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University of Akron Trustees Say They'll Reach Out to the Faculty

Kevin Kern

The University of Akron’s Board of Trustees faced a packed house today for its first meeting since the school’s Faculty Senate overwhelmingly voted “no confidence” in President Scott Scarborough.

The mostly uneventful meeting saw about two dozen students and faculty show up a day after 26 of the school’s academic chairs and directors asked Ohio’s Chancellor for a change in university leadership, and a week after the faculty senate vote.

Trustee Chairman Jonathan Pavloff acknowledged the controversy in a brief statement, saying there are “serious and complex” issues to consider, and vowing to reach out to the president of the Faculty Senate to explore opportunities for cooperation.

Harvey Sterns is one of the 26 who signed the letter to Ohio’s Chancellor, and he says Pavloff’s statement is a step in the right direction.

“I think everybody really wants to try hard to get resolution so we can move forward. But there are very important issues that have to be addressed.”

Issues cited range from declining enrollment to the cutting of key personnel.

Enrollment has dropped by 5,000 students in the past five years. History Professor Kevin Kern was one of those attending the board meeting, and he says one way to stem declining enrollment is to consider what’s been happening at Iowa State.

“They had a president come in who was an academic person. And one of the first things he did – instead of ballooning the administration – he actually cut the administration and hired more full-time faculty. And every year since he made these changes the Iowa State University population has grown. They have been setting all-time university records in enrollment.”

The blog “The Devil Strip” reported that the trustees have been considering an extension of President Scarborough’s contract, but it was not voted on at today’s meeting.

Comments by University of Akron Board of Trustees Chairman Jonathan Pavloff:

"I have mentioned in previous statements that the University and the community are inseparable. Our fortunes are intertwined and rise and fall together. It is noteworthy that in the past few weeks our new mayor’s transition team has identified population growth and financial stability as key issues facing the city.

“Those are precisely the issues that the university has to address. We have taken actions, controversial as they may have been, designed to strengthen the university’s position. I want to acknowledge the faculty senate’s response to these actions expressed in their resolution of no confidence in the administration of the university and the comments from the department chairs and school directors. The Board of Trustees understands the serious nature of these comments and will carefully consider the items listed.

“The environment surrounding the senate’s vote is not unique to the University of Akron. Over the past three years faculty senates in forty-five colleges and universities have expressed such votes against their presidents and administrations.

“The issues are serious and complex. And it is a situation that demands our best thinking and efforts to resolve. It is not a situation where one group wins at the expense of another. Unfortunately, if we are not successful in finding resolution, all involved lose.

“Now is the time to coordinate our efforts. I will reach out to the president of the faculty senate to explore opportunities to cooperate in expanding the foundation now in place for the success of our students. Preparing our students to assume roles as responsible citizens remains our focus; not just for the university but for the community and the greater good.” 

Kabir Bhatia is a senior reporter for Ideastream Public Media's arts & culture team.