Cal Poly dismissed College of Engineering Dean Mohammad Noori last Thursday because of a lack of clarity in the direction of the college, said Robert Koob, provost and vice president for academic affairs.
The dismissal came after a number of complaints from and about the college.
“It was more of an internal issue,” Koob said. “There was a lack of clarity in our direction.”
The San Luis Obispo Tribune reported June 24 that the engineering faculty has been critical about budget deficits, how money in the college was allocated and growing class sizes. The Tribune reported that two years ago five engineering faculty members, Unny Menon, Emeritus Michael Cirovic, James Meagher, Rakesh Goel and Frank Owen, called for Noori’s reassignment.
Also, in 2008, a partnership in which Noori attempted to set up an engineering college in Saudi Arabia was never finalized, The Tribune reported.
Additionally, Cal Coast News reported June 24 that Noori was dismissed because of poor management of the budget, a lack of leadership in the college’s most prestigious major and the failure to complete the arrangement in Saudi Arabia.
Neither Koob nor Noori’s replacement, vice provost for programs and planning Erling Smith, would comment on these stories.
Noori faced another complaint about the management of a $1.5 million professorship endowment from entrepreneur Ross Brown, whose brother attended Cal Poly. The endowment would have provided funds for professional development, such as research or student activities, but was never used.
“I have to admit it was something that, because of other things, just fell through the cracks. I am not trying to justify that,” Noori said in an interview with the Mustang Daily in spring 2010. “It is a mistake that was made and we are going to address it.”
In the wake of Noori’s departure, Smith confirmed in an e-mail to the Mustang Daily that he has taken over as interim dean.
Smith will be asked to look at the balance of scholastic activities within the college. He needs to find the optimum student mix within the college given the diversity in the engineering profession, Koob said.
Smith said his goal is to prepare for a new permanent dean.
“(My job is) making sure that everything we do is pointing in the direction of the future and resolving any old issues that may exist,” Smith said.
Koob said the search for the new dean should be done by this time next year.
In the meantime, Smith said he and college administrators will be looking at budget issues.
“The department chairs are looking at all the revenue streams … and making sure that the intent of those funds are being matched to the actual activities,” Smith said. “They’re looking at their own budgets comprehensively and then collectively, justifying each item of budget.”
Smith said he is also looking at staffing within the college.
“I’ll be making sure the job descriptions are appropriate, that the mix of personnel are appropriate for what the college is both currently doing and what it needs to do,” Smith said.
Matthew Cottle, assistant dean for advancement in the College of Engineering, said the change is something the college can easily handle.
“This college is like its own 5,000 person university,” Cottle said. “We have a comprehensive management structure and, therefore, the college doesn’t stop because of the dean’s departure.”
In an e-mail sent to the engineering faculty, Smith outlined his plans to get the college on track.
“By the end of Fall Conference, I want us to have developed a clear plan for the year ahead, identifying the tasks we need to do to get ourselves ready for a permanent dean, and also lay the foundations of a strong but adaptable strategic plan,” Smith wrote.