Faculty at Coppin State University, a Baltimore institution whose low graduation rate was the subject of a recent Post article, have taken a vote of no confidence in President Reginald Avery.
Faculty cannot oust a college president. But with a no-confidence vote, they can signal trustees that the chief executive has lost their support. A 2009 no-confidence vote against Montgomery College President Brian Johnson probably figured in his departure. But Bowie State President Mickey Burnim survived a 2010 no-confidence vote by his faculty. UDC President Allen Sessoms emerged unscathed — even unfazed — from a 2009 no-confidence vote.
Coppin State is a historically black institution and part of Maryland’s state university system. It has one of the lowest six-year completion rates — about 15 percent — among all public and private four-year colleges. It also serves some of the most socioeconomically challenged students in Maryland.
When I was on campus reporting my story, Coppin administrators told me of their struggle to regain contact with lapsed students whom they were forbidden to call because their unpaid tuition bills had gone to collection agencies.
Coppin faculty noted several areas of concern with Avery’s leadership:
• In four years at Coppin, Avery has had four different provosts, a high rate of turnover for the chief academic officer at any college.
• Several divisions of Coppin lack permanent deans. The core School of Arts & Sciences has had no permanent dean since 2009.
• Avery has expanded the cabinet from 4 1/2 positions to 10, swelling the annual cost of the top administrative positions from $705,000 to $1.6 million at a time when Coppin is running a $5 million deficit.
Faculty also allege that Reginald Ross, the administrator who has led the school’s push for higher graduation rates, has not been on campus since the start of the spring semester.