Published on Jewish Business News
by Ilan Shavit
Dr. Henry Kressel, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Yeshiva University, sent out an email statement in reaction to a faculty “no confidence” vote Friday against President Richard Joel.
Kressel’s message said, in no uncertain terms: “The Board is confident that President Joel and his administration will continue to work diligently to strengthen the bonds of collaboration and maintain the focus on the needs of our students, as well as the needs of the University as a whole. This is the best way to ensure YU continues to flourish.”
A full 80 percent of participating faculty members of Yeshiva College (YC) at Yeshiva University last Friday afternoon voted “No Confidence” in Joel. Only 3 percent voted “confidence,” with 17 percent abstaining. 64 percent of the faculty voted.
Despite the fact that the no-confidence vote does not carry immediate ramifications, Professor Gillian Steinberg, an associate professor of English at YC and member of the YC executive committee, told the Jewish Week that this unusual gesture would likely “signal donors in a meaningful way” and “indicate that the board of trustees is moving in the wrong direction.”
“It’s the time of year when we put the schedule together, and we realized we were paralyzed because we didn’t know which faculty would be around,” Steinberg explained. “The administration won’t tell us who will get a contract renewal. Now, the rubber hits the road.”
The Jewish Week also reported that the faculty of Albert Einstein School of Medicine, also affiliated with YU, took a vote of no confidence in the YU board on Jan. 23.
Dr Kressel responded with an email message Sunday night, stating that the near-unanimous “no confidence” vote “is an unfortunate development, given the Administration’s work and many meetings with the faculty to develop plans to enhance the quality of the educational experience at YU while saving costs.”
Kressel explained that “while it’s regrettable that a small number of contract faculty will leave the University, we are building an organization and an academic program that creates more flexibility and options for students. Details will be shared soon on ways more of our students can enjoy and benefit from our outstanding scholars, and how smaller programs can be strengthened.”
Having said that, Kressel stated clearly that he basically won’t have any of that nonsense, because “the Board of Trustees is ultimately responsible for ensuring the University is able to move forward with excellence. This responsibility includes implementing a financial plan to ensure the sustainability of the institution.”
He continued, even more specifically: “Under our direction, President Richard Joel, his administration and the Board’s outside advisers, Alvarez & Marsal (A&M), have identified areas across the entire university to streamline and realign operations, while ensuring the student experience remains vibrant. They have performed admirably in a difficult environment.”