SSU Faculty vote No Confidence in President Ruben Arminana

May 2007, 73.4% of SSU  faculty voted yes on the referendum  of no confidence in President Arminana’s leadership. The turn out was 68% of eligible faculty. This means that at least 50% of eligible faculty at SSU expressed no confidence.

Faculty for Administrative Accountability, Confidence and Trust May 2007
There arise in the lives of all persons times of such exceedingly urgent consequence that difficult decisions must be made and burdensome actions taken.  We are in such a time now.  Among the most difficult of such decisions are those that concern a declaration of no confidence in the University’s president.
A failure to make that declaration when it is warranted is a failure of great consequence. .  Such a failure must be understood as more than a failure of nerve.  It is a failure of the faculty’s duty and responsibility to secure proper attainment of the University’s core mission.
Because of that responsibility in this time of decision, the Faculty for Administrative Accountability, Confidence and Trust affirms this declaration of no confidence in Sonoma State University President Ruben Arminana.  Herein we state the causes that  impel the faculty to this declaration.
We hold these principles to be paramount:

  1. 1. The core mission of this University centers on the education and learning of its students.
  1. 2. The instructional process is integral to the education and learning of this University’s students.
  1. 3. Protection of core mission attainment in this University is a primary responsibility of both the faculty and the president.
  1. 4. Executive leaders are bound by and especially obligated by the Blue Paper policies to which they have committed their name, honor and signatory authority.
  1. 5. Consultation   between the president and the faculty with respect to all budgetary decisions that have a bearing on core mission attainment is a fundamentally important principle.
  2. 6. Lack of such consultation is a violation of traditions and practices dating to the origins of this University,  as well as a violation of formalized Blue Paper University policy.  Such transgressions should occur rarely and only as a consequence of unusually extraordinary circumstances which render consultation impossible.
  1. 7. Long-standing traditions and practices with respect to shared governance and consultation at this University should be presumptively sustained; these should be altered only within the context of consultations regarding possible changes.
  1. 8. Importation of the corporate model as a framework for organizational structure and processes is inappropriate to this University, to its culture, and to its core mission.

Prudence dictates that the University president be granted proper latitude for effective leadership.  Criticisms of that leadership should not be publicly declared for minor and ephemeral reasons, and past experience has shown that many faculty are disposed to tolerate problems of presidential leadership for long periods on the premise that such problems are tolerable.  However, when a long series of leadership problems and violations of paramount principles endures and cumulates, it is the faculty’s right and the faculty’s duty to declare its withdrawal of confidence in the president.  The necessity for a faculty declaration of no confidence in President Arminana is timely and urgent.  The history of President Arminana is a history of repeated violations of paramount principles.  To establish this, let the following serve as a Bill of Particulars.

