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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

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UPDATED: University Faculty Senate votes to censure rector of the board for “disrespectful treatment” of employee and conduct with UR community members

<p>Graphic by Annie Scalet/The Collegian</p>

Graphic by Annie Scalet/The Collegian

Editor’s Note: This is a developing story.

By unanimous voice vote, The University of Richmond Faculty Senate censured Paul Queally, the rector of the Board of Trustees, for “his decisions regarding the renaming of Ryland and [Mitchell-Freeman] Halls, his disrespectful treatment of university employees and his reference to White students as ‘regular students,’” according to a written motion shared during an April 2 Faculty Senate meeting.

At the same time the Faculty Senate voted to censure Queally, President Ronald Crutcher sent a message to the UR community about the difficult and painful climate following the building naming decision. Shortly after, the deans of UR’s five academic schools sent an open letter to the Board expressing extreme concern for the UR community and described a deep distrust and skepticism about whether UR’s goals of diversity and inclusion are fully embraced by UR leadership.


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An open letter to the Board of Trustees from the five deans of the University of Richmond's academic schools.


The Faculty Senate vote was brought forward “out of abiding care for this institution and this community,” according to the written motion. “We strongly encourage the Board to examine whether the Rector’s behavior and decisions are in keeping with the Board’s own values and determine if he should be removed from office.”

Faculty Senate President Thad Williamson, a professor of leadership studies and politics, philosophy, economics and law, said a university faculty meeting would be held April 9 at 3 p.m. to engage further discussion about campus events with the full UR faculty body. Additionally, a request to bring a motion for a vote of no confidence against Queally will be taken up in the April 9 meeting -- an idea that Faculty Senate members discussed in the April 2 meeting.

Crutcher's message to the community was sent on behalf of himself, the President’s Cabinet and school deans, he wrote. 

"I accept that we haven’t handled either the process or the decision of the building naming matter as well as we should have," Crutcher wrote. "Our intent was to be thoughtful, thorough, and respectful, but the response proves we have further to go to meet our objectives. We understand the hurt, dismay, and anger, and we are resolved to forging a path forward that demonstrates our collective commitment to UR’s shared values of equity, inclusivity, diversity, and ethical engagement."

Crutcher wrote that UR's values have not been on display recently. UR administration is in active conversation with the Board about the process of naming buildings and the well-being of students, faculty and staff, he wrote. 

Mari Lee Mifsud, professor of rhetoric and women, gender, and sexuality studies, began the Faculty Senate meeting by calling for the UR community to collectively affirm the dignity of Black students and the community itself by holding Queally accountable.  

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Following Mifsud’s opening statement, Andrew Schoeneman, program chair of nonprofit studies, read a memo regarding faculty disaffiliation. The document emphasized support of faculty making their own decisions regarding disaffiliation and was not intended to be prescriptive of action, Schoeneman said. The memo urged faculty members to make informed decisions by consulting policy documents, such as faculty handbooks to see how their decisions might relate to employment duties and to discuss decisions with colleagues. 

After adopting the memo and agreeing to distribute it to all faculty members, the Faculty Senate turned to a discussion of recent campus events and UR's current climate. 

Jonathan Whitaker, professor of management, presented a motion created by Faculty Senate members to censure Queally. Whitaker reflected on the March 26 meeting between the Board and faculty, pointing out Queally’s concerning conduct that was documented in a statement released on March 30 by Faculty Senate members who attended the meeting.

The March 30 statement referenced an instance when Queally interrupted a Black staff member during her initial comments and proceeded to direct criticism toward her throughout the meeting.

Jessica Washington, assistant director of student engagement and the Bonner Scholars Program, wrote in an April 2 letter of disaffiliation that she was the staff member mentioned in the Faculty Senate statement. The Collegian obtained Washington’s statement, which was sent to a UR faculty email list.

“It is my opinion (and a sentiment shared by the staff and faculty in attendance), that the behavior of a particular Board member was unacceptably disrespectful,” Washington wrote. “In this meeting, I was singled out right away, constantly interrupted, condescended to, and was told ‘not to speak like that to me’ when I asked a clarifying question. I also received a coded, ‘I can hear the anger in your voice.’ I felt alone, attacked, abused, bullied, belittled, and dehumanized.”

Washington wrote that she would disaffiliate from all uncompensated volunteer work that falls outside of the scope of her position, and she had resigned as vice chair of the University Staff Advisory Council, effective today. Additionally, Washington will not pursue a seat on the USAC Planning and Priorities Committee, she wrote.

The Collegian requested comment on March 31 from Queally about the March 26 meeting, and has not received a response.

Queally sent a one-paragraph written statement to the Washington Post through a UR spokeswoman. 

He did not dispute specific quotes the faculty attributed to him, according to the Post.

“Our conversation with a small number of faculty and staff leaders on Friday was intended to be candid, personal, and open,” Queally wrote in the statement. “Those present spoke with honesty, passion, and conviction. The evidence of our commitment to equity and inclusion on our campus is abundant, and our support for all students is unwavering.”

