University of Akron President Scott Scarborough is out at the school, effective immediately.
The UA board of trustees voted unanimously Tuesday morning to approve a mutual agreement with Scarborough to end his nearly two-year rocky tenure at the university.
“The board is charged with ensuring the effective governance, leadership and management of the university and, along with Dr. Scarborough, determined that new leadership is needed for the university to move forward and achieve sustained success in the future,” board chair Jonathan Pavloff said in a prepared statement. “The board will conduct a rigorous and thorough search for a permanent president with the experience and qualities it believes are necessary to lead the University of Akron.”
Rex Ramsier, who has been serving as interim provost, is also taking on the duties of president until an interim is named while a search is conducted for Scarborough’s permanent replacement.
The decision to end Scarborough’s tenure came after a 45-minute executive session during a special meeting.
Under the agreement, Scarborough can take a five-year teaching job in UA’s business school, earning nearly $1.5 million over the period, or receive a buyout of a year’s salary, about $450,000.
Scarborough took over as president in July 2014. He has been criticized heavily over the last year and a half for decisions ranging from hiring TrustNavigator to rebranding the school as “Ohio’s polytechnic university,” as well as the dismantling of the baseball team.
“That taste will never go away, because of all the people directly affected by baseball being eliminated,” said former baseball coach Rick Rembielak, who successfully got 30 of the 33 players transferred. “I will say that the timing for this is better for him leaving now this time of the year, than what he left us … to scramble to transfer players because the window had opened and closed for recruiting and for coaching jobs.”
Scarborough said in a three-paragraph statement that he was “honored to have had the opportunity to serve this great university ... to address the challenges ... and to begin the process of change that is necessary for the university to succeed in the rapidly changing environment of higher education.”
Scarborough was unavailable for comment Tuesday.
Pavloff said Scarborough was hired to address finances and enrollment at the university and the board is grateful for Scarborough’s efforts in addressing those challenges.
“There wasn’t any one event or any one point in time that the board reached its decision ... it was the consistent review and analysis of how to best move forward that brought us to this consensus at this time,” Pavloff told reporters at a news conference.
Students are hopeful
Ironically, it was the first meeting in a year that protesters weren’t present. Students and faculty members started protesting after the mass layoffs back in July as part of the $40 million budget cuts.
When UA students Brittany Large and Jami Tatulinski learned Tuesday morning that Scarborough had resigned, the juniors were pleased.
“Thank God,” Large said. “… Better things are going to come.”
“Plan a party,” she said. “I never heard anything good about him.”
UA senior Re’Ana Dixon said after seeing so many protests against Scarborough on campus, “hopefully now things will go back to normal.”
“I know a lot of people have been disappointed with his decisions,” she said. “Some of his decisions, I don’t agree with.”
One of the most outspoken groups in the community, the Advocates for the University of Akron, Students, Faculty and Staff, issued a statement pledging “to join the board of trustees and university leadership in restoring confidence and helping refocus on the positive, as the rebuilding of our fine institution begins.”
The leadership of the University of Akron Faculty Senate, which recently voted 50-2 that it had “no confidence” in Scarborough, called on the board to work with faculty moving forward.
Faculty wants voice
Scarborough told members at a Faculty Senate meeting last month that whether he’s leading the university or not, the financial issues will be the same for the next leader.
“I am grateful to President Scarborough for putting the interests of the university first, and to him and the trustees for recognizing the need for new leadership,” said Bill Rich, who heads the Faculty Senate at the university. “Now we must all work together to put the university on a course toward recovery, sustainability, and advancement. As a start in that direction, I hope the board of trustees will consult the leadership of the faculty before it chooses an interim president.”
Sean McKinniss, a Columbus expert who is writing a book on no-confidence votes, said such actions are rare, but when they do happen it’s usually a matter of “when and not if” the president will leave.
“There’s a dignified exit and the president is usually gone within a year, but in this case it seemed like it was swift but brutal,” McKinniss said. “He not only faced discontent on campus, but off-campus as well. The president’s options are similar to other contracts to either teach or take a buyout.”
Critic ready to ‘get U-Haul’
Larry Snider, a UA distinguished professor, director of Tuesthe percussion studies and vocal critic of Scarborough, said he was elated with the news.
“I’ll help him get the U-Haul. I’ve got students who would do it. I would definitely do it ... just give me the word,” said Snider.
Snider’s invitation last fall to speak to the UA’s board of trustees was rescinded, which he suspects is because he was critical of the administration and his wife was among those laid off by the university.
Snider said he wishes the university would have let Scarborough go sooner.
“Every day he was there put us in a hole even more with faculty and administrators quitting,” he said. Since his hiring, nearly 100 professors have left the university.
“[Scarborough] basically destroyed the camaraderie we had in terms of the city and the university and we’ve just got to start building immediately for all the mistakes he made and the people he’s put on staff,” said Snider, adding that several of the staffers who Scarborough brought with him should also be terminated.
Trustees also blamed
Community and business leaders said the blame for Scarborough’s failures should not be placed on him alone, but also the UA board of trustees.
An Akron businessman, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of fears his comments could affect his business connections, said the university “is a community asset. This isn’t a publicly traded company. He treated it like all he had to do was take care of the board of directors ... and not the community. That’s where it really jumped the track.”
Don Taylor, president and chief executive officer of Welty Building Company and chairman of the Greater Akron Chamber board of directors, said the university needs a leader “that people want to follow and believe in.”
“I think that it’s good for the university that they’ve recognized that they’ve got a problem,” Taylor said.
Taylor was also a member of the University of Akron’s eight-person Business Executive Advisory Council, created to help improve the school’s relationship with the community. The group met only once in December, he said.
Scarborough indicated he wanted the business leaders’ help, but “there were a few of the pre-conditions of our getting involved that didn’t necessarily come to fruition,” Taylor said. He declined to elaborate.
“With over $600 million in debt that the university has, we have to focus on the important things the board should be handling,” he said. “Their decisions really have a lot of weight to them and they’ve never been more critical. It was important they brought this to a conclusion so they can put somebody in a place that everybody can rally behind.”
Pavloff said it was more important to focus on the future and not dwell on the past.
Staff writers Rick Armon, Doug Livingston, Betty Lin-Fisher and Theresa Cottom contributed to this story. Marilyn Miller can be reached at 330-996-3098 or email@example.com.