Petition circulating for student vote of no confidence

Students acquired 365 petition signatures toward a confidence/no confidence vote in President Clancy and Provost Levit.

Beginning on Jan. 21, TU Students for Responsible Change (SRC) began circulating a petition calling for a confidence/no confidence vote in President Gerard Clancy and Provost Janet Levit — similar to that of the one held by faculty late last semester. In accordance to Article VII of the Student Association Constitution, the petitioners are seeking to trigger an online referendum in order to give students an opportunity to advise Student Association on how to proceed regarding the True Commitment plan and its resulting fallout.

Article VII reads: “Any student wishing to propose a referendum … must acquire the written support of at least five percent of the student body; this support must be given in a verifiable manner.” According to the University’s “TU Fast Facts” page, 2019-2020 enrollment counts 4,380 students, placing the number of required signatures at 219.

According to Haley Ashworth, a member of SRC, they have collected 370 signatures as of Sun., Jan. 26 at 5 p.m., in less than a week. They plan on submitting the petition to SA on Jan. 27 to be verified. After verification, SA must refer the issue to a vote to be held “within five weeks.”

When asked what prompted the petition, SRC member Elise Ramsey responded, “No one has really asked us, especially not the administrators, who claim that students already ‘voted with their feet.’ Hopefully, the vote will make a firm statement to the Board and University leadership … if they really believe they are acting in the best interests of the University, they can do us the courtesy of sitting down and offering us a real explanation of why their plan is the best way forward.”

This petition follows criticism leveled at both the Board of Trustees and Student Association for a perceived lack of action immediately following the faculty vote of no-confidence held on Nov. 13. In response to the faculty vote, TU Board of Trustees Chair Frederic Dorwart indicated that the vote would have no bearing on the Board’s support for the President and Provost.

It is unclear if a student vote would receive a similar response, despite a very powerful precedent being set in a 1990s no-confidence vote against then-President Bob Donaldson. Donaldson went on to resign from his post, due in part to a SA vote of no confidence.

Leading up to the SA Senate meeting immediately after the faculty vote, there was a considerable increase of “chalking” around campus demanding action from student officers. At the Nov. 19 meeting, when asked if SA would also be holding a vote, SA President Maddie Pickett declined to comment. At the same meeting, Vice President Braden Wright said that any inaction stemmed from a perceived lack of student interest.

The SRC has characterized the general response to the petition as positive overall. Baylor Brandon, a member that has been active in gathering signatures, described his experience: “We haven’t experienced any pushback from administration, faculty or even other students. Interestingly, however, the most commonly-cited reason that students give for not signing is fear of backlash from the administration.”

Brandon gave one example: “There was one student who didn’t want to sign because they were afraid of damaging their RA application. It seems strange to me that a college that claims to have a ‘dedication to free inquiry’ (according to TU’s [newly proposed] mission statement) simultaneously has students who are afraid to speak out against the administration for fear of punishment.”

The outcome of the petition process would ultimately entail an anonymous vote held through Harvey. According to the procedures described in the Student Association bylaws, “public notice of such election shall be given not less than four days before it shall take place,” therefore obligating SA to provide ample time to advertise and ensure students the ability to be informed. These machinations will begin following the submission of the petition of SA Vice President Braden Wright on Jan. 27.