CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Marshall University faculty officially declared Wednesday they have no confidence in the leadership of President Stephen Kopp.
The number of no-confidence votes outnumbered votes in Kopp's favor more than 2 to one: Of the 420 faculty members who took part in the online vote over the last week, 290 voted no confidence, 107 supported him and 23 abstained. About 800 faculty members were eligible to vote.
The school's leadership responded by doubling down on their support of Kopp. Wednesday morning, minutes after the results of the vote were released, Joseph Touma, chairman of Marshall's Board of Governors, released a statement expressing the "overwhelming support" for Kopp from "the vast majority of the board."
"We expect better communication and collegiality from all constituent groups," it reads. "And consider this an opportunity to establish common ground on which we can address the financial and other obstacles that lie ahead."
That's a disappointment for many faculty members, who were hoping the grand gesture of a vote of no confidence would sway the board in their favor.
"If the board of governors is serious in their role that they're in charge of the university, and that they're the leadership, then they can't just go back to Kopp again," said Dallas Brozik, a finance professor.
"They have to do something about Kopp. Otherwise they're showing us that they just work for him."
Marshall's faculty has been in an uproar over Kopp's handling of the university's finances for weeks. On April 9, the administration suddenly swept money in some departmental accounts -- nearly $10 million in all -- into a central holding account controlled by the central office.
That act, and the way it was carried out -- overnight, without warning to faculty or the affected departments -- prompted a swift outcry from faculty. Students quickly followed suit, with protests outside a board of governors meeting.
Kopp has since apologized to the faculty for the way he went about sweeping the accounts, but defended the act itself, saying Marshall's current finance model doesn't suit an institution of Marshall's size, especially now that the school is facing $5 million in state funding cuts.
That show of contrition did little to assuage many in the university community, and the faculty senate voted two weeks ago to let the full faculty weigh in on Kopp's performance.
Votes of no confidence are uncommon but not unheard of in the higher education. They're not binding -- a university president ultimately answers to the governing board of that institution -- but signal significant rifts in a university community.
No one keeps count of the number of no-confidence votes in the country, but Gregory Scholtz, of the American Association of University Professors, said his organization comes across a dozen or so each year.
"It's been our experience more often than not that the vote of no confidence results in the governing board reaffirming their support for the president," he said.
"It's obviously very discouraging for the faculty who usually see a vote of no confidence as a desperate last resort ... who hope the governing board will heed the vote as a cry for help."
In West Virginia, though, the experience has been different. The two schools where faculty has, in recent memory, cast no confidence votes have resulted in resignations.
West Virginia University's faculty voted twice to show its lack of confidence in then-president Michael Garrison, calling for his ousting after a panel found that Heather Bresch, Sen. Joe Manchin's daughter, had been awarded a degree she did not earn while Garrison was president.