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Embattled SLU Vice President Steps Down

Kristen Miano, St. Louis University

Dr. Manoj Patankar, the embattled vice president of academic affairs at St. Louis University stepped down on Saturday.

Patankar’s tenure as vice president was marked by a groundswell of criticism. It was Patankar’s controversial changes to the university’s tenure structure that prompted a severe backlash from faculty.

The criticism soon grew to encompass University President, Father Lawrence Biondi, who stood by Patankar despite no confidence votes by faculty in both himself and Patanker.

Patankar’s resignation was announced in a statement following a meeting of SLU’s board of trustees.

Despite earlier demands from faculty and students demanding that the board take action to remove Biondi, Mark Knuepfer, Chair of SLU’s Faculty Senate,  says he didn’t expect the board to act that quickly.

“I think this is the first they’ve been aware that there are any major problems at the university,” said Knuepfer.  “I think they are now aware of that and I hope that the president realizes that this is a time when we can now heal.”

Patankar will step down and resume his old position at SLU’s Parks College of Engineering.

Knuepfer said it was Patankar’s move to unilaterally rework the university’s tenure structure made him a pariah among faculty.

“I don’t believe I can say I’m happy with anyone losing their position,” remarked Knuepfer,  “but I do believe that we can bring in someone that perhaps shows more leadership qualities and a better ability to empower the faculty to become as great as their potential allows them.”

Biondi's Not Going Anywhere For Now

As members of the 50-plus board of trustees walked into DuBourg Hall they were greeted with protest signs brought by several hundred faculty and students, and their message was clear—SLU cannot move forward, with Father Lawrence Biondi as President.

The board has come under increasing criticism lately for its unconditional support of Biondi.

Many faculty were outraged earlier this week when a leaked letter revealed that the board was hiring the expensive PR firm Fleishman-Hillard, which immediately advised the board to cease all communication from the board to students or the media.

Professor Matt Mancini of the American Studies Department say news was proof that ongoing discussions between SLU’s Faculty Senate and the board of trustees are not occurring in good faith .

“They were actually following a script that was given to them by a corporate PR firm that they had secretly hired,” said Mancini.

When asked whether he thought the faculty senate was being duped, “Yes, that’s exactly what I think,” said Mancini.

The leaked letter also reviled the board still holds “full unwavering support” for Father Biondi.

Senior Liz Ramsey is spokesperson of a the group “SLU Students for No Confidence,” which has been calling for Biondi removal for months.

“I did not stay here because of Father Biondi,” said Ramsey.  “I stayed here for the faculty and students and we are not the administration.  SLU is not troubled, the administration is troubled?”

Representatives from SLU’s faculty senate had hoped to be given a chance to speak to the board, but were denied.

Earlier in the week a faculty committee released a 16-page briefing for board members, detailing a list of areas they feel Biondi has failed.

Follow Adam Allington on Twitter: @aallington

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