Faculty no-confidence votes increase over last four years
- The Wall Street Journal profiles the growing occurrence of faculty no-confidence votes against presidents and chancellors, which are largely spurred by executives looking to cut costs through programmatic realignment and benefit offerings.
- Colleges and universities nationwide averaged 15 no-confidence votes annually between 2013-2017 according to independent research, a rate that is five times greater than the rate yielded between 2000-2004. Faculty leaders say that the increase in these votes mainly stems from institutions looking to expand in lean financial times and a period of decreasing enrollment.
- While most no-confidence votes usually result in a presidential departure in a year or less, some faculty leaders say they are an effective tool for professors to broker with campus executives for increased representation in decision-making proceedings and more influence over finance and management strategy.
There are a number of reasons for the increase in no-confidence votes. Faculty personnel and resources can be a common target for budget cuts, with the prevailing wisdom among many public systems and state legislative bodies that by cutting faculty members, pension and benefit contributions and payouts that can balloon with long-serving professors and researchers can be reduced. Kentucky and Connecticut are two states where faculty members have cried foul against budget cuts, but are likely to experience deep contraction in teaching and learning resources due to what officials say is the inability to meet rising costs with tuition increases while navigating budget cuts.
There is a risk with the proliferation of no confidence votes. If an institution enacts too many of them, trustees, stakeholders and media can begin to view them as methods of attention-seeking and possible strong-arming against legitimate campus financial efforts. Also, a number of these votes have not been effective. At Howard University in Washington, D.C., for example, faculty members filed presidential no-confidence votes for two straight years, but face no real potential for the top campus executive to resign or be fired by the board for financial mismanagement, as they’ve alleged.
Research by William Austin, president of Warren County Community College in New Jersey, found that 51 percent of presidents of American Association of Community Colleges members that had been subject to no-confidence votes from 2008 to 2017 stayed in office. Among those who left, only about 18 percent were fired or did not have their contracts renewed, and that was usually because of a scandal investigation or some other major problem.
- Wall Street Journal No confidence: College faculties rebel with more votes against leadership
- Education Dive Kentucky legislators target tenure
- HBCU Digest Howard faculty vote no confidence in executive leadership