So, You're Thinking about a Vote of No Confidence: 10+ Questions to Ask

October
2003
Jane Patton, Area B Representative

H as your local senate considered taking a vote of no confidence on an administrator? At some colleges, there have been ongoing issues with long-standing administrators. At other colleges, new problems have arisen as a result of the budgetary constraints in the last year. At times of fiscal hardship, typically there are more instances in which local senates find their rights and responsibilities have been curtailed, so the discussions about a no-confidence vote have increased. For example, it is easier and faster for some administrators to make decisions alone about budget processes or curricular offerings and bypass a college's normal shared-governance processes. Before local senates decide to take a no-confidence vote on an administrator to their local board of trustees, senate members must carefully consider the justification and potential effects of such a vote. Below are some questions to stimulate local senate discussions about whether or not to take such an important vote of no confidence.

1. What is your goal or purpose? What do you want accomplished by this vote? Consider whether or not you expect a specific action to be taken after the vote. From whom do you expect an action and by when? How will you know when the action is completed? After a vote is taken, what will occur during the next six months or year?

2. What might be the overall results of such a vote? Sometimes the effects are right on target; sometimes there can be unexpected consequences. Effects may be immediate, or it may take time to see a change. Explore all the pros/cons; examine the advantages and disadvantages of any proposed action. Consider how different groups may react: other administrators, trustees, staff, the community, etc.

3. Are your concerns about academic issues (as opposed to union issues)? Refer to the 10+1 areas of local senate responsibilities, to other areas of responsibility in the law, as well as to local board policies that are relevant in your situation.

4. Are the issues compelling enough? Have other avenues of recourse been exhausted? Keep in mind that the Board of Trustees hired this administrator and therefore will be inclined to support him or her. A vote of no confidence probably should be done as a last resort.

5. Is it best to take a vote as the senate? As the union? Both? A vote of all faculty, if you have a representative senate? You could do all or any of these and the sequence could be varied. What are the pros and cons of each choice? What's the union-senate relationship? Are the bodies in accord? In opposition? Will the action of one group divide the faculty or unite them?

6. In a multi-college district, consider the ramifications of one college's unilateral action. Should discussions or a vote be conducted by your district senate, if you have one? What consultation has occurred with the other colleges' senates?

7. Discuss the issues widely across the campus, and consider first adopting a resolution laying out the concerns and calling for a vote. Where is there resistance? Have you explored the opposition's perspective? Might they be right? You could do a temperature check in advance of a vote, to see where people stand. Is there widespread concern or buy-in? Will the faculty as a whole support the senate?

8. What is the perspective of the classified staff? What's their position? Should you work with them, either formally or informally? Can you incorporate their concerns into a statement of your own, demonstrating the administrator's failure, for example, to adhere to principles of participatory governance?

9. Are all discussions professional and focused on issues and behaviors and not on personalities?

10. Who else would be affected by a vote? Will other relationships the faculty have be damaged? How will the community react?

A primary role of the local academic senate in the case of a "no confidence" vote is the same as its role the rest of the time: ensuring that the laws, regulations and policies established by the state and by local boards relative to the senate are upheld. When those are violated, the local senate needs to take action, making certain its own actions are above reproach.

The articles published in the Rostrum do not necessarily represent the adopted positions of the academic senate. For adopted positions and recommendations, please browse this website.