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The "Crisis of Confidence" series is a multi-year effort by the Tri States Public Radio to document the impact the two-year state budget impasse had on Western Illinois University and the ongoing recovery efforts at WIU. State support for public higher education institutions has been steadily declining in Illinois for more than a decade. But the issue was compounded, during the state's historic two-year budget impasse during Fiscal Years '16 and '17 which left public colleges and universities with little state financial support. At Western Illinois University, that drastic cut in state appropriations resulted in significant budget cuts, employee furloughs, and layoffs.

WIU Faculty Vote “No Confidence” in Administrative Leadership

TSPR Emily Boyer

The Faculty Senate conducted the vote by mail over a two week period and tallied the results Friday.

About 65% of Western Illinois University faculty members who cast ballots on the matter voted “no confidence” in the administrative leadership. About 33% of those voted state "yes" they have confidence. There were a handful of ballots deemed invalid and could not be recorded.

In all, 64% of the faculty voted on the question. Faculty Senate President Dr. Steven Rock told Tri States Public Radio there are no benchmarks in place regarding voter turnout, given that this is the first faculty-wide vote of "no confidence."

The vote came after some faculty members signed a petition calling for a no confidence vote. The resolution cites falling student enrollment and the elimination of academic programs as reasons to have a vote. It also criticizes the administration for deviating away from the university’s public mission.

But, the petition does not name any administrator in particular.

The vote was largely symbolic, although the vote outcome has been given to Western’s Board of Trustees for consideration.

UPDATE: WIU Board of Trustees Chair Responds

The Chair of Western’s Board of Trustees Cathy Early told Tri States Public Radio she interprets the results differently. Early said the vote percentage should be considered regarding the total number of people eligible to vote, rather than based off of those who did cast ballots.

Of the 506 ballots mailed out:

  •  181 people (35%) did not respond
  • 109 people (21%) voted they have confidence
  • 213 people (42%) voted no confidence in the administrative leadership.

When asked about the vote outcome, Early responded, “well, it says to me there’s some real concern from the faculty and I think they have sent a really strong message.”
The vote will be discussed at the Board of Trustees’ meeting next month and Early said it’s the opinion of the full board that matters. “We respect faculty quite a bit, but we also know the charge that we have laid upon our administration the last couple of years and we have asked them to do a lot of difficult things,” Early said.

Early said she believes the vote is a product of stress brought on by several factors including the financial hardships the university has experienced, declining student enrollment, and the ongoing negotiations between the administration and the union representing faculty and staff.

“I think having 42% of the faculty voice that they’re unhappy is a real number, it isn’t the magic 50% or 51%. But it does send a message back to us.”

Notably, only 109 faculty stated they do have confidence in the leadership at Western.

Early said the Board takes faculty opinions seriously. For that reason, she said the Board and administration follow shared governance and communicate openly with faculty. But she said sometimes difficult decisions and changes are unpopular.

She said if faculty want to be heard, it’s important they participate in the process referencing President Jack Thomas’ town halls and faculty round table discussions.

“The onus could be on the administration to include faculty more and the onus could be on the faculty to participate more,” Early said. “And I guess I would point out that of the 506 ballots mailed out, 181 faculty didn’t respond."


Western's Faculty Senate President Dr. Steven Rock sent an email to Tri States Public Radio in response to Early's comments. Rock confirmed that the referendum of “no confidence” did pass and the Faculty Senate's Constitution requires a majority of the ballots cast, not the majority of all faculty. The "no confidence" referendum passed with 65% of faculty who voted on the matter stating they do not have confidence in the administrative leadership. 


Emily Boyer is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.