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Leeds Dean, Hit By Complaints, Steps Down

David Ikenberry

David Ikenberry

It was only last month that University of Colorado Leeds School of Business Dean David Ikenberry confidently brushed aside complaints about his treatment of women faculty members in the wake of his controversial reappointment to a second five-year term. Now it seems those complaints have caught up with him. Ikenberry this week announced his intention to step down as dean this semester, telling Russell Moore, provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, that the business school needs a “fresh start.”

Ikenberry, who became Leeds’ dean in 2011, had been strongly criticized in faculty assessments of his tenure in 2014 and 2016, but Moore reappointed him based on Ikenberry’s success in improving Leeds’ rankings (No. 70 in Poets&Quants’ 2015 rankings, up from No. 75 in 2014 and No. 90 in 2010), student satisfaction, and student employment placement rates (94% within three months in 2015) — all of which, Moore told Poets&Quants in July, “have significantly increased, far more than we ever saw with Dave’s predecessors.” Moore added that he was “not terribly concerned about some of the allegations of his treatment of women.”

Among those allegations, one anonymous reviewer contended that Ikenberry had “shown repeatedly that he does not fully value the capacity of women at Leeds; in some cases he denigrates women. Although he presents himself as an advocate of diversity, he appears incapable of responding positively when challenged with different views, especially when challenged by women.” Another wrote: “Dean Ikenberry is an unethical narcissist. I have never heard a positive word spoken about him.” A third added, “His decision-making more and more reflects resume-building efforts to the detriment of the Business School.”

When Ikenberry steps down at a yet-to-be-determined point this semester, Bill Kaempfer, senior vice provost and associate vice chancellor for budget and planning, is slated to take over as interim dean. The school announced it will launch a formal search for Ikenberry’s replacement.

3 FEDERAL COMPLAINTS FILED ABOUT IKENBERRY 

After the faculty complaints about Ikenberry became public this summer, the Boulder Daily Camera discovered that three federal gender discrimination complaints were filed by female Leeds employees between 2013 and 2015. One resulted in a $40,000 settlement that included a stipulation that Ikenberry and other Leeds leaders undergo training on their “emotional intelligence” from a leadership coach. Another complaint, filed in May 2015, is still pending; the third was dismissed in April.

As recently as last week, Ikenberry seemed to be looking forward, planning for the start of his new term. On Aug. 25, the Leeds website published an article by Ikenberry titled, “Dean Ikenberry speaks on creating an environment where we can all thrive,” in which he stated that he was aware “the climate at Leeds falls short of where it needs to be, particularly if we are to become a top business school which we aspire to be. Our goal is to embrace fully the principles of inclusive excellence that are a core priority for this campus and for our school.

“As the Dean of Leeds, I am committed to working with our faculty, staff and students to create and support an environment in which all can thrive,” Ikenberry wrote, noting that a steering committee on culture comprised of faculty and staff had been formed “to develop actionable recommendations,” and that he personally had begun “increasing avenues for dialogue by expanding office hours and creating opportunities for faculty, staff and students to share their observations on how Leeds can improve.

“We will also engage outside professionals to identify ways in which we can improve our climate and build a more collegial and equitable culture,” Ikenberry wrote.

LEEDS ‘BETTER SERVED BY BRINGING IN A NEW VOICE’

But shortly after his article was published, Ikenberry — the first CU business school dean in 30 years to be appointed to a second five-year term — had a change of heart.

“It was … late last week where I began to internalize as a leader what’s in the best interest for the university,” Ikenberry told the Daily Camera on Tuesday. “I’m the dean of the business school and I have a passion for seeing it win. And it was my conclusion that if this is the key roadblock, that (Moore) would be better served by bringing in a new voice to take on that challenge.”

Moore, meanwhile, told the Daily Camera that despite the controversy, he would reappoint Ikenberry again today.

“At the end of the day, one thing that’s been missing in a lot of these discussions is the benefit that the students have accrued over the last five years,” Moore said, pointing out a number of metrics to indicate improvement at the school, including a rise in the number of applications from 4,006 in 2012 to 6,181 in 2015. “Student satisfaction is markedly improved and quite frankly that’s the job and that’s the focus, so things have improved there.”

Echoing his sentiments from July, when he told Poets&Quants that “discontent with change” was behind the unhappiness with Ikenberry’s leadership at Leeds, Moore said this week that “the pace of change might have been a bit much for the culture” of the school.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Russell Moore as the president of the University of Colorado. He is the provost and executive vice chancellor for academic affairs.

SEE ALSO DEAN SAYS HARSH REVIEW DUE TO CHANGE