SOU's Cullinan: 'There's clearly issues of trust'

Southern Oregon University President Mary Cullinan said Monday she will work to improve communication between the faculty and administration in response to last week's confidence-vote results.

Meanwhile, there is a move afoot to formally recommend the removal of two top administrators.

Cullinan said during Monday's Faculty Senate meeting that she understood that faculty had issues trusting the administration.

"What I'm hearing is a desire for better communication," said Cullinan. "There's clearly issues of trust."

Last week, the Faculty Senate revealed the result of a confidential confidence vote on Cullinan, Provost Jim Klein and Vice President of Finance and Administration Craig Morris.

Cullinan received no-confidence votes from 63 percent of faculty, Klein from 71 percent and Morris from 76 percent.

A few professors sounded off on Cullinan and Klein during the meeting, claiming that shared governance between administrators and faculty members has gone away over the years. Others said they felt secrecy and disrespect from administrators. Morris didn't attend the meeting.

"The faculty feel that you perceive we're lazy," said music professor Vicki Purslow to Klein. "That we're not doing enough."

Klein said he never remembered calling professors lazy.

Computer science professor Kevin Sahr said he'd heard Klein talk negatively about professors in public meetings.

"I've heard you say in a meeting that faculty are a bunch of whiners," said Sahr. "That's a quote. That hurts. To have that perception out there is really damaging."

"So many are afraid. They're afraid of you," said Purslow. "I don't know how to repair that."

Purslow said one example of poor communication with faculty is the proposed sale of the SOU bookstore.

SOU heard proposals from two potential buyers for the store in mid-February.

Purslow said she felt out of the loop, originally hearing that selling the store would net $1 million, but then hearing it could only be $500,000.

She said the decision to sell a profitable university asset should be made through shared governance.

Cullinan said the store would only be sold if the deal was profitable for the university.

Sahr said if the university was considering selling profitable assets, it might want to have a discussion about selling assets that aren't profitable, such as Cullinan's house.

Sahr said he believed Cullinan's house was worth about $1.5 million, but wasn't sure because he'd been denied repeated requests for the value from Morris, another example, he said, of secrecy among administrators.

"No one has ever talked to me about my house," said Cullinan, who said that she could get more information about the property, but reminded Sahr that is was part of her compensation package.

The meeting ended with a discussion about moving forward as a university and planning past the end of the year, when the university's strategic plan ends.

Cullinan said she hoped to have more open discussions with the faculty to repair trust and improve communication.

"We all have sore feelings right now," said Cullinan. "The more we can talk the better."

Because Klein and Morris received a no-confidence vote of more than two-thirds, the Faculty Senate is making a formal recommendation to Cullinan to remove them from their positions, Sahr said after Monday's meeting.

He said that while Cullinan did not receive a two-thirds vote, the faculty's discussion of their confidence in her was still ongoing.

Teresa Ristow is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email her at

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