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Petition drive against KSU president on hold

By Carol Biliczky
Beacon Journal staff writer

llefton09cut
KSU President Lester Lefton - 2012

A petition drive that could trigger a vote on the performance of Kent State President Lester Lefton is on hold pending “critical” negotiations with the faculty union.

Joe Altobelli, an associate professor of math at KSU’s Trumbull campus, said by email that he had turned the petitions over to George Garrison, a professor of pan-African studies at the Kent campus, “who will decide, in consultation with others, if and when, the petition will go forward.”

“Since, the faculty want time to make every effort to resolve things without a no confidence vote [against Lefton], the petition has not been formally presented to [the KSU Faculty] senate,” Altobelli said Tuesday.

He took it upon himself two weeks ago to launch the petition drive that could trigger a no-confidence vote against Lefton. Altobelli criticized Lefton for “ignoring the contract” with the American Association of University Professors and “showing contempt for the faculty.”

The AAUP and university have been negotiating a new contract since last summer. Both sides have agreed not to make public comments while the negotiations are ongoing, but about 100 faculty took out an ad in the April 9 issue of the student-run Daily Kent Stater to demonstrate their unhappiness with Lefton.

At Monday’s regular Faculty Senate meeting, Garrison, who is a senator, complained that Lefton was not honoring the tenets of shared governance that he said had served the university well for decades.

“It diminishes the faculty when we are under assault,” he said at the meeting. “What kind of message does that send?”

He told colleagues by email that he was boycotting a reception that Lefton was holding at his home for the Faculty Senate that night “as an act of protest.”

If petitions are turned in to the Faculty Senate, President Paul Ferrell, a computer science professor, said the signatures would need to be verified before faculty at all eight KSU campuses could vote on Lefton’s job performance. One hundred valid signatures would be needed to trigger the no-confidence vote.

If the faculty does vote, it may not have much direct impact.

Lefton works by contract and reports to the KSU trustees, who issued a statement through their public relations office supporting him.

“The university has an impressive strategic plan, which the board approved, and which President Lefton is implementing with excellent results,” the statement read. The trustees “affirm their confidence in the President.”

Meanwhile, the Kent chapter of the AAUP agreed April 24 to ask members for a strike vote “at such time deemed appropriate,” possibly this summer, according to an email circulated to faculty.

Carol Biliczky can be reached at cbiliczky@thebeaconjournal.com or 330-996-3729.