NNU’s incoming leader promises collaboration

Joel Pearsall, Northwest Nazarene University’s incoming interim president, says the Nampa school remains committed to providing a quality education and collaborate with faculty and alumni as it moves forward following problems that began in March.

Pearsall, NNU vice president for university advancement, will replace David Alexander, who is resigning May 31.

Pearsall spoke Friday with the Idaho Statesman after two tumultuous months at the Nampa school, marked by plans for layoffs and a proposed budget reallocation that resulted in a faculty no-confidence vote against Alexander.

Q. What should parents, who are about to spend a lot of money to send their kids to your school next year, think about this recent controversy and how it will affect their children’s education?

A. In every organization there are going to be different perspectives and differences of opinion. It is my belief that across the NNU campus there remains a shared commitment to the ongoing work of the university, and I think that’s what parents need to know.

Q. Are you concerned that all that has happened here will affect your enrollment next fall?

A. I’m not sure I have enough data, to be very frank with you, to come to a conclusion on that point.

Q. In the weeks leading up to David Alexander’s resignation, faculty, alumni and others seemed jittery and others angry about what is happening. Describe the mood on campus now.

A. I would say the mood is positive and hopeful.

Q. Many characterized the controversy as about the university seeking to purge a popular professor over theological differences. What do you say?

A. I refer back to what the faculty officers said (following the no-confidence vote). The faculty officers identified concerns regarding President Alexander’s leadership style, and that is what has really been at the core of what is going on as I understand it.

Q. Do you think NNU can go ahead with the layoffs and the budget transfers that had been planned by David Alexander now that he is a somewhat embattled president who is about to leave?

A. That action has been placed on hold until a report from the review team that was appointed by the board of trustees. The trustees will make their decision with regard to every aspect of (that plan). I’m not willing to speculate either on what the review team’s report might contain or what the board will do.

Q. How do you repair relations with the faculty, which only a few weeks ago gave this no-confidence vote?

A. The way to move forward is to make a strong commitment to work collaboratively with the faculty and the entire campus. I think the faculty has already made that commitment.

Q. Describe what you mean by working collaboratively.

A. First and foremost, it requires us to sit with one another and both speak and listen. As we do that, I think we will be able to build on the university’s commitment to academic excellence, to collaborative partnerships and to our transformational mission.

Q. Do you think some trust was lost in all this between the faculty and the administration?

A. I don’t want to speak for the faculty in that regard.

Q. Do you have a job ahead of you to repair relations with alumni?

A. I have been in touch with various alumni who have varied opinions all the way across the spectrum with regard to this matter.

Q. Are you finding alumni with whom you do need to repair relations?

A. I am not sure that “repair” is an accurate word. Even as we need to be working here on campus collaboratively moving forward, I think we have to be collaboratively moving forward with all of our alumni.