February 22, 2024
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Embattled CLU president says she will not be resigning

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Lori Varlotta, president of California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks. (courtesy photo)

Lori Varlotta, the embattled president of California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, said Jan. 20 that she has no intention of resigning as the vast majority of the school’s faculty is calling on her to do.

“I’m very interested in continuing to work with the university community in a collaborative and collegial way that helps us deal with a lot of the issues that are very common to tuition-driven institutions like mine,” Varlotta, who has been the school’s president since September 2020, told the Business Times.

In a 122-3 vote on Jan. 16, the university’s faculty passed a no-confidence resolution in Varlotta, petitioning her to resign or for the school’s Board of Regents to remove her.

The next day, three board officers, speaking on behalf of the full board, issued a statement saying Varlotta, the university’s first female president, continues to have the board’s “full support.”

The faculty resolution said in part that the faculty has no confidence in Varlotta’s “ability to be an effective steward of the university budget and her ability to maintain the financial health of the institution.”

Varlotta said she realizes the school faces financial challenges.

“It is increasingly the case that we need to mitigate budget deficits,” she said. “That we need to boost our enrollment. And that we need to increase our extramural fundraising.”

But, she said, recent trends show that “under my leadership, we’re doing exactly that.

“The deficit that I inherited when I came here right smack dab in the middle of the pandemic, we’ve been able to mitigate by 85%,” Varlotta said.

The faculty resolution said faculty also has no confidence in Varlotta’s ability to “refrain from alienating many longstanding donors and supporters of Cal Lutheran.”

In September, 17 major donors to the Elton and Janice Gallegly Center for Public Service and Civic Engagement on the university’s campus demanded reimbursement for donations made toward the development of the center.

Elton Gallegly, a former Republican Congressman from Simi Valley, sued the university in Nov. 2021 for breach of contract, alleging it had failed to fully establish the center.

The Jan. 17 statement issued by Board of Regents Chair Ann Boynton, Vice Chair Bill Camarillo and Secretary Ted DeFrank, said Varlotta “continues to thoughtfully address the many challenges facing the university, (and) she demonstrates an unwavering commitment to the success of our students now and in the future.”

University spokesman Mark Berry said the faculty no-confidence resolution has no legal or official authority. 

Varlotta said such resolutions are on an upswing.

“In this moment in time, it seems ever more common that when faculty have a dissatisfaction, the most powerful tool in their box is to pull the vote of no confidence,” she said.

“And that’s what has happened here,” she said.

Varlotta succeeded Chris Kimball, who was the university’s president for 12 years.

email: mharris@pacbiztimes.com