Chico State provost steps down

After five years on the job, Sandra Flake would rather teach

Sandra Flake, the Chico State provost who was heading up the school’s academic reorganization efforts, announced Feb. 2 that she was stepping down immediately.

Sandra Flake, the Chico State provost who was heading up the school’s academic reorganization efforts, announced Feb. 2 that she was stepping down immediately.

CN&R File photo

When Sandra Flake, Chico State’s second in command, announced she was resigning effective immediately last week (Feb. 2), she wasn’t kidding. By all accounts she was out of her Kendall Hall office the next day, preparing, apparently, to take a teaching position in the English Department next fall, as allowed by her contract.

“Sandra had told me recently that she would be stepping down from the provost-ship in the near future,” said university President Paul Zingg. “I did not think that meant so immediately.”

Zingg said he respects her decision and the timing allows the school time to conduct a search for her replacement, which should be secured before the fall term begins.

“I think this is all I want to say about this matter,” Zingg said. “We move forward, and that’s what the university community most wants to hear and needs.”

Zingg said he would take over the provost’s duties on a temporary basis.

Flake could not be reached for comment by press time. A call to the provost’s office was answered by a woman who said, “We were surprised,” when asked if she knew anything about the sudden retirement. She did not elaborate.

Joe Wills, the school’s director of public affairs, said he had no specifics, particularly on the “sudden” nature of the change.

“The president’s comments don’t include why she decided to resign when she did,” Wills said. “Maybe she’s the only one who could answer the question as to why she wanted to retire at that time. The president said he did not know either and that he did not seek her resignation.”

Wills said he had not talked with Flake regarding her resignation. He explained that built into Flake’s contract when she was hired in December 2006 are “retreat rights,” which means she has the option to step down at any time from the provost position to become a faculty member. She is, he said, a tenured English professor.

Wills said Zingg most likely has the same rights, as did his predecessor, Manuel Esteban.

“When Manuel retired there was talk that he, too, would return to the classroom, in this case as a foreign-language instructor,” Wills said. “It’s not that uncommon.”

Flake has a Ph.D. in English from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and taught at the University of Minnesota from 1978 to 1988.

Aiping Zhang is chairman of Chico State’s English Department.

“Like everyone else we were surprised as well,” he said, adding he had not had a chance to talk with Flake since her decision was made public. “Since day one she has had retreat rights, and now she is coming back to the faculty roster. Arrangements will be made, and at this point there are a lot of things that need to be worked out.”

He said no currently employed lecturers or non-tenured faculty will be bumped to make room for Flake’s arrival.

“We do need teachers,” Zhang said, “especially this year because of retirements and departures from the department. We need replacements.”

When she was hired in December 2006 Flake was quoted in a story on the Chico State website: “I am very excited about joining California State University, Chico, and I am looking forward to working with President Zingg at this important time in the University’s rich history. The campus community has been very welcoming to me, and my husband and I are eager to explore and learn more about the region.”

At the time she replaced Scott McNall, who remained with the school, according to the same story, “as a special assistant to the president in the area of sustainability and environmental stewardship.”

In his email notifying Chico State faculty, students and staff of Flake’s sudden resignation, Zingg lauded her efforts through tough times.

“Throughout years of very trying budget circumstances,” he writes, “she kept her division focused on supporting students and exploring new ways to improve instruction, efforts fully in line with the University’s strategic priorities. I want to thank her for her dedication and expertise and wish her well as a member of the English faculty. I know Sandra enjoys living in Chico and being at Chico State. She will continue to make a positive contribution on campus and in the lives of our students, faculty and staff.”