After nine years as dean of the College of Architecture and Design, Marleen K. Davis was asked to step down in June because she repeatedly overspent her budget and was unable to effectively manage personnel, according to Chancellor Loren Crabtree.
"She has a wonderful vision for the college and has done great things to move it forward, but two fundamental qualities of deans are the budget and personnel," Crabtree told The Daily Beacon in July. "Those she has trouble with. So, that's where she and I disagree."
Davis told the Beacon on Aug. 8 that she was in the middle of an appeal process, but, because of President John W. Shumaker's resignation on the same day, she was "not sure" to whom she was appealing.
She submitted a written appeal, dated July 23, to Crabtree, protesting her dismissal as dean.
"Being asked by Dr. Loren Crabtree on June 2 to 'resign or be fired by the end of the day' without warning is a harsh penalty out of proportion to any shortcomings in my track record as dean," read the executive summary of her appeal. "I believe that the University of Tennessee should rescind Chancellor Loren Crabtree's decision to remove me from my responsibilities as dean. Given my contributions, accomplishments and dedication over the last nine years, this decision is a harsh one, lacks a convincing rationale and cannot be justified ... I would like to be reinstated as dean."
In an Aug. 7 letter of response from Crabtree to her appeal, that wish was denied.
"Although I respect and value your vision for the college, I have decided not to reverse my decision," read the letter.
The letter said deans' administrative responsibilities include responsibility for the faculty and budget of the college.
"In my professional judgment, there are significant failures on your part in these two areas," read Crabtree's letter. "The arguments you have provided in your appeal do not persuade me to alter my decision.
"In my professional judgment, the college will be best served at this time by a change in leadership. Therefore I am reaffirming my decision to relieve you of duties as dean.
"Your term as dean included many positive developments that enhanced the reputation and public perception of the college. I am committed to maintaining and enhancing the professional vision you established for the College of Architecture and Design."
Davis has the option of working for UT as a professor of architecture. Anthropology professor Jan Simek will serve as interim dean until a permanent replacement can be found, and architecture professor Marian Moffett will serve as interim associate dean.
Students and alumni have expressed concern about an anthropology professor heading the architecture program temporarily, but Crabtree said he was confident in Simek's abilities and referred to him as a very skilled administrator.
It generally takes a year or two to find a permanent dean replacement, Crabtree said.
Davis came to UT from Syracuse University in 1994. There were no budget problems in her first two years as dean, but the college had a deficit every year after 1996. Between 1996 and 2000, the deficit totaled almost $678,000, according to Crabtree.
"In 2002, UT transferred $200,000 to try to help Davis deal with the $347,000 deficit of the 2001 fiscal year, but that didn't solve the problem of the leftover deficit," Crabtree said. "Last year, there was a $147,000 deficit. We sent her a memorandum telling her 'you have to make that up.' We were putting pressure on her to control her spending."
No other UT colleges have deficits. Toward the end of the 2002 fiscal year, two deans from larger colleges anticipated overspending, but they went to Crabtree to find ways to work it out.
The College of Architecture and Design is relatively small compared to other UT colleges, with about 35 faculty members and fewer than 500 students.
But Davis cites improvements in the college under her leadership.
"Since I arrived at the college, the quality of our program and student body has improved dramatically," Davis wrote in a cover letter attached with her July 23 appeal. She mentioned that the entering high school GPA had increased from a 3.2 to a 3.7 and retention rates had increased.
"Unfortunately, increases in the college budget are not calibrated to enrollment retention increases so that I am now vulnerable to criticism regarding 'cost over-runs' related to a teaching-intensive program," she wrote in the cover letter.
She also mentioned that endowments and gifts had tripled and that faculty productivity had increased "significantly."
Personnel conflict and tensions within the college had been continuing issues, according to Crabtree.
"The tension has reached a pretty high level in that college," Crabtree said. "It's not minor. We need to have deans controlling these things."
But Davis wrote in the cover letter that "the accomplishments of the college are all the more impressive given some of the internal difficulties I have had to address within the faculty from a few of its members.
"As I have been repeatedly told, the vocal hostility of a few faculty members towards administration is something of a college (of Architecture and Design) tradition and existed long before my arrival."
When asked for comment on Aug. 8, Davis said, "I've been disappointed by the turn of events." But she said she had been "gratified" by the "support shown by the students and profession."
Many students and alumni have expressed their opinions of Davis to the chancellor.
"She has some great skills as a dean," Crabtree said. "Most of the students think highly of her, but others don't. But that's to be expected."
Barbara Laurent, a recent graduate of the Architecture Graduate Program, praised Davis and the progress she's made at UT.
"Before she got there, the program was a mess and couldn't even get accreditation," she said. "To bring a program from obscurity to that kind of prominence is major."
In one letter to Crabtree, four undergraduates stressed that "the college passed two rigorous, full accreditation reviews by the National College Accreditation and Review Board - the first time in 25 years that this has happened."
In addition, two lawsuits have been filed against Davis accusing her of age discrimination against older faculty members.
Crabtree said the lawsuits were not a factor in the decision to ask her to step down.
"We knew about them," he said. "They didn't play any factor in my decision."
Davis told the Beacon on Aug. 8 that she wouldn't comment on the lawsuits.
UT architecture professor Peter Lizon, 63, and former UT architecture professor Shelah Michael Ware each have filed lawsuits alleging age discrimination against UT, Davis and other administrators. Ware's suit was filed last February in Knoxville Circuit Court, and Lizon's suit was filed in January 2003 in Knoxville Chancery Court.
In an affidavit filed in the Ware case, Davis said, "I acted totally within the scope of my official duties as the dean of the College of Architecture and Design based solely upon my professional and academic judgment." She went on to say that "age was not a factor in my recommendation."
Laura Pack and Matt Whittaker
Published: Fri Aug 15, 2003 | Modified: Sat Aug 06, 2005 05:16 p.m.