By John McCallum
Managing Editor 

EWU faculty to hold no confidence vote on Cullinan

Vote scheduled for June 22 would be advisory only to board of trustees


Last updated 6/25/2020 at 6:06pm

CHENEY – Saying “It’s time to have the courage of our convictions,” members of the Eastern Washington University Faculty Organization are planning to hold a no confidence vote on university President Dr. Mary Cullinan.

The vote is scheduled for Monday, June 22 at the Faculty Senate’s regular meeting.

The move stems from evaluations of upper administrators conducted by faculty in February, the results of which were released by Faculty Organization President Julia 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 was “Overall Evaluation of President Cullinan’s Work,” “Consultation” and “Leadership at EWU” where 70, 70 and 71 percent respectively of respondents rated her performance “poor or needing improvement.” Other areas also carried the same performance evaluation, ranging from 60 percent of respondents for “Leadership in Olympia” to 67 percent in “Vision” for the university’s future.

Smith said in a June 18 interview that the evaluations were part of an executive session discussion by the senate on June 1. After sharing the June 7 memo with members, the senate again went into executive session to discuss its next procedural moves at the June 8 meeting, after which a move was made and seconded in open session to hold a vote of no confidence in the president.

Smith said organization rules require new business be heard first and then voted on as old business in order to adopted. That usually takes two meetings, but can be done in one meeting if the senate votes to waive its rules.

“That failed by one vote,” Smith said of the move at the June 8 meeting, pushing it to June 22. “People wanted to go back and do a full consultation with members of their (department) faculty.”

The senate consists of 40 voting faculty members, plus two other officers who also vote. As president, Smith may vote to break a tie.

Some of the criticisms of Cullinan in the June 7 memo included a perceived lack of desire to share details about legislation affecting the university, 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 and an “inability or unwillingness to articulate a clear and detailed vision for the future of the university.” A PowerPoint presentation made at a Jan. 13 meeting was provided as an example of the latter.

In a June 9 news release, the university announced that it was reversing course on its decision regarding Clark and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, citing “concerns expressed by students, faculty, alumni and community members.”

In a June 16 letter to faculty designed to drum up support for a no confidence vote, 10 members of the organization pointed to the evaluations and specifically the 70 percent overall rating of poor performance as reasons to “have the courage of our convictions.” The authors also noted that Cullinan received a vote of no confidence from the faculty in March 2014 while serving as president of Southern Oregon University.

The authors also noted that “financial mismanagement” was one of the factor’s in SOU’s no-confidence vote, and pointed to a senate subcommittee report on “mismanagement of Athletics funding at EWU” as an example of similar issues at the university. The February report detailed funding issues and woes and recommended changes ranging from heavy cuts to dropping own in classification to complete termination of the department.

The faculty also noted that Cullinan hasn’t take a cut in salary during the current financial crisis, partly brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, noting that other university presidents around the country have taken “10 – 20 % pay cuts” under current circumstances.

“We do not trust Mary Cullinan to provide effective leadership nor to make the important decisions necessary, especially if she is granted the power of severe financial crisis by the BOT (Board of Trustees),” the authors wrote.

A June 1 news release stated Cullinan has begun that process with the board to “allow more flexibility in making critical budget decisions” under the current economic situation. The university is looking at approximately $36 million in revenue losses due to declining enrollment, state funding woes from the effects of COVID-19 and other associated causes.

In a June 18 statement to the Free Press, Cullinan said she aware of the pending motion before the Faculty Senate and supports their role in the “shared governance process” and their insights and perspectives in voicing their opinions.”

“She has always valued a strong and transparent relationship with the Faculty Organization and looks forward to it continuing as the university works together through these challenging times to ensure students have an excellent learning experience,” the statement continued.

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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