Linfield University’s arts and sciences faculty voted no confidence in President Miles Davis and David Baca, chair of the university’s Board of Trustees, this week, 59 to 11. The resolution on which the vote was based calls for the leaders’ resignations, referencing the Linfield board’s ongoing sexual harassment and anti-Semitism scandal. The “words and actions of President Miles Davis and Chair David Baca have created an intimidating and hostile work environment, harmed members of the Linfield community, and damaged Linfield’s reputation,” the resolution says. “Attempts to work collaboratively, constructively, and proactively” with Davis and Baca “to address issues of concern have been met with censorship, punishment, secrecy and defamation.”
Linfield, which investigated several sexual misconduct and anti-Semitism claims involving current board members but found that no university polices were violated, declined to comment on the vote. Linfield’s faculty voted no confidence in Baca last year, as well, over his handling of a sexual misconduct case involving a former trustee, but he remained board chair.
Also this week, Linfield announced possible changes to the composition of its board. The announcement did not mention training for trustees on sexual misconduct, for which faculty members and many students have been pushing. But it does involve eliminating the only voting faculty trustee position from the board and adding three nonvoting faculty trustees, one each from the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Nursing, and the School of Business. If approved, the changes would take effect in June. “Increasing faculty representation as Linfield expands and diversifies has been a top priority of the Board,” Baca said in a statement. This “new structure would allow for broader faculty representation and an even more robust exchange of ideas at Linfield.’’
Daniel Pollack-Pelzner, Ronni LaCroute Chair in Shakespeare Studies at Linfield and the board’s sole faculty trustee, said that ever since he and a student trustee started talking about sexual misconduct allegations against other trustees, including Davis, the president, both Davis and Baca “have been trying to eliminate the student and faculty trustee positions. They don’t want any independent voices in the room for their confidential executive sessions when they evaluate the president and discuss how to respond to allegations. This is simply the latest effort in a new guise -- add faculty representatives, but take away their right to vote, to make motions and to participate in the crucial executive sessions.” Pollack-Pelzner recently went public with his allegations of anti-Semitism against other trustees.
Linfield’s Faculty Senate said it wanted to preserve the faculty trustee’s voting rights, but a university working group decided otherwise. Linfield’s announcement said that the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges “recommends against having trustees that represent individual constituencies, as trustees are supposed to be fiduciaries of the entire institution. For that reason, only 15 percent of private universities in the U.S. have faculty trustees with voting power.”
Referring to Baca’s statement about the board plan, Pollack-Pelzner said that saying “you’re increasing representation by disenfranchising and excluding an entire constituency on campus is deeply disingenuous. And it’s dangerous. It sends the message that people who speak up about sexual misconduct will have their voices taken away. It’s also bad for the board’s fiduciary responsibilities to the whole university. The Linfield board is the only group I’ve ever encountered that seems to think it will make better decisions if it has access to less information.”