When the University of Utah unveiled a plan last spring to improve the undergraduate student experience, the key component was hiring a dean of undergraduate studies.

Eight months have gone by since those "Undergraduate Initiatives" were approved and more than a year has passed and still the position has not been filled.U. faculty and students say the vacancy is a great disappointment, dampening hopes of implementing a series of innovative initiatives to improve undergraduate life and fueling speculation that the promises were just lip service.

A nationwide search was conducted last spring and finalists were selected, explained Jerilyn McIntyre, vice president for academic affairs.

"But right at the point where offers were extended all of the uncertainty developed," she said.

That included the planned retirement of President Chase N. Peterson last summer, an administrative restructuring and concern that there is inadequate funding for the initiatives.

When several candidates withdrew, McIntyre closed the search.

A second search began Jan. 1, with advertisements being published in The Chronicle of Higher Education and other college publications.

However, some faculty members say the second round may be similarly doomed.

First, the search for a replacement for Peterson overshadows all other concerns, explained history professor Sandra C. Taylor.

"People are hesitant to come to a university when they don't know who they are working for," Taylor said.

Student leaders are worried the unfulfilled initiatives and the failure to appoint a dean might lead some of the 19,000 undergraduates to become jaded and disillusioned.

"If interest is lost and the undergraduate initiatives are forgotten, then everything was just nice talk and we'll lose faith in the whole process," said John Wunderli, president of the Associated Students of the University of Utah.