GSPM executive director resigns amid discontent

Updated April 30, 4:50 p.m.

The acting executive director of the Graduate School of Political Management left his post Friday, leaving the graduate school without a leader and with low morale as it searches for a permanent director.

Sources said Chuck Cushman’s departure was due to a fractious relationship with the College of Professional Studies dean, who has faced heavy criticism from alumni, students and faculty for her oversight of the graduate school.

Cushman informed the faculty of GSPM of his departure and submitted a letter of resignation to Provost Steven Lerman early Friday, just days after two other staff members also left the school. Lerman declined a request for comment.

The graduate program has spent the last year looking for a new executive director, undergoing two search processes after the first round of candidates were deemed unfit for the job. The second round is still underway. Cushman applied for the top spot but was told, sources who would only speak on the condition of anonymity said, he should bow out to avoid being passed over.

Throughout the search, faculty and alumni disparaged College of Professional Studies Dean Kathleen Burke for not including them in the decision-making process and failing to take their concerns for the future of the school into account. Burke, through University spokeswoman Candace Smith, declined to address concerns within the program, but wished Cushman well at Georgetown.

“We appreciate Dr. Cushman’s contributions to GSPM over these many years and especially his contributions as acting executive director.  We wish him well in his new position,” Burke said in the statement.

Burke said she expects to appoint a new interim director early next week. The dean also declined to release minutes from a Council on American Politics – GSPM’s board of trustees – meeting to The Hatchet, saying it was a private meeting. Burke faced criticism during the meeting, a source said.

During the second search, Burke and Lerman decided to drop the requirement that candidates possess a Ph.D. in an effort to widen the candidate pool and decided to hire an outside firm to assist in the process.

Ed Grefe, an adjunct professor who has taught at the University for 15 years, said Cushman’s resignation leaves the school’s morale at an all-time low.

“It’s all evaporated. Whatever good we had going on here evaporated,” Grefe said. “It doesn’t get any better because every single day, we turn around and somebody else is gone.”

Cushman told faculty he intends to assume a new position at Georgetown University, though he did not provide specifics on the role.

“I am leaving for the opportunity to wrestle with new intellectual challenges that will give me a chance to grow as a scholar and teacher,” Cushman said in an e-mail.

Israel Navarro and Ricardo Amado Castillo, who both worked in GSPM’s Latin America program, left their positions the same week.

Castillo was not immediately available for comment. Navarro declined to comment.

Frank Sesno, director of the School of Media and Public Affairs, said he wishes Cushman well in his next endeavor.

“It sounds like he has a terrific, exciting opportunity elsewhere and his departure suggests that he’s looking for change and challenge, which is part of the landscape and part of what we all do,” Sesno said.

Besides sharing a floor in the Media and Public Affairs building with GSPM, Sesno said the two schools have collaborated on several events.

“I know they’re in a very tumultuous search for a new director, but I also know that the University is committed to GSPM and committed to helping it find new leadership,” he said.

This article was updated on May 1, 2011 to reflect the following:
The Hatchet incorrectly titled Candace Smith a media relations specialist. She is a spokeswoman for GW.

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