Chester College employees overwhelmingly passed a critical report on President Robert Baines on Monday, saying the institution’s dire financial situation is due to mismanagement at the highest levels. (Separately, the institution's board affirmed its confidence in Baines in a unanimous vote.)
Every non-adjunct faculty member and all but one staff member signed the 15-point vote of no confidence that said the college’s $750,000 deficit and possible closure “were preventable had the president fulfilled his responsibilities and had the board of trustees held him accountable.”
Baines said the anger is understandable, but that he's confident he handled a difficult situation as best he could while enrollment fell and infrastructure crumbled.
The 119-student arts college in New Hampshire must find hundreds of thousands of dollars in order to stay open next fall. Initial fund-raising efforts had yielded $87,000 as of Sunday, encouraging faculty and student leaders but leaving them far short of their ultimate goal.
Among the criticisms of Baines were his failure to raise funds and his slow speed in alerting employees and students to the magnitude of the financial situation. The petition accuses him of saying, “You cannot fund-raise for a sinking ship.”
He disputes ever saying "sinking ship," but said the concept is accurate enough. "It’s very difficult to go out and raise money with the financial situation we’re in," he said. Efforts to find a partner to take over the campus fell through because many of the college's facilities are in disrepair, Baines said.
The no-confidence vote concedes that Chester’s closure is a possibility, and the document outlines employee efforts to help students transition to a new college should that become necessary. But the document expresses hope Chester can be saved – alluding to pledges of $600,000 in donations over the next six years -- and asks that Baines step aside should the college survive.