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Marshall faculty votes no confidence in Kopp

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Two groups at Marshall University gave very different evaluations of the school's president, Stephen Kopp, on Wednesday.

Members of Marshall University's Faculty Senate released results of a symbolic "no confidence" vote on Kopp this. More than two-thirds of the faculty members who voted agreed with the no-confidence motion passed by the Faculty Senate on April 19.

Shortly after the vote, though, the chairman of Marshall's Board of Governors -- which has the power to discipline or fire the president -- said the board believes Kopp is still the right man for the job.

Faculty Senate members called for the no-confidence vote after Kopp swept the money in nearly all of the university's departmental accounts into a central account, without informing faculty members in those departments. Kopp said he made the move in anticipation of a $5 million state funding cut, but acknowledged he should have told faculty about the move first.

Of 420 votes cast, 290 faculty members agreed with a motion passed on April 19 calling for a vote of no confidence in the president. Another 107 faculty members did not agree with the no-confidence resolution, and 23 abstained. There were 745 members eligible to vote on the question.

Freezing and consolidating the accounts was the first step in a financial reorganization plan Kopp had intended to present to the board. He later apologized, calling the action "insensitive" and "ill-conceived." Marshall's Board of Governors postponed any action on Kopp's plan, and Kopp returned the money to the various departments' accounts.

But some faculty and staff at Marshall said the damage had already been done.

"A great deal of trust has been damaged," Faculty Senate Chairman Eldon Larsen, an engineering professor, said at the time. "The phrase, 'I'll believe it when I see it' becomes very important.

On Wednesday, Larsen said, "The faculty have made a clear statement in the vote of no confidence, although it is non-binding."

He referred to a statement he made at a Faculty Senate meeting on Tuesday, when he urged all parties to work together to solve the university's financial problems. "Criticism and fault-finding are easy," he said. "They take no talent."

After the results of the Faculty Senate vote were announced, Dr. Joseph Touma, a Huntington ear specialist and chairman of the Marshall Board of Governors, said Kopp "has succeeded in achieving the goals set by the Board of Governors for Marshall University and he has exceeded the board's performance expectations in numerous areas."

"The board also believes that he is the right person to keep our great university moving in the right direction," Touma said.

"An atmosphere that fosters constructive dialogue will help us find solutions to the challenges we face, particularly those identified in recent days," he continued. "We expect better communication and collegiality from all constituent groups and consider this an opportunity to establish common ground on which we can address the financial and other obstacles that lie ahead."

Kopp released a statement Wednesday acknowledging the gaffe and thanking the Board of Governors for its support. He also acknowledged the Faculty Senate vote, saying, "I respect the views of the faculty who have shared their opinion in this fashion.

"However, the budget challenges we set out to address remain and I do not see any addition public funding on the horizon," Kopp said. "We have much work to do in the coming days and months to ensure Marshall continues its progress with even more limited public resources."

Reach Rusty Marks at rustymarks@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.


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