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Two AMU Music Faculty, Including Former Chair, Dismissed

Two of the three full-time faculty of the Ave Maria University music department have been dismissed as part of what AMU President Jim Towey calls an effort for "revitalization" of the department.

Dr. Timothy McDonnell, who was removed as department chair May 20, and instructor Rebecca Ostermann were let go Friday because of what Mr. Towey said an email to AMU faculty and staff were "irreconcilable differences over the direction of the university and the trustees' mandate for change."

Mr. Towey said in his email Friday that the number of music majors at AMU has been declining and that former Vice President of Academic Affairs Michael Dauphinais, before leaving that position to teach in the theology department, had proposed "a set of recommendations that the music major be more closely assimilated within the rest of the academy."

Susan Treacy, the other full-time member of the music faculty and the department chair until 2007 when Dr. McDonnell assumed the position, will return to the chairmanship, Mr. Towey said. She will "work with Dr. Seana Sugrue, interim vice president for academic affairs, in a nationwide search for two new full-time faculty members" for the music program.

Dr. McDonnell clashed with the university administration over its marketing efforts to attract music majors and brought his concerns to the academic affairs committee of the AMU Board of Trustees in February. Although Mr. Towey said in his email that he disagreed that there was "an alleged defect in the administration's marketing and admissions effort," he did say that in the future, there would be efforts to make sure that "promising prospective students and their parents are effectively courted for enrollment in the music major."

Ms. Ostermann did not publicly criticize the university's marketing efforts but she did send a memo May 25 to Dr. Sugrue on behalf of the entire music faculty objecting to Dr. McDonnell's removal as chair of the department.

The status of one other faculty member who has been critical of the administration, economics professor Joseph Burke, was not immediately clear. Other faculty members say that he has been in discussions with the AMU administration for more than a week over what those faculty members describe as "mutually amicable" terms of his departure.

Faculty at AMU are untenured, and a number of them have recently been questioning exactly what protections they have in their employment agreements. Mr. Towey said he is "keenly aware of the need to address the compensation and security concerns of the faculty" and will be presenting a plan this summer to deal with that as well as "help us recruit and retain the finest scholars possible." He said he hoped trustees would approve the plan at their August meeting.

Mr. Towey also said that the university has completed a review of its operations and that he did "not anticipate any further changes at this time." Three staff members have been terminated in the last few weeks, the most recent one coming Friday before Mr. Towey's email was sent.

More background in a previous Ave Herald story Staffing Realingnment at AMU a Source of Concern to Many Faculty, Staff and Residents.

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