Faculty Senate approves resolution of ‘no confidence’ in University of La Verne administration

The Faculty Senate approved a “no confidence” resolution against the University of La Verne administration on Monday during a closed session that followed the regular Senate meeting.

The resolution, stating the body has “no confidence in the administration of the University of La Verne, including the president, Devorah Lieberman,” passed with 17 votes in favor, three against and one abstention.

The vote followed several unsettling weeks during which faculty members across the University have become increasingly concerned about administrators’ plans for tenured faculty at the College of Law, adherence to the Faculty Handbook, and the implications for the University.

University-wide budgetary concerns and increasingly stringent American Bar Association standards prompted the Board of Trustees in October to put together an ad hoc financial exigency committee, including faculty and administrators, to consider the struggling law school’s future, and whether to shut it down entirely.

Last month University administrators announced their decision to abort efforts to maintain American Bar Association accreditation, and instead downgrade the law school to a California Bar Association program in fall 2020. The Cal Bar program would be cheaper to run, requiring fewer than half of the full-time faculty members currently employed with tenure at the College of Law, according to administration reports.

Convening and working with an ad hoc committee is as per Faculty Handbook guidelines for such a financial crisis situation. But faculty, including senators and ad hoc committee members, say administrators have not demonstrated compliance with the Faculty Handbook guidelines that protect tenured faculty in such situations.

According to the Faculty Handbook: “Before terminating a tenured appointment on grounds of financial or program exigency/discontinuance, the University will make every effort in good faith to place the faculty member concerned in another suitable position within the University. (And) the appointment of a faculty member with tenure shall not be terminated in favor of retaining a faculty member without tenure in the same program or college except in extraordinary circumstances where a serious distortion of the academic program would result.”

Through emails and various statements, Lieberman and Provost Jonathan Reed have tried to reassure faculty members of the administration’s commitment to tenured faculty and to following the faculty handbook’s procedures and regulations regarding tenured positions.

However, during recent Faculty Senate and Assembly meetings, faculty members involved with the process have repeatedly brought up contradictions between administrators’ reassurances and their actions.

Donna Redman, president of the Faculty Senate, said in an emailed statement Tuesday that “unfortunately the Senate is unable to comment on the specifics of this (no confidence vote) at this time. The primary reason for that is that many of the administrative actions that have given rise to it have been kept secret or labeled ‘confidential,’ and faculty involved in them have been prohibited from sharing with the broader faculty or the public what is taking place.  That itself is one driving force for the resolution.”

In response to Monday’s “no confidence” vote, Lieberman sent a message to University faculty and staff reiterating the administration’s commitment to principles of shared governance, tenure and academic freedom, and adding that Senate action is being reviewed by the Board of Trustees.

“The administration takes this matter very seriously and is fully committed to working with faculty leadership to listen to and address any concerns that are presented to us,” Lieberman’s Tuesday email said.

The Senate will meet again on Jan. 6 to discuss the resolution in greater detail.

—Jocelyn Arceo

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