FIU president comes to defense of controversial business dean

Florida International University President Mark Rosenberg on Thursday strongly pushed back against critics of the university’s controversial business dean, telling a gathering of students, faculty and staff that widely-circulated anonymous e-mails bashing dean David Klock were “gutless.”

“There are ways to hold us accountable that fall within the norms of civilized behavior,” Rosenberg said. “That kind of lynch mob behavior is not acceptable.”

Klock became the business school dean about a year ago. Since then, a growing chorus of faculty and staff has complained about Klock’s leadership – but mostly in private or in anonymous emails that have circulated through the school. Some employees who left the university also gave harsh criticisms of Klock in personnel department exit interviews and some faculty and staff say they’re fearful of retribution if they speak out publicly.

Rosenberg, who had championed Klock’s hiring, used the forum to attack the dean’s critics, calling them “hypocritical, self-serving, and unprofessional.”

The president’s comments came during a faculty assembly for the business school. Although the first half of the meeting was open to the public, the second half — during which faculty were expected to air their grievances — was deemed private by the university administration. A Miami Herald reporter in the auditorium was forced to leave, and a FIU staffer remained outside to make sure the reporter didn’t reenter.

In a written statement, Senior University Counsel Rafael Paz wrote “we do not believe the Sunshine Law affords the general public with a right of access to university faculty/staff meetings or other invitation-only events or activities at the university.”

Several faculty members leaving the closed-door session declined to comment.

During the portion of the meeting that was open, Rosenberg’s defense of Klock did not directly address the validity of complaints about the dean. Some professors and staff contend Klock is too narrowly focused on cost-cutting, and that his management style has alienated those who work in the College of Business. For example, many blame Klock for the recent resignation of the director of FIU’s Healthcare MBA program.

Rosenberg only addressed Klock’s performance in general terms, saying that being the business dean is a “very, very complicated job” and “no one is perfect.”

Klock himself delivered a speech focusing on positive accomplishments of the business school, both generally and during his first year. Despite the current discord, Klock appeared comfortable while speaking, and even cracked a joke at one point about his Boston accent.

Still, at the end of his remarks, only about half of those in attendance applauded.

FIU Provost Douglas Wartzok, who also played a key role in hiring Klock, gave a brief speech in which he defended the selection process. Some members of the university search committee have complained that FIU hired Klock in a hasty, unusual fashion.

In his public comments, Wartzok disputed that Klock received any special treatment, saying “the search process was as we always do with a search committee.”

Last week, however, Wartzok described the process differently in an interview with the Herald. He said then that “it probably was a bit faster than usual for a dean search.”

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