The ballot count for a referendum on West Texas A&M University (WTAMU) President Walter Wendler concluded on Apr. 25, revealing a 179-82 no confidence vote in his leadership.
Kelly Carper Polden, WTAMU’s Assistant Vice President for Communications and Marketing, shared a statement with Campus Reform explaining the Faculty Senate’s process.
“Of the total 368 e-mails sent to full-time faculty and full-time professional librarians (excluding deans, associate deans, department heads, or equivalent) deemed eligible to vote by the senate, 261 (70%) participated by submitting a valid ballot,” the statement reads.
Those who voted are “17% of [WTAMU] employees.”
Though the vote is symbolic, Wendler also faces a lawsuit from Spectrum WT, the student organization that moved its drag show off campus after the cancellation. The lawsuit alleges that Wendler violated members’ First Amendment rights, and Texas A&M University System leadership failed to intervene.
The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), the organization’s legal representation, shared a statement with Campus Reform from Spectrum WT Vice President Laur Stovall, a plaintiff in the lawsuit:
We would like to express our thanks to the faculty senate for their vote of no confidence towards Wendler. His actions have harmed students and faculty alike, and nothing short of his removal as president will allow our university to be known as an institution that fosters acceptance and respect for all people. Once again, we are extremely grateful to the faculty senate for taking a stand against Wendler.
WTAMU professor Brad Johnson told Campus Reform that there are other inciting incidents for the vote, “ranging from DEI issues around Dr. Wendler’s support of traditional marriage to his passionate work steering students away from college debt.”
Johnson wrote an email to his colleagues defending Wendler, later published by Amarillo Globe-News. He refutes claims that Wendler “hurt freshman enrollment” during his tour of high schools when he suggested community college as a way to avoid student loan debt.
“There are some of our faculty who teach primarily freshman and sophomore ‘core’ courses. Their enrollments have been falling for the last several years,” Johnson says in a statement to Campus Reform.
“Since these courses are taken by freshmen, these faculty have decided the university must not be recruiting as many freshmen as in past years.”
But he writes that “[t]he real reason is a combination of changing interests by students and the fact that freshman students arrive with credit for many of these classes already granted while they were in high school.”
Johnson also points out the number of faculty members who were ineligible to vote or otherwise “refused to vote” and says that “over half of the faculty did not vote ‘no-confidence.’”
“Of course, that doesn’t make as good a headline.”
Campus Reform contacted all relevant parties listed for comment and will update this article accordingly.
Republished with permission from Campus Reform