Alumni, faculty, students respond to faculty vote of no confidence

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Alaina Stellwagen, Katie Hunger, Maria Mendez, Maddy McTigue, Reid Cooper, and Peter Nicieja contributed to this story. 

Following the results of the faculty vote of no confidence, which were released the morning of Nov. 19, several DePauw faculty, alumni and students have spoken out.

Former student body president Claire Halffield ‘18, appreciated that this vote of no confidence gave the faculty a chance to voice their opinions and “to survey how people are really feeling.”

She said that the most important thing is for the Board of Trustees to take some form of action to show they value the voice of the faculty. “Whether it means the Board of Trustees takes action against President McCoy or whether it means that they are making changes to maybe retrieve some confidence from the faculty members,” Halffield said about the Board of Trustees showing support for the faculty.

Emily Fox ‘18 believes that it’s hard for students and alumni to make an informed judgement on the matter, but said she has confidence in the faculty’s knowledge of the issues at hand. “I trust that the faculty are doing what they believe is best, and I’m glad they have taken steps to voice their concerns.”

Echoing Fox’s sentiments about listening to the faculty’s voice, sophomore Abi Smith said, “I think that we should probably listen to the majority of the faculty since they’re, you know, here and they teach on a daily basis. And they’re also the most involved with our school and student lives, whereas the administration is not.”

Amanda Meyer Clark ‘97 also stressed the importance of the role that faculty play in shaping the DePauw experience. “The faculty is the heart’s blood of an institution, not the pretty buildings or even, many times, the students. The faculty guides students to their greatest potential,” Clark said.

“Too often,” she added, “educators are overlooked because administrators see the students (and parents) as the major stakeholders. Students are in and out in four years; a great member of the faculty can be there upwards of thirty (years). Who, then, truly has more impact on DePauw’s reputation and ability to recruit?”

Ultimately, the Board of Trustees controls the hiring and firing of the president. The Board of Trustees have sent two letters to the faculty stating their support for McCoy. In their most recent letter, sent on Nov. 20, the trustees said they “are aware of the faculty’s frustration and appreciate their right to voice their concerns,” but they called the vote of no confidence in McCoy “unwarranted.”

Armaan Patel ‘18 said he hopes that the results of the vote of no confidence lead to more  transparency from the Board of Trustees.

Patel said he was happy the faculty were taking a stand, but was unhappy that this was the stand they had to take and reiterated Meyer Clark’s point. “The faculty are, without a doubt, the backbone of DePauw University. Stifling pay raises and making changes to faculty insurance policies places a burden on our faculty that simply shouldn’t be there,” Patel said.

Computer Science Professor Doug Harms, who has worked at DePauw for 21 years and has never been part of a no confidence vote, shared Patel’s conflicted view.

“I think the fact that we’re here indicates a lack of trust between members of the community. I think it’s sad that we’re in this position to even have a vote of no confidence,” he said.

The results of the vote showed that 83 members of the faculty voted “yes” to having no confidence in President Mark McCoy, while 64 faculty members voted to abstain, and 59 voted “no,” indicating that they do have confidence DePauw’s president.

Rebecca Schindler, professor of classical studies, clarified that there may be more to the numbers than meets the eye.    

While Schindler said a ‘yes’ vote was “a clear statement of no confidence in the president, a ‘no’ vote could be read either as having confidence in the president or as a rejection of the process itself.”

Schindler was also a signatory of a Nov. 14 Letter to the Editor that outlined the reasoning behind the signatories’ decision to abstain on the vote of no confidence.

“In my opinion, the abstain vote indicates that there are concerns with the leadership of the institution but that challenging the Board of Trustees and the President with a ‘no confidence’ vote is not the most productive mechanism for affecting change, especially since the Board had already voiced their support for the president,” said Schindler in an email with The DePauw. “I believe that those who voted ‘abstain’ were engaged in the process and concerned about the outcomes, which is different than not voting.”

Matthew Welch ‘11 reflected on his time at DePauw and compared it to the current climate.

There are always things the faculty are concerned about, but this is different in tone and degree from any sort of conflict from my time at DePauw,” he said. “The last time I visited campus (last fall), I met with professors and a couple of staff members my wife and I were close to while we were at school, and in that meeting, we understood that the mood on campus was not great when it came to leadership.”  

Harms, who called the vote of no confidence process “an interesting experience,” said he thinks this vote is actually the first step towards a solution.

“As I’ve thought about this whole process, I’ve come up with an analogy that is closest to where I’m coming from,” he said. “In my opinion, this (vote) is almost like an intervention, where you do something relatively drastic so everyone understands that there is a problem. To me, an intervention is the beginning of a solution, not the end. And I hope for DePauw—faculty, trustees, staff and students— this is a wake-up call.”

Junior Austin Lewis, a member of Democratic Socialists of DePauw and an organizing member of the November protest during the Board of Trustees meeting joined Harms in looking towards the future. “I wonder and am excited to see the next steps that happen because as far as I know, this is completely unprecedented in DePauw’s history to get this far with a no-confidence vote,” he said.

Schindler also agreed with Harms’ belief in working together to find a solution to the current issues.

“In the end, I think everyone who voted believes in DePauw and its academic program, and we all want to strengthen, not weaken, the institution,” Schindler said. “We (just) disagree on the best way to make that happen.”

Welch, however, is not so sure the University will take the steps he feels are necessary to move forward.

“It’s probably best for a new president to take the reins next fall, but I don’t think that’ll happen. I think when you see a leader who has lost the faith of most faculty, most students and a good number of alumni, that’s a red flag,” he said. “Hopefully, the Board takes this as a sign that they need to make a change of some kind. I think this (vote) is a statement and the future of the institution depends on them responding appropriately.”