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SOU faculty to hold confidence vote on administration

Southern Oregon University's Faculty Senate decided Monday to organize a confidential faculty vote on whether members are confident in the school's administration.

The vote of confidence or no confidence will determine whether the faculty body supports President Mary Cullinan, Vice President Craig Morris and Provost Jim Klein.

"Faculty have expressed concern over the university's leadership," said Carol Ferguson, a biology professor and the senate member who motioned for the vote.

All but one member of roughly 15 senators present at Monday's meeting voted in favor of allowing the confidential vote. The remaining senator in attendance, librarian Kate Cleland-Spifle, abstained from voting.

Ferguson said because of the sensitive nature of the upcoming faculty vote, she believed it should be confidential.

The vote will come in the midst of the administration's decision to enter retrenchment, a process in which programs and positions can be cut without breaching faculty contracts.

Cullinan announced a provisional plan last week that included cutting 12 majors, 10 minors and 12.5 faculty members over the next two years.

The retrenchment involves only cuts to the school's academic programs, and other cuts will occur outside of retrenchment, Cullinan said.

"It's important to note the timing of this vote is not necessarily lockstep with retrenchment," said John King, senator-at-large and an assistant professor in the education department, following the meeting. "It's the events that have led up to this."

Cullinan and Klein attended Monday's meeting but did not respond to Ferguson's motion for a vote.

At least two-thirds of the faculty must vote in favor of no-confidence for it to be considered a majority of the faculty. The Faculty Senate agreed to pass the task of holding the vote to the faculty elections committee.

"It seems to me that this would be valuable information for everyone to have," said professor John Richards.

A no-confidence majority vote would be passed along "upstate," Ferguson said, and officials with the Oregon University System could consider removal of the administrators.

Cullinan earlier in the meeting asked the faculty to remain positive during the retrenchment process, and reminded members that the provisional plan released was only a proposal.

"This is only a provisional plan, that may be the confusing part," said Cullinan. "In '06-'07 when we did this before, there were significant changes to the provisional plan."

The provisional plan is in a 20 university-day review period, during which staff can make suggestions for alternative cuts.

The period ends March 6.

Teresa Ristow is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email her at teresa.ristow@gmail.com.