The Graduate School of Political Management named a new interim executive director last week, marking the second temporary leader to helm the school as it searches for a permanent replacement.
Dennis Johnson, who is in China serving as a Fulbright distinguished lecturer, will replace the previous interim director, who left amid discontent within the program.
Sources said previous interim director Chuck Cushman’s departure was due to a fractured 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.
Over the last year, the graduate program has undergone two search processes to find a new executive director. After the first round of candidates – including a former member of Congress – were deemed unfit for the job, a second search was launched in February.
Cushman applied for the top spot but was told he should bow out to avoid being passed over, sources who would only speak on the condition of anonymity said.
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.
Members of the Council on American Politics – GSPM’s funding and advisory arm – have expressed their concerns to Burke but criticized her for not responding adequately or in a timely manner.
Another point of contention for the council is the title of GSPM’s leader. Several members expressed their desire to maintain dean, as GSPM’s founding dean Chris Arterton was called, rather than executive director, because the title carries more weight.
Arterton originally held the title of dean when the school formed as an independent entity in 1987. The school moved under the umbrella of CPS five years ago, and the decision to change the title occurred shortly after Burke joined the college in 2008.
Members of the council raised the issue at their April meeting with Provost Steve Lerman and Burke, who said they are open to other naming options. GSPM’s leader cannot be named dean, as Michael Castleberry, chair of the executive committee of the Faculty Senate, explained, because such a title is reserved to the head of the school’s overarching structure, the College of Professional Studies.
A long-time member of the Council of American Politics who asked to remain anonymous said University administrators have failed to effectively communicate with the group of high-profile political professionals that provide crucial counsel and financial support for the school.
“In this whole process, the Council on American Politics has been treated very badly, as if we as members are irritants and complainers, rather than consulting with us and helping us be what we joined on to be,” the council member said.
Feelings of skepticism and distrust within the council may lead some members to abandon the school, the council member said.
“What GW is facing here is the possibility of mass resignations from the Council on American Politics,” the council member said. “No one will do it to hurt the school, but they will do it because they think that the way this is being handled by the George Washington University administration is itself harmful to the school.”
Burke’s deanship, which is up for review after her third year in office, faces an evaluation at the end of this year in which “all [CPS] faculty members have ample opportunity to express their views of the dean’s performance,” according to the bylaws.
Lerman declined to comment on Burke’s contract.
The search committee – led by chair of the political science department Forrest Maltzman – includes full- and part-time faculty and, in a change from the first search process, student alumni representation.
“I was excited to go to GSPM and I was excited to see what practical education I was going to get in the field of politics,” a recent alumnus of the school who asked not to be named said. “I feel that that type of energy has been sucked out of the school now.”