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The board announced the decision at a meeting after convening for a four-hour executive session on Sunday afternoon.
CEO Karen Gantt did not explain the decision at the meeting. She thanked Gordon for leading the university through the pandemic and his efforts with the school’s $100 million fundraiser. SFA spokesman Graham Garner said the statement read at the meeting was the only information available at this time. Gordon was not at the meeting.
The board appointed Steve Westbrook, vice president of university affairs from 2007-20, as interim president, effective immediately. Westbrook has been with SFA since 1981 and holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Nacogdoches University.
Gordon assumed the university presidency in the fall of 2019. Previously, he was Vice President of Eastern Washington University. His predecessor, Baker Pattillo, served as president for more than a decade until his death in 2018.
In April 2021, as part of a contract renegotiation, the board approved an $85,000 pay rise for Gordon with an additional $25,000 annual increase for the next two years. Curiously, the board signed off on the changes at the same meeting where the school administration warned that the school was facing a difficult economic situation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In fact, Gordon had called for voluntary retirements, academic cuts and staff furloughs to try to fix a 2020 budget deficit. The faculty said they didn’t get raises in 2021 due to budget issues.
The university community spotted the raise in August when the approved annual budget was released, angering faculty, students and staff.
Gordon returned the raise at a special board meeting in early September. But it didn’t calm the faculty, who passed a vote of no confidence in his leadership a few days later. Deans and department heads made their own statements supporting the vote. So does the SFA staff council.
Faculty had raised concerns about Gordon’s leadership in the summer of 2021 after he made sweeping changes to class schedules and cut many 16-week standard courses to eight-week courses. The no-confidence motion also accused Gordon of having bullied employees on a number of occasions and exhibited “unreasonably impatient behavior, both in public and in private.”
The board chairs organized a series of listening sessions with faculty and academic department chairs to try to address the concerns. At these meetings, faculty told The Texas Tribune that Gordon disclosed that he and the administration were struggling to get the university’s finances under control.
Ultimately, at a special meeting in late September, the board decided to keep him without explanation and asked him to repair strained relations with the faculty.
Matthew Beauregard, an SFA professor of mathematics and statistics who serves as the interim chair of both the physics, engineering and astronomy faculty and the computer science faculty, said the relationship has remained strained.
He said Gantt scheduled a meeting with the faculty chairs, faculty senate, staff council, dean’s office and the president. But Gordon never met directly with these representatives.
“I am relieved that the Board of Regents has taken the necessary steps to move our university forward,” Beauregard wrote in an email. “Exciting times lie ahead for our university! I am confident that this announcement will strengthen unity in academic affairs as we navigate this transition.”
The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that educates and collaborates with Texans on public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.
https://abc13.com/stephen-f-austin-state-university-president-scott-gordon-steps-down-salary-increase/11738168/ Stephen F. Austin State University President Scott Gordon is stepping down months after a pay rise angered the campus community