The Board of Trustees of Transylvania University reaffirmed its support of President R. Owen Williams on Friday, May 24, with a unanimous vote of confidence.
The Board of Trustees is the university’s highest governing authority. Separately, the Board of Regents also expressed its confidence in Williams in a unanimous vote. The Board of Regents is an advisory board to the trustees and the president.
In a related vote, the trustees unanimously reaffirmed their support of the university’s strategic plan. Formulated with participation from faculty members, students and trustees, the plan sets specific goals aimed at placing the university among the top 50 liberal arts colleges in the nation by 2020. It would increase the student body from 1,100 to 1,500 and the faculty from 100 to 125.
President Williams’ responsibilities, as assigned by the trustees, include implementing the strategic plan and raising academic standards generally.
The resolutions were in response to a faculty vote of no-confidence in Williams, which was presented to the board Friday at its May board meeting.
The board did not respond to another faculty resolution urging it to overrule two of Williams’ decisions on tenure cases. Evaluating faculty members for tenure is a lengthy process that involves the faculty and the administration. Ultimate approval of each tenure case rests with the trustees. By not acting on the faculty resolution, the trustees upheld Williams’ handling of the tenure cases.
In another vote, the board decided to create a standing committee on Academic Affairs. The committee’s mission would be to work with the faculty in pursuing high academic standards. The board also agreed to create an ad hoc Committee on Employee Concerns. During the current controversy, faculty representatives have complained to the trustees about President Williams’ management style. Meeting with the professors, Williams has offered to work with them collaboratively toward the achievement of the college’s objectives. The purpose of the ad hoc committee is to make certain the door is open to all who have concerns and to see that Transylvania has systems for addressing them.
“The Board of Trustees has one overriding mission,” said its chairman, W.T. Young, Jr., “and that is to make Transylvania the best educational institution it can be. Doing so places demands on all of us—students, professors, administrators and trustees. I am disappointed, frankly, that the faculty has taken a no-confidence vote. In my view, this is an extreme and unwarranted position. “At the same time, I respect the absolutely crucial role of the faculty. My intention is to support its efforts to make the university even better than it already is. My hope is that in the months to come we can work collegially toward the goals we all share.”