University of Arizona police chief, provost stepping away from their roles

May 2, 2023, 5:00 PM

(Facebook Photo/University of Arizona)...

(Facebook Photo/University of Arizona)

(Facebook Photo/University of Arizona)

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — The University of Arizona’s first female police chief as well as a provost are stepping away from their roles.

Various Tucson media outlets reported that UA President Robert Robbins announced Monday in a memo that Chief Paula Balafas was departing effective immediately. Senior Vice President and Provost Liesl Folks will step down at the end of the school year, Robbins said in the memo.

Their departures come at a time when there continues to be criticism of campus safety issues arose following a professor’s shooting death.

Balafas has been chief since February 2022. Chris Olson, a commander in the nearby Oro Valley Police Department, will take over in the interim.

Robbins said Folks will stay on as a faculty member in electrical and computer engineering. She will also oversee a new Center for Semiconducting Manufacturing.

Administrators came under heavy scrutiny in the wake of the October shooting death of Thomas Meixner, a hydrology professor who was gunned down by an expelled student.

Faculty members said not enough was done after former student Murad Dervish kept sending threatening messages to Meixner and others.

The UA Faculty Senate gave a vote of “no confidence” in Robbins during a meeting a month ago. They also singled out Balafas and Folks.

Robbins and Balafas initially were dismissive of a faculty-led report on how the threatening communications were handled. They urged the community to wait for a third-party investigator contracted by the school to complete an investigation, which found there were gaps in communication and security.

Robbins later apologized for dismissing the faculty’s review.

Dervish is set to go on trial in September for first-degree murder and other charges. He has pleaded not guilty.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

Photo of Rep. Juan Ciscomani of Arizona talks to reporters on Capitol Hill on Feb. 28, 2023. Ciscom...

Kevin Stone

GOP Rep. Juan Ciscomani of Arizona explains why he voted to lift debt ceiling

U.S. Rep. Juan Ciscomani of Arizona said Friday the deal to life the debt ceiling isn't perfect, but it beats the alternative.

13 hours ago

(Arizona Lottery)...

Danny Shapiro

$50 scratch-off ticket winner hits top prize of $5 million in Arizona

There's been a first top prize winner of $5 million for a $50 scratch-off ticket game that debuted in Arizona earlier this year.

13 hours ago

flags at state capitol executive tower and Hobbs holding rainbow flags...

Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs hangs flags at Capitol to celebrate Pride Month

Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs announced Thursday the unveiling of rainbow flags in downtown Phoenix to celebrate the beginning of Pride Month.

13 hours ago

(Facebook Photo/Phoenix Police Department, file)...

Police seek suspect in fatal shooting at Phoenix apartment complex

Police are searching for the suspect in the fatal shooting of a man at a Phoenix apartment complex, authorities said.

13 hours ago

Traffic on westbound Interstate 10 in Phoenix was jammed up during June 2, 2023, Friday morning rus...

Interstate 10 backed up in Phoenix after rush hour crash

Traffic on westbound Interstate 10 in Phoenix was jammed up in Phoenix during Friday morning rush hour after a crash near 35th Avenue.

13 hours ago

File photo of Phoenix Police Department cruiser and police tape. A motorcyclist was killed in a col...

Motorcyclist killed in collision on Northern Avenue in Phoenix

A motorcyclist was killed in a collision on Northern Avenue in Phoenix early Friday, authorities said.

13 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


OCD & Anxiety Treatment Center

How to identify the symptoms of 3 common anxiety disorders

Living with an anxiety disorder can be debilitating and cause significant stress for those who suffer from the condition.

(Photo: OCD & Anxiety Treatment Center)...

OCD & Anxiety Treatment Center

Here’s what you need to know about OCD and where to find help

It's fair to say that most people know what obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorders generally are, but there's a lot more information than meets the eye about a mental health diagnosis that affects about one in every 100 adults in the United States.


Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Company looking for oldest air conditioner and wants to reward homeowner with new one

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.

University of Arizona police chief, provost stepping away from their roles