ASHLAND -- The Ashland University Faculty Senate is urging the university's Board of Trustees to "seek new executive leadership," according to a Friday email from Senate President Diane Bonfiglio to faculty that was obtained by Ashland Source.
In a private, virtual meeting Friday, May 15, the faculty senate overwhelmingly approved a resolution of "no confidence" in current university president Dr. Carlos Campo. The motion passed 34-1.
"The ability of Ashland University to survive, move forward and thrive under challenging circumstances will require deep collaboration, transparent and open communication, and an environment of mutual trust and respect among trustees, faculty, administrators, and staff," Bonfiglio said in the email, citing the legislation.
Campo has "repeatedly demonstrated an inability or unwillingness to collaborate with the Faculty, communicate with the Faculty, or foster an atmosphere of trust and respect," Bonfiglio's email continued.
The meeting was held in executive session and was exclusively open for full-time faculty, according to an Ashland University professor, who asked to remain anonymous. It was held as an "emergency meeting" after the board of trustees met a week earlier.
"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," the professor said.
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 Source contacted AU public relations coordinator Tamara Mosser Saturday. She did not immediately provide comment on the situation, but said she would follow up Monday.
The board of trustees could consider the faculty senate's request to replace Campo, but has no obligation to do so, the professor said. The motion could be entertained at a summer meeting meant to determine which programs will be "sunsetted."
Ashland University had already been operating amid a spending freeze before the COVID-19 pandemic.
THEATRE DEPARTMENT SEES CUTS: At least four positions were eliminated from the university's theatre department on Thursday, a former costume shop supervisor at AU said.
In an interview with Ashland Source, Daniel Justin Bilewicz III said the technical director, assistant professor of theatre, and performing arts coordinator for publicity and events lost their jobs along with himself.
“They called it a ‘layoff’ but it was more of a ‘let go.’ They told me to look at it as that I was not going to be able to come back ever again. I had to empty my entire office out," Bilewicz said.
When he received an email Thursday from the university about potential cuts, Bilewicz didn't initially believe it would affect the theatre department. By the end of the day, he and the others each received phone calls saying they were being laid off, he said.
“Nobody saw it coming. They cut our positions. I don’t know what exactly is going on with the department, but it was very sad," he said. "It not only affects how the department is running, it affects the students and the jobs that they can have within the department.”
Bilewicz had been preparing two costumes for the university's annual Madrigals Feast. He said he was paid for two additional weeks to finish them.
To Bilewicz's knowledge, the theatre department still employs an artistic director of theatre and adjunct theatre professors.
“I think the cuts weren’t thought out well. I think there was a lot of other things that they could be cutting before they start cutting out positions that are necessary for a major to run. You can’t have a stage production without a box office manager or for that matter, anyone working backstage," he said.
“The people that were in charge of talking to the provost were pleading with them to not make the decision that they did. The school did not hear them out.”
He believes other departments have been affected, too, but didn't know to what extent.
"I don’t know if there is more [layoffs] to come, but we were not told immediately when their last decision was made," he said.
Ashland Source Correspondent Waylon O'Donnell contributed to the reporting in this story.