By Victor Ordonez and Theresa Schliep
Fordham faculty passed a vote of no confidence in Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of the university, on Wednesday. The Faculty Senate proposed the vote of no confidence on April 7 after unanimously deciding that the salary and benefits offer made by the administration was unacceptable. The vote comes a day before the Board of Trustees will convene to determine the 2017-18 budget.
Four hundred thirty-one faculty members voted they have no confidence in McShane, while 57 voted they are confident in his leadership, according to Anne Fernald, president of the Faculty Senate. Faculty completed the vote via an electronic ballot the Faculty Senate sent to 611 faculty members.
McShane sent a university-wide email out minutes after the results of the vote were released. He said while he is disappointed in the vote, he is still grateful for the contributions of Fordham’s faculty.
“In the twenty years that I have been honored to serve Fordham, I have always tried to be a strong advocate for and supporter of our faculty. Therefore, I was and am disappointed with the results of the faculty vote of no-confidence that I received from them. The outcome of the vote, however, in no way diminishes the high regard that I have for them, or the pride I have in all that they have achieved in their research. Nor does it lessen the gratitude that I have for the care they lavish on our students and the life-changing education that they give them, and the deep devotion that they have to the mission of the University.”
Andrew Clark, chair of the Faculty Salary and Benefits Committee, said it was a difficult decision.
“This was a very hard decision for everyone to make,” Clark. “People thought for a long time that they could restore faith to the [Fordham] community, but I don’t think that faith is there anymore. There has to be change.”
The vote comes after recent tensions regarding healthcare negotiations; un-imposed salary increases that the Senate says violates university statutes; and the university’s recent moves regarding adjunct faculty.
“This is not about an attack on an individual. It is an attack on a leadership role,” said Clark. “Many faculty members care deeply about Father McShane. This is not an attack against him, it is a critique of his leadership.”
The vote was meant to be “largely symbolic” since any change would require an action on behalf of the Board of Trustees, said Clark in a previous interview with The Ram.
However, upon hearing the results of the vote Clark clarified that “it is not merely symbolic. The board has a responsibility to the institution. This vote will have certain ramifications in respect to the board.”
The Board of Trustees sent an email out to the university community as well. It said it remains confident in McShane and his leadership in a resolution passed April 14, according to the email.
“Whereas the Board was disappointed to learn of the Faculty’s intention to conduct a vote of no confidence in our President in light of the University’s ongoing successes and current challenges, as well as the Administration’s efforts to negotiate with the Faculty to reach a timely compensation agreement,” said the board in the resolution. “Therefore, be it resolved that the Fordham University Board of Trustees today hereby affirms its full support of and confidence in the President and the Administration of Fordham University.”
Ahead of the vote, Clark helped to organize a faculty “sick-in” to protest the administration. At the protest, Clark said to the crowd “[faculty] will sue if we have to, and we need your help.”
It is currently unclear whether there will be litigations from the Faculty Senate as a result of the vote or the senate’s refusal to accept the most recent budgetary plan presented by the administration, according to Clark.
The vote comes one day before April 20, when the Board of Trustees meets to decide upon the budget for 2017-18. This budget will determine faculty pay and benefits, both of which faculty have found grievances with on behalf of the administration.
The Faculty Senate officially passed a motion on April 18 to accept the Faculty Salary and Benefit Committee’s recommendation to decline the 2017-18 budgetary plan offered by the administration.
Faculty members have opposed the administration’s plan to eliminate the UnitedHealthcare Enhanced and EPO Health Insurance Plans, which would force the 1,781 employees currently enrolled in these plans into either the Standard or HSA Plans, according to an email from the Faculty Senate and its legal counsel, Beth Margolis.
In a recent email from the Board of Trustees, the administration said that it has “been able to offer some of the best benefits in the city to our faculty and staff. According to Mercer, the global benefits consultancy, the health insurance package we offer our faculty and staff is more generous on average than those offered by Columbia University or NYU, and nearly twice as generous as other higher educational institutions nationwide offer their faculties and staffs.”
However, Marcia Flicker, associate professor of marketing and vice president of Fordham’s AAUP branch, said this comparison was misleading since Fordham faculty is not offered the same salary nor the same benefits as the institutions mentioned in the board’s email.
“The email comparison was disingenuous to say the least,” said Flicker. “The email comparison did not include total compensation for Fordham and neighboring universities when it specifically mentions schools like NYU and Columbia, it failed to account for the fact that their salaries are significantly higher than ours. They also offer subsidised faculty housing in Manhattan close to their campuses.”
In a statement, the Board of Trustees said “the administration’s negotiating team has one week to find accommodation with the Faculty Senate’s Salary and Benefits committee, within the budget that the Board has approved.”