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AAUP holding “no-confidence” vote on President Huddleston

Former Executive Editor

Published: Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 15:02


Correction: An earlier version of this article stated that David Richman is the secretary of the UNH-AAUP. Richman is a member at large on the executive committee.

In a 5-2 vote last week, the executive committee of the University of New Hampshire chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) elected to hold a "no-confidence" vote against UNH President Mark Huddleston today and tomorrow in Dimond Library. The vote has no official impact, but, if passed, would signal a lack of confidence by the faculty in the university's top administrator. 

According to an email circulated to union members on Thursday, April 21, votes will be taken in Room 323 of the library between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday. Union members also have the option of voting by email or mail.

The email announcing the holding of the no-confidence vote focused on Huddleston's April 18 testimony before the N.H. Senate State Finance Committee. 

"What he testified to was an exercise in self-aggrandizement coupled with an astonishing disparagement of both our faculty and students," the email read. "In effect, he told the senators that UNH is an outmoded, mediocre school, with ineffective, pompous faculty and dull students, and concluded by pleading not for better funding to reduce the tuition stress on our students, but for more time to set things straight by ‘fixing the business model' with his grand ‘Strategic Plan.'"

The email particularly objected to one passage conceding a need for change from Huddleston's testimony.  

"We still too frequently convey information in 50-minute lectures delivered by a ‘sage on the stage' to largely passive recipients in the audience three times a week for 15 weeks a term — as if that schedule were Biblically decreed and as if that were the way that ‘digital natives' actually learn today," Huddleston said. "Worse, we remain wedded to a credentialing regimen of courses and majors and degrees that mainly reflect ‘seat time,' rather than what students actually learn or need to learn."

"He has failed us as a spokesman and leader and, worse, damaged our efforts for legislative support," the email concluded, before announcing the holding of the no-confidence vote.

David Richman, professor of theatre and humanities at UNH and a member at large on the UNH-AAUP executive committee, said in an email that Huddleston's testimony was the latest in a series of slights toward the faculty.

"The Concord testimony is the capstone, if you will," Richman said. "It makes explicit the contempt implicit in the positions the university is taking in negotiation. Reading this testimony, I conclude that the president has contempt for and ignorance of the fundamental enterprise of teaching and learning that must be at the heart of the university."

USNH officials were quick to take the opposite view.

"President Huddleston has been a strong advocate for the UNH faculty and their critical role in accomplishing the university's teaching, research and engagement missions, which is evident in the inclusive process he insisted on in developing a 10-year strategic plan for the institution," Ed Dumont, chair of the USNH Board of Trustees, said in a statement. "This kind of extraordinary leadership is exactly what we need."

Although negotiations between UNH administration and faculty, typically centering on contract negotiations, have been tense in recent years, the no-confidence vote takes things a step further.

"A no-confidence vote is clearly a serious thing – there's an attempt to get the president to leave," said Anthony Tenczar, an associate professor at UNH Manchester, who noted the vote is sometimes referred to as a "nuclear option."

Academe, the official bi-monthly publication of the AAUP, reiterates this fact. In an article from the July-August 2007 issue, Joseph Petrick writes: "Faculty sometimes uses votes of no confidence as a tool of last resort to express opposition to a college administration."

However, the effectiveness of the tool is questionable.

"Unfortunately, however, such votes often have limited effect aside from further damaging relations between administrators and faculty," the article continues.

Tenczar, a union member who doesn't support the holding of the no-confidence vote, said he doesn't believe that union members have had time to consider the move. 

"How can we hold a no-confidence vote so quickly without deliberating or discussing the issue?" he said. "This is a serious matter that shouldn't be taken lightly and shouldn't be trivialized." 

Tenczar said he can see why some faculty members found parts of the testimony offensive, but he doesn't believe it justifies a no-confidence vote.

"I have asked for the vote to be called off or delayed, and I know others have too," he said, although he said he'd received no response.

The no-confidence vote comes at a critical time for two reasons. The union and administration are currently are in the midst of an arduous round of contract negotiations; most recently, the USNH Board of Trustees rejected a fact-finding report prepared by a third party. The AAUP originally proposed a 12.5 percent increase over three years, with one percent of that being merit pay. UNH counter-proposed a 6.5 percent increase over the same period, with four percent merit pay.

