Faculty at The College of Saint Rose on Wednesday sent their strongest message of condemnation yet against President Carolyn Stefanco with an overwhelming vote of no confidence.
The no-confidence vote, which passed 120-35 and 3 abstentions, out of the nearly 200 eligible faculty votes, is the latest salvo in a long-running feud between faculty and administrators at the Albany college over the president’s plan to address persistent budget deficits and flagging enrollment.
In December, Stefanco announced a plan to cut 28 academic programs and terminate 23 full-time faculty members effective next year. Faculty members, who are attempting to form a union as they resist the cuts, held multiple protests on campus, including a “mock funeral procession” to lay to rest the slashed programs — philosophy, American studies, sociology, economics and others.
“No-confidence votes are put on the agenda when there are consistent and prolonged errors in shared governance,” said political science professor Angela Ledford, chairwoman of the Political Science and History Department and a faculty organizer.
“When you have no other venue for contributing to the mission of the college and the direction of the college, this becomes the last resort to express the will of the faculty,” she said.
Faculty members and Stefanco have sparred over how engaged the faculty were in the “academic prioritization” planning process, with Stefanco suggesting faculty members refused to participate and faculty members alleging a breach of shared governance rules.
In a statement Wednesday afternoon, Stefanco attempted to downplay the no-confidence vote, holding to her message that the school has a “solemn responsibility to make the changes necessary to meet the changing needs of our students.”
“While some faculty members embrace and support constructive change at Saint Rose, others resist it,” she said.
Ledford said there were no immediate plans for how the faculty members would continue to pressure Stefanco and the college’s board of trustees, but she said she had seen “zero, none” steps from the president toward a broader resolution with the faculty.
Students are also feeling the strain in the classroom as the confrontation between administrators and faculty continues.
“I think that the amount of stress that has been put on my professors has affected the classroom environment,” Saint Rose junior Sarita Farnelli said. “I have been in classrooms with members of the faculty that have been terminated with a year’s notice.”
Farnelli — a sociology major, one of the programs slated to be cut — said she feels less at home at the college than when she started there. She said she hoped the “no-confidence” vote sent a message to Stefanco that she needed to reconsider her plans and include more stakeholders in the process.
“If money wasn’t such a burden, I would transfer to somewhere else,” she said. “I would like to be spending my money at a college I really believed in and believed was being run ethically.”
Farnelli also pointed to a larger concern of both faculty and administrators, questioning how a college can exist if the faculty and administration cannot agree.
“That looks bad to students and potential students and parents and people who are looking at the college from the outside,” she said.
A group of faculty, students and alumni plan to present the results of the vote to the trustees at their meeting Friday as well as a petition calling for Stefanco to “RESCIND or RESIGN” with over 1,000 signatures. Christina Romeo, a Saint Rose junior, has been involved with the movement opposing the cuts since November. She hopes that the results of the no-confidence vote will lead Stefanco to take the faculty disapproval more seriously.
“If you don’t have your faculty behind you, then maybe you’re doing your job more for the trustees and not for the students and faculty and staff,” Romeo said. “I hope she takes this more seriously.”