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Point Park leadership confronts faculty backlash

Natasha Lindstrom
| Thursday, Aug. 24, 2017, 7:18 p.m.
Point Park University President Paul Hennigan addresses students, faculty and members of the media during a beam signing event held at University Center in Downtown Pittsburgh on Nov. 30, 2016.
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Point Park University President Paul Hennigan addresses students, faculty and members of the media during a beam signing event held at University Center in Downtown Pittsburgh on Nov. 30, 2016.

Point Park University's leaders are hiring an outside expert to "thoroughly review" why a majority of faculty expressed a vote of no confidence in President Paul Hennigan.

"Until that review is complete, President Hennigan and the administration have the full support of the Board of Trustees," board Chairman Joseph R. Greco Jr. said in a statement.

The board of trustees' announcement Thursday that it would hire an independent consultant came a day after more than half of 89 full-time faculty members cast no-confidence votes in Hennigan's leadership during a faculty assembly at the Downtown Pittsburgh campus.

"What happens next, I don't know," said faculty spokesman John Shepard , a theater professor at Point Park's Conservatory of Performing Arts. "We're passing along the information to the board of trustees, and it's their call now."

Fifty-three percent of faculty members who voted disapproved of university management under Hennigan, who took the helm in 2006. Many of their concerns have persisted for the better part of a decade, Shepard said.

"I want to emphasize that we have nothing against President Hennigan's character or anything against him as a person. He's a very nice man. But when he started, things were different," said Shepard, who joined Point Park's faculty 16 years ago.

Prior to the vote , the group of faculty had outlined seven grievances, including claims that Hennigan has failed to retain an acceptable ratio of full- to part-time faculty, improve diversity and respond to "the needs and welfare of students at the university, including those students who are unprepared for college."

Move comes amid contract strife

The vote comes as the administration and faculty — represented by the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh , CWA Local 38061 — are in the midst of protracted contract negotiations that began in March 2016. A union spokesman said academic freedom, workload, salary and tenure are key issues of the negotiations.

A vote on a tentative contract agreement is scheduled for Friday.

"We recognize this (faculty) vote comes in the midst of the final stages of contract negotiations," Greco said in Thursday's statement.

While Greco cited two professionally administered faculty evaluations of Dr. Hennigan that were positive, he said the board acknowledges "its responsibility for the governance and leadership at Point Park University" and recognizes "the need for continuous improvement and trust in building effective relationships between faculty and administration."

The university, which enrolls about 4,100 students, has seen enrollment grow by about 15 percent in the past decade and embarked on a major building program.

RELATED: Freshmen descend upon Point Park on move-in day

Natasha Lindstrom is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8514, nlindstrom@tribweb.com or on Twitter @NewsNatasha.

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