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Dean apologizes; U. architecture chair to keep his job

Published March 2, 2013 8:26 pm

Comprehensive review promised after boss issues mea culpa for hasty decision.
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The chairman of the University of Utah's School of Architecture, Prescott Muir, agreed to stay on the job Saturday after his boss apologized for seeking his resignation.

Brenda Case Scheer, dean of the College of Architecture and Planning, also said she regretted failing to consider the views of faculty, students and alumni.

"I regret that I acted hastily, without full information and without full consideration of [those] views …" Scheer said in a news release issued late Saturday afternoon by Michael Hardman, interim senior vice president for academic affairs.

"I am sure that there would have been a far different outcome had I been more inclusive," Scheer said.

Hardman announced that Scheer's own regularly scheduled performance review will be folded into a comprehensive review of the college and its architecture school.

Muir's Feb. 22 resignation as chairman — he always intended to remain on the faculty — sparked outrage among those in the school community.

The faculty voted unanimously to back Muir, fellow faculty member and his predecessor as chairman, Patrick Tripeny, said last week.

Some 135 students signed a petition requesting an investigation and seeking Muir's reinstatement last week.

"I am pleased that we can come to an understanding," Muir said in the university's news release. "Now is the time to move forward in a constructive way that builds on a foundation of strong and nationally recognized academic programs within the school and college."

Kathleen Hill, a graduate student in architecture, said Saturday that she is "delighted and relieved" that Muir will remain as chair.

"I feel confident the university administration will fully examine the problem this issue has exposed and make their final decision in the best interest of the students," Hill said.

Muir, a prominent Utah architect, designed the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center in Salt Lake City, the Ethel Wattis Kimball Visual Arts Center at Weber State University, the Stag Lodge at Deer Valley and Swaner Nature Preserve Education Center in Park City. He has been chairman of the School of Architecture since 2009.

Scheer earlier in the week said she did not force his resignation, but that it stemmed from problems in the school that surfaced during a recent accreditation review.

Tripeny said the accreditation evaluators expressed concerns with governance and communication during a visit.

"They were very vague" about the governance issues, Tripeny said. Evaluators also raised a handful of other points, such as an insufficient number of emergency exits on student projects, he said.

Hardman said the review will cover the governance, curriculum and communication issues at the heart of the recent issue. It is to be completed and recommendations made to Hardman within 45 days, the news release said.

The College of Architecture and Planning has about 400 students in architecture, city and metropolitan planning, and in a new program, multidisciplinary design.

kmoulton@sltrib.com