Faculty vote: confidence in Clancy, Levit

The faculty voted no confidence 157-44 against President Clancy and 161-41 against Provost Levit.

On Wednesday, Nov. 13, 202 out of approximately 344 eligible faculty at the University of Tulsa took part in a motion of no-confidence vote for both President Gerard Clancy and Provost Janet Levit. The results of this vote totaled 157-44 against President Clancy, as well as 161-41 against Provost Levit. The vote was sponsored by the TU chapter of the American Association for University Professors (AAUP) and exhibited a voter turnout rate of nearly 60 percent; for context, this percentage is higher than most presidential elections.

TU-AUUP President Dr. Brian Hosmer initially announced the vote on Friday, Nov. 8. The vote and its subsequent results mark a continuation of the fallout from True Commitment and was most recently catalyzed by the Board of Trustees’s rejection of an alternative to that plan as well as a visit from the HLC liaison to the university Tom Bordenkircher.

The events preceding the vote have become the focal point of controversy for some members of TU’s faculty. In a letter to the national AAUP board, a group of five tenured professors at TU — Drs. Roger Mailler, Karen Cravens, Miriam Belmaker, Stephen Galoob and Suzanne Stanton — questioned the legitimacy of the vote, even going so far as to challenge its legality under official AAUP rules and seek the suspension of the vote.

The basis for this request was reiterated in an email to all faculty at TU sent out by the same professors on Nov. 11: “It is our view that the entire process is questionable … [it is] ill-conceived, illegitimate, and ill-advised.”

In a phone interview on Nov. 12, Dr. Belmaker contextualized the nature of their dissent, primarily challenging the animating factor of the vote: “We feel that all the [TU AAUP] officers represent a very narrow view. They don’t have people there that support True Commitment, for example.”

Although, when asked if pro-True Commitment faculty were unwelcome in the TU chapter, Belmaker continued: “I don’t think that they’ve stopped anybody, but they were not inclusive. It’s unclear to me what their aim is for the chapter. I was not given an invitation.”

Later, Belmaker described what she would consider an appropriate course of action in lieu of a full faculty no-confidence vote: “There’s two options … Option number one is in the [Faculty] Senate itself. If it’s a resolution of no confidence, it would probably pass in the Senate.”
However, the most preferable option, according to Belmaker, is the ratification of specific no-confidence rules for the University of Tulsa.

Citing the procedures established by other colleges such as Wright University, Belmaker is seeking a standardized set of rules for no-confidence in order to minimize the potential for illegitimate votes to take place. In this case, the relative rarity of no-confidence votes at TU directly led to an innate reliance on established AAUP democratic procedures.

In accordance to AAUP rules, non-TU affiliated AAUP members travelled to TU to observe and report any procedures that were inconsistent with their established bylaws. Additionally, the vote-counting process and the subsequent announcement of its results were both open to the campus community in Kendall Hall immediately after the polls closed. The Collegian attended these events and reported the results immediately following their release.

Shortly after the results were announced, Hosmer stated that the vote was “not only clarifying, but represents academic freedom and shared governance, core values of higher education embodied in the AAUP’s founding documents.”
Additionally, TU-AAUP vice president Dr. Matt Hindman stated that for weeks President Clancy “asserted that 20 percent of people will oppose change of any kind, and another 20 percent will instinctively support it” and that his job “was to convince the remaining 60 percent.”
Hindman went on to say, “We now know where that 60 percent stands” and that Clancy “failed at his on metric of leadership.”

When asked for comment about whether the results of the vote would affect the state of shared governance at TU, Provost Levit stated that, “My respect for the faculty of The University of Tulsa is profound. Even where we have differences of opinion, we are each coming from a place of sincere love for TU.”

In response to the same question, President Clancy gave no explicit answer, but Senior Executive Director of Marketing and Communications Mona Chamberlin directed us to an email that the president sent to faculty and staff on Friday wherein Clancy said that the “vote was driven, in part, by the difficult but necessary changes taking place across campus.”

When asked whether the margin of the vote would change the Board’s support for the President and Provost, the Chair of TU’s Board of Trustees Frederic Dorwart simply stated, “No.”

On Nov. 14, the university’s Faculty Senate met for their monthly meeting, but the events of the past two weeks loomed large. Both President Clancy and Provost Levit were in attendance, though Clancy was out of town and was able to attend the meeting through video chat only. Faculty Senate Vice President Dr. Jennifer Airey and many others who attended described the meeting as a “civil” and “robust” discussion about shared governance, foregrounding the next steps for the Faculty Senate.

Nov. 14 was scheduled to mark the last full Faculty Senate meeting before the end of the semester, but instead, an additional meeting has been announced for December, though a specific date has not been chosen. Regarding that extra meeting, Faculty Senate President Dr. Scott Holmstrom stated that “we’ll be looking to take action as a Faculty Senate.”

Though he did call the no-confidence vote earlier in the week “an overwhelming statement,” he would not specify further on what the specific action would be.
Another development in this month’s meeting was the decision to make an ad-hoc committee on shared governance. This committee’s official nomination will take place at next month’s meeting; the committee itself is intended to promote discussion between faculty, administration and the board relating to issues surrounding TU’s governance.

Although the formation of this committee will undoubtedly require a great deal of negotiation amongst those three parties, the preliminary setup might give the Faculty Senate Steering Committee an idea of what to expect in December.
Regarding the need for such a committee, Holmstrom said, “We’ve been doing this separately for months now, with some of us acting as intermediaries. That needs to stop.”

Instead, he said that, “We need to find a way to get at and stay at the table to solve our problems.”

This committee signals a further step towards a more direct relationship between the Faculty Senate and the Board of Trustees. But what will take place at next month’s meeting will be wholly dependent on how administration and the Board respond to the role they would play in such a committee.

To that point, Holmstrom said, “I really do think [the Board] will be receptive,” but that, “we need to make sure that due diligence” regarding shared governance “is followed.”

When asked whether he believed that the Faculty Senate was a legitimate governing body, Chairman Frederic Dorwart said, “The Faculty Senate is a legitimate University organization,” but that “all Faculty Senate resolutions are recommendations to the President and the Board.”

Additionally, the Board passed resolutions last week asserting that, “True Commitment was adopted in full compliance with the University’s Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws … and the principles of shared governance” and later asserting, that “The resolutions of the Faculty Senate … are inconsistent with the University’s Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws … and the principles of shared governance.”

The views put forth by the Faculty Senate and the Board are conflicted, and whether a consensus can be reached will likely drive the debate as True Commitment enters its eighth month. However, although these two institutional bodies have been active in the wake of True Commitment, there has been little or no action on the part of Student Association.

Despite the pivotal role played by Student Association in the 1990s’ no-confidence vote against TU President Bob Donaldson, at present there is no vote scheduled for SA regarding this matter. However, on Nov. 12, TU Vice President Earl Johnson appeared as a surprise guest speaker; Johnson elected to read the previously-mentioned email sent by Dr. Belmaker that dubbed the vote “illegitimate.”.

It is unclear whether Student Association will be utilizing the previously-established precedent that held so much power several years ago. This uncertainty is mirrored in many aspects of shared governance at TU; however, despite this ambiguity, Faculty Senate President Dr. Holmstrom appeared optimistic, stating, “I know we can emerge from our current situation a better and stronger university.”