The call for a no-confidence vote doesn't cite contract negotiations as part of the justification for the action. 

"Union negotiations haven't gone particularly well," Tenczar said. "It has to be part of the undercurrent."

The vote also comes at a critical time for the university. Huddleston's testimony before the Senate last week was part of an effort to keep state appropriations to the university at near-current levels. The N.H. House of Representatives has already passed a budget that would cut appropriations to the University System of New Hampshire by 45 percent, which would result in a cut of $31 million in appropriations to UNH. The state Senate has not passed a budget yet. 

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22 comments

Anonymous
Sat Apr 30 2011 11:14
Let's get a few facts straight:

(i) Why did the AAUP stage the non-confidence vote: Unlike the editorial writers of the Union Leader and Foster's, who can anonymously insult and slander the faculty (the 4/30 Foster's editorial gives a good example of advice to faculty by someone who has obviously never stood in a classroom), the UNH faculty members cannot publicly criticize the UNH leadership or the the state. They cannot even defend themselves against these baseless accusations and misinformation. A non-confidence vote is essentially their only means of publicly showing displeasure with the leadership.

(ii) Faculty salaries are only a small fraction of the UNH budget, ~$60M out of ~$490M, which amounts to approximately 13%. The fact finder report called for ~10% increase over 3 years; however, that does not imply a 10% increase in cost to UNH because older faculty members with higher salaries retire and are replaced by younger professors with much smaller salaries. In reality, the cost increase would be of the order of 5% over 3 years. In the current situation, without a contract, the total faculty salaries are on the decline by about 1-2% per year.

(iii) This needs to be compared to the $31M/y cut in state funding. This cut alone represents half of the faculty salaries, and no cut in faculty salaries will compensate for this loss. The consequences of such cuts are far reaching and will ultimately change the face of UNH. Whatever happens, disenfranchising the faculty while only putting up some token resistance to the state cuts may have also contributed to many faculty members loosing their confidence in the leadership.

(iv) In their statement of 4/28 the board of trustees made it clear that they have the authority to set the parameters for contract negotiations. Thus, the non-confidence vote in the president is at least partially directed at the board as well. Since the board rarely goes public but pulls the strings, one has to wonder about the board's intentions. The board's statement (to be found at: http://www.unh.edu/unhedutop/usnh-board-trustees-affirms-its-role-collective-bargaining-and-expresses-unanimous-support) gives a hint: It praises the president to "head-on the state's financial crisis and the broader challenges facing higher education." Thus, the board seems to be more concerned about the state than about U(S)NH or public education. Ultimately, the state cuts will lead to an end of public higher education in NH as we know it, as middle class children will be priced out and only those who are exceptionally gifted and those with affluent parents will "deserve" a college education.
Apparently this is the intention of the legislature, and one can only hope that the board will have the will to fight this, in spite of the fact that most of the board's members (a list to be found here: www.usnh.edu/bot/bios.html) are so affluent that they do not need public education for their children, as provided by UNH, and as depended on by so many UNH families.

