by Kenzie Kesselring
The air was thick with tension at last Thursday’s emergency faculty senate meeting as members met to discuss their concerns with the administration, the firing of faculty members and sexual harassment claims made in recent months.
The meeting began with faculty members discussing an anonymous letter that was sent to some senate members. According to faculty senate President Michael Noll, the writers of the letter are unknown by anyone on the senate’s executive board.
The anonymous letter begins by claiming to be composed by four assistant professors, five full professors and six associate professors.
The letter accuses VSU President William McKinney, Provost Hudson Rogers, and Chief of Staff Kimberly Luse of poor leadership.
“It is time for a no-confidence vote!” the letter reads.
The document then goes on to give 10 reasons why the anonymous authors believe the faculty senate should make this vote. The reasons range from the apparent unwarranted firing of former VSU director of communications Thressea Boyd, the amount of time Dr. McKinney travels and his desire to keep VSU at its current size, based on comments he made to the Valdosta Daily Times.
Dr. Thomas Aiello, history professor, didn’t hold back during the meeting when he expressed his concerns about how Dr. McKinney handled the situation with former professor Mark George last semester. George alleged that VSU administration wrongly denied him access to his email account and to funds for an organization he founded.
“I don’t want our president hanging out with white supremacists and firing everyone,” Aiello said.
Accusations that sexual harassment claims in the Department of Education haven’t been dealt with suitably also came out during the meeting. Janet Foster, early childhood and special education professor, expressed worry that the rights of one individual faculty member were given priority over the civil rights of many others.
Dominick Gheesling, assistant professor of art, commented on the issues he sees with hiring new professors and the student-to-teacher ratio at VSU. Gheesling’s feelings about the hiring process were shared by other professors, such as Dr. Sandra Kregar, modern and classical languages professor.
Dr. Maren Clegg-Hyer, associate English professor, said that she was glad the senate members were making noise and holding the administration accountable. Clegg-Hyer’s comments gained nods of approval from her fellow senate members.
“We all want to move on,” Noll said in regard to his colleagues’ comments.
Dr. Luse said VSU’s administration is open to discussing the senate’s grievances.
“The administration welcomes the opportunity that has surfaced to hear and understand the issues that have been raised by the faculty senate,” Dr. Luse said. “Shared governance is deeply valued by President McKinney, and a hallmark of his administration. The work that is being conducted by Dr. Noll and the senators is appreciated, as it gives us a chance to discuss pathways that will help us arrive at answers that are grounded in facts.
“At the end of the day, the faculty senate and the administration all want the same thing, which is how to best support our students through their academic journey to completion of their degree which is transformational to their lives,” she said.
No decisions were made at the meeting, but the senate is scheduled to meet again on March 19.