FAIRBANKS — The largest faculty union at the University of Alaska is considering a “no confidence” vote against UA President Pat Gamble, saying his leadership style is top-heavy and shows little respect for faculty members.
Abel Bult-Ito, president of United Academics Local 4996, sent an email to union members April 30 asking them to forward examples of “questionable and seemingly counterproductive decisions by President Gamble’s administration.” Documenting such information could ultimately lead to a no confidence vote by the union.
United Academics represents about 960 faculty, counselors, librarians, cooperative extension agents and post-doctoral fellows at UA’s larger campuses. Bult-Ito said a possible no confidence vote would send a strong message to the UA Board of Regents, which oversees the system.
UA has implemented deeply unpopular increases in health care premiums during Gamble’s nearly two-year tenure, and he also stirred controversy last month with an effort to introduce a new code of conduct for UA employees.
Some details of the proposed code were seen as insulting by some employees, such as prohibitions on horseplay or unauthorized sleeping.
Gamble withdrew the proposal and apologized last Thursday, saying in an email to staff that he misjudged the issue and didn’t mean to insult employees’ professionalism.
Bult-Ito said he appreciated the gesture, but that the code of conduct controversy is just one of several issues of concern. He said Gamble, a former Air Force general and Alaska Railroad chief, hasn’t adapted to a more collaborative environment where faculty and staff are leaders of the university’s mission.
“I think it’s a general lack of understanding about how the university works,” he said.
He also blasted Gamble for hiring several railroad executives to administrative positions he said are unreasonably generous, saying it is a “deeply disturbing” move amid higher employee health-insurance contributions.
Other faculty organizations are taking a more cautious approach.
Cathy Cahill, president of the UAF Faculty Senate, agreed that there have been missteps as Gamble adjusted to university culture. But she said the Faculty Senate hasn’t discussed a no confidence vote, and that Gamble seems to be adjusting his leadership style to collect more input from employees.
“He is starting to use us as a sounding board before he takes action,” Cahill said.
Gamble is traveling this week and couldn’t be reached to comment on the issue.
Contact Fairbanks Daily News-Miner staff writer Jeff Richardson at 907-459-7518.