The Western Kentucky University governing body that represents faculty has voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution that expresses “no confidence” in the school’s provost.
The University Senate took the vote Thursday afternoon at a special called meeting. The vote was 50 in favor of the resolution, with 10 voting against, and three abstentions.
Many faculty members at the meeting expressed concern over several actions by Provost Terry Ballman, including what has been perceived as the forced resignation of Larry Snyder as Dean of the Potter College of Arts and Letters.
Other faculty said it’s one of several actions taken by the provost that have caused deep mistrust between school administration and faculty.
Guy Jordan, an Art History Professor and faculty senator who voted for the “no confidence” resolution, said after the meeting it’s not just professors in Potter College who are upset.
“We reached out to people across campus, not just in Potter, but we tried to reach out to our colleagues in other colleges,” Jordan said. “We got the sense that there just was no confidence. You know, it’s a relationship that’s broken, and we had to express that.”
Jordan also expressed optimism for the future, despite the turmoil.
“A ‘no confidence’ vote is the most serious thing a University Senate can do. At the same time, I think we all want to move forward. I think we have faith and we have hope that President Caboni can bring us all together.”
When asked if he thought WKU could move forward if Provost Ballman remains in her position, Jordan replied, “Frankly, I don’t.”
Faculty members who spoke at Thursday’s meeting said Ballman has alienated them since she came to WKU in August. Several mentioned how some non-tenured faculty instructors were told late last year to expect letters saying they would be losing their jobs.
Those letters were never sent, but several in attendance at Thursday’s meeting cited the incident as an example of the way faculty have been disrespected by Ballman.
WKU Public Radio sought a comment from Provost Ballman following Thursday’s vote by the University Senate, but hasn’t received a response.
Shortly after the University Senate meeting ended, WKU issued the following statement:
“A vote of no confidence is exceedingly rare in higher education and at our institution. WKU takes shared governance seriously and will need some time to react appropriately to this action taken by our University Senate.”
The resolution of no confidence comes at a delicate time at WKU. The Board of Regents Academic Affairs committee is formally reviewing recommendations made by the school’s Comprehensive Academic Program Evaluation (CAPE) committee on Friday, April 12.
The committee is recommending which academic programs should be maintained, and which should be suspended.
History Professor Jennifer Hanley, a faculty senator who voted in favor of the resolution of no confidence, said she understands that Ballman is in her first year of a difficult job. But Hanley said the provost has struggled to communicate “her ideas and her vision for the faculty at WKU.”
“I think President Caboni cares about WKU, his students, his faculty, and I think he will take steps to try to put us on a better direction and re-prioritize academics,” Hanley said.