The provost of Delta State University suddenly stepped down Monday afternoon, according to an internal email obtained by Mississippi Today.
Andy Novobilski, who came to the regional college in the Mississippi Delta in 2021, will move into a faculty position as a tenured professor of computer information systems in the spring, wrote the new president, Daniel Ennis, in an email to faculty and staff.
Novobilski will also stay on as a special assistant to the president for the remainder of the school year.
Ennis emphasized in the email that Novobilski’s transition was due to “family reasons” and is “not an indictment of anyone, nor a reaction to any particular set of circumstances, rather, the result of my own assessment of Delta State University’s direction and my expectations for the President’s Cabinet.”
“Dr. Novobilski ably led Academic Affairs through the pandemic and worked with skill and diligence under three presidents with very different styles and priorities,” Ennis wrote. “He is welcome to serve as a valued member of Delta State University’s professoriate.”
Reached for comment Tuesday morning, Novobilski said he wasn’t ready to share more information about his transition out of the provost role.
“At this point I really have nothing to say, but I tell you what, I do have some really important and really cool family things going on right now,” Novobilski said.
“It’s seriously impacting my time for good reason,” he added.
The move, which was not announced outside of the university, comes as Delta State has started the fall semester in the wake of public uproar over the hiring of an interim band director who made transphobic comments on a now-deleted podcast.
It also may not be the last personnel move Ennis will make this year, he intimated in the email. He has been tasked with improving Delta State’s budget and enrollment, both of which still seem to be struggling.
Last week, faculty were briefed on a cabin “retreat” that Ennis held to focus on the “direction/future of DSU,” according to a faculty senate report to the music department that was obtained by Mississippi Today. The main focus was on recruitment and retention.
The budget for the last school year resulted in yet another shortfall — more than $1.5 million.
This was due to a number of issues, per the faculty senate report: An initial budget forecast that was too high, improperly encumbered funds, and a misconceived sidewalk replacement project the university thought the Mississippi Department of Transportation was covering. It turned out Delta State was responsible for putting 20% toward the project.
But there was some good news: Enrollment, including dual enrollment, was up about 5%.
Novobilski’s transition will mean the university is now searching for an interim provost and a permanent replacement, which Ennis wrote he hopes to have in place by June 2024.
As provost, Novobilski was the university’s chief academic officer — essentially second-in-command. He had earned a reputation as a stickler for the hierarchy of academia, according to multiple faculty members.
Novobilski entered academia, which he has called an “accidental career” after working as a software engineer and starting his own software design consulting firm, NovoTech.
Molly Minta covers higher education for Mississippi Today, in partnership with Open Campus.