover letter

Chris Horne has worked as a journalist and freelance writer for much of the last decade, including as a columnist and editor for The 11th Hour alt-weekly paper, a city hall beat reporter for the (Macon) Telegraph, digital content manager for 13WMAZ-TV and a web producer for Cleveland’s newsnet5.com (WEWS). He is the publisher of The Devil Strip. You can email him at chris (at) thedevilstrip (dot) com.

27 Responses

  1. Olive

    Where is the outrage? I am sick of hearing certain segments of our community brush all of this off with “this is how every big university is run” b.s.!

    Reply
      • OldOlives

        The only way the real issues at top with the BOT will be dealt with is if it reaches Kasich as he attempts to run for president. If somehow or other these scandals can create a bad mark/blemish on his so called ‘perfect’ record for balancing the state budget, then maybe these and other issues would get some serious attention. The problems at UA are already highlighted across the country, but they need to be attached directly to Kasich for some resolve.

  2. Dave Witt

    What I am struck by with this story – what is so remarkable – is that the story could have been written about any one of dozens of “academic” hires over the decades. These searches are perfunctory, much like the empty word salad responses of the current administration when attempting to explain its ham-handed, blunt instrument approach to management. Picking such a weak candidate to head the HONORS college for heaven’s sake is, sadly, more normal for UA than out of the ordinary.

    And there’s this: Prof. Liszka showed courage by speaking out. Her tenured colleagues who remained silent for fearing reprisals – they are simply cowards. No wonder the administration feels it can ride roughshod over its faculty. With backbones like this, who needs jellyfish.
    Dave Witt
    UA Prof. Emeritus (as far as I know since I’ve never gotten confirmation)

    Reply
    • Kathy Liszka

      David,
      Thank you for commenting on the article. We need more people to do that. But I want you to know that I respect the fear my colleagues feel. I really do, and I’m suffering from quite a bit of anxiety as well. In fact, I think it speaks more strongly that they are afraid. What kind of institution do we work for — higher education?? — where we fear punishment for calling them out when they do something wrong? Don’t be hard on them. I appreciate their support more than you know. And as Chris pointed out, he only included things that were support by multiple people and documents.
      Kathy

      Reply
  3. UA First

    You are doing a tremendous job of real investigative reporting. Keep up the effort. It is not in vain.

    Key stakeholder groups are already organizing; and, shortly, will move to oust the corrupt and incompetent clown show currently occupying Buchtel Hall.

    While the current regime is not responsible for the inherited mess from the Proenza-era, they are fully accountable for what has transpired since.

    In their hubris, the Toledo mafia naively believes that they enjoy the full support of the BOT. Yet, in reality, deep cracks have already formed.

    The end of these duplicitous carpetbaggers will occur far sooner than most realize.

    Each day, Scarborough re-affirms that he is already a failed leader; and, has lost any semblance of credibility.

    Once he and his capos are thrown asunder, we can finally get down to the real business of addressing the critical challenges facing the University we all love.

    “Akron Hail, All Hail!”

    Reply
    • Change for UA

      Thank you for giving me some hope that is could all go away. What I cannot understand is why this is not covered more publicly with the media especially with staff confirming a name change to Ohio Tech in January and the bookstore and other retailers already being told to halt all productions on anything that says UA. I am trying to find the silver lining but… I am just so sad for what is occurring to the university that gave me and many other alumni so much to be proud of.

      Reply
    • asmith

      One can only hope. As a “grunt” things are bad and will not get better until at least 1/4 of the other “grunts” laid off w/o rhyme nor reason are rehired. I read today the two “lower paid” staff @ UofA Press will be coming back; that’s good. EJT brought “lower paid” staff back too when the administration realized if they shuttered the doors, the contracts are in breech and it’s cheaper to bring people back than it is to fight lawsuits.

      I know Dave Witt and it’s easy to put your name out when you’re retired. The professors I know haven’t given up hope, but anonymity is not a bad thing when you’re on campus day-to-day. I don’t know Dr. Liszka, but she’s shown real courage to put her name out there. I well remember Dr. Gaylord. What a train wreck! And to think that Dr. Proenza could have been up and gone to the University of Florida with George & Jeb Bush’s help back in 2003 except for that little thing of pissing off the faculty enough to join AAUP which gave the UofF BOT cold feet. A Pyrrhic victory as it turned out.

      Enough ranting and ancient history. If the above poster is correct, we’ll find out soon enough. George Van Horne’s naming to the AD position will be a start. Heck, he even played baseball at UofA!