Aminimouse
Wed Apr 27 2011 15:21
I hope the Board keeps Bonnie on the speed dial regardless of the vote. Too bad she would agree only to the interim position.
Anonymous
Wed Apr 27 2011 13:02
The administration is top-heavy and too well fed. They are always patting themselves on the back as are the faculty. Both need to work to improve UNH, now.
Anonymous
Wed Apr 27 2011 09:29
Sounds like there is "no confidence" in the professors. Huddleston has appealed for more appropriations Concord to keep UNH running, and the AAUP is betraying him? Professors must be paid what they are worth, which is whatever value their employers (taxpayers, students, etc.) decide. Take a pay cut and work harder, or find somewhere else to work.
Anonymous
Tue Apr 26 2011 16:04
It is entirely idiotic in a time of financial crisis for the AAUP to be blaming budget cuts on one of the people who is trying to make it possible for UNH to not only weather the storm, but come out ahead. It makes sense as the future of higher education hangs in the balance for President Huddleston to be making progressive and forward thinking decisions that will not only protect the University of New Hampshire as a whole, but also it's professors, and students. This entire situation can be blamed on a few frantic and angry people who didn't get what they want out of contract negotiations and are trying to retaliate.
Anonymous
Tue Apr 26 2011 15:42
The basic truths, no one can deny. The times are hard and are going to get harder. I would like anyone to point out to me whenever a select few are protected that it serves the greater good. And, I am not surprised or shocked to read by these accounts that it is only a few that are calling for this vote of no-confidence. A narrow view on a situation of epic proportions is not a course that makes alot of sense, it would seem.
Anonymous
Tue Apr 26 2011 14:30
Way to go, AAUP leadership... continue to act on your own agenda against the will of the greater unionized faculty body and give the people in Concord more ammunition to their already existent claims that you are greedy, selfish, and ruining the reputation of UNH. Your holding the vote without allowing any time for discussion is indication of your cowardice, AAUP leadership. It's YOUR union the elected officials speak of when they say they have good reason to want to eliminate unions in the state of NH. President Huddleston has been a strong, focused leader in the midst of difficult financial times while you have done nothing but ask for more money. I charge the unionized faculty who do NOT support this ridiculous "no confidence" accusation to march into Dimond Library and vote with confidence that the President is exactly the leader we need right now. After you are done backing the president, hold a vote of "no confidence" in the AAUP leadership, who are the people you should be questioning. And explain to the people trying to organize a PAT union that the last thing UNH needs is another union, another layer, another barrier, and another thing to sour the opinion of the people in Concord and all of our donors.
UNH Staff Member
Tue Apr 26 2011 14:10
I also would like TNH readers to know that many of my colleagues (OS and PAT) find this situation very frustrating! Here it is ��������� a few short weeks from the end of the semester, one of the most stressful times for students and some staff, and the AAUP leadership chooses now to vote no confidence in our President?!? Cut it out already��������� some of us have work to do! The AAUP has been making unrealistic demands for decades and laughing all the way to the bank when the administration capitulates. When the Administration finally says ���������no���������, the disjunction between faculty and staff is too great and merit needs to be a factor in faculty raises, union representatives vote no confidence in our leader?!? This lack of confidence comes from within��������� individuals who are frightened of change, unwilling to do the difficult work to keep current in their field or keep pace with pedagogical and technological advances. Please understand, I���������m not generalizing ��������� it���������s clear that there are many faculty who are dedicated and work hard on behalf of their students; I speak in particular of the faculty who do the bare minimum, teach the same courses year after year with the same tired overheads or notes and of the ���������faculty��������� librarians who do very little besides negotiate union business from the Reference Desk in Dimond. It's high time the UNH faculty stand up to their union leadership and stop wasting scarce resources on these vendettas against the Administration. I don���������t know what the average age of tenured UNH faculty is but, I���������m willing to bet, high school was more than a half a century ago. It���������s time to leave schoolyard bullying behind.
Anonymous
Tue Apr 26 2011 13:13
To the UNH Faculty Member: it is up to YOU and YOUR fellow union members to take the FEW MINUTES it will require to vote by email or in person and issue a vote for confidence for President Huddleston. Then its time for the AAUP membership to question it's leadership.
Operating Staff Member
Anonymous
Tue Apr 26 2011 12:57
Here's another vote supporting Mark Huddleston. The rank and file of the AAUP has the chance now to step up and show us if they really support their adversial leadership. There are plenty of fine nationally-recognized and generous faculty on this campus who are too busy to be bothered with this political nonsense. We need you to show up now and vote in support of Huddleston. What ever happened to reasonable discourse in the academy?
UNH Faculty member
Tue Apr 26 2011 12:33
