No tact in P-Fac’s no confidence vote

By Editorial Board

The results of a vote of no confidence in the current administration, approved by 85 percent of the college’s part-time faculty union was announced on Sept. 25, as reported in the Front Page story. A vote of no confidence demonstrates that P-Fac no longer finds the administration and the Board of Trustees suitable to govern the college.

Voting, which initially opened June 24, was extended twice during the summer to include non-union and inactive adjunct professors, rather than just P-Fac members currently teaching courses. The final deadline for votes to be cast was Sept. 25. 

According to an Aug. 26 P-Fac press release, P-Fac’s reasons for introducing the vote include claims that the administration has refused to make the college’s budget transparent, cut course offerings, reduced class sections and eliminated programs without faculty or staff input. P-Fac argues that the college’s five-year Strategic Plan does not align with the college’s mission. 

The union never opened votes to full-time faculty, staff or students, which is unsurprising, as it was polling its own constituency. Traditionally, these votes are taken of a college’s permanent faculty. However, if P-Fac wants the administration to feel its concerns are heard across campus, it would have better luck involving other governance bodies at Columbia, including the Faculty Senate, United Staff of Columbia College and Student Government Association. The vote’s results would hold more weight if it represented a larger portion of the college community.

“[The petition] feels like a gesture…. If SGA came to me and said, ‘The vast majority of students are extremely unhappy about the fact that you’re president,’ that would really bother me,” President and CEO Kwang-Wu Kim told The Chronicle in a Q&A published May 10. 

Department faculty members, faculty senates and even athletic alumni associations at colleges across the nation have voted no confidence in various leaders. The frequency of these votes has increased, but their effectiveness has decreased, according to a July 2013 article published by The Chronicle of Higher Education. Once seen as the beginning of the end of an administration, votes of no confidence are now more common and less detrimental.

There are three potential outcomes to a vote of no confidence, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported. A vote of no confidence has no immediate or binding effect—the vote is typically seen as a tactic to bring attention to an organization’s concerns. Several of P-Fac’s concerns are valid, but the union’s approach is not productive. If P-Fac wants the board of trustees to acknowledge its grievances, it needs to show that the vote is a strategy to make constructive change, not a tactic to shame the administration. The vote can only be effective when the union proves its outlined concerns affect the greater college community and will eventually have ripple effects collegewide.

Increasing class sizes, top-down decision-making and abrupt program eliminations are issues affecting the entire college community, but the vote of no confidence only reflects P-Fac’s opinion of the administration. If P-Fac wants this vote to be taken seriously, it should reach out to other factions of the college and encourage them to conduct votes of their own.