/ Modified apr 15, 2024 7:46 p.m.

ABOR begins search process for new UA president

The Board named an advisory committee on Monday night.

University of Arizona mall and union Looking west across the University of Arizona mall. The Student Union Memorial Center and Old Main can both been seen.
AC Swedbergh / AZPM

The Arizona Board of Regents announced Monday night that it has formed an advisory committee to begin the search for the next University of Arizona President.

The 18-member committee is made up of members of the board of regents, faculty members, students, the new athletic director, southern Arizona business leaders, tribal leaders, and government officials. The committee will hold its first meeting tomorrow in Tucson on Wednesday.

Two weeks ago, U-A President Robert Robbins announced he would not seek a new contract when his expires in 2026. He also said he would step aside sooner of ABOR named a new president before the end of his contract.

Most recently Robbins has been under fire for the university’s fiscal woes. In November 2023, then-Chief Financial Officer Lisa Rulney and Robbins informed ABOR of a financial miscalculation that led to a $177 million deficit. According to university officials, the UA’s financial downfall is attributed to its spending on capital projects, loans to athletics, COVID-19, inflation, and increased student financial aid.

Since its discovery, Robbins has received campus-wide criticism for his approach to mitigating the university’s finances. In December last year, he announced that Rulney submitted her resignation, but did not tell the campus community that she would remain at UA in an advisory role with her full salary.

Following an Arizona Republic investigation that revealed concerns about UA’s acquisition of Ashford University, now known as UArizona Global Campus, Governor Katie Hobbs shared her dismay at UA’s financial crisis in January.

“There is no coherent vision, let alone even an agreement on the severity of the problem, on how to lead the university moving forward,” Hobbs said.

In her letter sent to the regents, Hobbs said that there may be a need for changes in leadership and processes if progress is not made. Hobbs did not mention Robbins by name.

“This is no longer just about finances, this is about a lack of accountability, transparency, and at the end of the day, leadership,” Hobbs wrote. “...In light of the recent developments, I no longer trust the process that is in place.”

Later on in February, Robbins and interim Chief Financial Officer John Arnold announced five to 15 percent budget cuts across university departments along with layoffs. Staff and faculty felt caught off guard by such changes after Robbins promised campus consultation with key stakeholders, like the faculty senate and staff council.

“The issue that we're seeing is that shared governance gets trotted out quite a lot by the President to say that he has engaged with shared governance and what we what we frequently see is that engaging with us just means telling us how it is,” Staff Council Chair Melanie Madden said following the announcement of cuts.

At the time, both the Staff Council and Faculty Senate were considering votes of no-confidence in the UA administration.

Robbins also faced criticism for the way the university handled the October 2022 on-campus shooting death of Professor Tom Meixner.

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