UNL Faculty Senate ousts president after ongoing tensions

October 3, 2018

By a 2-1 margin Tuesday, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Faculty Senate removed President Jeffrey Rudy from office, marking an attempt to resolve growing distrust among the body.

Rudy, a professor of practice of athletic training who became the Faculty Senate president in April, had been at the center of what members of the Executive Committee described as an erosion of trust paralyzing the shared governance structure at UNL.

Over the last few months, according to Executive Committee members, Rudy had taken action on Faculty Senate business without consulting other members, withheld information from fellow senators and used his position to voice his personal opinions, rather than act in an impartial manner.

John Fech, a UNL extension educator and member of the Executive Committee, on Tuesday told the Faculty Senate that Rudy’s lack of trust in his colleagues on the committee had fomented distrust in his leadership.

He said Rudy had accused other members of leaking sensitive information to the media without evidence and had constituted an ad hoc committee to review UNL’s policies and procedures that had led it to be included on a national censure list without consultation from faculty senators, an effort Rudy said was to maintain committee members’ secrecy.

“His insistence on this approach is contrary to our values of democratic discourse and debate and totally opposite of a university culture that values reasoning, free speech and a right to express dissenting opinion,” Fech said.

Rudy also drew the ire of faculty senators for his comments made before the presentation of the James A. Lake Academic Freedom Award, which was given to a pair of English Department faculty for their defense of the department from political attacks last year.

Rudy said in an interview Monday he “could not in good conscience give the Freedom Award to those who defend bullying,” saying he believed the faculty being recognized had applied principles of academic freedom selectively and had not defended the rights of a student he says was bullied by a graduate student and lecturer.

Fech said the content of Rudy’s comments was not at issue, rather it was the venue he chose to express his views, saying they “called into question his capacity to adequately represent UNL faculty.”

“Dr. Rudy has been given many opportunities to demonstrate his trust in the Executive Committee and to regain their trust,” Fech said, “but he has not taken advantage of them.

“After repeated attempts to reconcile, we believe we have reached an impasse with him that negatively impacts our ability to impartially address concerns of the faculty,” Fech concluded.

In his limited two-minute response, Rudy said his apology to the Faculty Senate had not been accepted and resulted in the effort to remove him in order to “assuage” the anger of the membership.

Rudy also criticized the Faculty Senate’s procedures used to remove him, saying they did not allow him a chance to confront his accusers or present evidence, also requiring just a simple majority and not a two-thirds majority.

Since the bylaws of the Faculty Senate only indicate that the president’s term is over once a new president takes office, that enabled the senate to remove Rudy using procedures outlined in Robert’s Rules of Order, said President-elect Kevin Hanrahan.

Among those options are a majority vote of the entire membership, a two-thirds majority vote if no previous notice is given, or a simple majority vote if advance notice is given.

Hanrahan said because advance notice was given when the Faculty Senate agenda was published last week, and because Rudy did not appeal, only a simple majority vote on the motion was needed to remove Rudy.

But Rudy said after the meeting he felt the process was “rigged” against him, and he leveled an accusation of hypocrisy at the Faculty Senate.

He said while UNL faculty rushed to defend the due process rights of Courtney Lawton last year after she was removed from her teaching position in response to political backlash following her protest of a conservative student group, he believes the same faculty did not afford him the same consideration.

“In two minutes, I cannot read the charges, much less list my accomplishments, defend my honor or refute the accusations,” he said.

With his time running out, Rudy said he believes academic freedom must be extended to everyone on a college campus, and reiterated he found it “unconscionable for a teacher to bully a student in the classroom or outside of it,” referring to the small protest of a Turning Point USA recruiting event last year.

Citing the current advertising campaign by Nike featuring the slogan — “Believe in something, even it if means sacrificing everything” — Rudy, dressed in a dark suit with a red Husker tie, stood defiant.

“What I believe in may require the sacrifice of my presidency,” he said.

After no one else came forward to speak, Hanrahan ordered a paper vote be taken. A few minutes later, Hanrahan announced that 41 votes had been cast in favor of the motion to remove Rudy, while only 19 had voted to retain him as president.

Rudy left the president’s chair in the front of the Faculty Senate and slid into a seat between two senators in the middle of the Regency Suite at the Nebraska Union, where Tuesday’s meeting was held.

He said he’ll stay on as a member of the Faculty Senate representing the Department of Nutrition and Health Sciences and doesn’t anticipate any problems moving forward.

“I stood up for a principle and was rejected for that,” he said after the meeting. “I have no regrets.”

Hanrahan, now president of the faculty, said the nominations for a new president-elect from among the members is now open. A new president-elect will be chosen in November.

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