The top two administrators at Loyola’s nationally ranked School of Education (SOE) are leaving their positions following months of tension with teaching staff and, in recent weeks, a vote of “no confidence” in their leadership.
Terri Pigott, who had been dean of the SOE for less than two years, was appointed March 31 to a new position outside of her department, while Associate Dean Ann Marie Ryan resigned from her position — effective at the end of the semester — but will remain at Loyola, according to Provost John Pelissero.
It’s unclear whether the mounting troubles with SOE staff played a role in those changes. Neither Pigott nor Ryan would comment.
But the results of a recent no-confidence vote, released March 29, illustrated wide discontent by the SOE faculty.
Of the 33 tenured or tenure-track professors who could participate in the vote, which is a symbolic gesture relatively rare in academia, 27 participated and, of those, 23 said they had no confidence in Pigott’s “ability to serve effectively in a leadership role in the SOE,” according to a statement sent to The PHOENIX about the vote.
Twenty-two of the 27 said they had no confidence in Ryan. Pelissero confirmed there has been an administrative inquiry since the beginning of the year based on complaints made about SOE leadership, but would not comment further on the situation.
“I personally have met with a number of faculty from the [SOE] over the course of the last several months and they’ve shared information with me that I have been following up on,” Pelissero said in an interview. “Yet, in reference to this confidence vote, a group of faculty decided they weren’t going to wait for the process to be completed.”
Pelissero and Loyola President Jo Ann Rooney sent an email to SOE staff and students, saying of the inquiry, “The goal has been to follow established University processes and procedures in a thorough, thoughtful and confidential manner as we focused on resolving issues. This process is ongoing.”
Professor Kate Phillippo, who chairs the SOE’s Academic Council — a group of faculty, staff and student members that advises the dean on academic issues within the school — wrote an email to her colleagues that said in part, “A series of events has occurred this year and has contributed to a hostile work climate at the [SOE]. Issues with our work climate did not begin this year, and in fact some are long-standing, but they have escalated this year to a point where Academic Council agreed in December 2016 that climate is a critical issue that needs sustained attention within the SOE.”
Phillippo’s email, sent on April 3 and obtained by The PHOENIX the same day, outlined 11 attempts faculty members said they had made to address their “climate problems.” They included several meetings with Pigott and Ryan, meetings with Pelissero and a decision by the Academic Council to censure Pigott and Ryan for undermining the “principles of shared governance.”
Phillippo’s email also said there are “two concurrent investigations of SOE leadership based on formal ethics complaints.” Pigott’s new job is as associate provost for research at the Lake Shore and Water Tower Campuses, according to an email from Rooney and Pelissero.
Taking over as interim SOE dean is David Slavsky, currently the chair of physics and the assistant provost for institutional effectiveness. Rooney and Pelissero announced the leadership change April 4 during a meeting with the faculty staff in the SOE.
SOE professor Noah Sobe attended the meeting and said it marked a step forward for the school.
“I think the past couple months have been really difficult for everyone involved, but I’m impressed with the way my faculty colleagues and staff came together, dedicated to our school and our students,” he said. “We have an interim leader now who is going to give some attention to the organizational structure of the School of Education. I also think he’s really going to contribute to healing, continuing to bring the School of Education community together.”
Phillippo said an informational meeting for SOE students is scheduled to take place April 6 in the Corboy Law Center in room L14 at 5:15 p.m. There, a member of the Academic Council and a faculty member involved in the no confidence vote will give students background on the past several months within the SOE.
CORRECTION: The original version of this article incorrectly stated that Associate Dean Ann Marie Ryan would be leaving the university at the end of the semester when she resigned from her position. She will be resigning, but remaining at Loyola.