SFA Faculty Senate votes ‘no confidence’ in President Gordon, asks regents revoke contract

Local News

NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KETK) – The Stephen F. Austin State University Faculty Senate unanimously passed a resolution on Wednesday expressing “no confidence” in Dr. Scott Gordon’s effectiveness as president of the college.

On Wednesday, Sept. 8, the Faculty Senate said Dr. Gordon’s actions and policies in 2020 led to “heated conversations.”

Members said that Dr. Gordon accepted a substantial raise in a time of financial crisis at the university and that his actions continued to inflame sentiment and raise serious questions about the president’s temperament and character, regardless of him returning the raise.

They said in his time at SFA, that Dr. Gordon has embarked on a number of large-scale initiatives including a failed analysis regarding combining colleges as well as multiple Lumberjack Innovation Teams.

Members added that the initiatives generally have failed outright and/or produced little to no tangible results despite the burdens placed on faculty and staff during present stresses of developing and adapting student services and course offerings during shifting COVID-19 modalities and protocols.

The Faculty Senate said the president’s “poor judgement” had been exhibited on several occasions including his drive to implement hundreds of courses using new modalities (i.e. eight-week & online courses) without consulting the faculty.

The Faculty Senate said the pay raise angered the student population which included rumors of on-campus protests on social media.

Dr. Gordon was also accused on several occasions of exhibiting “bullying and unreasonably impatient behavior” both in public and private, according to the Faculty Senate.

The Faculty Senate unanimously voted to resolve their concerns with with following:

  1. Voting to indicate the Faculty Senate’s position of “‘No Confidence’ relative to the President’s potential effectiveness at SFA, both now and in future.”
  2. Sharing the findings with the Chairs Forum, the Provost, the faculty, the Deans of the six colleges and the graduate school, the Staff Council and the Board of Regents.
  3. Requesting that the Board of Regents revoke the President’s contract for cause under the dual conditions of a “failure to achieve the goals of the office and for subjecting the university to poor publicity, scorn and ridicule.”
  4. And by reserving the right to community this vote (and the rationale behind it) to local, regional and national media outlets as well as through national academic organizations like the Chronicle of Higher Education as deemed necessary

Both the Academic Deans of Stephen F. Austin State University and the Chairs’ Forum shared statements that they stand by the Faculty Senate with signatures from each.

Academic Deans signatures:

  • Dr. Judy A. Abbott, dean of James I. Perkins College of Education
  • Dr. Timothy O. Bisping, dean of Nelson Rusche College of Business
  • Dr. Kimberly M. Childs, dean of College of Sciences and Mathematics
  • Dr. Mark Sanders, interim dean of College of Liberal and Applied Arts
  • Dr. Hans M. Williams, dean of Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture
  • DMA Gary T. Wurtz, interim dean, college of fine arts

Chairs’ Forum signatures:

  • Matthew A. Beauregard – Interim chair of both the Department of Physics, Engineering and Astronomy as well as the Department of Computer Science
  • Lesa Beverly – Chair of the Department of Mathematics & Statistics
  • Justin Blount – Interim chair of the Department of Business Communication and Legal Studies
  • Kwame Antwi-Boasiako – Chair of the Department of Government
  • Joey Bray – Chair of the Department of Agriculture
  • Ray Darville – Chair of the Department of Anthropology, Geology & Sociology
  • Kenneth Farrish – Director of the Department of Environmental Science
  • John Hendricks – Chair of the Department of Mass Communications
  • Cleo House – Director of the School of Theatre.
  • Tammy Harris – Director of Dewitt School of Nursing
  • Scott Hutchens – Chair of the Department of Psycology
  • Joyce Johnston – Director & Associate Dean of Divsion of Multidisciplinary Programs
  • Mikhail Kouliavtsev – Chair of the Department of Economics and Finance
  • James Langford – Interim Chair of the Department of Biology
  • Andrew Lannen – Interim Chair of Department of History
  • Matthew Lindsey – Chair of Department of Management & Marketing
  • Matthew McBroom – Associate Dean of Arthur Temple College of Forestry
  • Nathan Nabb – Interim Director of School of Music
  • Kelly Noe – Director of School of Accountancy
  • Odutayo Odunuga – Interim Chair of the Department of Chemistry
  • Emmerentie Oliphant – Interim Chair of School of Social Work
  • Jeana Paul-Urena – Chair of the Department of Languages, Cultures & Communication
  • Chay Runnels – Interim Chair, Department of Human Sciences
  • Wesley A. Brown – Chair of the Department of Geology
  • Christina Sinclair – Interim Chair & Associate Dean of the Department of Education Studies
  • Chris Talbot – Director of School of Art
  • Jay Thornton – Chair of the Department of Kinesiology & Health Science
  • Kenneth L. Untiedt – Interim Chair of the Department of English & Creative Writing
  • Michael Walker – Interim Chair of the Department of Human Services & Educational Leadership
  • Carol Wright – Interim Chair of the Department of Business Communication and Legal Studies

