Capital University faculty have called for the replacement of President Beth Paul, pointing to eroding trust, concerns over the university's deficit and enrollment, declining faculty morale and lack of communication.

The university faculty -- including the Bexley campus, Trinity Lutheran seminary next door and the law school -- voted in early May to express no confidence in Paul. The vote passed 78-27 with 19 abstaining. The resolution was first passed by the college faculty, Bexley campus alone, in March.

The no-confidence resolution outlined issues that have caused "great concern" among the faculty, including:

* Significant spending increases amid declining enrollment, exacerbating the school's deficit.

* Declining faculty morale and faculty concern regarding their future employment.

* Lack of communication on plans to correct the university's fiscal situation despite requests for updates.

* Eroding mutual respect and trust between the president and faculty.

An undated letter to the board of trustees from the heads of the smaller and larger faculty groups further outlines the recent no-confidence votes, concerns with Paul's leadership and a timeline of steps taken in the past nine months that have led to the no-confidence votes. The letter was sent anonymously to The Columbus Dispatch and confirmed by university sources.

"In light of this vote, we ask that the board begin the process of transitioning to new presidential leadership of Capital University," the letter said.

In a statement and follow-up interview with The Dispatch June 5, Paul said she remains committed to Capital's financial stability, long-term sustainability and impact.

She pointed to "huge strides" the university has made in the past two years, including closing a significant financial gap without personnel reductions, connecting with the community and bringing in the largest class in the university's history. The school had 589 students in its incoming class this past August and is on track to welcome nearly 780 students this coming fall.

"There is so much positive happening," Paul said, adding that Capital has not had to make bigger, more problematic changes such as cutting programs or people.

Paul acknowledged the university's projected operating deficit of $9 million for the 2019 fiscal-year budget. But the board and administration have worked to reduce the deficit and are projecting a $2 million deficit for the 2020 fiscal year and a balanced budget by 2021, she said.

"It's a combination of doing things more efficiently and making sure that we have the leanest budget that we can," Paul said.

The faculty letter sent to the board also pointed to concerns about a lack of faculty representation in university decisions.

Bernie Ostrowski, chairman of the Capital University board of trustees, reiterated June 5 the board "expresses its full confidence in President Paul, university leadership and faculty and staff to continue Capital's progress."

Ostrowski said the board has responded in person and in writing to the faculty's no-confidence votes and remains "committed to working collaboratively with them and Dr. Paul to keep up the positive momentum we're experiencing."

He also pointed out the "no-confidence" vote is a nonbinding expression of faculty opinion.

The faculty letter cited at least two faculty members who had submitted resignations this year, citing Capital's "financial instability" and leadership among their reasons for departing.

"In the last year, a number of talented, hard-working members of the faculty and staff went on the job market and have left Capital," the letter said. "... This trend will continue if we do not make changes in leadership now."

jsmola@dispatch.com

@jennsmola