ASHLAND -- The Ashland University Board of Trustees has reaffirmed its support of AU President Carlos Campo, a couple of days after the University faculty senate issued a no-confidence vote and called on the Board to seek new executive leadership, according to a Monday press release from Public Relations Coordinator Tamara Mosser.
At a Friday meeting, the faculty senate passed a "no-confidence" resolution in Campo by a 34-1 vote.
In a post-meeting email from Senate President Diane Bonfiglio to faculty, Bonfiglio said the Ashland University faculty senate encouraged the university's Board of Trustees to seek new executive leadership because Campo "repeatedly demonstrated an inability or unwillingness to collaborate with the faculty, communicate with the faculty, or foster an atmosphere of trust and respect."
On Monday, the AU Board of Trustees' response made it clear it will stand with Campo.
“The Ashland University Board of Trustees reaffirms our strong and ongoing support for President Campo and continues to believe in his leadership and ability to lead Ashland University successfully in the days ahead,” Board Chairman James H. Hess said in a statement. “We realize that during difficult times, leaders must take decisive actions. Be assured that President Campo and the Board make decisions with the best interests of the Ashland University community in mind.
“The Board of Trustees and President Campo are committed to continued improvement in collaborating and communicating with the faculty.”
A Faculty Senate vote of “no confidence” is an avenue by which the Faculty Senate has to express its concerns and is not unusual in the realm of higher education, the press release continued.
Universities whose administrators have been subject to these votes include Harvard, Louisiana State University, The University of Akron and, most recently, Ohio University in Athens. According to independent research published by the Wall Street Journal, colleges and universities nationwide averaged 15 no-confidence votes annually between 2013-2017, a rate that is five times greater than the rate yielded between 2000-2004.
“These are difficult times in higher education all across the country and navigating through them requires making difficult and often painful decisions. Perhaps most difficult of all are those decisions that will impact the lives and careers of the Ashland University family,” Hess said.
“But the fact is, we can no longer embrace what we have for years known as the status quo. Thus, each and every decision is made with an eye toward the University’s ability to continue to offer a transformative academic experience now and in the future. We owe that to those who have gone before us, those who support us now and for the generations of Ashland University students to come. Difficult decisions at times are unpopular, and this is one of those times.”
The faculty senate's vote of "no confidence" appears to stem from frustrations following a May board of trustees meeting.
"The faculty were furious for several reasons, but the worst was the motion Campo had put before the board to 'sunset' all but 25 of the university’s programs. It’s basically setting the administration up to be able to dismiss a bunch of tenured faculty members over the next couple of years," said a professor, who asked to be anonymous in a Sunday morning interview.
A Sunsetting Task Force had already been established to eliminate some academic programs. What caused alarm for the professor was "how the president decided to declare rather arbitrarily" to keep only 25 programs. According to the university's website, AU currently offers more than 70 undergraduate programs.
The motion at the Board of Trustees meeting was seemingly amended to allow for more programming. If the task force would recommend keeping more than 30 programs, it's expected to provide a financial analysis in support of this.
"The Senate meeting was extraordinary. We all were expecting the executive committee to put forward a no-confidence resolution. Not a single faculty member spoke against it. People whom I never would have imagined supporting such a measure were announcing that they were totally behind it," the professor said. "In the end, only Faculty Senators could vote, but it passed 34-1."
The professor noted the vote happened via secret ballot, so it's unclear who cast the lone vote in opposition.
Ashland University had already been operating amid a spending freeze before the COVID-19 pandemic, a situation that caused the university only further financial burden.
The University refunded $3.1 million in room and board and lost an additional $1.3 million in auxiliary services, including summer camps, event space rentals and more, according to Mosser.