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BREAKING: Faculty Senate passes vote of no confidence

Erin Raftery '15, News Editor
February 25, 2014
Filed under News

UPDATED: Feb. 26 at 11:24 p.m.

Saint Joseph’s University Faculty Senate passed a vote of no confidence against Louis Mayer, ’79, Ph.D., vice president of financial affairs, and John Smithson, ’68, senior vice president, on Feb. 25.

At 11 a.m., the Faculty Senate gathered in Mandeville 107 with 161 faculty members present. Robert Moore, Ph.D, faculty senate president, opened the meeting by stating, “Our purpose is to discuss issues affecting SJU from a faculty perspective.”

During the meeting, Moore confirmed that Brice Wachterhauser, Ph.D., was dismissed and did not voluntarily step down from his position as provost of the university.

Shortly following this announcement, the Faculty Senate passed a resolution regarding their interest in faculty involvement in the search for an interim provost, who will fill the position of chief academic officer to succeed Wachterhauser.

In the resolution presented to at the Faculty Senate meeting, the senate stressed concern over the possibility of an interim provost being chosen by “non-academic officers of the administration without sufficient and proper regard for academic qualifications,” and stressed in their resolution the desire for an interim provost who would fit “appropriate academic qualifications.”

The Faculty Senate concluded their meeting by passing a vote of no confidence against Mayer and Smithson. The senate voted unanimously for Mayer and Smithson to resign, with four abstentions.

The Faculty Senate’s resolution said that Mayer was called to resign due to “his failure to responsibly or effectively manage the Office of Financial Affairs, and a loss of confidence in the Office of Financial Affairs across the university.”

Smithson was called to resign, according to the resolution, for his “failure to provide direct and sound explanations for decisions, and provide supporting evidence in the form of credible data.”

The resolution also suggests that he was responsible for the FY13 shortfall of $8 million, FY14 shortfall of $8.7 million, and the decision to enroll 1,500 students next fall.

Additionally, the Faculty Senate implicated Smithson of failing to meet the major duties and powers of the Senior Vice President, particularly emphasizing Smithson’s ineffectiveness to provide timely and relevant information to the university community regarding recent changes and decisions – a duty that is outlined in Article 6 of the Saint Joseph’s University By-Laws stating the Senior Vice President shall, “maintain open lines of communication, seek to understand thoroughly diverse points of view, [and] provide appropriate opportunity for input.”

The first scheduled speaker, Randall Miller, professor of history, echoed communication concerns saying, “For many, communication is a problem…we don’t talk enough with each other across the divide that separates the board and senior management from everybody else.”

Randall continued that this lack of transparency, “suggests a strategy, or conspiracy, bent on silencing faculty and others.”

The Faculty Senate also passed a resolution supporting members who may wish to resign their positions in the Budgetary Advisory Committee (BAC), Institutional Planning Committee (IPC), RCM Implementation Task Force (RCM), and Shared Governance Task Force.

The resolution stated that faculty members feel their contributions to these committees are “largely futile,” and that they [faculty senate] wants “a Saint Joseph’s University that is a model of  effective governance, education, and management.”

The resolution also suggested that the recent outcry by members of the faculty is following three years of financial and accounting inaccuracies by the university.

“This is a sad day for the university community and the faculty in particular. This is an action, as seen here in evidence, that is widely supported,” said Robert Moore, Ph.D., faculty senate president, directly following the meeting.

“I think it’s unfortunate, a no confidence vote is not something to be taken lightly, it’s not something that I wish on anyone,” said student body president Nicholas Paolizzi, ’15.

When asked of the possibility of the University Student Senate also passing a vote of no confidence, Paolizzi responded, “We’re not pursuing that. That is not something that we feel that we can make… [an] informed decision [on], so we will not be proceeding with any no confidence resolutions at this time.”

University President C. Kevin Gillespie,’72, S.J., also responded to the situation via the MySJU Town Hall forum used by faculty and administrators for university communications.

“It is clearly inappropriate and in some cases illegal to discuss personnel issues in a public forum. Further, I find some of the characterizations of existing members of the senior leadership team – especially those by individuals lacking full and accurate information – to be appalling. I will not address misinformation, biased comments or inflammatory rhetoric in this or any other venue,” wrote Gillespie.

In addition, Robert D. Falese, ’69, chairman of the Board of Trustees, released a statement in response to the situation.

“The Board of Trustees looks forward to meeting with the faculty, but remains committed to the direction it has given to Father Gillespie and the administration to manage the university’s overall financial health while preserving and expanding its academic mission,” wrote Falese.

John Smithson, senior vice president, Louis Mayer, Ph.D., vice president of financial affairs, and Brice Wachterhauser, Ph.D., university provost were all unavailable for comment.

Katryna Perera, ’16, assistant news editor contributed to this article

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