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Tuesday, May 28
The Indiana Daily Student

campus administration

UPDATED: Whitten rebuked: IU faculty vote no confidence in Whitten, Shrivastav, Docherty

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IU Bloomington faculty overwhelmingly passed votes of no confidence for IU President Pamela Whitten, Provost Rahul Shrivastav and Vice Provost for Faculty and Academic Affairs Carrie Docherty on Tuesday.  

The motion for no confidence in Whitten passed with 93.1% of the vote, the motion for no confidence in Shrivastav passed with 91.5% of the vote and the motion for no confidence in Docherty passed with 75% of the vote. 

According to minutes posted by the Bloomington Faculty Council, 948 faculty members attended the meeting. The number of faculty eligible to vote was 3,276. The last all-faculty meeting, called in May 2022 regarding the graduate workers strike, had an attendance of 732.

The last time faculty voted no confidence in an IU president was 2005. Then-president Adam Herbert announced in 2006 he would leave at the end of his contract in 2008. Whitten’s contract, obtained by Indiana Public Media, expires June 2026.  

No confidence votes have increased across universities nationwide in recent years and roughly half of no confidence vote targets end up leaving the university within a year of the vote.

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The IU Board of Trustees released a statement Tuesday affirming complete support for Whitten.  

“At our direction and with our support, President Pamela Whitten is leading at a time in higher education where the status quo is not an option,” the statement read. The full statement can be read here.  

Quinn Buckner, chair of the Board of Trustees, also released a statement. 

“Let me be absolutely clear: President Whitten has my full support and that of every member on the Board of Trustees,” he wrote. “I have the privilege of working hand in hand with her and I regularly witness her deep integrity, compassion and commitment to IU's future. She is an extraordinary leader who is crucial to Indiana University’s success and will be serving as our president for years to come.” 
 
In an email to faculty Tuesday, Whitten wrote she intended to collaborate with faculty despite disagreements. The full text of the statement is below: 

“This university and your success are deeply important to me. And after today’s vote, I write to share my reflections on how we can move forward together.  

While we will not always agree, our community is made stronger by an array of viewpoints and voices—including those expressed as part of this process. 
 
We serve at a time when trust in higher education is at record lows, and expectations for our role as an economic and cultural driver are at record highs. Our self-concept of purpose and value often differs wildly from how we are viewed by lawmakers, civic leaders, industry and much of the general public. Such differences are not tenable forever. 
 
There is no going back to an earlier time. Demographic changes, resulting financial realities, and political developments are only accelerating. To combat the challenges that mark this new environment, I welcome thoughtful ideas and consideration. 
 
Against this backdrop, our trustees have charged us with making difficult but necessary decisions to ensure that IU, and IU Bloomington, as the flagship, emerges as a leader among elite research universities. 
 
Institutions are never static. They are evolving, innovating and getting stronger, or they are stagnant and losing momentum and relevance. But we can only achieve the former if we work together, if we communicate with honesty and compromise, if we operate on the same team. 
 
As we plan our future together, I encourage you to suggest innovative opportunities within your department, school or college to share your ideas. In turn, I pledge to listen and learn. I will weigh the guidance from faculty council and the participation of the campus community through shared governance to achieve our collective vision of a thriving campus. 
 
The change we seek for IU Bloomington is grounded not in an inability to appreciate what is already here, but in a desire to ensure that what comes in the future can match the strength of IU’s legacy. The IU we seek in 2030 and beyond will look different in some ways than the IU we know today – not because we have diverged from our mission, but because we have met this challenging societal moment and boldly embraced our purpose—for students, for scholarship and knowledge creation, and for service to society. 

Working together, we can achieve even more for this extraordinary institution. We can uphold the legacy of Herman B Wells and ensure IU thrives as an international academic leader while being a workplace that embraces respectful collaboration.”

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In the weeks leading up to the vote, faculty organizers cited several controversies and an overall perception of financial mismanagement as motivating factors. However, faculty unrest has been brewing for years, beginning with a controversial presidential search process in 2020 and culminating this semester with the suspension of professor Abdulkader Sinno, the cancelation of Palestinian painter Samia Halaby’s exhibition and a dispute regarding compliance with a new Indiana law barring funds for the Kinsey Institute.  

In each case, students, faculty and staff expressed concerns that the decisions jeopardized academic freedom and bypassed input from university stakeholders. Faculty signed a petition in defense of Sinno after Docherty suspended him for allegedly misrepresenting an event with a pro-Palestinian speaker on a room reservation form. The Faculty Board of Review later wrote IU had violated its policy because it bypassed a faculty hearing required by Bloomington campus policy, and while the provost implied he would support the FBR’s decision at a February BFC meeting, he declined to comment in March.  

When Halaby’s art show was canceled due to unspecified security concerns, it drew condemnation from international groups and gained national news coverage. Though Halaby and her grandniece, Madison Gordon, organized a petition that received over 15,000 signatures, IU did not reinstate the exhibition.  

After the Board of Trustees considered a proposal to create a nonprofit that would administer some functions of the Kinsey Institute at a meeting in November, IU community members urged the board and the IU administration to implement an accounting solution instead. Kinsey faculty and staff said the proposal came as a surprise to them and feared it would put the institute’s collections in jeopardy. Ultimately, the Board of Trustees scrapped the nonprofit plan

The IDS wrote about these disputes and other controversies in detail last week.  

In a document obtained by the IDS prior to the vote, faculty organizers also alleged the university has been imposing unnecessary austerity measures on academic units. 

The document alleges Whitten has created an “artificial budget shortfall” which risks the health of departments that contribute to IU’s R1 status. Universities with an R1 classification have “very high research activity,” which is determined by the number of doctoral degrees and research expenditures across four “disciplinary clusters” — humanities, social sciences, STEM and “all other disciplines,” such as business, social work, public policy and education. 

“Her budget centralization has significantly decreased school and departmental normal operational budgets and disincentivized faculty applications for major national grants,” the document reads. “Overall, she has contributed to destroying IU’s reputation globally and with the federal government, causing visible damage even at the level of new faculty and graduate student recruitment.” 

The IDS could not independently verify these claims. However, IU made $70 million in permanent budget cuts in 2021-2022 according to its annual financial report. At the end of fiscal year 2022, IU reported a net position of $5,223,795,000, an indicator of the university’s financial strength after examining assets, liabilities and deferred inflow and outflow of resources.  

At the end of FY 2021, its net position was $4,980,043,000. This is an increase under former president Michael McRobbie, when IU ended FY 2018 with a net position of $3,892,556,000. 

Despite the budget cuts, IU lists 18 vice presidents that report to Whitten, an increase from the 16 vice presidents listed near the end of McRobbie’s term. Whitten’s salary this school year is $650,000, while McRobbie’s salary in 2018-2019 was $639,846, according to IU’s salary database. Shrivastav’s salary is $540,750.00 while former provost Lauren Robel’s 2018-2019 salary was $430,039.00.  

Other vice presidents have seen large raises during IU’s budget cuts, with some positions seeing a six-figure increase in just two years.  

UPDATE: This story has been updated with a statement from President Whitten and the IU Board of Trustees and figures on faculty attendance and voting eligibility. 

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated the university’s net position in millions, rather than billions of dollars.

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