Haley Townsend - Editor-in-Chief 

Cover of January 13 issue of Kscope
On Jan. 9, Kscope received a media advisory announcing a media-only press conference with President Ray Watts, M.D., just two hours later. The press conference was called “in lieu of 1-on-1 interviews” and was to be a “UAB Strategic Planning Update.”
Well over a week before, Kscope had reached out to the Office of Media Relations to schedule an interview with Watts before the Faculty Senate gathers on Jan. 15 to vote on a resolution of “no confidence” in his presidency.
Flanked by Birmingham Mayor William Bell and his Director of Media Relations, Watts announced the formation of a “committee representative of our constituents to select a firm to review our initial report.”

The committee will be led by National Alumni Society President Wes Smith. Other members are:
Shannon Ealy- Interim Athletic Director
Chad Epps- President of the Faculty Senate
Don Hire- Athletics Champion Club member
Harold Jones- Head of athletic search committee and former lead in UAB NCAA certification
Steve Mitchell- former UAB athlete
Anjali Wagle- President of USGA (Who’s first name Watts pronounced incorrectly)
State Sen. Jabo Waggoner of Vestavia Hills called the newly formed committee, “a glimmer of hope to restore the athletic department of this great university.”
But students like USGA President Anjali Wagle are wondering if they can put any hope in Watts’ actions.
A report released by USGA early Monday morning states that, “USGA believes the formation of this committee in not indicative of a change in overall leadership style by Dr. Watts.”
When asked by Alabama’s 13 if he had any regrets about killing the programs, Watts said, “I believe that the decision that I made was based on the best and most objective information available, and that was the basis for that decision. What we’re saying now is we believe those data are as true as they were when I made the decision.”
In preparation for the interview that never happened, Kscope met with Wagle. During the meeting, Wagle stressed the importance of the administration having a Vice President of Student Affairs— a position that was dismantled following the retirement of former Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. Virginia D. Gauld.
In an op-ed published on AL.com, Gauld says during her 16 years as VP,“[she] worked tirelessly to ensure that all student constituencies —past, present and future— along with faculty and staff were engaged stakeholders in decisions at the university that would impact them going forward. This kind of shared governance seems no longer possible under UAB President Ray Watts.”
Wagle disclosed that Watts had met with her only once in a one-on-one meeting on Dec. 17. The USGA council attended a regularly scheduled meeting with Watts on Nov. 17 where they asked about the football rumors that were swirling on social media. Reportedly, Watts gave the same general information to them as he had released in his Nov. 6 statement:
“One area of focus involves evaluating the investments in football and the resources necessary to achieve and sustain excellence now and into the future. We’ve been working for many months on this data driven process, and it would be counterproductive and inappropriate to speculate on outcomes based on an incomplete process — not just related to athletics, but across the campus.
We are working to accelerate the timeline for completion of the strategic plan and will communicate with the UAB community in the near future.”
Less than a month later, Watts announced the end of UAB football. For that reason, Watts’ critics have questioned the timeline.
According to the summary of the first meeting of the UAB Athletic Financial Analysis Committee, “UAB reached back out to CarrSports during the week of October 6th to finalize the report. A draft was presented to UAB during the November 7th timeframe, with the final report being issued to UAB on 11/18/14.”
The summary also revealed a six-month period of inactivity on the report between May and October of 2014. This period was explained as “Former VP-Financial Affairs and Administration [Richard] Margison had given notice of intent to retire in a window of July 1 – August 31. [G. Allen] Bolton , his replacement, was not on staff until October and some time was needed to acclimate to this complex situation.”
The USGA council met with Watts again on Dec. 12 at the request of Assistant Vice President of Student Life Andy Marsch, but was unable to ask many questions.
Gauld continued on the lack of shared governance by the current administration: “To exclude all those impacted by such a momentous decision that affects so many would have been anathema to me as VPSA, as well as many of the UAB presidents with whom I worked in my 29 years at UAB.”
The USGA report states, “In the past, Dr. Watts has on many occasions given little indication that he is a believer in shared governance or transparency,” citing changes in academics such as the University Honors Program, employee benefits, and “many other decisions that majorly affect students at UAB.”
The report recommends that the administration “create a Vice-President of Student Affairs position. Currently the administration is considering creating a Student Affairs position that reports to the Provost. USGA would like UAB to have a member of the President’s cabinet, who is involved in all major decisions, to be someone who represents the students. This is not the case now and will not be the case if the position reports to the Provost, the Chief Academic Officers. The voice of the students needs to be heard by UAB’s President.”
Gauld concludes, “I wholeheartedly endorse the call by the past presidents of the Undergraduate Student Government Association (many of whom I had the pleasure to know and mentor) for Watts’ resignation. Their voices must be heard, especially given the administrative reorganizations that have prevented students from having a voice at the table at the highest levels at UAB for the past five years. And I must endorse the resolution put forth by the UAB Faculty Senate calling for a vote of no confidence in Ray Watts.”

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Photo by Austin Simpson/Staff Photographer

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Photo courtesy of UAB Media Relations

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