Wright State faculty holds vote of confidence/no confidence in school’s president

An aerial view of Wright State University's campus. FILE
An aerial view of Wright State University's campus. FILE

Wright State University faculty are conducting a vote of confidence/no confidence in WSU president Susan Edwards.

Voting closed Thursday and began on April 9.

Faculty Senate president Laura Luehrmann said ballots were sent out to 651 eligible faculty members for the vote. Eligible faculty can submit a vote of confidence or of no confidence in Edwards.

The Wright State Faculty Senate, which is facilitating the vote but did not call for it, sent a letter to Edwards on March 23 informing her of the vote. The process is not legally binding, but it is an expression of how faculty feel about leadership.

“Collectively, this list of grievances speaks to the lack of integrity and leadership ability of President Edwards,” the petition to conduct a vote of no confidence in Edwards says.

The petition cites 14 reasons why the vote should be taken, including: enrollment declines that have accelerated under her leadership; hiring practices the petitioner felt was not fair; the lowest faculty morale in years; and using what the petition called “deceptive language” to announce temporary reductions in compensation for members of university management, among other reasons.

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Luehrmann noted this type of vote is rare and something the Faculty Senate takes seriously.

Luehrmann said a petition was submitted to the Faculty Senate Office, who shared it with faculty. For the vote to go forward, they needed at least 50 verified signatures and 51 faculty members signed the petition.

Once the vote is completed, the Faculty Senate Office, comprised of the Faculty Senate leadership, has five days to tabulate the votes and will then make a report to the University Parliamentarian and the Faculty Senate Executive Committee, according to the rules posted on their website.

The Faculty Senate leadership then will provide a report to the administrator and Edwards’s supervisor, which is the Board of Trustees.

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Edwards was given a chance at rebuttal after the petition was filed. She said she saw “a great deal of similarities between the information shared as justification for this vote and the criticisms leveled directly against me by the AAUP-WSU leadership.”

She added, “Let me say again the allegations are inaccurate and while they may make great theater the information is purposely misstated and I see no productive value in again legitimizing them any further through this Faculty Senate process.”

Edwards also strongly rebutted the accusation that she had lied about a salary reduction.

“I am highlighting this point because the implication is I lied and misrepresented the compensation reduction I took,” she wrote. “I take offense to that as it is an attack on my personal and professional integrity.”

Wright State Board of Trustees Chair Tom Gunlock said the vote wouldn’t have any bearing on the Board’s view of Edwards.

“Sue is doing a remarkable job leading Wright State University through a very difficult period and we are blessed to have her,” Gunlock said. “The Board has complete confidence in her and her team.”

In 2019, the faculty held a vote of no confidence in the WSU board of trustees. Of 735 faculty members eligible to vote, 440 voted, and 87% of those 440 voters placed a vote of no confidence in the board of trustees.

Sean McKinniss, who holds a doctorate in higher education from Ohio State and is coauthoring a book on no confidence votes against college presidents, noted that in his research, in about half of cases, a university president leaves within a year after receiving a vote of no confidence.

“The fact that faculty are holding a vote sends a powerful message in and of itself,” McKinniss said. “If it fails, then I think the president understands that he or she has a lot of work to do even though they survived the vote. But if it passes, I think it gives even more urgency for the president to try to fix his or her relationships and challenges with the faculty.”

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