Georgia Gwinnett faculty senate weighs no-confidence vote in leaders

Georgia Gwinnett College President Jann L. Joseph speaks during her 2022 investiture ceremony in Lawrenceville. (Elijah Nouvelage/Special to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Elijah Nouvelage

Credit: Elijah Nouvelage

Georgia Gwinnett College President Jann L. Joseph speaks during her 2022 investiture ceremony in Lawrenceville. (Elijah Nouvelage/Special to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Georgia Gwinnett College’s faculty senate could pursue a rare vote of no confidence in the school’s leadership, according to a campuswide employee message sent Thursday.

In the statement obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, President Jann Joseph and 10 top administrators responded to issues raised by faculty related to shared governance, communication and transparency in budget decisions. The letter does not go into detail about the specific nature of faculty concerns.

“The president and the cabinet have been actively engaged in a sincere, good-faith effort to address concerns that have been raised by the faculty. We recognize and hear the voice of the faculty and want you to know that we value your contributions and ideas,” the letter states.

The faculty senate is expected to meet Tuesday, though the message did not say when they might consider a resolution to pursue a no-confidence vote. That action is an unusual step faculty members can take to voice their displeasure with a college’s direction. The letter also didn’t say which leaders are the target of a potential no-confidence vote.

College spokeswoman Jacqueline Todd said the faculty senate has considered a couple of versions of the pending resolution.

“We have clearly been trying to work with the faculty senate to address the issues that they’re bringing up. Some of the statements that they are making are clearly inaccurate,” she said.

The situation has been “very hurtful” to the president, but won’t dampen her desire to do good work, Todd said. Joseph, a former interim chancellor for Indiana University South Bend, was named president of Georgia Gwinnett College in 2019.

Georgia Gwinnett College enrolled just over 11,000 students last year, the majority of whom hail from Gwinnett County. The school had 447 full-time instructional faculty and 119 part-time faculty as of last fall, according to its website.

Faculty senate President Tirza Leader declined to comment on the brewing conflict.

The administration in its message blamed “an unrecognized union” for “disseminating inaccurate messages” that contribute “to low morale and an atmosphere of distrust.”

The Georgia Gwinnett College Chapter of United Campus Workers of Georgia, which includes some faculty, issued a response late Sunday, saying it was surprised to be referenced in the letter. The group said it supports a facultywide referendum but that it is “not directly involved in this process.”

“Blaming UCWGA is just the latest example of the president and cabinet placing the blame for low faculty assessment of the administration on anything but their own performance,” the group’s statement said.

The group added that this year’s faculty climate survey showed strong disapproval of the administration but said it remains hopeful that the faculty senate and administration can resolve their differences.

In the statement sent to employees from Joseph and cabinet leaders, the administrators described “a lack of civility” in recent meetings and a “lingering sense of discontent among some members of the faculty.”

The leaders wrote that they “have consistently embraced a diverse array of perspectives when making critical decisions.” They pointed to the creation of committees and task forces of faculty, staff and students and said faculty “have played an essential role” in recommendations related to curriculum, faculty contracts and hiring. Administrators contend they have worked to strengthen communication efforts and shared information about how the college allocates funds and has sought input on budget decisions.

The college leaders wrote that the faculty senate’s bylaws need to be revised and are out of compliance with the policies of the Georgia Board of Regents, which oversees the University System of Georgia.

The letter also touted efforts to increase student retention, manage budget cuts this fiscal year and upgrade campus spaces.

The college also prepared a 21-page document to answer frequently asked questions about numerous topics, including athletics, fundraising and employee pay.

No-confidence votes are rare. In 2020, faculty at the University of West Georgia passed a no-confidence resolution against President Brendan B. Kelly, who is still at the school.