By David Loomis
With IUP President Tony Atwater seated in the second row of the standing-room-only multipurpose room in the new Gealy Wallwork Residence Hall, PaSSHE Chancellor John Cavanaugh accepted a copy of the faculty union's bill of particulars and told IUP faculty union President Robert J. Mutchnick that he would huddle with him in Harrisburg later this month to discuss it.
IUP's 777 faculty members are scheduled to vote Dec. 14-16 on a no-confidence measure aimed at Atwater and his nearly five-year administration.
In opening remarks to the 9 a.m. open forum to which Atwater on Thursday had invited all IUP employees, Cavanaugh said he would not debate the grievances against Atwater, an issue the chancellor described as the "the elephant in the room." Cavanaugh said he had not received a copy of the union's grievances and knew only what had been reported in the press.
But as soon as the meeting was opened to audience questions, faculty members peppered Cavanaugh with concerns that have contributed to the campus conflict, including alleged financial mismanagement by Atwater's administration, unilateral changes in faculty hiring and, as one faculty questioner put it, "unnecessary luxuries for administrators."
To the latter question, Cavanaugh said he urged the presidents of the 14 system campuses to exercise restraint and to consider public perceptions.
"We have asked them to ask themselves, 'What's the purpose? What's the benefit to campus,'" Cavanaugh said. "We have had a lot of conversations dating back to my arrival here."
Cavanaugh took over the 112,000-student public university system in July 2008.
Asked to state whether he supported Atwater, Cavanaugh demurred.
"I don't have a vote," Cavanaugh said. "It would be inappropriate for me to give one of these," he gestured with an up-and-down motion of his left hand.
When Cavanaugh repeated that press accounts were his only source of information on the campus conflct, Mutchnick offered to meet with Cavanaugh at the chancellor's office in Harrisburg.
"That would be great," Cavanaugh said. "Before the holidays."