University of Utah President David Pershing has decided to step down during a contentious leadership shakeup in the school’s health sciences division. Speaking to faculty Monday he emphasized the need for transparency in future university decision making.
Pershing made the announcement during a monthly Academic Senate meeting held on campus. He also mentioned the firing and rehiring of Huntsman Cancer Institute leader Mary Beckerle and the resignation of university health care CEO Vivian Lee last Friday.
Pershing said he was as surprised as anyone to learn of Lee’s decision to leave. As to the situation with Beckerle, he apologized and admitted he did not handle it properly.
Concerning future mistakes, Pershing said they can be prevented with better transparency. Which university communications director Chris Nelson says will begin with restoring trust among campus faculty.
“Being more transparent means having the buy-in and consensus of the wider campus community," says Nelson.
Nelson says that doesn’t necessarily mean that the process behind campus decision making will be public. Or that university administrators will always be available. For example, since Monday’s announcement Pershing has declined further comment.
“Right or wrong, he has deferred to his media people like me to answer these questions," says Nelson.
But, Nelson says future controversy can be avoided with more involvement from senior leaders and key faculty members.
Pershing plans to stay in his post through the 2017-2018 academic year if necessary.
As far as the process of choosing a new president, that responsibility falls on on Utah’s Board of Regents who oversee universities statewide.
One of the new president’s first tasks will be appointing Vivian Lee’s successor, a role currently held by interim CEO Lorris Betz.