Student leaders say Northeast State “silenced” efforts to take no confidence vote

BLOUNTVILLE, TN (WJHL) – Former student government leaders say Northeast State Community College “silenced” their efforts to hold a no confidence vote against former President Dr. Janice Gilliam earlier this year.

“When the students tried to make their voices heard, unfortunately, there was an active attempt to silence the students and the student government,” former Council for Leadership, Advocacy and Student Success President Seth Manning said.

Manning and his successor, Mason Williams, said they both regret not taking a stand last semester.

“Looking back, I wish we would have focused on challenging the administration in general,” Williams said.

In the months after the Faculty Senate gave a vote of no confidence to Dr. Gilliam, Manning said members of the council sent an email to the group’s advisor at the Office of Student Life in late April requesting a confidence vote.

“It would’ve shown another area of concern,” Manning said.

However, Manning said just days later, when the college sent the agenda for the upcoming council meeting, the confidence vote was noticeably missing.

“The administration effectively sets the agenda,” he said. “It goes through the administration.”

Manning said the omission followed face-to-face meetings where administrators discouraged the group from getting involved in the midst of a $5 million financial crisis.

“Essentially, they removed the vote of no confidence or the vote of confidence from the agenda,” Manning said. “We had several meetings with members of the administration where they urged us against doing that. They were very ardent in that they did not want to undertake this.”

In an email, a Northeast State spokesperson said members of the council are appointed by the college, not elected by the student body and said the agenda is set by the council’s student president and student secretary, not administration with the Office of Student Life.

“The Office of Student Life does not approve or disprove agenda items,” Community Relations Director Bob Carpenter said. “Also, through the use of surveys, the council can seek the student body’s opinion. However, none were conducted during the spring 2017 semester regarding a vote of no confidence about Dr. Janice Gilliam.”

Manning said administration discouraged that too.

“Unfortunately, we didn’t stand up to them when we should’ve and that’s why we’re doing it now,” Manning said.

Northeast State’s council “promotes student success through the improvement of student life, provides leadership through the development of campus-wide activities, and advocates for the student body through effective communication between students, administration, faculty, and staff,” according to Carpenter.

Following the Faculty Senate’s vote of no confidence, the Tennessee Board of Regents sent a team to Northeast State and started helping with decisions there. TBR ultimately reached an agreement with Dr. Gilliam to retire.

Copyright WJHL 2017. All rights reserved.

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