SRU eliminates presidential cabinet position

University said consolidation will bring about efficiency, cost-savings

Published by Joe Wells, Date: April 22, 2022
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A second member of SRU President William Behre’s cabinet has been let go from the university Wednesday in an effort to bring down costs.

Amir Mohammadi has served as vice president for administration, global engagement and economic development since July 2019. When announced in April of that year, Behre billed the new role as a “critical position” to find new sources of revenue and help promote a culture of innovation.

By eliminating the position, Behre has consolidated the responsibilities under the new vice president of finance and administration position, naming Carrie Birkbichler to the role. Birkbichler was serving as the chief financial officer of the university.

In the 2019 announcement, Behre said the restructuring of the cabinet did not add any new budget lines for the university. The move expanded the president’s cabinet from four members, including Mohammadi, to eight members. The cabinet had expanded to 10 members this year before the elimination of Mohammadi’s position.

Three years later, the university looks to bring cost savings and efficiency as the president aligns his cabinet with a structure similar to other Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) universities, said Robert King, SRU’s chief communications officer, in an email to The Rocket.

Behre said it is critical to build a cabinet around a shared strategic plan.

“The consolidation of our finance and administration functions under Carrie is a step toward that new vision,” Behre said in an email. “I’m looking forward to her leadership now and through the transition to the next university president.”

Behre also thanked Mohammadi for his service to the university.

The Rocket reached out to Mohammadi for comment, who said he did not wish to discuss the matter at this time but hinted he may have more to say at a later date.

“[I have] a lot to say about accountability, or lack thereof,” he said.

Mohammadi’s relationship with the university has seen friction in years past. During the previous presidential search, he was one of three candidates under consideration to serve as SRU’s 18th president.

During the first selection round, the university’s Council of Trustees failed to send candidates to the PASSHE Board of Governors.

After the hiring of Behre, Mohammadi sued the university, PASSHE and SRU Trustee Robert Taylor for discrimination. That lawsuit was settled through mediation, two months after the cabinet restructure in 2019.

The elimination of Mohammadi’s position at SRU comes just weeks after Abbey Zink, then provost at SRU, was relieved of her position. The university has yet to explain what led to the replacement of Zink, or whether Zink is still employed by the university.

According to the university’s online directory, Zink is still listed as though she is still affiliated with the university.

However, her entry has been updated, removing her title, listing her under the Office of the President and providing a different email address. As of Friday morning, “the Office of the President” was removed, leaving her name and email address.

Mohammadi’s name in the directory was removed shortly after the announcement of his removal.

Along with the cabinet changes, Behre announced in February that he would be retiring in June 2023. A presidential search committee has been created by the Council of Trustees to find his successor.

A search is also in progress to find a replacement for Chief Human Resource Officer Lynne Motyl who is set to retire in June.

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Joe Wells
Joe is a senior communication major with concentrations in converged journalism and digital media production. This is his second year with The Rocket and first as the news editor. With a penchant for asking tough questions, his byline can be found on more than 100 articles for The Rocket including many breaking news and investigative pieces. During the hours he’s not wearing the hat of student journalist, he spends his time as a husband, father and dog owner in Slippery Rock.

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