Auburn group rejects vote against provost over pandemic work

Published 8:47 am Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Auburn University’s faculty senate has rejected a no-confidence vote against the school’s top academic officer over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic on campus.

The Opelika-Auburn News reported that a more than hourlong virtual meeting ended Tuesday with 71% of the members voting to scrap the move against Auburn Provost Bill Hardgrave, who was criticized for issues including his insistence on returning to primarily in-person classes in the spring. Some have questioned the sufficiency of coronavirus testing on campus.

The meeting came after 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 despite the spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by the new virus.

President Jay Gogue acknowledged the pandemic had caused confusion and changes, but that Auburn has come through it without any furloughs or job cuts.

“I’m not implying we have done anything perfect, but we’re trying to make the best of a bad situation,” Gogue said. “We’ve made mistakes … but when we made those mistakes, we tried to correct them.”

Hardgrave said the vote flew in the face of the idea of shared governance of a campus, which administrators like Gogue have said give everyone a stake in decision making.

“I’m certainly very sad that we are here today, because of the topic,” said Hardgrave. He called the move a “very punitive action” that was “an attack against me personally and professionally.”

The meeting was delayed briefly because the Zoom platform for online meetings could not handle 1,200 family members who attempted to join in.