WENATCHEE — Wenatchee Valley College faculty are calling on the Board of Trustees to replace WVC President Jim Richardson, saying he is responsible for the current financial crisis that has led to layoffs and staff furlough days.
WVC Association for Higher Education issued a statement Tuesday that members had overwhelmingly voted “no confidence” in Richardson and are calling for his replacement.
“We, the faculty, do not accept President Richardson’s explanation for the current budget crisis,” WVCAHE President Patrick Tracy said in the release. “The fall 2019 downturn in student enrollment only pushed the college over the edge after years of poor fiscal management. The employees and students deserve better leadership than what we have seen under Jim Richardson.”
Richardson released a statement midday Tuesday: “I take the concerns of the faculty very seriously and am disheartened by their vote. I understand that the budget deficit has raised many questions and concerns from the college community and the public and I will continue addressing those to the best of my ability. However, student success was and remains my top priority when making any decisions from WVC.”
Tracy said the union represents 80 full-time and 12 part-time faculty union members in Wenatchee and Omak, but the vote was limited to the 64 full-time tenured faculty. “We are protecting our adjunct and pre-tenure faculty members by not including them in the voting process,” he said.
The result was 91% of those faculty members voting “no confidence.”
This is the first time Richardson, who has been at WVC for 14 years, has been the subject of a vote of no confidence.
WVC spokeswoman Libby Siebens said Richardson was made aware on Monday that a vote of no confidence might happen Wednesday at the board meeting.
“The president and board of trustees were not approached by the faculty union and did not review their specific grievances until they were sent to the media this morning,” she said. “The president and the board are taking their time to respond to the examples thoroughly and fairly.”
As union president, Tracy has been collecting thoughts, opinions and feelings of the members since the budget crisis was announced in October.
The crisis included a $1 million gap in the operating budget that college administrators said was caused by an unexpected 2.1% drop in fall enrollment. Belt-tightening measures started with 10 days of unpaid leave for 160 of the college’s 249 full-time classified and administrative staff. In December, WVC administrators announced 20 layoffs also were coming at the end of January. That number has since increased to 21. Other measures included reductions in contracted services, streamlining and prioritizing expenditures.
WVC created an information page on its website to address some of the detailed budget questions, wvc.edu/about/budget/.
Tracy said the faculty union is arguing that administrative salary increases and other fiscal decisions are at the root of the problem. They also are not happy with how the crisis has been handled.
That includes Richardson’s “complete evasion of any responsibility for the crisis and misrepresentation to college employees and the media about the cause of the current financial crisis,” he said.
Faculty members plan to attend Wednesday’s Board of Trustees meeting to explain their views.
Tracy said a one-page summary of the faculty’s position will be read at the meeting.
“Each board member and President Richardson will be given a packet containing the full 11-page report from the AHE as well as an invitation to discuss the AHE’s position in the near future,” he said.
The meeting is at 3 p.m. at Wenatchi Hall.
“Any and all are welcome to attend,” Siebens said. “As is normal, anyone who wishes to speak must sign in upon their arrival. President Richardson will be in attendance. We expect to hear more from faculty union representatives at that time. … We’re giving the president and the board time to formulate a thoughtful response to the faculty union’s concerns. Our next steps will depend greatly on the ideas and concerns presented at the board meeting on Wednesday.”