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Music-theater teacher lands post after UB denied tenure

A popular music-theater teacher has left the University at Buffalo after the school denied her tenure bid and the State University of New York's acting chancellor rejected her appeal.

Lynne Kurdziel-Formato, whose tenure rejection prompted widespread criticism from colleagues and students, is now an assistant professor at Elon University in North Carolina.

"I love Elon," Kurdziel-Formato said in an interview. "I am not happy with the way I was treated and abused [at UB]."

Her colleague, Tressa Gorman Crehan, a well-regarded dance teacher who also was not granted tenure, remains at UB in a nontenured position. Crehan withdrew her tenure appeal to acting SUNY Chancellor John R. Ryan after accepting a one-year renewable contract to teach dance.

Faculty members at UB remain critical of the decision by UB Provost Satish K. Tripathi -- supported by President John B. Simpson -- that Kurdziel-Formabe denied tenure.

"It's horrible the way it's been handled," said Gerald V. Finnegan, a UB professor of theater and dance. UB spokesman Arthur H. Page said university officials could not comment on personnel matters. The tenure applications of Kurdziel-Formato and Crehan received an unusual amount of public attention this year.

Both women had worked at UB for more than 20 years, and both had become assistant professors of theater and dance in 1998.

Both earned the Milton Plesur Excellence in Teaching Award from the UB undergraduate student government, and both had the support of department faculty members and the department chairman.

The board that reviews tenure applications recommended that the provost grant tenure to Crehan. Kurdziel-Formato did not receive support from a majority of the board.

The provost denied tenure to both. In a statement issued in May, Tripathi noted how important it is that faculty members obtain "national recognition in their disciplinary field."

Kurdziel-Formato and Crehan appealed to SUNY.

Current and former students wrote letters to Simpson and Ryan on behalf of the two teachers, and dozens of students rallied on behalf of Kurdziel-Formato late in the spring.

Kurdziel-Formato said that Ryan, in rejecting her appeal, did not rule on the merits of her application and that she never received a good explanation why she didn't receive tenure.

After a review that began under then-Chancellor Robert L. King, "the acting chancellor has concluded that [Simpson] has taken a reasonable and defendable action in this situation," SUNY spokesman David Henahan said. Kurdziel-Formato said that she wanted to stay at UB but that she is happy to be at Elon, which is building a new performing arts facility. The private school is highly ranked by U.S. News & World Report magazine and other publications.

UB's theater and dance department replaced Kurdziel-Formato for this semester with Daniel Pelzig, a nationally known choreographer and director. The department is conducting a search for a permanent replacement.

"I think we've lost someone who is as good as it gets," said Saul Elkin, a distinguished service professor in the music and theater department and founder of Shakespeare in Delaware Park.

As for Crehan, she received an appointment as a clinical assistant professor. The new position has more classroom responsibilities and does not require travel to conduct research, said Robert M. Knopf, chairman of the theater and dance department.

Crehan said she could not comment on details of her settlement with UB and declined to discuss her case in general.

e-mail: swatson@buffnews.com

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