By Adam Hartmann

Arizona Daily Wildcat

The decision to select an associate professor of Spanish and Portuguese as the department's head was the direct result of a faculty vote, the UA humanities dean said yesterday.

Charles Tatum said he did not make the decision to give Karen Smith, now the interim head, the permanent position. Instead, he told faculty at a meeting Monday night that he would support whatever decision they made.

"I did not select or choose to hold over Dr. Smith," Tatum said. "That was the department's choice. They elected her."

In filling the position, Tatum relied on the efforts of a search committee, comprising faculty and students, to find qualified candidates. The committee then came up with a pool of three professors: Robert Lima from Pennsylvania State University; Maureen Ahern from Ohio State University and James Parr from the University of California-Riverside.

Faculty in the department voted 9-7 on March 25 to support Lima for the department head position, said June Jaramillo, an assistant Spanish professor at the University of Arizona.

But at Monday night's meeting, Tatum announced that he would not hire Lima for the position and the 16 department faculty should nominate in-house candidates for the position.

Jaramillo said three UA candidates were then nominated for the position: Smith, Jose Promis, a Spanish and Portuguese professor, and Lanin Gyurko, also a Spanish and Portuguese professor.

Smith was then chosen by secret ballot.

"I could have lived with any decision of the faculty," Tatum said. "I told them I would honor their choice."

Tatum said the faculty elected Smith to the position by a "clear majority," but the move still angered some faculty and students.

Jaramillo said she thought Lima was going to be selected for the position because she thought he was a qualified candidate.

"There's no question as to his qualifications," Jaramillo said. "I don't think (the decision to hire Smith) should have been made because we have a perfectly good candidate."

Elda Romero, a part-time student and coordinator of the Tucson Coalition of UA Students, Community and Government Leaders of Spanish-Speaking Descent, said Lima should have been given more consideration for the position.

"Who is giving Dr. Tatum negative information on Dr. Lima?" Romero said at a press conference yesterday on the UA campus. "We need Dr. Lima. He would be an excellent role model for our young people."

Romero said she would give Tatum another day to reconsider his decision, after which she said she would consider further action. She declined to say yesterday what further action she would take, but on Wednesday she said she was considering filing a lawsuit.

Tatum said yesterday he spent three weeks checking into Lima's background, after which he determined that Lima was not a sufficient candidate for the position.

He also said the search committee that nominated Lima and two others for the position unfairly rejected several qualified minority and female candidates.

"I was brought finalists that were not as qualified as the people that had been disqualified," Tatum said.

He said he would notify Lima, Ahern and Parr by letter in the next few days of Smith's selection.

Lima declined to comment. Read Next Article