The University of Nebraska Board of Regents appointed Susan Fritz, executive vice president, provost and Dean of the Graduate College at the University of Nebraska, to serve as the first female interim president of the University of Nebraska system during their meeting Thursday, May 30.
Fritz will succeed Hank Bounds, who announced his resignation in March. She will officially begin serving as interim president starting Aug. 15.
“We want an interim leader who will keep us moving forward and capture and retain that trajectory that we’ve enjoyed,” the Board of Regents chairman Tim Clare said during the meeting. “Dr. Fritz is that leader.”
Fritz received three degrees from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She previously served as the associate vice chancellor for UNL’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the interim dean of the Agricultural Research Division.
Fritz said she will continue her role as executive vice president and provost while transitioning into the role of interim president. She said she will not compete for the permanent president position.
“I look forward together with our partners at the capitol, to the philanthropic community, to agriculture and business, to the communities across Nebraska to help set the tone for the next 150 years for this university [system],” she said.
To assist in the presidential search, the Board of Regents considered a report affirming NU staff to enter into an agreement with AGB Search, LLC, an affiliate of the Association of Governing Boards and Universities and Colleges, a higher education nonprofit.
Prior to Fritz’s appointment, four members of Dear UNL, a group of students, alumni, staff and allies advocating for reform within UNL’s Title IX office, spoke during the meeting’s open forum to share their experiences with the office. All four members said they feel the office needs to better advocate for survivors.
Giselle Nevarez, a Department of Sociology staff member, said she was sexually assaulted by another student in 2014. She said the UNL Title IX office didn’t make her feel safe and worthy of protection after reporting the assault.
“My experience with UNL’s Title IX office echoed the abuse I was hoping I would never again have to endure,” she said.
Nevarez said her grades and self-confidence dropped as a result of her experience with the Title IX office. She said she considered leaving UNL and continuing her education at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
“I did not believe safety and normalcy could be a reality for me on this campus,” she said.
Nevarez said she feels UNL must do more to hold perpetrators accountable and to empower and protect sexual assault and misconduct survivors.
“By ignoring the shortcomings of the current Title IX process, the university is signaling that it supports a toxic patriarchal framework which enables abusive actors to carry out their violence because they know they will be protected by the decision-making of UNL leaders,” she said.
Mar Lee, a senior English and global studies double major, spoke of being sexually assaulted during a study abroad trip in May 2017. At the meeting, Lee read an original poem, expressing the aftereffects of the assault and a desire to see change.
“People like me don’t have the luxury to walk alone at night,” Lee said. “We’re always looking over shoulders and at shadows, heart racing, gripping [our] keys like a weapon.”
The next Board of Regents meeting will be on Friday, June 28 at Varner Hall.