Independent Student Newspaper of UW Oshkosh Campuses

The Advance-Titan

Independent Student Newspaper of UW Oshkosh Campuses

The Advance-Titan

Independent Student Newspaper of UW Oshkosh Campuses

The Advance-Titan

72% of faculty vote no confidence in chancellor’s leadership

Doug Sundin/UW Oshkosh
Photo: UWO Flickr — In an email sent out to UWO faculty and staff after the announcement of no confidence, Chancellor Andrew Leavitt said the results are a reaction to the hard, but necessary decisions he has made as chancellor, and that UWO chose to face challenges head-on, responding to trends and forces disrupting higher education everywhere.

This story was updated on April 11.

After two months of deliberating, the UW Oshkosh faculty has confirmed a vote of no confidence in the leadership of Chancellor Andrew Leavitt. 

According to a press release from the United Faculty and Staff of Oshkosh (UFSO), 229 faculty members voted, with 72% saying   they had no confidence in Leavitt’s leadership. 

“The reasons for this result are many, and they extend far beyond the loss of 20% of our workforce to budget cuts this year,” the press release said. 

Substantial overspending of the University’s budget, failure to improve enrollment, weak defense of the Universities of Wisconsin system’s funding crisis, hiring an underqualified candidate to an administrator role during a hiring freeze and disregard for shared governance are all cited as reasons for a loss of confidence in his leadership. 

“I appreciate the democratic process,” said Michelle Kuhl, a professor in the history department and member of UFSO. “Faculty felt free to vote their conscience and send a message that we want better leadership going forward.”

Kuhl has a daughter in high school and often tells her UWO would be a solid choice for her secondary education. 

“We have wonderful professors and staff who care deeply about student success,” Kuhl said. “This vote of no confidence reveals that the faculty believe in UWO and hope we can improve our administration for a stronger future.”

Leavitt responded to the referendum results in a statement released to the university community. 

“The faculty referendum results released today are a reaction to hard but necessary decisions I have made as Chancellor,” Leavitt said. 

In the statement, he said UWO has reduced its $18 million deficit to approximately $3 million in the past few months. He said the leftover gap will be closed by “redesigning and innovating our academic structure.” 

“Everyone at UWO is working diligently to strengthen enrollment next year and beyond,” Leavitt said. 

Leavitt said he is focusing on listening and responding to prospective students “who may not see themselves at UWO but can thrive here.” 

“Theirs is the confidence we all want to earn,” Leavitt said. 

Leavitt also said stakeholders of UWO are in support of the decisions being made. 

“Stakeholders recognize our difficult decisions and are rooting for us in our work to build a more sustainable UWO,” Leavitt said. “We remain on a responsible path, and I appreciate everyone’s continued stewardship.” 

The press release sent out by UFSO urges System President Jay Rothman and the Board of Regents to do a serious evaluation of the leadership at UWO. 

“Ask respected community members about Andy Leavitt’s standing in the Fox Valley; consult with entrepreneurs about whether he had forged strong connections with the business community; consider the perspective of alumni and donors about whether he has the right stuff for the job,” the press release said. “And do consider us as well – UW Oshkosh employees who serve the people of Wisconsin year-in and year-out and (who) want the best for the institution we have dedicated our careers to.” 

UFSO President David Siemers said no one wanted it to come to this. 

“None of us wanted to do this,” Siemers said. “But when leaders underperform and our state defunds our universities, someone has to sound the alarm. The people of Wisconsin are losing opportunities because of the deliberate neglect of our great regional comprehensive schools like UWO.” 

The Universities of Wisconsin’s Media Relations later released a joint statement attributed to Regents President Karen Walsh, Regents Vice President Amy Bogost, and Universities of Wisconsin President Jay Rothman.

“Chancellor Andy Leavitt has our full support,” the statement said. “He is leading UW Oshkosh through a series of difficult but necessary decisions to position the university for a sustainable future.”

“With a focus on current and future students, Chancellor Leavitt is thinking creatively about the university’s academic and building infrastructure,” the statement said. “We want UWO to succeed, as do business and community leaders in Oshkosh and the Fox Valley region, and Chancellor Leavitt is the person to lead it.”

Siemers was unimpressed with their response. 

“Less than two hours after we asked the Board of Regents to do its due diligence to see whether alumni, donors, business and community leaders think our Chancellor is doing a good job, the Board dismissed our concerns with a cookie cutter statement that they might apply to any Chancellor in trouble, except, apparently, one that posts pornography,” Siemers said. “I understand that it is hard to hire administrative talent in a state that doesn’t strongly back its universities, but we can at least try.”

Siemers said he wants Leavitt to succeed as much as anyone else. 

“In the meantime, I want Chancellor Leavitt to succeed, too,” Siemers said. “I hope he takes our faculty vote as a message that he needs to work more collaboratively with us and the students to effectively move UW Oshkosh forward.”

UFSO Exec Board Member Paul Van Auken said that faculty are regularly evaluated by students via student opinion surveys. But there is no evaluation for administrators. 

“Pursuing the referendum was something within our power to do, and the results should be taken, at least in part, as a very clear evaluation of the chancellor’s job performance as not meeting expectations,” Van Auken said. 

Van Auken notes this referendum means more than just a lack of confidence in the chancellor. 

“On a positive note, I think this process shows that when people organize in solidarity and use their collective voice, they can accomplish big things,” Van Auken said.

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