Mary Sansalone, the embattled dean of Washington University's School of Engineering, announced this afternoon that she will step down from her position at the end of the current academic year.
Sansalone, 48, has been a controversial figure at Wash. U. since she arrived in the summer of 2006. Presented with the task of pulling the engineering school out of a financial crisis, she cut costs by streamlining programs and eliminating jobs. Faculty and students protested that the firings were unjust and that Sansalone's new budget did not leave enough funding for research, which caused at least one graduate student to leave Wash. U.
Last August 40 faculty members signed a petition demanding Sansalone's removal. Two weeks ago alumni signed another petition threatening to withhold all future donations until Sansalone was gone. The petition alleged, among other things:
* that Sansalone "unilaterally slashed curriculum" and merged several departments within the school without faculty approval;
* that a technical-writing instructor who had been formally reprimanded by Sansalone "must now earn a master's degree in a subject of the dean's choosing" in order to keep her job;
* and that "the dean and her staff filled six dumpsters with much of the history of the School of Engineering," including alumni records.
Wash. U. spokesman Fred Volkmann says he "can't imagine [the alumni petition] would have any affect" on donations.