CSUS faculty express distrust in Shirvani

No-confidence vote on president widely supported

November 20, 2009 


CSUS President Ham Shirvani. (Bart Ah You / bahyou@modbee.com)

TURLOCK — Faculty at California State University, Stanislaus, overwhelmingly supported a no-confidence vote against President Ham Shirvani.

Results of the weeklong voting were released Friday — 91 percent voted no confidence in Shirvani's performance. About 90 percent of the 300 eligible voters cast ballots. Members include professors, coaches, librarians and academic administrators.

The turnout was not surprising, said Lynn Johnson, a professor of accounting and past speaker of the Academic Senate.

"Unfortunately, the timing of this decision may cause those outside of the university to assume it's a reaction to budgetary pressures or the decision to end winter term. In fact, our lack of confidence in Shirvani has been discussed among the faculty since at least 2007," she said.

Employees have grown frustrated with what they call financial mismanagement and a continuing resistance to communicating with the public about how tax dollars are spent, said Steve Filling, accounting professor and chairman of the Academic Senate.

Union leaders have been denied access to information, including certain budget discussions, Filling said.

"There's this idea that if they don't tell people anything, no one can argue with them," he said.

Shirvani wasn't available for comment, but Vice President Russ Giambelluca said staff and the public have information about the budget. He said Shirvani is not surprised to see the faculty's anxiety after "two full years of horrendous budget cuts."

"We all have to focus on moving forward," said Giambelluca, head of business and finance.

Other agencies and institutions have shown a lack of support for their bosses through no-confidence votes.

Modesto Junior College President Richard Rose faced that turmoil from instructors in December 2007. Rose's contract was not renewed past this school year. In Oakdale, police voted no-confidence in Chief Marty West in March, partly because union leaders felt he wasn't defending officers against layoffs. West still holds his post.

Stanislaus' faculty officials will report the vote to the CSU system chancellor and board of trustees as well as the state Legislature, but the action has no direct impact on Shirvani's employment.

"I can't imagine a case where (the chancellor) would fire him because of this vote," Filling said. "But (Shirvani) claims that our complaints are coming from a few disgruntled faculty. This is a vote of everyone. It's our attempt to say that in a way he couldn't ignore."

Bee staff writer Michelle Hatfield can be reached at mhatfield@modbee.com or 578-2339. Read Hatfield's education blog at thehive.modbee.com/ExtraCredit.

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