Faculty reacts to confidence vote results

Cassie Buchman, Administration Editor

Faculty had mixed reactions to the results of the confidence vote in the performance of Blair Lord, the provost and vice president for academic affairs.

Out of the 349 people who participated in the vote, 67.6 percent voted no confidence, and 261 eligible voters did not participate.

Ali Moshtagh, the department chair of economics, said the only concern he had about the vote was its timing.

“This is not a good time for bad news to get out of Eastern,” Moshtagh said. “We already have enough bad news coming out of Eastern to scare potential recruits.”

Moshtagh said many of the people who did not vote chose not to because they did not think the timing was good.

“We always have interactions with the provost; he’s the main academic person on campus,” Moshtagh said. “I liked him. I think he’s a good man. I have no problem with him.”

Moshtagh said the fact Eastern has a Faculty Senate, Council on Academic Affairs and other committees means a good amount of shared governance on the campus.

“Do things happen behind close doors, a lack of transparency perhaps?” Moshtagh said. “Perhaps some are, but my only concern is that Eastern is going to hurt because of this.”

Moshtagh’s daughter, who goes to school in Springfield, is currently looking at colleges to go to, and she is asking him about the state of Eastern.

“These are bad things, bad images,” Moshtagh said. “My daughter tells me what other kids say about Eastern and it’s not good.”

Moshtagh said the kids were worried about Eastern.

“There’s a fear among the high school kids about Eastern, and that is something we do not need,” Moshtagh said. “Something like (this vote) is going to add fuel to the fire.”

Teshome Abebe, an economics professor, said he is waiting to see what needs to be done.

“I feel that it wasn’t a desirable step, but it was made necessary by circumstances,” Abebe said.

Jemmie Robertson, a music professor, said his interactions with the provost have been positive as well.

“I feel like he’s been straightforward, easy to work with and generally collegial,” Robertson said. “I feel many good things happen academically that can be attributed to his leadership.”

These things include new degree programs and his appointment of interactions with deans.

Grant Sterling, a philosophy professor, said Lord has strengths and weaknesses as a provost, and his weaknesses caught up with him.

“I think that his repeated tendency to make significant decisions without really consulting faculty or even chairs is not something we want in a provost,” Sterling said. “I know he says he’s consulted with people, but I know many times he enters a meeting making it very clear he’s made up his mind about the result.”

Sterling said this makes people reluctant to go against the opinion that’s already been made.

“I think there are serious concerns about the way that he chooses deans and interim deans and other people in positions of leadership,” Sterling said.

Sterling said there is a perception that the people Lord picks for these positions of leadership are people who will not challenge him or question his decisions as opposed to speaking up for their college or department.

“Faculty clearly are not inclined to do no confidence votes lightly,” Sterling said. “This is obviously a big deal, and for faculty discontent to be high enough to go all the way through the vote, I think it sends a clear message (to the president).”

Gary Aylesworth, the philosophy professor who co-authored the petition, said the faculty felt they were being denied a voice in how the campus was run for a long time.

“We would like a transparent process of shared governance in which faculty have a real voice, and we would like a new provost,” Aylesworth said. “We will only be able to move forward now with new management in that position.”


Cassie Buchman can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]