By Sara Sanchez-Contreras and Damani Eason; The Whetstone
The faculty of Wesley College passed a “no confidence” resolution March 1 regarding President Robert Clark II, noting Clark’s incompetent handling of Wesley College’s finances, lack of leadership and vision, and his failure to raise money to keep the college afloat.
More than 85 percent voted to pass the resolution, faculty said.
“A vote of no confidence in a college president means that the faculty has lost confidence in the ability of that person to lead the institution,” Dr. Jeffrey Mask said. “The vote last Monday is exactly that.”
Psychology Professor Dr. Angela D’Antonio, who introduced the resolution, said it was a declaration from faculty that goes to the Board of Trustees.
“It’s of great importance and not very common,” she said of the resolution. “It’s to make our views known.”
Dr. Brantley Craig said the resolution represents the faculty “expressing discouragement in the most emphatic way available to us. I do not know what, if anything, will come of it, but it is a clear indication of the level of dismay, frustration, and hurt that many faculty are feeling.”
Mask said Clark’s hiring by the Board was wrong. He did not have the credentials.
“The Board hired President Clark in spite of his lack of experience in higher education,” he said.
Before Clark was president of Wesley College, he was a commandant of the U.S Naval Academy, the equivalent to a college dean of students.
Mask said the American Association of University Professors, an organization that looks out for the well-being of college professors, defines what a college president should be.
“The AAUP puts it this way,” Mask said. “A president ought to be qualified to be the chief academic officer of the institution. I don’t think Mr. Clark understands what we do.”
D’Antonio said she believes Clark did not perform due diligence and use the connections he said he had or could cultivate to help keep the college financially afloat.
“He didn’t bring money into the institution when he said he had all these connections to make it happen,” she said. “I don’t believe that while on your watch a school closing is something to tout as a success.”
Dr. Jack Barnhardt said because the no-confidence vote occurred only two months before Wesley will close, it was more of a symbolic vote.
“A no-confidence vote is usually quickly followed by a statement from the Board of Trustees that they have complete confidence in the President,” he said. “I’d expect either that, or no response at all, from our Board.”
Barnhardt said what happened after the vote was unusual, which showed that the resolution still had power.
“Our President had our Provost look for ways to claim the vote was invalid, even though we conducted that vote as we’ve been conducting all votes,” he said. “Plus, he has no authority to validate or invalidate our votes in the first place.”
Wesley College’s financial troubles were not broadcast to the Wesley college community until it was far too late, English professor Susan Bobby said. Instead, the administration presented faculty members with false hopes.
At first, she said, the idea was that Wesley “could be a feeder-type school, meaning that we start students out with their core classes during years one and two, and then for years three and four, they attend another college with a program we don’t have for their major.”
However, this idea was soon scrapped.
Then the idea of Wesley College becoming a branch campus of a larger institution was proposed, Bobby said.
Neither of these ideas was approved.
“Instead, we are being acquired, which is bought out, which is sold to another entity,” she said.
Some faculty members said they also ignored the school’s financial issues.
“If I am honest, I would also have to admit, I probably didn’t want to believe we were in dire straits,” Dr. Kathleen Curran said.
The no-confidence resolution is about the frustration most faculty feel about Clark, D’Antonio said.
“This isn’t vengeful,” she said. “This is a declaration of truth of what has transpired over the last five years.”
A Resolution of the Faculty of Wesley College, March 1, 2021
WHEREAS, President Clark has failed in his charge to sustain and further the mission and integrity of Wesley College;
THEREFORE, We, the Faculty of Wesley College, noting the College has given President Clark more than five years to move the College forward; but whose failed leadership, lack of vision for addressing the College’s financial solvency, and failure to raise money at the needed levels for continued existence, declares to the Wesley College Community and the Wesley College Board of Trustees that we hold accountable the person at the highest administrative office at the College, the President, that we have no confidence in President Robert E. Clark, II, and that he should resign immediately.
WE THE FACULTY, by majority vote in a meeting on March 1, 2021, hereby inform both the President of Wesley College and its Board of Trustees that the Faculty has issued a vote of NO CONFIDENCE in Robert E. Clark, II.
“No Confidence” illustration by Tori Albanese