Administrative unrest continues at St. Joseph’s University.
Faculty members in the Haub School of Business last week voted “no confidence” in the president, the Rev. C. Kevin Gillespie, who has been at the helm for nearly two years. Faculty cited ongoing concerns about the school’s financial health and Gillespie’s inability to set forth a “unifying and achievable vision for the long-term health and flourishing” of the university.
“It’s nothing personal,” said Claire A. Simmers, professor and chair of the management department in Haub. “Not everyone is in the job that they’re best suited to do. That’s just a fact of being in an organization.”
Simmers is one of 27 faculty members who voted in favor of the measure, which is only symbolic, while one voted no and seven abstained.
St. Joseph’s spokesman Joseph Lunardi said last week that the university was focused on commencement, which took place on Saturday.
“We are concluding an academic year marked by record retention, graduation and career placement rates, and have already begun work to welcome the second-largest class in school history in the fall,” he said in a statement. “We remain committed to working with the entire Saint Joseph's family -- students, parents, alumni, faculty and staff -- to preserve and enhance the university.”
Trouble at the Catholic university, which straddles the Philadelphia-Lower Merion border, has been brewing for a couple years and erupted in February after the faculty senate — which represents faculty across the university — voted no confidence in two senior financial officials: John W. Smithson, senior vice president, and Louis J. Mayer, vice president of financial affairs, who both remain on the job. Hit by an $8.7 million shortfall, the university said it would cut positions, slash budgets, dig deeper into endowment earnings and expand the freshman class.
Senate members have considered votes of no-confidence in other university leaders, but the group has not taken action. Its next meeting is scheduled for September.
Simmers said business faculty are uniquely positioned to understand the financial conditions the university faces and want to help.
“Faculty members really want this to work and have a lot of expertise they can provide,” she said, but believe that the university needs new leadership.
The business school faculty forwarded the resolution they passed to Gillespie, the faculty senate president and members of the board of trustees.
The resolution reads:
“(1) Whereas, we, the faculty of the Erivan K. Haub School of Business of Saint Joseph's University, care deeply for the University's long-term thriving and acutely understand the challenges facing us as a private institution;
(2) Whereas, during President Gillespie's presidency, the university has had two years of budget mismanagement that have resulted in significant cuts to academic operating budgets, compromising the faculty's ability to engage in scholarship, teaching, and service;
(3) Whereas, the President remains unable to convince the vast majority of faculty that he can cogently articulate a unifying and achievable vision for the long-term health and flourishing of this University;
(4) Whereas we, the faculty of the Erivan K. Haub School of Business of Saint Joseph's University have been deprived by the President, C. Kevin Gillespie, S.J., and his administration of the opportunity to contribute meaningfully, thoughtfully, and appropriately to strategic responses;
(5) Whereas, President Gillespie has failed to hold key members of his administration accountable for missteps, particularly Mr. Smithson and Dr. Mayer;
Be it resolved that the faculty of the Erivan K. Haub School of Business of Saint Joseph's University, do hereby vote NO CONFIDENCE in C. Kevin Gillespie, S.J., as President of Saint Joseph's University.”