I would like readers to know that most UNH faculty members are hard-working and dedicated educators who are committed to UNH and to their student's educational goals; that many faculty members are IN SUPPORT of President Huddleston and are not pleased with the union's move for a vote of no-confidence; that most of these faculty are so consumed by the end-of-semester activity in their classes that they are not necessarily attending to or speaking up about what is happening re: the union and the vote and may thus appear "silent"--- not out of apathy, but because they are doing thier jobs in the midst of the busiest time of year; that many faculty believe that the union jumped forward without any discussion among the membership and do not support this decision to hold a vote; that the faculty wish to be treated fairly by USNH in salary negotiations but that they want the staff to be treated just as fairly; that they are concerned about a trend in the past ten years showing an increase of administrative staff and a decrease of faculty members; and that many faculty understood the President's message to Concord and applaud his efforts on behalf of UNH.
Anonymous
Tue Apr 26 2011 11:15
Granted his testimony was overly glib and PR-oriented while trying to be engaging and informal. That was a miss. (Fire the speechwriters in ECS, obviously). Still, the petulant, greedy AAUP members need to buck up and take the hit. Everyone else has (PAT/OS), and historically to a larger degree than faculty ever have. It's about time that changes.
Brian
Tue Apr 26 2011 10:42
President Huddleston has been an excellent spokesman for the University. He is realistic and does not use scare tactics and the "our way or the highway" approach that the professors union uses. He understands the facts of reality, and does what he can to make the most out of a tough situation. The professors union are a bunch of cry-baby cowards who do nothing but complain and use scare tactics. As an alumni of UNH, the professors make me embarassed to say I come from UNH. I support President Huddleston and urge him to keep up the good work, and ignore those cowards who voted no confidence in you! I say, fire them all and bring in people who understand the climate we are in and are willing to work with you.
Anonymous
Tue Apr 26 2011 10:32
Please, I blame the faculty. I want a vote of no confidence in the faculty. Bunch of greedy think they know it alls. Asking for a 12.5% raise!?!? They are clearly out of touch with reality. Shut up AAUP and unh faculty.
Anonymous
Tue Apr 26 2011 10:00
If the faculty would let down their entitled defenses and actually open their minds to President Huddleston's future-oriented message, they might embrace the opportunities for changes in academic delivery and innovation that, in President Huddleston's words, match better the needs of today's "digital natives." Instead, they cling to the known because it's less work and safer. Frustrating.
Anonymous
Tue Apr 26 2011 09:16
Seems to me the AAUP memebership should take a no confidence vote in it's leadership. AAUP leadership is weak and confrontational. Members of AAUP who do not challenge it's leadership are just as weak.
Anonymous
Tue Apr 26 2011 09:03
In my experience it seems "employees" of any institution have a difficult time when the need for change and/or improvement is pointed out. President Huddleston seems to be an aggressive, "make change happen" kind of administrator who will ruffle feathers. We live in a rapidly changing world - our students deserve changes in how they are taught. Concerning contract negotiations.... how can the union expect any pay increase during this extremely difficult economic time for the majority of families sending their students to UNH? So many people have lost jobs and benefits or continue keeping a company afloat while taking no salary as in my husbands' case. So many people have taken cuts in salary rather than lose their job. Raises are not something that should be expected right now.
Anonymous
Tue Apr 26 2011 08:22
The faculty already come across as greedy and unrealistic in the current contract negotiations. I don't think this is going to help their image right now. Perhaps they should realize times have changed and they need to change with them.
Anonymous
Tue Apr 26 2011 07:47
"UNH is an outmoded, mediocre school, with ineffective, pompous faculty and dull students" best description of UNH I've heard in a while. I'll be using this line.
Anonymous
Tue Apr 26 2011 05:40
While I can think of reasons for a vote of no-confidence against President Huddleston, the quote above is not one of them. He is dead on in his assessment of classes and learning. Sitting and listening to someone drone on about a subject isn't necessarily the best way to absorb the information, especially if it is something that can be tried hands-on, or discussed in more of a round table setting.

However, when it comes to complaining about how the University's administration runs things, the faculty need to shut their yap. In this round of budget cuts, as with all others so far, it is the operating staff (non-faculty university employees) that suffer. We get to face the larger increase in insurance costs, the biggest cuts to benefits, and the often don't get a raise of any sort so the faculty can get theirs. Nevermind the fact that brand new, fresh out of grad school professors earn a minimum of $55k/year, while most of us on the OS make less than half that after years of service. Many of us need to hold second jobs and/or rely on either roommates or working spouses/partners in order to merely make rent and other basic living expenses.





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