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Thursday, March 19, 2009

JSU faculty votes "no confidence" in president

The Jackson State University Faculty Senate has taken a vote of "no confidence" against President Ronald Mason.
The measure was adopted by 11-4 vote, wit six senators abstaining.

"We have had some issues for a while," said assistant sociology professor Mahasin Owens-Sabir, secretary of the Faculty Senate executive board. "The Faculty Senate kept hoping that we would be able to work out those issues, but we finally reached the conclusion that they wouldn't be worked out."

The primary concerns cited by senators centered around a proposed unpaid leave program, the school budget, hiring practices and transparency.

JSU has approximately 450 faculty members.

"If this really is reflective of the faculty as a whole, then it's an issue I'd certainly have to deal with," Mason said. "First, we need to know what's behind it - who and why."

Mason took over at Jackson State in 2000. When Ole Miss Chancellor Robert Khayat retires in June after nearly 14 years as school leader, Mason will be the longest serving of the sitting presidents at Mississippi's eight public universities.

Similar resolutions have preceded the resignations of three presidents at Mississippi universities in the past 10 years: Lester Newman at Mississippi Valley State University, Clyda Rent at Mississippi University for Women and Shelby Thames at the University of Southern Mississippi.

But Mason said he thinks his case represents "the perceptions of some members of the Faculty Senate executive committee."

"The Faculty Senate executive committee and I have not always agreed," he said.

During his tenure, JSU has grown from about 6,700 students to about 8,500. The operating budget has swelled from $116 million to more than $182 million.

Since the fall, Mason has been promoting a proposal that calls for the faculty and staff to take four unpaid days off a year to create the fund that will be used to benefit the school. He has said repeatedly that the fund would not be created without a two-thirds vote in favor of it. He repeatedly has asked for suggestions on creating a better proposal.

Upon meeting with campus groups last week, he decided that faculty would vote whether to create a similar voluntary fund, he said. "(The resolution) is factually inaccurate," he said.

Mason said he has a standing meeting with the Faculty Senate executive council once a month. "Every one of these issues has been discussed," he said. "The budget is a public document."

But Owens-Sabir said the Faculty Senate stands behind the concerns outlined in the resolution.

"We would not go this far strictly on emotions," she said. "It's not just something that originated this year."

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