The president responded to the Faculty Senate deliberations by saying the following:

I am aware of the vote taken Wednesday evening by the Faculty Senate. From the many discussions I have had this past week, particularly in the listening tour I and Board Chairperson Karen Gantt conducted with several constituent groups, it is clear SFA has had, and continues to have, many challenges.

We have to work together. We cannot see each other as adversaries, but rather as partners in the endeavor to address the new and longstanding challenges. We need to be able to have constructive and respectful debates and disagreements. We have work to do together, and we cannot go about it in a spirit of division.

This is my pledge: to listen attentively, to share openly, to debate respectfully and to speak honestly.

Members of the Board of Regents and I are committed to increasing collaboration with faculty and staff on campus. This is a difficult period for all of us, and we need to work together.

I have striven to be open and collaborative from my first days as president. I have pushed for more information to be shared and understood, so that we might all have a more realistic picture of what needs to be done.

We have very real budget issues to address. We have enrollment trends that are challenging. We have building projects to complete, debt service to overcome, scholarships to establish, salary issues to correct, relationships to nurture and partnerships to strengthen.

I have lots of ideas, and I share them in the spirit of collaboration. I want to explore what might be possible, and give others a chance to make ideas better and implement them in a way that works.

I am not a quitter. I like a challenge, and I work hard for progress. I push hard. And I recognize that I cannot do this work alone.

I apologize if I have expressed my passion and vision in a manner that has come across as aggressive or otherwise negative. I am optimistic and I push for achievement. I believe in SFA and its people and I truly want the best for them.

Each person who works at SFA deserves recognition and dignity in their work to serve students. That can be done in many ways, from compensation and verbal praise to involvement in decision-making and an opportunity to share their voice. No group of employees is entitled to a bigger voice than another. We need to hear from everyone.

Let’s assume that each has good intentions. Let’s give each other the benefit of the doubt. Let’s believe together that we all want a great place to work and an even better place to learn.

Last year, faculty leaders worked with me to develop a shared governance model and an accompanying document to guide our efforts. That was a good idea, and I am grateful for it. I liked that spirit of collaboration and it guided us in the expansion of the Cabinet to include the chair of the Faculty Senate, chair of Chairs Forum and a representative from among the deans. This fall, I added the Student Government Association president. I intend to extend an invitation to the president of the Staff Council – another new body assembled just recently – now that its members have elected officers.

I also recognized the need for Academic Affairs to have an even greater voice at the leadership table and reformed the provost position to also be our executive vice president.

We all have an interest in how resources are allocated. They represent priorities. It has not always been a process that allowed for broader participation. We made the right decision to publish budget documents online, and to form a University Budget Council to advise university leadership. Good questions and good ideas have come from that group, and from the broader campus discussions. It has also drawn attention to some serious conditions that need to be corrected.

We have changed leadership in our financial operations, and I have asked our regents to help us delve in further. We must have a more accurate understanding of our resources and past decision-making to improve and create a more open and collaborative process that more accurately reflects SFA’s priorities today. We must shine a light on all corners of the budget and understand the rationale behind our current and historical financial decisions and commitments, which must be oriented to support student success and a working environment where SFA employees can carry out their vital work.

We are expanding our network of support with alumni, friends, public officials and donors. It is a critical role for a president to connect people to the institution in a way that secures financial resources and influence to help us accomplish our mission.

I do not take this vote lightly. I recognize that it expresses the fears and frustrations of good people trying to do good things. I can identify with that.

In my commitment to lead SFA into its second century, achieving even greater heights, I am undeterred. I will not lose focus on the importance of this office or this institution and what it does for the lives of countless good people. I will work with those who in good faith seek to do the same. Let’s commit to the hard work of doing this together.

Sincerely,

Scott Gordon

President

President Dr. Gordon assumed the role as SFA’s president on Aug. 17, 2019, after the University Board of Regents unanimously voted him as the ninth president. He succeed Dr. Baker Pattillo, was the SFA president from 2006 until his death in December 2018. Before Gordon became president, Dr. Steve Westbrook, SFA vice president for university affairs, served as interim president of the university.

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