No-confidence vote passed against university president


Photo by Nikole Kost

President Paul Hennigan addresses USG about the “no confidence’ vote on Monday August 28 during their weekly meeting.

Written By Josh Croup, Editor Emeritus

A new re-count from last week’s vote of no-confidence for university President Paul Hennigan revealed greater support for the motion than originally believed.

Early results of a no-confidence vote from Faculty Assembly members said the vote passed with 53 percent in favor of issuing the vote, 44 percent against and three percent abstaining.

Faculty Assembly President Matt Pascal said Monday an error was made when the tellers counted the ballots. The final tally revealed 57 of the 99 faculty members present, or 57 percent, voted in favor of the resolution. 39 were against the vote, or 39 percent, with the same three abstentions.

The vote now goes to the Point Park University Board of Trustees, which announced last week following the vote that an independent expert will be appointed “to thoroughly review this matter and report back to the Board.”

“We recognize the need for continuous improvement and trust in building effective relationships between faculty and administration,” said Joseph R. Greco Jr., chair of the Board of Trustees, in a statement. “We are committed to our goal of being one of the most dynamic, private urban universities with an intense focus on student success through distinctive, innovative and experiential learning.”

Greco also said Hennigan and the administration have the full support of the Board of Trustees until the review is complete. The board has already conducted two “professionally administered faculty evaluations” of Hennigan that came back positive, according to Greco.

Initial reports from faculty members anticipated a vote from as many as 140 of Point Park’s 147 full-time faculty members. The 57 faculty members in favor of the no-confidence vote comes out to 38 percent of the total faculty.

President Hennigan said Monday at the United Student Government (USG) meeting that the university takes the vote “very seriously.” He said the Board of Trustees will follow the guidelines as put forward by the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB) on a vote of no-confidence.

“We share our commitment to best practice,” Hennigan said. “We’re fortunate to have a Board of Trustees who takes governance very seriously.”

Hennigan said the independent expert hired by the Board of Trustees was on campus Monday and Tuesday. The Board of Trustees is the ultimate governing authority of the university. The university website lists 30 board members, which includes community leaders and elected officials.

Hennigan said the university practices “shared governance” giving the faculty a voice to the operation of the university.

The no-confidence vote came hours after faculty members were notified of a contract agreement between the university and the union representing the full-time faculty last week. After reviewing the terms, faculty voted to ratify the contract Monday.

The group in attendance for the no-confidence vote included 60 percent of Point Park’s full-time faculty. After receiving word of a tentative agreement, they proceeded with their pre-semester meeting to discuss several grievances justifying the vote of no-confidence as originally planned. Several faculty members have declined to comment publicly on the no-confidence vote.

Psychology Professor Bill Purcell and Karen Dwyer, an associate professor of English, both represented the full-time faculty at the negotiating table.

“It’s an opportunity to speak truth to power,” Dwyer said. “As a result, I was in support of no-confidence. I think it’s important for President Hennigan to know how his faculty stands on these issues.”

Purcell also voted in support of the vote of no-confidence.

“I believe that this presidency has been not good for the university – that it is a fundamentally failed presidency,” Purcell said.

Hennigan became president of the university in Sept. 2006 after serving as the vice president of finance and operations since 2000. He was named the acting president in Jan. 2006, succeeding Katherine Henderson, who served in the role from 1997-2006.

Updated Aug. 30 at 12:17 p.m.: A previous version of this article noted 32 board members, there are 30.

Updated Aug. 31 at 11:10 a.m.: A previous version of this article incorrectly calculated the percentages of the no-confidence vote. The vote was 57 for, 39 against and 3 abstaining. The total vote was 99, not 89 as originally reported.