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Dr. Jim Catanzaro talks about his goals and successes as professor and president of Chattanooga State in this file photo from January.
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Faculty members appear to be at an impasse with Chattanooga State President Jim Catanzaro.

A campuswide referendum this week found a widespread lack of confidence in the 25-year president.

Catanzaro's leadership has been under fire since it was publicized that he hired a top administrator without a college degree -- action that has prompted a state investigation into the college's hiring practices, the administration's ethics and campus morale.

Of 255 full-time faculty members eligible to vote Tuesday and Wednesday, 205 voted. Of those, 135 voiced no confidence, 40 voiced confidence and 30 abstained.

The vote was open to all full-time instructors, including those at the Tennessee College of Applied Technology. Part-time faculty, those on temporary contracts and adjuncts were not eligible to vote.

Faculty Senate President Kenneth Goldsmith said the results reflect a widespread dissatisfaction with leadership on campus. The results will be forwarded to the Tennessee Board of Regents, which is investigating Catanzaro's hiring practices.

"I think it's a strong piece of information for TBR to evaluate, particularly when Chancellor [John] Morgan has to make his evaluation and decision," Goldsmith said. "It's important that the faculty's voice has been received."

TBR's audit of Catanzaro should be wrapping up this month, officials have said. On a visit to Chatt State last week, TBR Vice Chancellor Warren Nichols said TBR officials will consider the results of the vote.

"It's an important piece," Nichols said, "but it's certainly not the only piece."

Catanzaro has spent recent weeks appealing to faculty in both department meetings and mass emails. He has said he'll create new committees, study faculty compensation and set aside time each week to meet with faculty.

In a prepared statement Friday, he said the college needs to unite to respond to challenges, including major national shifts in higher education and funding sources.

"Faculty have spoken," he said. "It is my hope that healing can now be under- way, healing that will lead us back to being the college family that worked together over many years to bring to us and to our community national recognition for excellence."

Faculty members have said Catanzaro's hiring of Chief Innovations Officer Lisa Haynes was part of a pattern of abusive hiring practices. Haynes earns $108,000 and often serves as a stand-in for the president, though she did not have her required bachelor's degree when she was hired in August 2013. Chattanooga State never acquired Haynes' official transcript -- as its policy requires -- and the unofficial transcripts Haynes submitted didn't show that a degree was ever conferred.

On Oct. 23, about 75 members of the Faculty Senate approved a no-confidence vote. That group decided to move to a campus-wide referendum to give all full-time professors a chance to vote. For now, it's a waiting game for faculty members, Goldsmith said.

"I really think the next step is TBR's decision on the status of the president," he said.

Contact staff writer Kevin Hardy at khardy@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6249.

News report from the first vote:

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