Board of Trustees vote extends Campo’s contract through 2024

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Ashland.edu

President Carlos Campo recieved a four-year contract from the Board of Trustees.

Christine Jenkinson and Alayna Ross

Most people–students, faculty, residents— have heard the news of President Campo’s contract extension already. Carlos Campo has been the president of Ashland University since 2015, and can now add an extra three years onto his resume.

 

“I want to say that I am grateful to the Board of Trustees for their confidence…We are looking forward to continuing to serve our students, we love the community, we love the student body, we feel like it’s a really good fit for us, and we’re grateful because we developed such tremendous relationships here, and we’re looking forward to these next three years,” Campo said.

 

This contract extension has raised tensions with the Faculty Senate, however, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Jim Hess, is confident that Campo and faculty will mesh together work on issues, whether that is communication or collaboration.

 

“I know Dr. Campo is working diligently with faculty leadership and working hard at communication and collaboration, so I think those have always been priorities, but I think we can always do them better,” Hess said. “I think Dr. Campo developed a plan over the summer with the help of faculty and Board input and is doing his best to really execute that plan.”

 

Campo has numerous plans to benefit AU, starting with a new strategic plan, called Ashland Rising, highlighting the future and continuing to invest in everyone on campus.

 

“We do need to continue to work on our infrastructure,” Campo said. “There are a lot of students who are excited for our new field house, that’s part of the investment we’re making in our traditional undergraduate programs.”

 

Growing the donor list helps students with scholarships and the aforementioned field house. Campo said last year had the highest fundraising year in the history of Ashland.

 

Another part of Campo’s focus on this strategic plan is set on expanding the adult education market, including AU’s Correctional Education program, he said. He is confident that these numbers will grow from almost 3,000 students from 11 states to a higher number in a year.

 

“We have the nation’s largest program today,” Campo said. “We know that’s going to be an important part of our future.”

 

During these unprecedented times, money can be tight and schools all over the country are seeing the effects COVID-19 has brought.

 

“We want to keep our education affordable, that’s another thing we’re going to be working on in the next three years,” Campo said. “Find a way to keep our tuition among the lowest for private [universities] here in Ohio.”

 

Campo’s extended contract might have surprised some, for others maybe not so much. Campo has beaten the odds, securing his presidential seat despite garnering a no-confidence vote from the Faculty Senate 34-1.

 

The Board of Trustees voted confidence the day after the Faculty Senate’s no-confidence vote.

 

The Faculty Senate is a representative body of the faculty cast with dealing with primarily academic affairs issues, such as curriculum, graduation requirements, degree requirements and interfacility situations. There are separate committees within the Faculty Senate that assist with risk advice, expectations and requirements concerning faculty. 

 

“The Faculty Senate clearly communicated that there is no-confidence in the president and there has been no official change to that position,” Dan McDonald, current president of the Faculty Senate, said. “Faculty arrived at this vote with immense seriousness having exhausted all other options.”

 

“Though it is frustrating and regretful that the decision to extend the president’s contract was made devoid of any comprehensive assessment of the president, and without consulting with faculty in any way, we understand that the decision to do so, ultimately rests on the Board of Trustees,” McDonald said.

 

When asked if the Faculty Senate “matters, since they are here every day and have a first-hand experience of seeing how students are affected by decisions made by the Board of Trustees,” Jim Hess said, “Oh absolutely… their input, their views on all things related to the education of students matters significantly to the Board.”

 

“We obviously take all of this into consideration, but as the Board of Trustees, we have to look at things holistically. While that’s the significant component, there’s a lot of variables and factors that obviously are going into the decision, and are part of the responsibility of the president and are part of the view of the Board of Trustees while evaluating a president.”

 

Rene Rawraway, assistant professor of Hospitality Management and 33-year faculty member at AU, disagrees.

 

“One has to ask themselves, how effective can the faculty be,” Rawraway said. “The Faculty Senate is trying to make things better, but it is difficult. If you look at other universities that have voted no-confidence, those people are no longer in those positions.”

 

When asked “what does this contract extension mean to you in regards to your no-confidence vote from the Faculty Senate over the summer,” Campo noted that there are issues that need to be resolved, but his optimism took over.

 

“I think it’s clear that there are certain faculty members that have concerns about the issues that they’ve laid out,” Campo said. “I’m a very optimistic person, I think that the Board’s confidence reflects the fact that we’ve been successful. On a number of metrics, we have been so successful that the Board is willing to extend my contract for three years.”

 

Is this optimism a realistic way of looking at his situation? With an overwhelming majority of the Faculty Senate voting “no,” this puts pressure on Campo to, as he says, “grow as a leader.”

 

“But that doesn’t mean the success has been unqualified,” Campo said. “There are certain folks on campus, particularly among some of the faculty leadership, that want to see better collaboration, they want to see other issues be resolved…I look forward to working with the new leadership in the Faculty Senate and to resolve those issues.”

 

Faculty, like McDonald, still do not think their voices are heard.

 

“From my perspective, it would be easy to say that this clearly shows that the faculty vote has no merit,” Campo said. “I don’t think that’s fair.”

 

Hess mentioned that communication, collaboration, and trust take time.

 

However, it has been five years since Campo was elected into office. Is five years not enough time to build a working relationship? If not, how much time is enough?

 

“So we know these things aren’t going to be perfect right away, but we know he’s committed to improving that and we’re committed to improving that, and hopefully, we’ll see progress over time,” Hess said.

 

Some tension can be directed to COVID-19, as it has added stress to people and the budget. However, COVID was not an issue when he was started at AU. Further, the Faculty Senate voted twice before (2015 and 2018), each resulting in a no-confidence vote, according to Rawraway.

 

“We know that we’ve got some tough days ahead, but we honestly believe a year from now, we’ll have put the virus, for the most part, behind us,” Campo said. “New programs coming online, like the new Physician Assistant  program, those are things that will lead Ashland into the future as we continue to build on our great tradition here.” 

 

Rawaway’s program, Hospitality Management, has recently been sunsetted along with 20 other programs.

 

“I am not angry, I am very disappointed because this Christian university isn’t doing unto others as they would like done to themselves,” Rawaway said. “Really great businesses invest in their employees and they get great customer service, good service and employees that want to be a part of the team in return and Ashland University isn’t investing in their team or in what we are here for, which is education.”

 

Rawaway believes that the decision is due to the lack of communication between the President and those across campus.

 

Despite the no-confidence vote, Campo and the Board of Trustees are planning on moving forward with their strategic plan.

 

“I’m determined, and I’m hopeful that faculty are as well, to get past that because we’re not here to have conflict, we’re here to serve our students, make sure they have a great experience, that’s what I know I’m committed to, and I believe our faculty are as well,” Campo said. “We’ll get through all that too.”