      Reply
      • asmith

        Oh, I forgot to mention. Even if Dr. Scarborough and crew are shown the door, I was told their contracts stipulate that they are to be paid their current rates for 5 years. Perhaps The Devil Strip can confirm/deny this. Thanks.

      • dave witt

        ASmith – You don’t know me (Dave Witt) or you’d acknowledge the I’ve been putting my name behind my comments regarding the UA administration and its problems at least since 1997 as a faculty senator and then as one of the organizing forces behind the faculty union. And you have me at a disadvantage since you are hiding behind your anonymity. In addition to writing comments in the media for years – always with my name attached, I’ve sent regular criticisms to the academic leadership at UA (president, provost(s), deans) always posing as myself. So being retired has NOTHING to do with my willingness to be identified. Got it?

        If you are a not a faculty member then I’m sure, with your dismissal of the faculty union’s plainly demonstrated pro-faculty, pro-student, pro-staff, and pro-campus stance in its short existence is simply short-sighted on your part. It has fought for and won faculty positions that were jeopardized by administrative whim, kept health care costs significantly below where they would be without the union (and did that for the entire campus), and forced the administration to agree to better pay increases for faculty – both tenured and non-tenure track when compared to all but the two largest universities in the state

        If you are a faculty member, then I’m equally sure you stood firm and refused the pay increases, lower health care, and remained fearful to use your hard won academic freedom.

        The record of the faculty union is not in question here and never has been. Who knows why Univ, Florida passed on Dr. Proenza as their president, maybe you have some insight that others do not. After paying close attention to UA administration for the past couple of decades, I’m pretty sure UA presidents , including Dr. Proenza, do the board’s bidding . You DO understand that the board hires presidents to carry out their agenda, do you not?

  4. Mike

    I cannot comment on Mr. Scarborough or his leadership style, but as a former student of Dr. Ransom’s, I think she was a fantastic dean and professor at Toledo. The skills I gained in her classroom helped he get an internship at one of the biggest medical device companies in the world. She has a track record of success and I wish her well at Alron. She moved the Honors College at Toledo in a positive direction and served as a role model to the younger students, including me. I would ask that anyone with doubts about Dr. Ransom’s skills or experience just give her time to show her talent.

    Reply
    • Chris H.

      Mike, what classes did you take with Dr. Ransom. She only lists a few on her CV and jumped from a visiting professorship in Thailand to her Dean position at Toledo so it’s hard to gauge how much experience she has in the classroom. As a former student of hers, I’m sure you can illuminate that in ways others cannot. Likewise, can you elaborate on “track record of success”? I only ask because she only spent two years at UT. Do you mean in success in the private sector? What direction do you think she moved the Honors College in during her brief stint there? Anything you can add would help. Thanks! – Chris

      Reply
  5. Ben

    Ramsier was promoted to Senior Vice Provost on June 6. Coincidence? I think not.

    Reply
    • Chris H.

      I may try to pull together a timeline of all the hires, promotions, layoffs, budget cuts, approvals, marketing investments, etc. That would be interesting to see… hm. Thanks! – Chris

      Reply
  6. Matt

    I had the pleasure to work directly with Dr Ransom at Toledo. She truly is an amazing woman who made a positive impact on both the students and the Honors College. I have worked with her to raise money for the college and she has a true gift when talking to alums about the vision of the honors college. When Dr Ransom speaks about the college and the students you can feel the passion. She will work great with her development officer. I hope the Akron community will give her a chance. Dr Ransom will move the honors college forward and students will attend Akron because she is there.

    Reply
    • Chris H.

      Hey Matt, thank you for sharing your experience of working with Dr. Ransom. If you care to elaborate, I’d love to hear more about how you helped her raise money for the college. I’ve heard good things about her energy and personality so I have little doubt about that. But I am skeptical about broad claims that she will move the Honors College forward and that students will attend because of her. What makes you say that? I guess I’m mostly curious because she was at Toledo such a short time. It seems like it’d be hard to really judge her effectiveness since she had just gotten started there when she left. Take care! – Chris

      Reply
  7. Truthiness

    Dr. Lizka, thank you for telling the truth of the process, even when it places you in harms way. And anonymous faculty, thank you for verifying this information. Chris, it is refreshing to see old-fashioned reporting, that digs for information and presents more than the surface veneer of an issue. Can’t help but be sad for the UA students, who are the ones ultimately harmed by all the bad decisions.

    Reply
  8. Darren J.

