- Associated Press - Sunday, January 10, 2021

AUBURN, Ala. (AP) - The top academic officer at Auburn University is facing a no-confidence vote this week by faculty members over lingering dissatisfaction with his handling of class scheduling around the coronavirus pandemic.

The Opelika-Auburn News reported the University Senate is scheduled to meet Tuesday to address complaints against Provost Bill Hardgrave, who is being defended by President Jay Gouge.

More than 500 faculty members met in a virtual gathering in November to discuss their concerns about Hardgrave and his insistence on returning to primarily in-person classes in the spring.

Economics professor Mike Stern said Wednesday his concerns still haven’t been adequately addressed. Hardgrave and other officials need to better assess teaching spaces and how to follow health guidelines about social distancing, he said.

“I volunteered to teach face-to-face in the fall and spring (of the 2020-21 school year) and they promised it would be safe,” Stern said. “Then, they did the opposite.”

Gogue, in a statement to the newspaper, discouraged faculty members from siding against Hardgrave.

“A no-confidence vote in the midst of a global pandemic and social unrest when student, faculty, staff and administration leaders have worked diligently together for the best interests of our campus is unprecedented and destructive,” he said.

In an emailed statement in November, Hardgrave said he had worked closely with the faculty leaders and provided updates at each Senate meeting.

“Our decisions have been and will continue to be informed by these conversations, input from the medical community and our experiences this fall,” he said.

Senate Secretary Greg Schmidt didn’t speculate on a possible outcome of a vote, but he credited Hardgrave with reaching out to the campus in recent weeks.

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