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By John McCallum
Managing Editor 

EWU Faculty Senate issue no confidence vote of president


Last updated 6/23/2020 at 8:58am

CHENEY -- Members of Eastern Washington University overwhelmingly approved a vote of no confidence in President Dr. Mary Cullinan during a meeting today, June 22.

In an news release, Faculty Organization President Julia Smith said the vote was 35-2 in favor, with four abstentions and one absence. The Senate is comprised of 40 voting members, with two additional officers also eligible to cast a vote. Smith may vote to break a tie.

The move stems from evaluations of upper administrators conducted by faculty in February, the results of which were released by Smith and former organization President Kelly Evans on June 2. A June 7 memo to Smith from Evans and faculty senators Nick Jackson and Tony Flinn summarizing the evaluation of Cullinan stated that an “unprecedented number” of university full-time faculty responded, with 60 percent or more marking her performance in six of seven areas as “lacking.”

Notable among the areas detailed in the memo a 70 percent "poor or needing improvement" rating in “Overall Evaluation of President Cullinan’s Work." The faculty ticked off a list of moves by Cullinan along with the evaluations, including a decision in March to close the university’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion and to “degrade” its director’s, Dr. Shari Clarke, position from vice president to associate vice provost.

That decision was eventually reversed in early June. A June 16 letter from 10 faculty members drumming up support for the no confidence vote also referenced failure to act on a report by a Faculty Organization subcommittee in February recommending changes to the Athletics Department -- including potentially shutting down all sports.

The Board of Trustees is moving on hiring an outside consultant in early July to produced a report on the Athletics Department and make recommendations on how it can overcome budget deficits of several million dollars.

"In times of crisis, stability of leadership might be valued, but it's because we so desperately need an effective, compassionate and tough-minded president who can articulate a coherent and concrete vision that we had to act now in order to preserve our core function -- the personal, professional and academic growth and success of our students," Smith said in the release.

An a statement, Cullinan said, while disappointed in the decision, said she respects the Faculty Senate's right to "voice concerns and provide feedback in accordance with its bylaws." She added she looks forward to working with the faculty, board of trustees, students, staff and alumni "to pursue ways Eastern can sustain its core mission while navigating these challenging times."

The university is facing close to $36 million in lost revenue from state budget reductions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, reductions in enrollment and other sources. Close to 400 staff members, mostly classified and exempt, have been laid off.

Cullinan also was given a no confidence vote in 2014 as president of Southern Oregon University under roughly similar budgetary circumstances.

While supporting the Faculty Senate's role, the Board of Trustee's also expressed disappointment in the decision -- and going a bit further.

"In unprecedented times, the EWU Faculty Senate appears to have intentionally overlooked a fair and comprehensive portrayal off Dr. Cullinan," board members said in a statement. "The Board of Trustees is committed to utilizing all the data and facts required to sustain our beloved university, and continue the amazing life-changing work as an institute of higher learning. The Faculty Senate is critical to this effort, as well as the continued success of Eastern Washington University.

John McCallum can be reached at

Author Bio

John McCallum, Managing Editor

John McCallum is an award-winning journalist who has been with the Cheney Free Press for over 20 years. He has received 10 Washington Newspaper Publisher Association awards for journalism and photography, including first place awards for Best Investigative, Best News and back-to-back awards in Best Breaking News categories. He has been serving as editor of the Spokane Valley News Herald since March 2020.

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