    I am a current employee at the University of Toledo and actually served on Dr. Ransom’s search committee as a student for her dean position. Over the past two years, I have transitioned from a student to a full-time employee and throughout this transition I have increased my level collaboration with the Honors College, specifically Dean Ransom. I have witnessed her passion for connecting her students and unlocking their full potential. Her presence on campus is not matched by any administrator at UT, as she is their greatest ally. Dean Ransom has notedly placed UT on the map by exposing our students to prestigious events such as the Nobel Peace Prize Forum, NASA scholarly projects, and the internationally acclaimed Hult Prize.

    Her background in business has only supported our mission and furthered our students’ success by introducing them to future forward fields such as social entrepreneurism. Her philosophy and work experience is certainly transferrable across multiple disciplines. The Jesup Scott Honors College would have not been on the map or even talked about three years ago…Dr. Ransom changed that. Our enrollment in the Honors College has grown tremendously over the last two years, despite the Honors College working with scarce resources. I think the total staff in the Honors College is only 6 people and the interactions that they share with students and Dr. Ransom’s innovative ideas are, again, unmatched.
    I can’t speak to her classroom activities, but I do know that on the international front Dr. Ransom has a storied resume. She has pulled in many donors within the Toledo area and has great relations with alumni. I am very sad to see that Dr. Ransom is met with such an unwelcoming response from Akron. She has been such a positive force here at UT that we are all very sad to see her go. Unqualified is not even on the list when it comes to Dr. Ransom. There will always be people that dislike change, but I know Dr. Ransom will grow Akron’s presence and connect students with dynamic experiential opportunities.

    Reply
    • Chris H.

      Mr. Jackson, I’ve never heard of a student serving on a search committee before. You’ll have to elaborate. Either way, there is a significant difference between being capable and being qualified. That is, she may be able to do the job the same way you or I may be able to do the job, but that doesn’t mean she is qualified. It isn’t personal and isn’t about her personality. But when a majority of the search committee votes that she’s an “unacceptable” candidate and she still gets hired, it causes questions. She seems like a great person and may be all the things you describe but the story is about how she was hired and how she stacked up to the other candidates in the eyes of the search committee, the former dean of the Honors College and in the student reviews released by the university to me. Thanks! – Chris

      Reply
      • Darren J.

        At Toledo we view students’ opinion in high regard and most departments across our campuses place students on search committees. If you don’t incorporate the students’ voice how can you actually select a candidate? I just don’t see why this article is targeting her specifically…she has ran an entire Honors College prior to taking her post at Akron. She worked in industry, and she has pulled in funds to support students. She’s a great pick! Do you think the negativity coming from Kathy Liszka is out of jealous? Usually faculty and staff that are so outspoken are usually gunning for that position. This doesn’t reflect Dr. Ransom’s ability but a breakdown in the processes at Akron. Kathy is acting like she’s a first time PHD…Dr. Ransom will do the job well!

      • Chris H.

        Darren, I’m not sure if you’ve read the article or not but Dr. Liszka was on the search committee, not a candidate, and her story has been confirmed by multiple members of the committee.

        Kudos to Toledo for involving students on their search committees. That’s pretty unconventional. (UPDATE: The University of Toledo doesn’t list anyone named Darren on the search committee that led to the hiring of Dr. Lakeesha Ransom.)

        As for why the article is “targeting” her, the answer is in the article: She received six “unacceptable” votes (as a candidate, not as a human being) from 11 members of the committee, which would traditionally mean her name would not be forwarded for consideration. In this case, she was not just forwarded but hired. It isn’t personal–I’ve heard great things about Dr. Ransom, including from Dr. Liszka–but rather why was she hired this way? Why waste months of these busy professionals lives if you weren’t going to pay any attention to their recommendations? – Chris

    • Anonymous

      UGH! Toledo’s gain on that one. Good luck working with that hire. Easily one of the worst. Glad to see Scarborough takes his awful hires with him. Finally seeing some light for Toledo now that he’s gone, and a new presidency has taken over.

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  9. Roger Mills

    The time that Dr. Lakeesha Ransom served as an administrator at the University of Toledo were formidable for the Honors College. The college Dr. Ransom inherited upon her arrival was of solid standing, but was not a visible contributor to the University of Toledo community. Under the visionary leadership of Dr. Ransom, the Honors College gained campus recognition, standing in the greater Toledo community and solid international exposer.

