Over half of all faculty at the University of Southern Maine cast votes saying they don’t have confidence in USM President Selma Botman.
The vote needed a two-thirds majority to pass and be considered the will of the faculty. But with a voter turnout of about 75 percent, over 68 percent of faculty who voted cast ballots of no confidence in Botman.
The Faculty Senate Executive Committee will submit the results to the University of Maine System Chancellor James Page and the board of trustees.
The no-confidence referendum was triggered by a group of senior faculty who circulated a petition in early April calling for the vote, receiving 53 signatures, more than the 10 percent of all faculty required for a petition to mandate a referendum.
Botman released a statement around after the vote was tallied saying it didn’t receive the two-thirds majority needed to pass.
“Our challenges remain and we must, as a community, address them and we will do so,” she said in the statement.
Faculty began casting their ballots Tuesday at locations in Portland, Gorham and Lewiston, and voting closed today at 4 p.m. Ronald Schmidt, a political science professor and the media contact for the Faculty Senate, released the results to The Free Press this evening after the committee tasked with counting ballots released the results to the Executive Committee.
“I think this says there is intense disagreement over the future direction of the university,” Schmidt said. “Everybody needs time to think about what these numbers mean, and then we need to start talking.”
Former-Student Body President Chris Camire, who has been a vocal supporter of Botman, said he was disappointed to hear how many members of faculty voted no confidence.
“Obviously something is broken at USM, but the faculty would rather take a destructive path than a constructive one,” Camire told The Free Press on Wednesday night. “I think there would have been a better way to let the president know how some faculty feel.”
Faculty Senate Chair Jeannine Uzzi said she believes the results of the vote are less important than the fact the referendum was held in the first place.
“The petition itself was an historic event,” Uzzi said. “The percentage of senior faculty who signed it was a serious statement of concern, and the [University of Maine System] chancellor got that message.”
There has been disagreement over how to read the end results, because the Faculty Senate bylaws state a referendum must receive support from two-thirds of all faculty in order to represent the will of the faculty, while Robert’s Rules of Order, which the Senate follows, calls for two-thirds of only those who vote.
Schmidt said the Executive Committee doesn’t wish to involve itself in interpreting the results.
“We see our task as making sure the vote is transparent and legitimate,” he said. “We’re not setting ourselves up as the interpreters of the dispute in the governance documents. The board of trustees can decide for themselves.”
The committee charged with counting the votes had members appointed by the major stake holders in the issue. President Botman appointed Martha Freeman, chief human resources officer, the senate executive committee appointed professor of economics Michael Hillard, and the faculty petitioners who triggered the no-confidence vote appointed professor of physics Jerry LaSala. Professor of law Chris Knott will join the committee as an overseer.
For no confidence: 194 votes
Against no confidence: 88 votes
Total: 284 with two invalid ballots
Voter turnout: 284 out of 377 total USM faculty