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March 14, 2002 Candidates for dean of business school present their cases



by Barbara Black

The two shortlisted candidates for dean of the John Molson School of Business presented their platforms to members of the Faculty and others on March 5 — including a reporter from the business pages of The Gazette, who was sufficiently intrigued to write an article praising Concordia’s relatively transparent system for choosing senior academic administrators.

As Provost Jack Lightstone told reporter Sheila McGovern, the open process of presenting shortlisting candidates ensures that the victor is a known commodity, making it easier to carry out his or her promises, but the loser’s fate is known, too, so it takes courage and commitment to apply.

Both candidates are from the School of Business. They are Finance Professor Lorne Switzer and Interim Dean Jerry Tomberlin, who took over when Mohsen Anvari left for a U.S. university last spring.

Both men emphasized the need for a new building to replace the aging and inadequate Guy Metro building, where faculty-student interaction is severely limited. A new building, for which financing is still being sought, would go a long way to help in recruiting top-notch young faculty members, another urgent need.

Both candidates were critical of some current programs, particularly the Master’s of Business Administration, which, despite excellent support staff, has lacked strong leadership in recent years. Indeed, Tomberlin said that the proliferation of specialized programs in the Faculty has made it difficult to find administrators without offering financial incentives.

Switzer made an oblique reference to the university’s reputation in the light of recent controversies. “Our basic integrity is being questioned in the community,” he said, “and our ties with business are becoming frayed.” He pledged to repair this relationship, and he emphasized the working-class, second-chance mission of the university.

For his part, Tomberlin emphasized the need to upgrade the School’s research component, particularly in terms of external grants. This would have the effect of freeing up resources for PhD candidates, who now have to scramble to make a living, often extending their studies unreasonably.

Tomberlin was open about his closeness to the Anvari administration. He played a pivotal role in achieving accreditation from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), a prestigious U.S.-based organization of business schools, and rebranding the Faculty of Commerce and Administration as the John Molson School of Business.

However, both candidates were asked how far the School intended to go in emphasizing its own name at the expense of the university itself. This led to jokes about how faculty members have been handing out their business cards, only to be addressed as “John Molson,” and a general admission that perhaps the pendulum has swung a little too far toward decentralization — at least in terms of business cards.

The search committee invited written, signed comments on the candidates, for which the deadline of March 11 has passed. The term of the new dean runs from June 1, 2002, for five years.