    Just as the University of Akron has hesitations about Dr. Ransom’s experience and ability to serve, the faculty and staff at the University of Toledo held the same reservations. These concerns were quickly muffled as Dr. Ranson’s dedication to student advancement, outcome driven work attitude and visionary strategic planning began the transformation of the University of Toledo Honors College. Her work and proven results quickly garnered the respect of faculty, staff and students.

    While in the Dean role, Dr. Ransom was breathing fresh air into an existing program. Under the leadership of Dr. Ransom, the college has expanded the breadth of courses offered, programs and activities. The Honors College vastly increased it’s international profile through faculty led trips, engagement in the Fulbright Program and international service learning. The Honors College students have always enjoyed the programs and services offered within the college, but the introduction of Dr. Ransom to the college has created a new found buzz among students and pride the Honors College that was not present prior to her arrival. Additionally, Dr. Ransom’s entrepreneurial background has allowed her to develop and capitalize on a comprehensive branding and marketing plan; one that which has heightened the images of the University of Toledo Honors College within the nation.

    Dr. Ransom has a proven track record at The University of Toledo and I am certain her expertise will advance The University of Akron in years to come. Her knowledge, skill set and positive attitude will provide the kindling to ignite a great fire at The University of Akron.

    So to that, I pray and hope that my colleagues at Akron don’t destroy everything because of their frustration with parts. Akron is a great institution and I know that they will come out a much stronger institution.

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  10. R. Mills

    Dr. Ransom faced a similar uphill battle at Toledo, as faculty and staff had reservations about her experience and ability to serve. Over time, she was able to build trust among across campus, and people (including myself) began to appreciate her visionary leadership. The college she inherited was solid, but it was not a visible contributor to the University. The time that Dr. Ransom served as an administrator at the University of Toledo were formidable for the Honors College.

    Under her leadership, the Honors College gained campus recognition, standing in the greater Toledo community, and solid international exposure. She raised the level of gifts to the college, and collaborated with the College of Business to secure a $400,000 scholarship gift to recruit honors business students. She collaborated with NASA to develop an Honors Senior Capstone project. She mentored a student who placed in the top 5 of a UN competition. She recruited and advised a team of students who placed in the top 12 of a $1 million international case competition. The Youth Nations honors recruitment program she created is highly lauded, with student participants (across disciplines) claiming that it was “the best week of their lives.”

    To say that Dr. Ransom is unqualified, is simply a misstatement. I understand that people may be frustrated with Dr. Scarborough and his leadership, and it is clear that her candidacy was and her appointment is linked to him. I would imagine that members of the search committee might have strong feelings against him, and/or strong ties to the former dean. Dr. Ransom is a strong and capable leader. Her biggest mistake, however, may have been to have left Toledo prematurely and step into this hornet’s nest.

    Chris, it would be insightful if you could confirm whether Dr. Liszcka, Dr. Gatzia, and other members of the search committee served in an advisory capacity to Dr. Mugler. It would also be insightful to see the full text of Dr. Mugler’s evaluations of all of the candidates.

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    • Chris H.

      That’s an impressive two-year record of achievements. It seems a shame she left the University of Toledo so soon. Imagine what she could have accomplished. I’m being very serious. If she did all these things, it must have really been difficult to see her go. I’ve requested records regarding enrollment, entrance requirements, scholarships and the fundraising done for those. As soon as I have those, I’ll gladly share that information no matter the outcome. Likewise, I’ll gladly share Dr. Mugler’s full comments on all three candidates in the follow-up. I have additional interviews set with other members of the committee to provide more context and I’m happy to hear the University of Akron’s position on the questions posed. I will double check but to my knowledge there are no connections between Dr. Mugler and Dr. Liszka and Dr. Gatzia than the search committee for the Honors College Dean. The assessment of Dr. Ransom’s candidacy is not my own but comes from the majority opinion of the search committee who voted she was unacceptable as a candidate. Speaking with someone on the committee who did not vote her unacceptable, I was told they did so with serious reservations and would have had her ranked last, had they been been allowed. Thanks! – Chris

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  11. Larry's Bowtie

    You ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Ransom looks good (which obviously is a prerequisite for Scarborough–given the indiscretions that led to his firing at DePaul), but she has no concept of how an academic environment works. At UT, she “fired” a tenured professor. Someone got to her to tell her this wasn’t possible and she went on to explain how it was all a misunderstanding.

    The next step Akron’s faculty should look for is Ransom making Honors Program curricular decisions without consulting with faculty or going through the proper approval process.

    She left the UT Honors Program in shambles–so watch out!

    Reply

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