Whitaker said Queally had failed to fulfill his responsibilities as the rector of the Board by mistreating Washington during the March 26 meeting.

Queally’s behavior did not uphold professional norms established by the Association of Governing Boards of committing to justice, diversity, equity and inclusion regarding university activities, Whitaker said. 

“The rector's tone, language and dismissiveness violated these values,” Whitaker said.

The Faculty Senate urges the Board to consider removing Queally as rector, he said.

According to Article 1.4(c) of UR’s Amended and Restated Bylaws, a member of the Board may be removed by the Board if the member takes action “that may negatively reflect on the University.”

UR is at risk of repeating history, Whitaker said, citing a 2014 incident when Queally was recorded making homophobic, agesit and misogynistic comments. Whitaker said he was in the room with trustees and administrators when a senior administrator defended Queally after the comments were made because of his financial generosity.

“At that time, we had a president who was on their way out of the university in a weakened state,” Whitaker said. “Here we are seven years later. We have a president of the university on their way out in a weakened state. We have administrators wanting to defend this trustee, who, by the way, was promoted to rector after these comments.”

Crutcher requested in September 2020 for the Board to begin searching for his successor, and will step down from his role this fall.

Whitaker questioned whether the defense of Queally was because of his character, or because of his financial contributions to UR.

“If we repeat this history again I will be personally devastated,” he said.

The motion by the Faculty Senate encourages the Board to consider whether Queally’s behaviors and decisions keep with the Board’s own values, according to the document. 

Stephen Long, professor of political science and global studies, was in attendance at the March 26 meeting with the Board, and said that the Faculty Senate expected to have a discussion about the naming of buildings. However, it became evident only minutes into the meeting that the Board would not reconsider its position, Long said.

Washington said in an April 2 interview with The Collegian that the meeting was performative because the Board had already made a decision to not rename the buildings.

“They reiterated that position two times and then reiterated that position a third time at that meeting,” she wrote. “I think some folks came into that conversation with a false sense of hope, of ‘Hey they want to meet with us, something good has to come out of it,’ but I didn't share that optimism. So, in terms of the outcome, the meeting went as much as I anticipated. I didn't know how truly horrific that meeting would have been and how it negatively impacted me and the other people who were bystanders.”

Peter Smallwood, professor of biology, said that the meeting was so flabbergasting that although he should have spoken up in defense of Washington, it did not occur to him to do so until after the meeting. Smallwood apologized to Washington and the UR community.

Mary Tate, professor of law, said the tropes and maneuvers employed by the Board during the March 26 meeting were unacceptable. 

“The university cannot be great when it is run by brute force,” she said.

Faculty members called into question the Board’s statement that keeping the names of Robert Ryland and Douglas Southall Freeman on campus buildings was done with regard to the consistency of UR’s educational mission.

Joe Essid, director of the UR Writing Center, said that faculty members and trustees have different roles in informing UR’s education mission. 

Schoeneman agreed, comparing UR to a ship that is steered by the Board while faculty members row. Faculty, however, do not want to row without knowing the direction or destination and need to be able to have trust that the Board will lead UR to a good place, he said. 

Values, both those stated and acted upon, must be shared between the Board and the greater UR community, Schoeneman said. 

Faculty now have an opportunity to repair some of the damage caused, Essid said.

Some faculty debated what would follow from the censure.

Tze Loo, professor of history and global studies, said the power of the symbolic vote should not be discounted because it could set other actions in motion. Other faculty members agreed, while some faculty noted that symbolic action may not be enough to create change among the Board.

The meeting -- which was attended by over 260 people -- ended on a note of extreme concern for the UR community. This sentiment was echoed in Crutcher’s message and the open letter to the Board shared by academic deans.

Karen Kochel, professor of psychology, said that she had never been so disappointed as both a professor and alumna of UR. Kochel said she could not recommend that students come to UR until the campus becomes a safe place for students of color.

Although she is disappointed in UR, Kochel noted that she has also never been more proud to be a part of the UR community as it rallies around Black students.

Faculty noted that this meeting was the beginning of a long discussion. The Faculty Senate emphasized that it will continue to meet its other responsibilities, such as improving UR’s general education requirements, in addition to discussing campus events.

The goal, faculty members said, was to point the way forward.

Cassandra Marshall, professor of finance, affirmed community members’ mission in a call for the April 9 faculty meeting.

“The University Faculty Senate remains committed to helping build a University of Richmond where all of our students, faculty and staff can thrive, both academically and professionally,” she said. “We are particularly distraught by fresh reminders of the exhausting reality that our students and colleagues of color face on this campus every day.”

Contact editor-in-chief Morgan Howland at morgan.howland@richmond.edu and City & State editor Eileen Pomeroy at eileen.pomeroy@richmond.edu.

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