Professors at the University of Maine at Augusta are calling on Maine’s university system to restart the search for a new leader at the school and have cast a vote of no confidence in the system’s chancellor.
The votes from the faculty senate at UMA came after top system officials never informed the search committee for UMA’s next president that the man the system ultimately hired faced votes of no confidence from professors and students at his current institution.
The UMA faculty senate’s votes happened Wednesday night, after professors met with University of Maine System Chancellor Dannel Malloy and Michael Laliberte, the man set to become UMA’s president on Aug. 1, about the search process.
The College Senate and student government at the institution Laliberte has led since 2016, the State University of New York at Delhi, cast votes of no confidence in Laliberte’s leadership less than a year ago.
The votes came after a letter signed by at least 100 faculty and staff members was sent to the New York state university system chancellor saying Laliberte had been fiscally irresponsible and that he and his leadership team had “enabled a culture of disrespect and hostility.”
The Bangor Daily News previously reported that UMaine System Chancellor Dannel Malloy and the chair of the 14-member search committee tasked with choosing finalists, system trustee Sven Bartholomew, were both aware of the professors’ no-confidence vote but didn’t inform the search committee.
In the UMA faculty senate’s meeting Wednesday, professors cast votes of no confidence in the search that led to Laliberte’s appointment and in Malloy. The failure to inform search committee members of the votes of no confidence at SUNY Delhi “compromised the integrity of the search.”
Professors requested that the search be declared “failed” and that a new search start immediately.
Malloy said he is taking the votes seriously, but did not specify specific next steps in a statement Thursday morning.
Malloy arrived at the University of Maine System in 2019 after serving two terms as the governor of Connecticut.
In their resolution of no confidence in him, UMA professors criticized “inconsistent claims” from the university system explaining the presidential search process “that are more focused on protecting the Chancellor’s reputation than preserving UMA’s integrity.” They also criticized moves Malloy has made to centralize management of the state’s universities at the system level.
“I am sorry that my actions and decisions have led the UMA faculty to this vote of no confidence,” he said. “I understand how serious a concern this is for the university and the System, and I will work with everyone at UMA to restore confidence in me.”
Malloy said he will discuss these matters further with the system’s trustees, and said the university system would require that future candidates for campus president and provost positions disclose whether they have been the subjects of no-confidence votes.
While Malloy said he will discuss these matters further with the system’s trustees he also said there will be a change to future search policies that would require candidates to declare if they have been subjects of a no-confidence vote.
On Tuesday, the union that represents faculty from across the University of Maine System slammed the system’s approach to the search and the withholding of key information about Laliberte.
During the search process, all search committee members signed a code of ethics designed to “ensure that a decision is reached based on the most complete and accurate information.”
By signing the code of ethics, search committee members agreed to “guard against inaccuracies, carelessness, bias, and distortion made through either emphasis or omission of information” and pledged “to be fair, accurate, honest, and responsible in my management of information.”
Bartholomew, however, didn’t share the information about the faculty members’ no-confidence vote with fellow committee members, the University of Maine System has confirmed.
Initially, the system defended Bartholomew’s withholding of the information and said both Malloy and Bartholomew were instructed by Jim Sirianni of the firm Storbeck Search who was assisting with the search not to bring up the votes of no-confidence.
In an emailed message to the UMA community Tuesday, Laliberte said objections to his leadership at SUNY Delhi were the result of him being an “agent of change,” and a specific group of people on campus opposed his changes.
According to Laliberte, SUNY leadership investigated the claims that prompted the no-confidence votes and found them to be “without merit.”
Laliberte said he should have “made a point to address the vote of no confidence directly, and I’m sorry I didn’t. Not doing so was an error of judgment. My desire to make a good impression and remain positive clouded my judgment and led to my silence on this painful issue.”