Two no confidence votes on Tenn. community college presidents followed by retirements

Rick Wagner • Feb 8, 2017 at 10:00 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — Based on recent history in the Volunteer State, faculty votes of no confidence don’t bode well for community college presidents staying in their positions. However, neither of two such situations since 2014 involved the Tennessee Board of Regents removing a president it had hired.

In two cases, two community college presidents left their posts after such votes. The no confidence votes by the faculty occurred in 2014 at Chattanooga State and in 2016 at Jackson State, both followed by the president in question stepping down. 

At Northeast State Community College, the Faculty Senate voted no confidence in Janice Gilliam on Jan. 30 and the faculty followed suit on Feb. 2. Gilliam, president since mid-2009, has asked for an independent consultant to address the situation. Last week, she said she has no plans to step down in the face of faculty allegations including over-expansion, unrealistic revenue projections and an “environment of distrust.” The Tennessee Board of Regents is to have a team at Northeast State on Thursday to look into the situation.

The Senate vote was 10 for no confidence and one abstaining. The faculty vote was 98 no confidence votes, 16 confidence votes, one abstention and 12 not voting. The eligible voters numbered 127.

Chattanooga State President James Catanzaro announced his retirement in late 2014 after a no confidence vote in him by that school’s faculty, while more recently Jackson State Community College President Bruce Blanding in September of 2016 announced his earlier-than-planned retirement after a no confidence vote by the faculty of that college.

The Jackson Sun reported in September of 2014 that out of 81 faculty members who voted, 68 said they had “no confidence” in Blanding, just days before the school announced Blanding’s early retirement.

Blanding, who had led the campus since February 2004, announced in April of 2016 that he would retire Jan. 31, 2017. In September, the Sun reported, the school announced that Blanding had asked Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor David Gregory to move up his retirement date and to release him from his duties, the paper attributed to a news release.

Concerns included poor fundraising, a lack of community involvement in Jackson and low morale. The faculty does not have the authority to hire or fire a president, but a vote of no confidence does carry weight with the Tennessee Board of Regents that can hire and fire, the Sun reported.

The Jackson faculty approved a motion on Aug. 25, 2016 to take a vote about Blanding. When the votes were communicated to the Tennessee Board of Regents Aug. 29, 81 of 85 faculty members had responded. There were 68 votes of “no confidence,” two votes of “confidence” and 11 faculty who abstained from voting.

As for the Chattanooga State vote, WRCB TV in Chattanooga reported that Catanzaro came under fire in September of 2014, after “our partners at the (Chattanooga) Times Free Press first reported Catanzaro hired a woman he met on vacation and gave her a six-figure administrative job.” The woman had no college degree, although faculty members said other issues also were behind the no confidence vote.

Of the 75 or so professors present, the Times Free Press reported that 79 percent voted in favor of the statement, 3 percent voted against and 18 percent abstained. (Faculty Senate members voted to count their ballots in percentages, not whole numbers). The college employs about 240 full-time faculty, officials said, including about 40 at the Tennessee College of Applied Technology. 

Closer to home but at a private college offering four-year and advanced degrees, King Unviersity President Greg Jordan resigned in February of 2014 after a controversy about his leadership and a meeting on campus. Among complaints were over-expansion of the Bristol, Tenn.-based Presbyterian college.




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