Elon University professors voted in favor of a motion asking Postmaster General and Board of Trustee member Louis DeJoy to commit to improving the service provided by the United States Postal Service and absolve his personal conflict of interests or step down as trustee to the university at the Sept. 4 faculty meeting. Jeff Clark, professor of mathematics, proposed the motion.
“I move that the faculty of Elon University do hereby ask Trustee DeJoy to commit, through word and action, to improving the service provided to the entire nation by the USPS and to resolve his financial conflict of interests, or failing these actions, to step down as a trustee of Elon University given his conflicts with our espoused values,” Clark wrote in an email to faculty and staff Aug. 29.
While the motion did pass, Clark said it was not by a wide margin, and he said he can understand why some faculty chose to abstain from voting, or opposed the motion. According to Thomas Arcaro, sociology professor and the faculty member who seconded the motion, 45% of faculty favored the motion, 32% were not in favor and 23% abstained. The abstentions caused confusion, Arcaro said, as at first, it was unclear whether the abstentions would count for or against the motion. It was ultimately decided that abstentions would not count, according to Arcaro.
DeJoy currently funds 12 Odyssey Scholarships, something Clark said he hopes will not change as a result of the faculty motion.
“I believe this is uncharted territory,” Clark said in an interview with Elon News Network. “This is not something that we do casually.”
While the motion is not binding, Arcaro said he hopes seeing faculty come forward this way will be a “powerful statement” to the university and other institutions across the nation.
“I do agree with the argument that this is an extraordinary step, and an overtly political step,” Arcaro said. “But these aren’t normal times, and the stakes are not normal.”
DeJoy, who was selected to head the postal service in May, has been blamed for slowdowns at post offices, a lack of overtime pay for postal workers and potential disruption to mail-in ballots for the general election in November. DeJoy testified before the House Oversight Committee and denied any changes in the postal service. In a statement from the USPS, DeJoy reaffirmed the USPS’ ability to handle the election.
As a member of Elon University’s Board of Trustees, DeJoy has raised concerns from some Elon community members. Joanna Penick ‘03 started a petition in early August urging the university to remove DeJoy, and faculty members have spoken out against DeJoy’s actions and his connection to the university.
President Connie Book said in a statement to the academic council that the Board of Trustees is aware of community concerns, and that DeJoy shares the same values Elon holds regarding “a free, fair and impartial election process is essential and forms the foundation of American democracy.”
“I hope [the university] will reexamine their position with respect to trustee DeJoy, reflecting upon Elon by virtue of his public actions,” Clark said. “And that they might just reconsider their role in terms of as Board of Trustees, what they stand for publicly.”