SFA president responds to Faculty Senate calls for revocation of contract, says ‘we have to work together’
NACOGDOCHES, Texas (KTRE) - Dissatisfaction with the job the president of Stephen F. Austin State University has done has led to the Faculty Senate, the deans and the chairs of each department of the university to express their position of “no confidence” in Dr. Scott Gordon’s leadership, including a call for the Board of Regents to revoke his contract.
In response to the Faculty Senate calling for the revocation Dr. Gordon’s contract, as well as in response to the stated reasons behind it, Dr. Gordon issued the following statement to KTRE:
I am aware of the vote taken Wednesday evening by the Faculty Senate. From the many discussions I have had this past week, particularly in the listening tour I and Board Chairperson Karen Gantt conducted with several constituent groups, it is clear SFA has had, and continues to have, many challenges.
We have to work together. We cannot see each other as adversaries, but rather as partners in the endeavor to address the new and longstanding challenges. We need to be able to have constructive and respectful debates and disagreements. We have work to do together, and we cannot go about it in a spirit of division.
This is my pledge: to listen attentively, to share openly, to debate respectfully and to speak honestly.
Members of the Board of Regents and I are committed to increasing collaboration with faculty and staff on campus. This is a difficult period for all of us, and we need to work together.
I have striven to be open and collaborative from my first days as president. I have pushed for more information to be shared and understood, so that we might all have a more realistic picture of what needs to be done.
We have very real budget issues to address. We have enrollment trends that are challenging. We have building projects to complete, debt service to overcome, scholarships to establish, salary issues to correct, relationships to nurture and partnerships to strengthen.
I have lots of ideas, and I share them in the spirit of collaboration. I want to explore what might be possible, and give others a chance to make ideas better and implement them in a way that works.
I am not a quitter. I like a challenge, and I work hard for progress. I push hard. And I recognize that I cannot do this work alone.
I apologize if I have expressed my passion and vision in a manner that has come across as aggressive or otherwise negative. I am optimistic and I push for achievement. I believe in SFA and its people and I truly want the best for them.
Each person who works at SFA deserves recognition and dignity in their work to serve students. That can be done in many ways, from compensation and verbal praise to involvement in decision-making and an opportunity to share their voice. No group of employees is entitled to a bigger voice than another. We need to hear from everyone.
Let’s assume that each has good intentions. Let’s give each other the benefit of the doubt. Let’s believe together that we all want a great place to work and an even better place to learn.
Last year, faculty leaders worked with me to develop a shared governance model and an accompanying document to guide our efforts. That was a good idea, and I am grateful for it. I liked that spirit of collaboration and it guided us in the expansion of the Cabinet to include the chair of the Faculty Senate, chair of Chairs Forum and a representative from among the deans. This fall, I added the Student Government Association president. I intend to extend an invitation to the president of the Staff Council – another new body assembled just recently – now that its members have elected officers.
I also recognized the need for Academic Affairs to have an even greater voice at the leadership table and reformed the provost position to also be our executive vice president.
We all have an interest in how resources are allocated. They represent priorities. It has not always been a process that allowed for broader participation. We made the right decision to publish budget documents online, and to form a University Budget Council to advise university leadership. Good questions and good ideas have come from that group, and from the broader campus discussions. It has also drawn attention to some serious conditions that need to be corrected.
We have changed leadership in our financial operations, and I have asked our regents to help us delve in further. We must have a more accurate understanding of our resources and past decision-making to improve and create a more open and collaborative process that more accurately reflects SFA’s priorities today. We must shine a light on all corners of the budget and understand the rationale behind our current and historical financial decisions and commitments, which must be oriented to support student success and a working environment where SFA employees can carry out their vital work.
We are expanding our network of support with alumni, friends, public officials and donors. It is a critical role for a president to connect people to the institution in a way that secures financial resources and influence to help us accomplish our mission.
I do not take this vote lightly. I recognize that it expresses the fears and frustrations of good people trying to do good things. I can identify with that.
In my commitment to lead SFA into its second century, achieving even greater heights, I am undeterred. I will not lose focus on the importance of this office or this institution and what it does for the lives of countless good people. I will work with those who in good faith seek to do the same. Let’s commit to the hard work of doing this together.
According to a statement shared with media on Thursday afternoon, the points of dissatisfaction in Gordon’s job are:
1. His large-scale initiatives including the aborted analysis regarding combining colleges, as well as multiple Lumberjack Initiative teams, which the senate says failed outright or produced nearly no tangible results.
2. His alleged poor judgement, including his drive to implement hurndreds of new courses without consulting a faculty already stretched due to a pandemic situation.
3. His alleged claims that he brought Shared Governance to the campus, although the senate says the Shared Governance document is still being developed and has not been approved by the Board of Regents.
4. His initial acceptance of an $85,000 raise during what the senate describes as a time of financial crisis, though he later asked them to recall that raise. They attributed his acceptance to a lack of self-awareness, and pointed out that the faculty and staff have not received any significant raises in several years and they consider his performance overall to be more deserving of a pay cut, not a pay raise.
5. His pay raise has angered a student population whose social media communications include rumors of imminent on-campus protests.
6. His alleged bullying and unreasonably impatient behavior both in public and in private.
The full Senate body voted to indicate its position of No Confidence relative to the president’s potential effectiveness at SFA, now and in the future.
They also said they shared this vote and the reasons behind it with the Chairs Forum, the Provost, the faculty, the Deans of the six colleges, and the graduate school, the Staff Council and the Board of Regents.
They requested that the Board of Regents revoke the President’s contract for failure to achieve the goals of his office and for subjecting the university to “poor publicity, scorn and ridicule.”
In response to this, the academic deans of SFA said they share in the “justifiable indignation” in the fiscal decisions made by the president and his lack of leadership and collegiality.
Finally, the members of the Chairs Forum stated that they stand united with the Senate and Deans in their indignation and concern of the fiscal decisions made by the president and his lack of professional leadership and collegiality.
The statements were signed by the respective chairs and deans of the respective schools at SFA.
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