In a wild online meeting Tuesday with more than 1,200 Auburn University faculty members, a no-confidence vote against Provost Bill Hardgrave was scrapped after 71 percent of the faculty members voted not to hold the vote.
That vote followed a number of confusing procedural motions and heated arguments among some faculty members and administrators. Ultimately, however, a clear majority of the faculty saw no value in moving forward with the vote.
“I am heartened by the support that so many of our faculty expressed at today’s University Senate meeting, reinforcing the great work they have helped Auburn accomplish to date during the pandemic,” Hardgrave said in a statement released by the university. “Amid such support, we remain committed to providing a safe and rewarding academic experience at Auburn. As we go forward, I will continue to listen to each of our shared governance groups while heeding the input of faculty, students and staff and the advice of medical experts, building on the successes of our fall semester.”
Hardgrave had come under fire over the university’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, with most of the anger surrounding the announcement that Auburn would push to increase in-person instruction to 70 percent in the spring semester. Faculty members instead wanted more flexibility in order to determine when remote instruction was necessary.
Hardgrave and university officials maintained that the 70 percent figure wasn’t conjured out of thin air or based on revenue projections, but was instead a product of numerous conversations with faculty, staff, students, medical professionals and other stakeholders.
Defending himself in previous meetings, Hardgrave noted that he held multiple town hall meetings with faculty, and the COVID protocols developed and implemented were the product of those meetings.
During Tuesday’s meeting, which was filled with angry outbursts, outright confusion and a number of comical exchanges, Hardgrave called the no-confidence vote “an attack” against him, both personally and professionally.
Ultimately, however, the majority of the faculty sided with Hardgrave, possibly because the university’s response to COVID has been rather successful. Auburn has experienced no layoffs or furloughs on campus, nor has it been forced to close campus or shut down classes.