Faculty Vote No Confidence at Ithaca, Chico State

December 15, 2015

Faculty members on two campuses voted no confidence in administrators in recent days. Saying it opposed President Tom Rochon’s “autocratic” leadership style, the Ithaca College Faculty Council released the results of its faculty vote on Monday. Some 78 percent of voting, full-time continuing faculty expressed no confidence in their leader. The turnout rate was 87 percent.

“The number of faculty voters and the strength of its mandate are the culmination of months of deeply reflective, highly intellectual dialogue and organizing,” Mary Bentley, associate professor of health promotion and physical education, said in a statement. The vote is a “clear call to action for the college’s Board of Trustees to remove this president.”

Asma Barlas, a professor of politics at Ithaca, said Rochon’s troubles have been exacerbated by the recent student protests on campus regarding the racial climate. The president’s “so-called solutions to the current crisis have been too little, too late and hence, hopelessly ineffectual,” she said.

In a statement, Rochon said the faculty message and one sent by students in their own vote of no confidence last month “has been a difficult one to hear, but I am listening. I understand that many people on our campus are frustrated with the pace of change and with my own role in effecting it.”

Rochon said he remains “determined to improve Ithaca College's culture for the better, and that includes improving my own approach to collaborating with our faculty, staff and students. l am committed to working with every faculty member, every staff member and every student who desires to make Ithaca College a more welcoming and inclusive community. That is how I can best serve the college, and it will continue to be the focus of my efforts and attention.”

Tom Grape, chairman of the Board of Trustees, said the votes are “one way, along with the many interactions we’ve had on campus and by phone and email, for students and faculty to make their views known to us. We will brief the full Board of Trustees on everything we have learned, and we intend to share an update with the [Ithaca] community early in the spring semester.”

The Academic Senate at California State University at Chico also passed a resolution of no confidence regarding President Paul Zingg; Susan Elrod, interim vice provost; and Lori Hoffman, vice president for business and finance. “The executive leadership has failed to effectively manage the development and implementation of policies and personnel processes that concern the faculty and staff,” the resolution said.

Paula Selvester, a professor of education and member of the senate, said the resolution stems from a history of “instability and a dismissal of shared governance,” the Enterprise-Record reported. “Over the years campuswide trust in our ability to share governing together has declined. … A widely held perception is that decisions are made without adequate consultation here on campus and therefore the quality of decision making has suffered.”

Ahead of the vote, administrators including Zingg emailed members of the faculty to express concern that the resolution lacked specificity, among other issues. Some faculty leaders at the meeting said they wanted more time to review the resolution, but it passed 24-8.

Via email, Joe Willis, a university spokesman, said that while “one senator said during debate that the vote was symbolic in nature, senior leadership at the university looks forward to discussing with the senate what the aims of the resolution are and what consequences are expected from it. In the new year, our provost will be working closely with deans, chairs, faculty and others on a budget allocation model that is responsive to our priorities and represents a commitment to shared governance.”

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