Provost Scott Bass to step down after 10 years
Bass will transition to SPA faculty position
Provost Scott Bass will step down in June after 10 years as the school’s top academic administrator, University President Sylvia Burwell announced in a campus-wide email Friday afternoon.
“He has enhanced the quality of virtually every aspect of our academic community, including scholarship, curriculum, faculty, staff and students,” Burwell wrote. “In so many ways, we are grateful for Provost Bass’s leadership, which has been instrumental in the transformation of American University and the position it enjoys today.”
His departure is the latest in a series of university leadership changes in the past year. Former president Neil Kerwin vacated his position in May 2017. Just before that, former Vice President of Campus Life Gail Hanson, who worked at the University for 20 years, retired in March 2017. Deans in the School of Public Affairs, School of International Service and School of Professional & Extended Studies have also stepped down in the last 12 months.
Bass will officially leave his role June 29, when the University expects to reach “substantial completion on the major elements of our new strategic plan,” Burwell wrote. He will transition to a faculty position in the School of Public Affairs July 1. From there, Bass plans to take a sabbatical and begin preparing for a “new university-wide AU center focused on higher education,” Burwell wrote.
Kerwin hired Bass as provost in 2008. The University received nearly 100 applications for his position, The Eagle reported in 2008. He was the University’s first permanent provost after Kerwin vacated the position in 2005 to becoming acting president during and after an investigation into former President Benjamin Ladner’s use of university funds.
Prior to coming to AU, Bass served as vice president for research and dean of the graduate school at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.
“Throughout his career, he’s demonstrated his ability to balance all the elements that are required to be successful in academic administration,” Kerwin told The Eagle in 2008 just before Bass assumed his position. “I think he’s very well prepared for a leadership position in academic affairs at the University.”
Burwell credits Bass for overseeing an increase in faculty and undergraduate diversity during his years as provost, citing the University’s efforts to expand need-based financial aid and establishing programs like the Frederick Douglass Distinguished Scholars program to attract talented students.
“Under the leadership of Dr. Bass and his enrollment management team, AU increased undergraduate students’ racial, ethnic, socioeconomic and geographic diversity, especially through greater investments in need-based financial aid,” Burwell wrote.
Bass was also “instrumental” in gaining support for the Reinventing the Student Experience (RiSE) program that is restructuring the University’s student advising and academic support services, Burwell wrote. The RiSE effort will be fully implemented in fall 2018.
His tenure as provost did not come without controversy, however. At least two female professors -- both of whom were denied tenure -- have publicly claimed discrimination under his leadership.
Former School of Communication professor Carolyn Brown said in 2017 that Bass unfairly denied her tenure application and punished her for activism on race and gender issues. In 2013, SOC professor Maria Ivancin filed a lawsuit against the University alleging age discrimination and breach of contract after Bass denied her tenure application in 2012. Loubna Skalli-Hanna, a former SIS professor, sued in 2015 for age discrimination after the provost denied her tenure.
The search for AU’s next provost will begin immediately, Burwell wrote.
"AUSG [American University Student Government] looks forward to the search for the next provost and hopes that President Burwell and those involved in the search ensure that the next provost will continue the academic path AU has been on," American University Student Government said in a statement.