  1. 1. Upon assuming office at Sonoma State University President Arminana quickly implemented a dramatic increase in the number of vice presidents and associate vice presidents.  This process of expanding the number of high level administrators continued through the decade of the 1990s and beyond, even as the numbers of FTES (Full Time Equivalent Students) remained less at the end of the decade of the 1990s than at the outset of the decade.  President Arminana’s continuing expansion of the number of highest level administrators led to a drain on the general fund budget, as well as elevating the top-most portion of the organizational pyramid. This action reduced the share of general fund budget available for core mission attainment (i.e., the direct education of students).  As such, this represents a violation of principles 1, 2 and 3 cited earlier.
  2. 2. During the period 1998-2004 (the most recent years for which data have been available) student enrollment at Sonoma State University increased by more than 930 Full Time Equivalent Students (FTES), bringing to this university increased growth funds of more than $37,000,000 (thirty seven million dollars) over that span of time.  During this same period, the number of Full Time Equivalent Faculty (FTEF) decreased by 16.7 FTEF.  This disparity between additional students and diminished number of faculty signals an alarming failure to align resources to mission.  (This also represents a violation of principles 1, 2, and 3.)
  3. 3. The most recent assessment of Sonoma State University by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) evaluation team  noted disturbing threats to this university’s reaccreditation.  That is, in noting that fulfillment of accreditation standards 2 and 4 “is foundational to the reaccreditation process,” the WASC letter to President Arminana stated that “It is not evident at this point that the University is able to demonstrate that it meets these standards, nor is it sufficiently committed and organized to do so” (emphasis added).  It is alarming that such a severe criticism of Sonoma State University’s readiness and commitment to meet standards for reaccreditation would be made by WASC.   That this statement arises in the twelfth year of President Arminana’s tenure in office at Sonoma State University is disturbing, significant and telling.  (The administrative practices that led to such an assessment by WASC reflect long-standing violations of principle 3.)
  4. 4. In its letter to President Arminana, the WASC evaluation team directed considerable emphasis and concern to the issue of alignment of institutional priorities with the mission.  It stated, “The team did not find evidence that fiscal and physical resources were clearly aligned with purposes … or that organizational planning in the whole supports effective decision-making….” (emphasis added).  Again, the fact that this criticism arose after 12 years of President Arminana’s tenure in office raises serious questions of confidence and  trust in President Arminana’s ability to properly serve this university.  (The long-standing practices that led to this finding by WASC also represent long-standing  violations of principle 3.)
  5. 5. In fall 2001 the president chose to expend $100,000  in a search for a new Vice President of Development (whose service to the university did not address ways of increasing the instructional budget).  At this time, the university was forced to cope with a mid-year budget reduction of $737,820 by the Governor, and faced the added burden of $6,100,000 (that is, multiple millions of dollars) in increased costs for the renovation of Salazar Hall.  The president’s decision to expend $100,000 for a vice presidential search was made to the detriment of core mission attainment in this university (violating principles 2 and 3 cited earlier).
  6. 6. At its 3/26/06 session, the Academic Senate passed a resolution urging that the administration not spend Academic Affairs’ monies on the Green Center without consulting with the Academic Senate. The administration’s responses:  A) To commit over 600,000 dollars from the ’06-’07 academic year general fund budget to the Green Music Center; B) To surreptitiously approach the Trustees for approval of a $12.9 million dollar bond for the completion of the Green Center. The entirety of this $12.9 million plus interest is to be paid from campus resources over thirty years.  (Violation of principles 3, 4, 5, and 6.)
  7. 7. Action taken early in the fall 2006 semester:  After learning only two days earlier that the SSU administration had secretly placed a proposal for this bond on the agenda for a meeting of the CSU Trustees only a week later, the Academic Senate passed a resolution that this bond not be approved.  President Arminana  vigorously opposed this resolution and urged passage of this bond before the Trustees. By these actions, President Arminana burdened Sonoma State University with a thirty-year obligation for repayment of 12.9 million dollars and interest.  (Violation of principles 4, 5, and 6.)
  8. 8. In early spring 2006, the Academic Senate passed a proposal intended to clarify the meaning of consultation by the administration with the faculty.  This was expressly formulated in accordance with President Arminana’s preferences.  President Arminana signed the result of this as Blue Paper policy.  The signing of this Blue Paper policy was immediately followed by its astonishingly flagrant violation by the administration:  A) Shortly after the establishment of Blue Paper policy on consultation, the current version of the Academic Affairs Vice President’s Budget Advisory Committee was informed that a significantly large amount of Academic Affairs’ 2006-2007 budget was to be directed to the Green Music Center; B)  In the early part of the Fall 2006 semester, faculty leadership learned from a posting on SENATETALK that the $12.9 million bond was already on the CSU Trustee’s agenda, placed by President Arminana, and to be acted upon within a week;  C)  A plethora of resolutions by the Academic Senate that addressed impending actions by the Administration were ignored by President Arminana without comment, with one exception:   President Arminana stated to the Executive Committee that he was going to ignore the Academic Senate’s May 2006 resolution on the signing of a contract for Barnes & Noble’s operation of the campus bookstore.  In brief:  President Arminana has continued to defy the very Blue Paper policy on consultation to which he attached his name. (Principles 3 and 6.)

In sum, then, President Arminana has in numerous instances and in numerous ways forced upon the faculty serious and substantive grounds for the faculty’s withdrawal of confidence in his ability to continue as president, to effectively serve our students, faculty and staff and to uphold our University’s primary academic mission of teaching and learning.  Individually and in whole, these instances signal at least three orders of failure:  1) financial mismanagement; 2) subversion of checks and balances;  3)  exaggeration and elevation of the managerial functionsin this University.

4 Responses for “SSU Faculty vote No Confidence in President Ruben Arminana”

  1. Noel Byrne says:

    I prepared the first draft of this document for distribution among those of us who met on March 31, 2007 (off-campus, in a Cotati residence) to deliberate about the issue of establishing a process whereby the SSU faculty could publicly register its assessment of the leadership of President Arminana. This draft was intended to serve only as an initial formulation of a judgment to be presented to the faculty, and to which the faculty could respond either affirmatively or disaffirmatively. After discussion, I redrafted it in the form presented above, to make explicit the linkage of each item in the bill of particulars to the fundamental principles cited in the initial draft.

    Incidentally, we also discussed among ourselves the issue of how to designate the group of faculty seeking to provide the broader community of faculty a voice for its assessment of President Arminana’s leadership. Peter Phillips suggested Faculty for Administrative Accountability, Confidence and Trust (FAACT). This suggestion was adopted by universal acclamation.

    Six short weeks later, the SSU faculty offered its judgment. As reported in the PRESS DEMOCRAT’s front page headlined story, the faculty (in its largest turn out for a campus-wide vote by the entire faculty in the history of the institution) “issued a resounding vote of no confidence in President Ruben Arminana. An overwhelming majority of 73 percent voted in favor of the no-confidence resolution” (PRESS DEMOCRAT, 5/19/2007, p.1).

    As an observation: It is well established that a faculty vote of no confidence in the given university’s president does not guarantee that president’s resignation or removal. Regardless, it is also well established that such a vote is almost always a necessary precondition for such resignation or removal of a university president. In recent years, it has been the practice of the CSU Chancellor and the CSU Board of Trustees to not only discount faculty expressions of no confidence in the leadership of their presidents, but to express their assessment of faculty views by granting large raises to those university presidents. — Noel Byrne

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