The Eastern Michigan University Faculty Senate has voted "no confidence" in President James Smith and two of his top aides, Chief of Staff Leigh Greden and Chief Financial Officer Michael Valdes.
67% of faculty senate members were in favor of no confidence in Smith, 60% in favor of no confidence in Greden, and 81% in favor of no confidence in Valdes, according to the resolution. The results of the vote were shared with the EMU Board of Regents for their Thursday, Dec. 9 meeting.
The EMU Faculty Senate is calling for “corrective action” to address the “leadership failures” of Smith. They are also asking for an “appropriate balance” between the Board of Regents, faculty, and administration, according to the resolution.
The EMU Faculty Senate is requesting the termination of Smith’s presidency if he is unwilling to pursue this balance and correct these failures in leadership, according to the resolution.
This resolution comes after EMU’s alleged $200 million proposal to privatize dorm buildings was discussed by the EMU Faculty Senate in November. The EMU Faculty Senate said they are “no longer confident” in Smith’s leadership, according to the resolution.
“This decision came after significant efforts to work with the administration since 2016, when President Smith was hired without any faculty input,” Suzanne Gray, president of the EMU Faculty Senate and professor of university library and women’s and gender studies, said in a written statement. “Pushing to sell off student dorms in the middle of a pandemic was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The administration made a big show of soliciting ‘input,’ but it is clear that this decision had already been predetermined. Why would we want to lose control of student housing – and likely increase costs to our students – at a time when campus safety is more important than ever? We have not gotten a clear answer as to why now is the right time to pursue this project.”
The EMU Faculty Senate’s resolution details issues they say have not been adequately addressed by Smith, including:
Failure to listen to faculty concerns regarding classroom conditions and requirements for campus activities during the COVID pandemic.
Lack of timely follow up on the Higher Learning Commission’s concerns expressed in the 2017-2018 accreditation visit, including timely action on updating and integrating a revised strategic plan, and transparency and shared decision making in addressing financial concerns.
Lack of timely follow up on the President’s Commission’s recommendations in 2017 to make EMU a more equitable and welcoming campus for Black and Indigenous students, as well as other students of color.
Moving forward with a Request for Proposals for privatizing campus housing in a time of great uncertainty, despite opposition from the University Budget Council, including its student representatives, and clear opposition from the faculty.
Approved the letter of intent to sell the Owen Building without having an adequate plan in place to house the College of Business.
“We don’t take this decision lightly,” Gray said in a written statement. “President Smith and his administration have repeatedly ignored our concerns and abandoned the value of shared governance that is essential to a successful teaching and learning community. The university’s academic mission has not been in the foreground in any of the decisions cited in these resolutions.”
Smith responded to the EMU Faculty Senate’s resolution on Tuesday, Dec. 7, saying that the university has “never considered privatizing student housing.”
“Specifically, EMU is exploring working with an experienced partner who would provide the financing for new and renovated housing facilities on campus that would be owned and managed by EMU,” Smith said in a written statement.
“We are aware that some members of the Faculty Senate are concerned about our plans that will result in a transformative modernization of University housing,” Smith said in a written statement. “Discussions about improving student housing have been underway with our campus community for three years, and we plan to continue to work with the faculty members who are concerned about these efforts to clear up misinformation and to share the benefits of our housing plans. The planned transformation of University housing is consistent with the revitalization of academic facilities and technology on campus in recent years, including the complete modernization and expansion of our science complex and our engineering and technology center.”
EMU Board of Regents Chair Eunice Jefferies responded to the faculty senate’s resolution in a written statement on Monday, Dec. 5.
“I am aware of the Faculty Senate's actions regarding the recent resolutions. While I respect the very important role and recognize the excellence of our faculty in the academic mission of the University, I want it to be clear that President Smith, the others named in the resolutions and the University administration, have my full support… The Board of Regents will continue to listen and work closely with our students, faculty, staff and administration as we move forward on behalf of the University. I am proud of the exceptional work among all of our respective partners and highly value our continued dialogue, and continued progress, in the months ahead.”