U of T is elated to announce what they describe as a “Brain Regained” with the hiring of a new provost. But while praised for her work in equity and academic accomplishments in women’s studies, Shirley Neuman has a rocky past with students.
Neuman, professor of English and women’s studies and dean of the College of Literature, Science and Arts at the University of Michigan, has been named provost of the University of Toronto. She is originally from Alberta, and was Dean of Arts at the University of British Columbia. Birgeneau put forth a warm welcome in the Bulletin: “Shirley Neuman represents the ideal as an academic administrator. She is an accomplished academic continuing her scholarly work while providing exemplary leadership.”
Neuman implemented esteemed initiatives in the realm of equity. She expanded the Michigan college’s six-week comprehensive studies program, geared to applicants from poorer schools, and designated staff to oversee minority student recruitment programs. She also helped introduce women’s studies to the University of Alberta.
However, Michigan’s student newspaper reports on her less celebrated history.
“Neuman’s farewell is not a great loss for the University. Putting aside her reputation as chilly and unresponsive towards student interests, Neuman instituted several negative policy moves that have hurt undergraduate education at the University,” states an April 12, 2002 editorial. Neuman instituted a grades system into the Residential College at the College of Literature, Science and Arts which was unpopular with faculty and students. Also, in February of 2000 students held a three-day sit-in in her office to protest the university’s refusal to join the Worker’s Rights Consortium, an anti-sweatshop organization of students and national experts. Students’ Administrative Council president Alex Kerner hopes, nevertheless, that she will turn the university in a different direction from that of exiting provost Adel Sedra. Sedra was a part of the Robert Prichard administration that lobbied for deregulated tuition for professional programs, increased corporate presence on campus, and oversaw decisions around David Healy and Nancy Olivieri, high-profile academic freedom cases involving U of T, said Kerner. “His track record is not very impressive.”