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Auburn's reorganization: Interim president fires staff.

Interim Auburn University (Ala.) President Ed Richardson is on a firing spree. His latest move was the dismissal of Janet Saunders, the executive director for affirmative action and equal employment opportunity. Her duties will be folded into the Human Resources department.

Earlier in the year, Richardson fired Betts, Dement, vice president of the Alumni Association. In art, he has fired 14 administrators and coaches since being asked to lead Auburn. "The firings have affected morale," says Willie Larkin, chair of the university's faculty and senate. "Everyone wonders if they will be next." Larkin expressed opposition to Saunders' termination because she acted as an oversight to the Human Resources department. By lumping EEO efforts into HR, the department will be left overseeing itself.

Richardson has defended his actions by explaining to the media that they are part of a necessary restructuring. Richardson stepped into the job in January after President William Walker was reportedly forced out by Alabama Gov. Bob Riley. Richardson, the former state Superintendent of Education, was handpicked by Riley, and came to Auburn in January with two goals: to get Alabama's largest state university off the academic probation imposed on it by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, and to clean up its sports program. This spring, the NCAA charged Auburn men's basketball program with multiple recruitment violations. Richardson has since fired basketball coach Cliff Ellis and wrested away control of the Athletics Department from Director David Housel, who plans to retire in 2006.

Critics have charged that Richardson has overstepped the rote of an interim president with his bold actions. Richardson counters that although he has agreed to lead Auburn for only two years, he is "not a half-president."

Then again, the question of what constitutes proper leadership has been a problem at Auburn for a white. Last year, the Board of Trustees was accused of micromanaging Auburn and allowing a core group of trustees to wield large influence over the board and the president. This was one of the reasons SACS put Auburn on probation in the first place.
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Title Annotation:In The News
Publication:University Business
Date:Oct 1, 2004
Words:344
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