CANYON, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — After the results of Tuesday’s no-confidence vote were released by West Texas A&M University, WTAMU President Walter Wendler is responding to the vote, which reported that faculty did not have any confidence in Wendler’s leadership after recent events occurred at WT.
According to previous reports by MyHighPlains.com, officials with the university released the results of the no-confidence vote held against Wendler by the Faculty Senate on Tuesday, confirming that 69% of the faculty, or 179 faculty members out of the 261 who voted, had no confidence in Wendler’s leadership.
This process began after Wendler sent out a letter to WT students, faculty and staff, announcing that a planned on-campus drag show would not be permitted on the university grounds, citing his belief that drag shows are discriminatory against women and do not preserve “a single thread of human dignity.”
Spectrum WT, the student organization that organized the initial drag show event, then filed a lawsuit in Amarillo Federal Court against Wendler, along with other officials from West Texas A&M University and the Texas A&M University System, requesting that Wendler’s pledge to prevent similar events from occurring at WTAMU violates the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.
In the resolution from the Faculty Senate, the group also cited other reasons for the vote, including Wendler encouraging students to attend a community college rather than WT, Wendler acting contrary to academic freedoms and Wendler showing “a pattern of divisive misogynistic, homophobic and non-inclusive rhetoric.”
Ashley Pinkham, the president of the WT Faculty Senate, said that the senate decided to open the issue of no-confidence against Wendler to faculty after a March 31 meeting. This came after faculty senators went to their departments and colleges to collect feedback from colleagues surrounding the vote.
As the resolution states, Pinkham said that concerns centered around enrollment, academic freedom and freedom of speech on campus. She said that the group has been trying to address the concerns internally over the last five years or so, with the vote springing from Wendler’s cancellation of the drag show.
“Canceling the student fundraiser was a catalyst,” she said. “However, faculty senate has raised a number of important issues in the resolution that accompanied the vote, from falling enrollment to encouraging students to go to institutions other than WT to stagnant faculty wages in a time of rising inflation and increasing administrator salaries.”
Ultimately, no-confidence votes are non-binding and symbolic, Pinkham said. However, she hopes that the vote will help bring change to WTAMU.
“Faculty Senate, however, hopes that this measure will place pressure on the Texas A&M System, particularly because over two-thirds of faculty have shown that they have no confidence in current leadership,” she said.
How did WTAMU President Walter Wendler respond?
Wendler told MyHighPlains.com that he was disappointed in the results of the Faculty Senate’s no-confidence vote, stating he had worked hard to visit high schools and recruit students, raise money for the university and try to build a sense of pride for the university and the extended community.
Wendler said he would have had a different view of the no-confidence process if it was more deliberate and thoughtful, highlighting factual errors he believes were included in the original resolution.
“I wish they had checked the facts with people on the campus that do that for a living because some of the facts are wrong,” Wendler said. “Now, has the enrollment got down? Yes, at half the rate of other regional colleges in the United States of America… We live in an area where the population is fairly sparse and it hasn’t grown much.”
Wendler said he is not satisfied with the university’s decrease in enrollment, which is why he said he has been “so diligent” about getting out into the communities through regional high schools, talking about WTAMU’s “great value.”
Wendler also said that he believes the faculty did not provide enough background on the claim surrounding community colleges. Wendler said he would tell prospective students that if they have to borrow money to come to West Texas A&M, they may want to look into a community college. Wendler believes this is being “very straightforward” with the community, centering around the concern about how much debt graduates accumulate.
Wendler also had no comment surrounding the drag show-related letter, because of the ongoing litigation in Amarillo Federal Court. However, Wendler said that the letter was carefully done, with Wendler choosing every word carefully from his perspective. Wendler also stressed his belief that he has a responsibility to express his opinions as a leader, sharing with the community who he is and where his decision-making process comes from.
When asked about his next steps, Wendler said he will be at the university, doing the best job he can until he is told he is no longer needed.
“That decision will be made by the Chancellor and the Board of Regents, the same group that hired me,” he said. “…I treat the no-confidence vote and the concerns that were raised as best I can see them. I don’t know what the concerns are exactly because… there’s a number of factual statements that are wrong.”
“You know, on this issue of, you know, what happens next? I have no idea. But I’m completely comfortable in it,” Wendler goes on to say. “Every action that I’ve taken, since the day I’ve been here, in my own way of looking at things, it’s been carefully considered, some things more carefully than others. Some things I wished I might have said something a little differently. But, you know, it’s interesting, regarding these recent current events, not a thing… I wouldn’t have done anything differently.”
Wendler said he wants the university to have a positive culture, one that welcomes everyone. Wendler said he also wants the university to have a culture that is driven by ideas rather than ideology, as well as one that is driven by the quality of the results of people’s work.
Wendler said he will continue with the university until he has nothing left to give.
“I’m not going anywhere. I (would) have to get a freight train to pull me out of here,” he said. “I just feel like there’s work that needs to be continued to be done and I’m going to do the best I can.”
According to previous reports, copies of the Faculty Senate resolution were sent to Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp, the Board of Regents, WTAMU Executive Vice President and Provost Neil Terry, the Texas Council of Faculty Senates, the WT Staff Council, the WT Student Government as well as Wendler.
Wendler said he does not have an inclination on a timeline regarding the no-confidence vote and said he has not heard from Sharp’s office in relation to the vote.
Because the vote is not binding and “largely symbolic,” Pinkham said it would be up to future members of the university’s Faculty Senate to decide if future votes of no-confidence would occur against Wendler if there is not a result stemming from this current vote.
Below are the interviews with both Pinkham and Wendler:
Note: Towards the end of Wendler’s interview, Todd Rasberry, the vice president for philanthropy and external relations and the executive director of the WTAMU Foundation, is heard off camera.
This is a developing story. MyHighPlains.com will update this article as new information becomes available.
Download the KAMR Local 4 News app on the App Store or Google Play for updates on the go.
Sign up for MyHighPlains.com email updates to see top stories, every day.
Check with MyHighPlains.com to see the latest updates for local news, weather, and events.