Atwater resigns under fire from IUP

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Six months after Indiana University of Pennsylvania President Anthony Atwater received a vote of no confidence from the university’s faculty union, he has announced his resignation.

tonyatwater
TONY ATWATER

“From the faculty perspective, we actually welcome Dr. Atwater’s departure. From our vote of no confidence last year we were very unsatisfied with his performance. There are decisions that have been made by Atwater that have compromised the university economically,” said Francisco Alarcón, vice president of IUP’s Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties. “I think although some of the administration and the board of governors have indicated they were pleased with his performance, I think it’s no coincidence his contract wasn’t renewed.”

In December of last year, approximately 80 percent of the faculty indicated a vote of no confidence, expressing concern over Atwater’s centralization of the university’s budget and a desire to reclaim shared governance at the university.

On June 30, Atwater will step down from the position to take on a new role with the American Association of State Colleges and Universities as a senior fellow. AASCU is an organization representing 430 public colleges and universities.

“I have enjoyed working with students, faculty members, staff members and administrators over the last five years to advance IUP in demonstrably significant and positive ways,” Atwater said in a statement released June 9. “As I survey my tenure as president, I take particular pride in leading several monumental and transformational achievements. These include guiding, with the support of the Foundation for IUP, the completion of IUP’s four-phase, $270 million student housing replacement project, the largest capital project of this kind in America.”

Some at the university did not view the student housing project as a positive contribution. The four-phase housing development was completed in fall 2010, replacing all of IUP’s previously existing residence halls.

“The decision to build all the dorms in such a short period of time, I’d say was unwise. By having to rebuild all the dorms in such a short time, they incurred a higher debt then they could reasonably pay off. They incurred so much debt that they really couldn’t charge enough to the students to be competitive with all the student rentals in town,” said Alarcón. “The fund­raising they were doing was lagging, seriously lagging behind. Whatever flexibility and resource we had is not there.”

During Atwater’s tenure, the university saw an increase in enrollment with a record high of 14,638 in the fall of 2009. With a great portion of the influx coming from African-American and urban students, some worry Atwater’s resignation will negatively impact this progress.

“I don’t think it’s directly correlated. We have a number of programs that attract African-American students,” said Alarcón. “IUP has not had a significant African-American student population in the past. Part of that really has to do with the demographic of the students in the areas they attract.”

David Werner, chancellor emeritus of Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville, will serve as interim president starting Aug. 1. It is expected that the university’s provost will take on leadership responsibilities for the month of June.

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