Rollins College will have a new president by this summer – a turn of events that may have stemmed from unrest in the College of Arts and Sciences.
A decade-long term at Rollins College came to an end last week as President Lewis Duncan announced he would be stepping down from his position to begin a yearlong sabbatical, according to a statement released by the college last Thursday.
Duncan took up the mantle and became the 14th president of Rollins College back in 2004, replacing Rita Bornstein after her 14-year term.
The West Virginia native oversaw the school’s rise to a top-ranking university in the U.S. News & World Report. The college took the number one spot out of 128 regional schools in the southern U.S. for nine consecutive years.
International student enrollment reached new heights as it climbed by 72 percent during Duncan’s tenure, which also included the renovation of the college’s science center and tripling Rollins’ endowment and capital assets to almost $430 million.
“President Duncan has been a strong leader for Rollins over the last decade, making substantial contributions and laying the foundation for our continued success,” said Rollins College Board of Trustees Chairman David Lord in the statement from Rollins College. “As a result, we can have every confidence in our current strategic direction.”
But questions over Duncan’s leadership ability might have pushed him to resign. College of Arts and Sciences President of Faculty Carol Lauer told the Orlando Sentinel that continued disapproval from faculty was likely the reason he stepped down.
The College of Arts and Sciences faculty issued Duncan a vote of no confidence in March 2013, sending a clear message with a majority vote of 67-10, according to an SGA meeting agenda from the following month.
Faculty from the College of Arts and Sciences voted to censure Duncan as well in September 2011, claiming he showed disrespect by establishing the College of Professional Studies without consulting with them first.
"There had been this continuing struggle with Arts and Sciences faculty," Lauer told the Orlando Sentinel. "That doesn't make life pleasant for a president."
Tom Hope, associate vice president for marketing and communications, said that Duncan was not asked to leave or forced out of his position. The board of trustees reaffirmed their support for him despite the no confidence and censure votes, he said.
“Six to seven years is average for a college president, so [Duncan] feels that he's left us in a healthy position and he can feel comfortable moving on to the next phase of his life,” Hope said.
The board will set up transitional leadership in the meantime and appoint an interim president in June.
“The board is committed to a thoughtful and constructive search for the next president of Rollins,” Lord said in his statement. “Our intention is to work transparently and collaboratively with representatives of the faculty, staff, students, and alumni to establish a search committee charged with identifying candidates for the position.”
According to the statement, the committee will be in place by early summer.