A St. Joseph's University Faculty Senate vote of no confidence in two high-level administrators and call for their resignations reveals a growing frustration over finances and leadership on the Roman Catholic Jesuit school’s campus.
"A no confidence vote is exactly that," said Robert Moore, president of the Faculty Senate and assistant professor, who was present at the Tuesday meeting when the no confidence vote passed 161 to 0 against Louis Mayer, vice president of financial affairs, and John Smithson, senior vice president, with four abstentions.
"People don’t have confidence in certain individuals to perform in their jobs," he said.
Moore says there was no particular incident that led the governing body of full-time, tenure-track faculty members to call for their resignations.
But the University’s student news organization, The Hawk, reports Smithson may be responsible for a shortfall of $8.0 million in fiscal year 2013 and an $8.7 million deficit in fiscal year 2014 while Mayer ineffectively managed the Office of Financial Affairs.
In a response posted to St. Joe's Town Hall website and later to The Hawk, University President C. Kevin Gillespie said, "Those of us trained in the academic world may not like it, but the most recent financial exhibits shared with department chairs clearly demonstrated that effectively all of this years $8.7M budget shortfall occurred in non-administrative divisions/departments. Yet only half of the expense reductions to close the budget gap came from units within academic affairs."
The vote comes five months after the Faculty Senate passed a resolution to censure the administration – an unprecedented move that demonstrates the faculty’s formal disapproval of the school’s senior leadership.
Moore declined to comment on specific reasons the senate wants Mayer and Smithson gone, but their dissatisfaction over a change in health care coverage that forced employees to cover an increase in budgeted health care premiums likely contributed.
The Faculty Senate does not have any legally binding power, but its vote could lead to drastic changes at the 163-year-old institution.
"It encourages the administration to make a decision,” Moore said. “At the end of the day, it is their job to take action.”
Swift action appears unlikely given the administration’s and the Board of Trustees’ response.
“During a challenging period in higher education, Saint Joseph’s University has maintained an extremely strong market position with ‘A’ financial ratings,” Gillespie said in a news release. “We acknowledge there have been difficult and sometimes unpopular decisions, but they have been critical to our long-term financial sustainability.”
Robert Falese, Board of Trustees’ chairman, echoed the school president's statement.
“The strong performance of Saint Joseph’s University speaks for itself,” Falese said in a news release. “Our operating income is stable… The Board of Trustees looks forward to meeting with the faculty, but remains committed to the direction it has given to Father Gillespie and the administration to manage the University’s overall financial health while preserving and expanding its academic mission.”
The administration already has another big change planned. The University's provost, Brice Wachterhauser, is leaving his position at the end of the academic year. His replacement has yet to be announced.