Faculty members at Utah State University may be conducting a straw poll of their level of satisfaction with Provost Ray Coward this afternoon.Members of the faculty were scheduled to meet in a “faculty forum,” which is a meeting held in lieu of regularly scheduled meetings of the Faculty Senate. The meeting is closed to members of the administration, presidential appointees, deans, department heads and student members of the Senate. The issue regarding the level of support faculty members have for the provost was raised last week in an e-mail sent from two faculty members to several of their colleagues. “In talking with colleagues across campus we have heard many expressions of dissatisfaction with Provost Coward,” the e-mail read. “…We propose/move that we conduct a straw poll of those present at the faculty forum meeting to provide a sense of the level of support or non-support for the provost.”The e-mail had the names of Deborah Byrnes, a professor in the School of Teacher Education and Leadership, and Michael Toney, a professor in the Department of Sociology, Social Work and Anthropology, attached to it. The e-mail was sent from Byrnes’ e-mail and sent to 14 other faculty members. Also in the e-mail was a request to the recipients of the message to meet last week to discuss the proposal of a straw poll. Contacted last week, Toney declined to discuss the e-mail and indicated that the press would not be invited to the meeting of a few faculty members, scheduled for last Thursday, but the press could attend Monday’s faculty forum. However, attendees at Monday’s faculty forum meeting were greeted by multiple signs on the doors of the Eccles Conference Center auditorium indicated that administrators and reporters were not allowed at the event.Items on the agenda for Monday’s faculty forum meeting included an opportunity to discuss instances of lack of attention to the faculty policy manual, furlough structure and budget cuts, strategies for increasing diversity and the sense of being valued as faculty members. There also was time scheduled for an open forum for “other topics of interest from faculty members.”Several faculty members were contacted since Wednesday to offer their opinion on the possibility of a straw poll regarding the level of satisfaction with Coward, however all of those contacted by CacheValleyDaily.com — a group that included faculty members in the colleges of agriculture, science and humanities, arts and social science, declined to go on the record citing lack of tenure and the necessity to maintain a positive relationship with Coward.One non-tenured faculty member, who asked not to be named in this story, said he wouldn’t comment beyond saying “the provost single-handedly holds the future of my career in his hands.”Provost Ray Coward’s office was contacted last Wednesday to find out if the office was aware of the e-mail, however Coward was apparently out of the office on Wednesday according to his secretary, Andi McCabe. Coward did not return the call regarding the issue.
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