The sign at the entrance to the University of Maine at Augusta campus on Civic Center Drive. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA — The University of Maine at Augusta faculty senate has called for a new presidential search after voting no confidence in the search for the school’s newly hired president and the chancellor of the University of Maine System.

Michael R. Laliberte, the recently named president of the University of Maine at Augusta, speaks in April at Randall Hall on the UMA campus. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

The faculty senate meeting Wednesday, which lasted more than five hours over Zoom, was the first meeting the UMA faculty has had after learning of Michael R. Laliberte’s votes of no confidence from his former university in New York, and that the chancellor of the University of Maine System, Dannel P. Malloy, knew about the votes but did not disclose the information to the full UMA presidential search committee.

The search committee chair, Sven Bartholomew, also knew and did not tell the rest of the committee, according to sources at UMA.

The president of a labor union that represents full-time faculty across the University of Maine System said previously that by not informing the committee, Bartholomew had “destroyed” the search for the UMA president and violated the search’s code of ethics.

The code was drafted by Storbeck Search, the consulting firm that helped the university find candidates and asked search committee members to “guard against inaccuracies, carelessness, bias or distortion made through either emphasis or omission of information.”

The UMA faculty senate requested the search “be declared as failed” Wednesday and asked that a new search begin immediately. The group outlined its reasoning for both no-confidence votes in a pair of resolutions shared Thursday morning by the University of Maine System.

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Malloy released a statement later Thursday morning, saying he takes it as “a matter of immediate urgency” and apologized to faculty, but he did not mention the future of Laliberte, who is scheduled to begin Aug. 1 as UMA’s president. 

University of Maine System Chancellor Dannel P. Malloy introduces new University of Maine at Augusta President Michael R. Laliberte at Randall Hall in April. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

The UMA faculty senate gave the following reasons for requesting the search be declared “failed”:

• “University of Maine System employees and a member of the Board of Trustees failed to guard against inaccuracies, carelessness/bias and or distortion made through either emphasis or omission of information during the presidential search,” which was taken directly from Storbeck Search’s code of ethics.

• “Omissions from the Chancellor and member of the Board of Trustees may have changed the recommendations of the search committee regarding the candidates for consideration of the President of the University of Maine at Augusta.”

• “Omissions from the Chancellor and member of the Board of Trustees have compromised the integrity of the search and damaged the reputation of UMA and the University of Maine System.”

The faculty governance group said one of the reasons it cast a vote of no confidence in Malloy was UMA faculty members feel there is a “loss of confidence in the capability and direction of the University of Maine System leadership.”

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Among the reasons for Malloy’s no-confidence vote were that he:

• Failed to inform the UMA presidential search committee of “critical” information about Laliberte, despite an ethical code mandating it be shared.

• Delegated “decision-making authority on relevant information” to Storbeck Search, which has “a history of known ethics violations.”

• Released “multiple statements with inconsistent claims that are more focused on protecting the chancellor’s reputation than preserving UMA’s integrity.”

The faculty senate said there were other reasons for its vote of no confidence in Malloy that, while not specific to UMA’s presidential  search, were relevant to the faculty.

The faculty at UMA also said the “autonomy of the individual universities” in the University of Maine System has dwindled under Malloy’s leadership and made the schools unable to hire part-time faculty or staff members.

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UMA faculty members also said a “move toward centralization across the seven universities” has resulted in problems and financial issues in certain areas, such as hiring guest speakers and administering grants.

The Randall Student Center at the University of Maine at Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Malloy said before the faculty senate made its decision, he “apologized to them and listened to their concerns, which were loud and clear.”

“I reiterate my regret and sincere apology to the UMA and communities,” Malloy said in the statement. “Yesterday morning, I also informed the UMA Presidential Search Committee that we will revise our search policies for president and provost positions immediately to require a declaration from candidates as to whether they have ever been the subject of a non-confidence vote.”

Malloy said he will work with “everyone at UMA” to restore their confidence in him.

The issue over UMA’s president comes as Malloy is facing sharp criticism for actions at the University of Maine at Farmington. UMF students occupied Merrill Hall during a 24-hour sit-in Tuesday and Wednesday to protest the University of Maine System’s decision to eliminate nine faculty positions in the humanities and social sciences. The students wrote a list of demands that hold Malloy accountable for the position cuts and called for his removal as chancellor.

At UMA, the faculty senate meeting that included the no-confidence votes began at 1 p.m. Wednesday and ran until about 6:30 p.m., according to a professor who attended the session.

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University of Maine System officials blocked reporters from attending the meeting, after initially providing the Zoom link, citing a section of Maine’s Freedom of Access Act that states only the board of trustees of the University of Maine System and any of its committees and subcommittees are considered public proceedings.

A statue of a moose, the school mascot, at the University of Maine at Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

Before the meeting, Laliberte said in a statement he “realizes and regrets that this situation has strained my relationship with many of you before I even arrived on campus.”

“This is not the way I wanted to join the UMA community,” he said. “However, I want you all to know I will do anything in my power to be the open and transparent leader that you all deserve, and will work hard to earn your trust.”

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect a no-confidence vote was taken against the University of Maine at Augusta presidential search.

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