Georgia Gwinnett faculty vote reveals divided view on college leaders

Georgia Gwinnett College President Jann L. Joseph speaks during her investiture ceremony in 2022. (Elijah Nouvelage / AJC file photo)

Credit: Elijah Nouvelage

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Georgia Gwinnett College President Jann L. Joseph speaks during her investiture ceremony in 2022. (Elijah Nouvelage / AJC file photo)

Credit: Elijah Nouvelage

Credit: Elijah Nouvelage

A Georgia Gwinnett College faculty vote that finished Friday revealed a deep rift in how faculty members assess the leadership of President Jann Joseph and Provost George Low.

Roughly three-quarters of the college’s 434 eligible faculty members participated in the two-day vote. Just over half of those who voted said they lacked confidence in the college’s two top leaders.

Among the 332 faculty who voted, 188, or 56.6%, said they do not have confidence in Joseph’s leadership. Another 105 faculty members said they do have confidence in her, while 39 faculty cast a vote to abstain.

Asked if they have confidence in the provost’s leadership, 170 of the 332 voting faculty members, or 51%, said they do not. Another 112 faculty said they are confident in Low, while 50 faculty abstained.

University System of Georgia Chancellor Sonny Perdue said Joseph has his “wholehearted support.” The system oversees Georgia Gwinnett and 25 other public colleges and universities around the state.

“Every president has the challenging job of listening to all stakeholders, balancing competing demands and aligning them with budgetary considerations. At GGC, she and her team have stayed focused on making the best decisions in the interest of the institution and, most importantly, for the success of students,” said Perdue, in a written statement.

The faculty vote stems from a long-simmering dispute over how the college has been led.

Faculty senate President Tirza Leader characterized the vote as an attempt to understand how faculty feels and said the outcome indicates “it’s clearly a complex situation.”

She added: “If people want to use that hopefully to think about what they’re doing and what is going well and what maybe needs to be going better, that’s all we can do.”

A college spokeswoman framed the results in the larger context of all 434 faculty members who were eligible to vote. Among that entire group, 43% voted no confidence in the president and 39% voted no confidence in the provost.

The college did not make Joseph available for an interview but shared a message she sent Friday to the campus community. In it, Joseph urged “everyone to concentrate on the common grounds that unite us, especially in our joint commitment to facilitate the needs and triumphs of our students. Moving forward, our dedication remains unwavering.”

Joseph wrote that the college is committed to working with faculty and students to address concerns and find solutions.

In early October, the faculty senate approved a resolution that outlined concerns with Joseph, Low and Chief of Staff Katherine Kyle. That resolution called for six weeks of mediation before the full faculty considered the no-confidence vote that took place this week.

The concerns include administrators’ ability to manage college resources, programs and services. School leaders refuted those concerns, calling them “unfounded.”

The October document also raised issues about communication and shared governance with faculty, employee shortages and pay. It said that Kyle’s dual roles as both a vice president for human resources and chief of staff cause a conflict of interest, though the administration described it as a “standard practice.” Kyle has since resigned to take a job in the private sector.

College administrators have defended their work, saying they’ve involved faculty in decisions and strengthened communication efforts.

Joseph was hired to lead Georgia Gwinnett in 2019. She previously worked as a former interim chancellor for Indiana University South Bend.

The college’s chapter of the United Campus Workers of Georgia said in a statement Friday that its members are troubled by “unsustainable workloads,” understaffing and the administration’s spending priorities. The group called for school and University System leaders to pursue mediation to resolve employee concerns.

“Our students are exactly why we raise our voices and fight so hard to create an environment that provides them with the education they deserve,” the group said.

Georgia Gwinnett College enrolled 11,918 students this fall, up 8.1% from a year ago.

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