For the second time of her administrative career, Antioch University Chancellor Tullise “Toni” Murdock has received a vote of no confidence. The resolution was unanimously passed by the 26 faculty members present at Tuesday’s faculty meeting.
The decision was a result of the events of Friday August 31st, when the news broke unexpectedly that Steve Lawry was stepping down immediately from Antioch’s presidency. Issues surrounding the Offices of Development and Alumni Relations were also raised after staff was sent home for a ‘long weekend’ and their offices’ locks changed. The announcement raised numerous questions within the community as the reasons surrounding Lawry’s sudden departure were unclear; in July he had announced his resignation as of January 2008. Moreover, the news that Lawry was under a gag order which prevented him from commenting on the situation raised further suspicion about the real reasons behind his “resignation.”
The college faculty, in a statement released Thursday, condemned the fact that the administrative restructuring decision was taken without the input from neither AdCil nor faculty members. “It was done in a way that disregarded process and disregarded the opinions of anyone except a very small group of people that know very little about the college,” said Professor of Co-operative Education Eric Miller.
Furthermore, the effective removal of the position of president could potentially weaken the administrative infrastructure of the college. “The lack of president leaves the college vulnerable at a time when experienced leadership and fundraising expertise is essential as the college develops a sustainable plan for survival,” emphasizes the faculty statement.
Murdock’s decisions have come across as a blow to the campus morale, significantly uplifted following the August 25th meeting between community members and the Board of Trustees. The faculty statement acknowledges that “the lack of due process surrounding this decision is a violation of the trust that was beginning to be re-established between the college and the larger university.” Associate Professor of Photography Dennie Eagleson confirmed that the past few days’ events had undermined the renewed atmosphere of trust between the college and the university. “We have been operating this last week under the idea that the university was prepared to move forward. The
As to whether the renewed mistrust will affect the Alumni Board’s capacity to effectively cooperate with the University, Head of the Revival Governance Committee and alumna Ellen Borgersen commented: “I don’t see any difficulty with the faculty pursuing their rightful options and with the Alumni Board dealing with the trustees in a good-faith negotiation. They have interests and rights to pursue and they are justified in doing that and we are attempting to establish cooperation. We will continue doing that and I don’t see any conflict between the two.” Eric Miller emphasized that the situation further demonstrates the necessity of being independent from the university. “We cannot have somebody who doesn’t know how the college functions come in and make decisions like that. It’s outrageous.”
The faculty did not directly call for Murdock’s resignation. “We’re under no illusions about the kind of immediate results the no-confidence vote will have,” Miller admitted. “But it was very important to show for the record that she did not have the support of faculty. We’re hoping that the BOT will take note of the no-confidence vote and take it into consideration in how they evaluate her work.”
It is not the first time that objections have been raised in regards to Murdock’s decisions. As president of Antioch University Seattle she had already received a vote of no confidence from her faculty. A Seattle faculty member who wished to remain anonymous recalled that the no confidence vote was taken in a period of budget transition, as funds and resources were increasingly devoted to the administration rather than to academics, and alleged that the faculty “found her difficult to work with.”
Eric Miller decried Murdock’s lack of support for the college. “It’s still up to her to prove that she has no animosity towards the college,” he added, “and that she actually supports the institution that she is supposed to be responsible for.”