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LEADERSHIP CHANGES AT SCOMM
SCHOOL'S DIRECTOR TAKES ONE-YEAR LEAVE OF ABSENCE

The director of UND's School of Communication has left the university for a one-year leave of absence just two years after taking over the position.

Richard Fiordo notified the school's faculty in an Aug. 6 e-mail that he had asked UND for a leave to pursue a professional opportunity. He said he would return to UND in a year.

It's to pursue a professional opportunity, but he didn't give us a lot of detail about it, said Al Fivizzani, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

We approved it. There's little benefit in not approving it.

NO DETAILS

The e-mail didn't provide details about the opportunity, but one of the school's professors said Fiordo was traveling to Atlanta to take a position with the Georgia State University System.

A message at Fiordo's residence stated that his home telephone number is no longer in service.

Fivizzani said UND would fill the position with an acting director. He said Fiordo pledged to be available for consultation for whoever serves as acting director.

Fivizzani said the request, made during the last week of July, while sudden and an inconvenience, didn't represent a particularly difficult or bad situation for UND.

We're still looking for some good things to happen, he said. We're looking to expand programs. I have no great worries. I absolutely expect him to come back.

Doubt expressed

School of Communication faculty members, however, didn't sound like they expected Fiordo would return after his unpaid leave of absence.

I don't think he's going to come back, said Associate Professor Victoria Holden.

While she said she'd take Fiordo at his word, Holden said, When people leave for a year, they don't usually come back unless they've been here for a long time and are going to Norway or something.

Assistant Professor Richard Shafer said he wasn't surprised that Fiordo had taken a leave.

I think everyone knew he was looking for other opportunities, he said. Shafer declined to say whether he thought Fiordo would return.

It's been a tumultuous few years for the UND school.

Succeeded Rakow

Fiordo was named the director in May 1997. He succeeded Lana Rakow, who was dismissed as the school's director a year earlier. Rakow had been hired in 1994 by administrators who hoped she would help the school regain the national accreditation it lost in the early 1990s.

Rakow, who is still a professor at the school, sued UND and three administrators. She alleged that the school had discriminated against her and violated her right to free speech in firing her. A U.S. District Court jury ruled in favor of UND in 1998. Rakow filed an appeal two months later.

Holden said she believed the awkward situation with Rakow was hard on Fiordo.

Associate Professor Lucy Ganje said she didn't think Fiordo's absence would affect the school's push toward accreditation, calling it merely an inconvenience.

I think anytime there's a change in leadership the continuity is affected, she said. But I think that given all the changes within the school in the past several years, we have a strong faculty, and, as in the past, faculty will come together and move the school forward.

I think it's a testament to the faculty that it will only be an inconvenience.

It's to pursue a professional opportunity, but he didn't give us a lot of detail about it, said Al Fivizzani, interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

We approved it. There's little benefit in not approving it.

NO DETAILS

The e-mail didn't provide details about the opportunity, but one of the school's professors said Fiordo was traveling to Atlanta to take a position with the Georgia State University System.

A message at Fiordo's residence stated that his home telephone number is no longer in service.

Fivizzani said UND would fill the position with an acting director. He said Fiordo pledged to be available for consultation for whoever serves as acting director.

Fivizzani said the request, made during the last week of July, while sudden and an inconvenience, didn't represent a particularly difficult or bad situation for UND.

We're still looking for some good things to happen, he said. We're looking to expand programs. I have no great worries. I absolutely expect him to come back.

Doubt expressed

School of Communication faculty members, however, didn't sound like they expected Fiordo would return after his unpaid leave of absence.

I don't think he's going to come back, said Associate Professor Victoria Holden.

While she said she'd take Fiordo at his word, Holden said, When people leave for a year, they don't usually come back unless they've been here for a long time and are going to Norway or something.

Assistant Professor Richard Shafer said he wasn't surprised that Fiordo had taken a leave.

I think everyone knew he was looking for other opportunities, he said. Shafer declined to say whether he thought Fiordo would return.

It's been a tumultuous few years for the UND school.

Succeeded Rakow

Fiordo was named the director in May 1997. He succeeded Lana Rakow, who was dismissed as the school's director a year earlier. Rakow had been hired in 1994 by administrators who hoped she would help the school regain the national accreditation it lost in the early 1990s.

Rakow, who is still a professor at the school, sued UND and three administrators. She alleged that the school had discriminated against her and violated her right to free speech in firing her. A U.S. District Court jury ruled in favor of UND in 1998. Rakow filed an appeal two months later.

Holden said she believed the awkward situation with Rakow was hard on Fiordo.

Associate Professor Lucy Ganje said she didn't think Fiordo's absence would affect the school's push toward accreditation, calling it merely an inconvenience.

I think anytime there's a change in leadership the continuity is affected, she said. But I think that given all the changes within the school in the past several years, we have a strong faculty, and, as in the past, faculty will come together and move the school forward.

I think it's a testament to the faculty that it will only be an inconvenience.

Grand Forks Herald, August 12, 1999