President Scott Gordon and Stephen F. Austin State University have “mutually agreed” to part ways, according to a tweet the university posted Sunday night, which noted that “it is in the best interest of both parties for the employment relationship to end.”
The Board of Regents reached the decision after a four-hour executive session Sunday afternoon, during which it named Steve Westbrook, a former vice president for university affairs, interim president.
The board did not give a reason for removing Gordon, who became president in fall 2019. But the Texas Tribune reported that the board granted Gordon an $85,000 pay raise last April—plus $25,000 a year for the next two years—even as the institution grappled with economic pressures stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. Facing a budget shortfall for 2020, Gordon called for voluntary retirements, academic cuts and staff furloughs.
Students, faculty and staff became angry when they learned in August about Gordon’s pay raise—especially since faculty received no salary increases last year due to budget constraints, the Tribune reported.
In September, Gordon returned the raise. But a few days later, faculty passed a resolution of no confidence in the president, accusing him of bullying employees and showing “unreasonably impatient behavior both in public and private.” They also objected to cuts he made to the class schedule, cramming 16-week courses into eight weeks.
Still, after calling a special meeting in late September, the board took no action against Gordon. It asked him only to repair his relationship with the faculty.
Sunday’s meeting was different.
“I am relieved that the Board of Regents has taken the necessary steps to move our university forward,” Matthew Beauregard, a math and statistics professor who chairs several departments, wrote in an email to the Texas Tribune. “I am hopeful that this announcement will reinforce the unity among academic affairs as we move through this period of transition.”