King University faculty speak publicly about president's leadership

Nathan Baker • Feb 13, 2014 at 12:11 PM

After months of quiet unrest on King University’s Bristol campus, faculty and alumni members are speaking out against what they say is a failure of leadership at the private college.

Dan Kreiss, the college’s assistant professor of youth ministry and head coach of the school’s cycling program, said he has had enough of university President Gregory Jordan’s administration marginalizing legitimate faculty concerns by portraying dissenters as a small group of agitators operating on the fringe, spreading misinformation.

Kreiss said an overwhelming majority of his colleagues are opposed to Jordan’s leadership and the effects it has had on the college, but in the past were afraid to publicly voice their concerns for fear of termination or other repercussions.

That tide is now turning, he said.

“The faculty has started to speak up, students and alumni have started to notice what’s going on, and it all came together at the same time,” he said. “It definitely has reached a crisis point.”

On Monday, faculty and a handful of university cabinet members held a confidence vote behind closed doors to gauge the level of support for the president.

The results of that vote, leaked Tuesday to the Press, tallied 62 members who said they had no confidence in Jordan’s administration, compared to 30 who said they did. Nine members abstained from voting.

To reach the meeting location, voting members walked past students protesting outside, a sign that the turmoil on campus has begun to spread, Kreiss said.

“Last year, two instructors were dismissed in the middle of the semester. They were just marched out and told to never come back,” Kreiss said. “Things like that affect students’ learning, and causes them to begin to ask questions.”

In defense of Jordan, the King administration has repeatedly stated that the perceived dissent on the campus is the result of certain staff members’ inability to adapt to changes the university is making to match upheaval in a transforming higher-education system.

The university has opened satellite campuses in Knoxville and Nashville, hoping to increase enrollment in population centers, and has made course changes to match the desires of 21st-century students, a statement on King’s website reads.

Also on Monday, The Concerned Alumni of King, a group claiming to represent at least 500 former students, started an online fundraising campaign urging fellow alumni to donate to their alma mater.

The funding, which has reached more than $213,000 in pledges in the last three days toward the final goal of $1 million to be administered over the next five years, is contingent on Jordan’s dismissal or resignation from his position.

An emailed statement sent Wednesday from a university spokesperson underlined the difference between unrestricted gifts and pledges — the former is a check, the latter is an expressed intention to provide a check — and said King usually raises approximately twice the campaign’s total pledge goal in a single year.

“We are appreciative of the renewed excitement demonstrated by this group of alumni for the school they love,” read the statement, attributed to the chair of the King University Board of Trustees’ Development Committee Bill Bryant. “We hope they would give to the school without contingencies. However, it is not the policy of King University to accept donations that have required personnel or policy conditions attached to the donation.”

Moving forward, Kreiss said he doubts Jordan could do anything to turn faculty opinion back to his favor.

“From your perspective, this has only been going on for months, but for those of us who have been here behind the scenes, it’s been ongoing for years,” he said. “There’s been too much mistrust and hurt, and in my opinion, I think most of us feel we genuinely need new leadership.”

King’s board of trustees has sole authority to remove Jordan from office.

In the recent past, some members have expressed full support for the president and have said there are no plans to unseat him.

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