Rutgers-Camden is creating the position of campus provost, with the dean of its law school stepping into the inaugural role, the school's chancellor announced Thursday.
Rayman Solomon, who joined the Camden law school in 1998, will begin an 18-month appointment Jan. 1. He will continue to serve as law school dean through June 30. The move was announced in a campuswide e-mail sent by campus chancellor Wendell Pritchett.
John Oberdiek, vice dean of the law school, will become acting dean July 1.
As provost, Solomon will serve as chief academic officer, a role that currently does not have a campus equivalent.
At other universities, the provost is responsible for academic issues such as curriculum development, faculty hiring, and tenure. Solomon said he would take on those responsibilities, but a particular job for Rutgers-Camden's provost will be establishing interdisciplinary programs and intercampus initiatives.
Such programs are often discussed, Solomon said, but follow-through can be a problem.
"The chancellors are having trouble operating at the 30,000-foot policy level and not getting into the real weeds that you have to get into if you want to put something together," he said. Meanwhile, "the deans don't have the authority, resources, control . . . to do those kinds of things."
Pritchett said that when he arrived in 2009, he found it inefficient to have one person doing roles traditionally split at other universities.
"There are a lot of . . . missed opportunities that I know Ray is going to help us deal with," Pritchett said, citing Rutgers-Camden's J.D.-M.B.A. program and potential environmental science opportunities in the Pine Barrens as examples.
"In theory, I could do that, and in theory I have tried to do that, but . . . I also have to spend a lot of my time talking to business leaders and politicians and going to board meetings in New Brunswick," Pritchett said. "My job requires me to be out of my office a lot."
While Solomon is the inaugural provost as now defined, he is not the first person at Rutgers-Camden to hold the title.
The university's chancellors, who serve as chief executive officers of their campuses, were called provosts until a name change in 2008.
The position is the first of several being created across the university in response to the higher education restructuring and as an initiative of president Robert L. Barchi.
"It's all being made parallel," said Pete McDonough, the university's senior vice president for external affairs.
Pritchett has said he will step down at the end of the year. He said creating the provost position now - instead of waiting for a new chancellor to appoint one - would add stability to the campus.
"We're going to be in a period of transition," Pritchett said. "One aspect of this decision is to give people more confidence about the transition. Ray's been here for a long time."
Solomon, in turn, agreed to a short appointment to give flexibility to both himself and the new chancellor.
"If I want to stay and the chancellor, she or he wants me to stay, we can have a conversation. But I think it's useful to have an end date," he said. "If the chancellor has a totally different vision, it's awkward to change. This way, it forces both of us to have a conversation at some point during that first year about what we want."
Pritchett and Solomon said the administrative shuffling will not affect the university's anticipated merger of its two law schools. The law school in Newark also saw its dean take on a different university role this year; in both cases, the vice dean has stepped into the interim dean position.
Pritchett said the administrative changes may in fact accelerate the merger. "The acting deans have actually been the people spearheading it for their deans, so it isn't going to slow it down," he said.