CARROLLTON, Ga. (AP) — Some professors at the University of West Georgia are seeking a vote of “no confidence” in the leadership of university President Brendan Kelly, whom they accuse of creating a “culture of fear” on campus.
A petition laying out Kelly’s perceived failure to consult with and share responsibility with faculty was circulated online Monday, promising the signers anonymity ahead of a potential vote in the university’s Faculty Senate.
Any such vote would be nonbinding, but Faculty Senate Chair Daniel Williams told The Times-Georgian that it would be “a very important symbolic measure. It would be an official statement of faculty opinion.”
The professors hope to influence the state Board of Regents, which hired Kelly last December to lead the 13,000-student school in Carrollton and has the power to fire him.
Kelly, previously chancellor of University of South Carolina Upstate, said the claims made in the petition are false and asserted that he’s been working closely with faculty as the university navigates economic challenges.
“I’m at every Faculty Senate meeting,” said Kelly. “I meet with anybody (including) SGA, which I am regularly at… There’s been no lack of meeting, let me tell you that.”
Since Kelly took over in March, some faculty members have expressed frustration over restructuring of university colleges and departments and the reopening of the campus during the COVID-19 pandemic. They said one professor was disciplined for telling his students, without naming the individual, that one of their classmates had been infected.
They also accused Kelly of dissolving the university’s diversity and inclusion office, “with an utter disregard for the concerns and needs of UWG’s student population, which currently includes over 50% of students from racial minorities.”
The petition charges that Kelly’s actions have “eroded faculty trust in the administration, leading faculty to declare that they have no confidence in his ability to lead this institution and, furthermore, that his leadership decisions are to the detriment, rather than benefit, of the University of West Georgia.”
The petition had 86 signatures as of Monday, out of what were nearly 500 faculty members last fall. A vote could follow on Oct. 16.
Asked if he plans to address the faculty complaints, Kelly responded that he had only learned of the petition that day, and that it would be discussed more this week.
Any vote could draw negative attention from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the university’s primary accreditor.
Kelly, however, said Monday that he is not worried about the possibility of sanctions.
Matt Franks, president of the university’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors, said his group shares the concerns that Kelly isn’t communicating with faculty. He said dozens of professors have shared displeasure and that Kelly has “created a culture of fear.”
“Because we feel we have exhausted other options, we support a vote of no confidence in Dr. Kelly with the goal of convincing him to change his unilateral leadership model, or to go elsewhere for the betterment of the University of West Georgia,” Franks said.
This version is corrected to show the chair of the Faculty Senate’s name is Daniel Williams, not David.