Mediation process with UM president set to begin

Published 12:29 pm Friday, October 23, 2009

The University of Montevallo’s Board of Trustees plans to meet with higher education consultant James Fischer Nov. 5 to begin the mediation process with UM President Philip Williams.

The board approved a sabbatical for Williams beginning Sept. 10. He remains on leave through December.

Board Chairman George Walker said members hope Fischer can assist the university in a variety of areas.

“We’ll meet with Fischer to talk about a number of governing issues that we may not be handling well and the things we are doing correctly,” Walker said. “It’s a meeting to sit down with someone who knows a lot about things we need to know more about.”

Fischer worked with Auburn University in 2005 to conduct a review of that university’s operations. Walker said part of the UM process would focus on the relationship between President Williams and the board.

Williams said he hopes to resolve those issues.

“I plan to mediate in good faith and try to resolve those issues that have been troubling all of us,” Williams said.

The issues included Williams’ concern that he did not have the board’s full support.

The relationship between a university’s president and its board serves as an important part of the accreditation reaffirmation process, which UM will complete in 2011.

Williams said communication between the two would be key.

“We definitely need to improve communication, but that is a two way street,” Williams said. “I could communicate better with them and surely every member of the board could communicate better with me –– we all could do good to communicate more clearly.”

Williams expressed his focus was aimed at coming to a positive conclusion with UM. He said he was not actively seeking another position.

“I want to give 100 percent of my efforts to the mediation process. I hope the process here turns out positively, but like anyone I need to also protect my family,” Williams said.

Williams did mention presidents receive regular inquiries pertaining to their interest in openings around the country. Walker said he would not be surprised if other universities have expressed interest in Williams.

“Any time a president has found success at a university, other’s will show interest. I don’t know of any that have at this time, but it wouldn’t surprise me. We do hope and expect Dr. Williams will be back in office Jan. 4,” Walker said.