Transylvania University dismisses three communications employees

lblackford@herald-leader.comAugust 27, 2013 

Transylvania University has dismissed three members of its communications staff, citing the need for a change, according to school officials.

Sarah Emmons, the associate vice president for communication, was let go on Friday. She has worked at Transy for 34 years.

On Monday, director of publications Martha Baker and writer/editor Bill Bowden were dismissed.

It's the latest tumult at the small downtown Lexington school, where President Owen Williams is scheduled to leave at the end of the academic year after a vote of no confidence by the faculty earlier this year. Many faculty members said Williams' leadership style was disrespectful and dismissive, and that he created a hostile climate toward women on campus.

Sally Showalter, Transy's web content editor and acting spokeswoman, said Tuesday that she was told the president, his cabinet and the Board of Trustees were unanimous "in wanting to move in a new direction."

Showalter said she had not yet been told what the new direction would be, but that the change had been under discussion for many months as part of Williams' strategic plan for Transy. Key points of the plan include growing the student body and expanding the campus, including new athletics fields already under construction on Fourth Street.

Showalter said no one had mentioned that budgetary concerns were a factor in the personnel decisions. This fall's freshman enrollment is down 22 students from last year, but even small declines can affect tuition revenues at a small school.

Emmons declined to comment on the matter.

Glenn Osborne, a former sports information director at Transy who left the school earlier this year, said he thought the recent moves seemed to be "needlessly harsh and sudden.

"These people have been important members of the Transy family for many years and the manner in which they were dismissed appears to be cruel and unwarranted from my perspective," Osborne said. "This is not the way people at Transylvania have been treated in the past in my experience."

The Board of Trustees is in the process of forming a search committee to find a new president. Last month, Transy hired Michael J. Bell as interim vice president and dean of the college.

Linda Blackford: (859) 231-1359. Twitter: @lbblackford

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