California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

Follow up to CLU’s Leadership Opinion Poll Results

Infographic by Olivia Madera – Editor In Chief

Editor’s note: The statements quoted in the article reflect the opinions of those who participated in this poll, and are not a reflection of The Echo. While many respondents shared concerns and feedback, some open-ended responses made allegations that warranted verification, which could not be completed in a timely manner, and they are not included in this article.

On February 13, 2024, The Echo released an opinion poll in its weekly newsletter asking students, faculty, staff, and alumni to rate the effectiveness of California Lutheran University Administration and President Lori Varlotta’s leadership on campus, due to the recent faculty assembly’s vote of“no confidence”. 

The poll was posted on The Echo’s social media accounts within the three days it was open and closed on Friday, February 16, at 11:45 p.m. 

The poll was open to anyone who wanted to take it and does not reflect the opinions of those who did not participate. This poll was not conducted on behalf of the university and the results of this poll are not to be generalized. 

A total of 140 individuals responded to the poll: 29 identified as undergraduate students, 22 identified as alumni, 21 identified as staff, 54 identified themselves as faculty, and 4 identified as graduate students. Nine respondents identified as not being affiliated with CLU and are excluded from this report.  

The poll consisted of five statements measured on a strongly agree to strongly disagree scale, and one question measured on a very well to very poorly scale, which was followed by a free response box to explain their answer. The results of this poll are provided below. 

124 individuals responded to the statement “I believe California Lutheran University has strong administrative leadership guiding the university toward academic excellence.” 6.45% selected they “strongly agree,” 8.87% selected they “somewhat agree,” 9.68% selected they “neither agree nor disagree,” 20.16% selected they “somewhat disagree,” and 54.83% selected they “strongly disagree.”

121 individuals responded to the statement “I believe California Lutheran University has strong administrative leadership guiding the university toward financial success.” 2.48% selected they “strongly agree,” 8.26% selected they “somewhat agree,” 5.79% selected they “neither agree nor disagree,” 16.13% selected they “somewhat disagree,” and 66.94% selected they “strongly disagree.”

124 individuals responded to the statement “I believe California Lutheran University has strong administrative leadership guiding the university toward a more inclusive and safe campus for students, faculty and staff,” 7.26% selected they “strongly agree,” 20.97% selected they “somewhat agree,” 15.32% selected “neither agree nor disagree,” 22.58% selected they “somewhat disagree,” and 33.87% selected they “strongly disagree.”

124 individuals responded to the statement “I believe President Lori Varlotta has represented California Lutheran University’s reputation in an appropriate manner by maintaining and cultivating relationships both on campus and with outside parties.” 2.42% selected they “strongly agree,” 2.42% selected they “somewhat agree,” 6.45% selected “neither agree nor disagree,” 14.52% selected they “somewhat disagree,” and 74.19% selected they “strongly disagree.”

124 individuals responded to the question “Were you aware of the faculty assembly’s resolution of “no confidence” regarding President Lori Varlotta’s capabilities as president of California Lutheran University?” 92.74% selected the option “yes,” and 7.26% selected “no.”

124 individuals responded to the question “Do you support the faculty assembly’s resolution of “no confidence” regarding President Lori Varlotta’s capabilities as president of California Lutheran University?” 88.71% selected the option “yes,” 4.03% selected “no,” and 7.26% selected “neutral.”

124 individuals responded to the statement, “I support the California Lutheran University Board of Regents’ decision to support President Lori Varlotta in her ability to effectively continue her leadership as president.” 3.23% selected they “strongly agree,” 4.03% selected they “somewhat agree,” 8.06% selected “neither agree nor disagree,” 16.13% selected they “disagree,” and 68.55% selected they “strongly disagree.”

124  individuals responded to the question “How do you think Dr. Lori Varlotta is doing as President of California Lutheran University?” 2.42% selected the option “very well,” 1.61% selected “well,” 8.87% selected “neutral,” 30.65% selected “poorly,” and 56.45% selected “very poorly.” 

Of the 124 individuals who responded to that question, 61 respondents participated in the free response section that said, “Please explain your response.”

The responses focused on multiple topics that shared common themes, including Varlotta’s involvement on campus, Varlotta’s poor communication, Varlotta’s leadership ability, administrative leadership regarding academic and financial security, administrative leadership regarding inclusivity and safety on campus, and the university’s reputation. 

Select responses representative of each theme are quoted verbatim below. 

Involvement on campus

Respondents generally shared more of a concern than appreciation for Varlotta’s involvement on campus. Some said Varlotta would be able to better guide the direction of the university by cultivating stronger relationships with faculty, staff, and students.  

“No sign of improvement in CLU as a community, a workplace, and a learning/teaching environment. It means everything has stayed as bad or got worse. Where is the leader?” a faculty member said. 

“I think that President Varlotta has not made meaningful connections to students and has enacted changes that do not benefit Cal Lutheran,” an undergraduate student said.

Poor Communication 

Multiple respondents said there is a clear lack of respect, understanding, and feeling heard from Varlotta. 

“No Care for the students. When challenged, she always pulls the “first woman president” card, which is true and cool, but no excuse for poor leadership,” an undergraduate student said.

“A strong relationship between faculty and administration is essential for the success of any university. Without the dedication and expertise of faculty members, the university’s mission cannot be fulfilled. It is crucial for a university president to engage in open and honest communication, demonstrating a willingness to listen and compromise when necessary,” a staff member said.

“Her divisiveness, consistently poor interpersonal style that is hostile, defensive, and combative is destroying the university.  She’s incapable of communicating with transparency and collaboration,” a faculty member said.

Leadership Ability 

A common theme respondents shared was an overall concern of how Varlotta is handling her leadership position as President.  

“A near 100% vote of no confidence by the faculty is a strong statement about the leadership,” an alum said.

“Continued resistance to acknowledging mistakes and fostering transparent communication erodes trust and hinders progress. I believe that for the university to thrive, we need leadership that prioritizes collaboration and accountability,” a staff member said.

“Considering the circumstances of the pandemic and an increase in pressure on higher education across the nation, I think she is doing well. It seemed there was a sentiment that the university wanted a more direct and objective focused president and I think she seems to be fulfilling that. When I served on student government, she actually came to the full meetings to present to us on her and her staff’s plans for the campus. She didn’t have to do that and was genuinely interested to hear from the students on realistic ideas for the campus. It would be easy to bypass the students entirely in the process of updating the campus, but she didn’t. And if that’s how she is approaching all of her duties and putting the students first in a tough time, she’s earned my confidence,” an alum said.

Academic and financial security

Some respondents shared their concern for Varlotta’s abilities to handle the university’s academic and financial standing.  

“She keeps spending when the university is in the red, she has alienated the town of Thousand Oaks, the Rams, the faculty, and the Gallegly’s. What are the Regents waiting for?” an alum said. 

“She does not value education for its own sake, a liberal arts education, or the character of CLU,” a faculty member said.

“President Varlotta has not brought in substantial funding. We continue to operate within a deficit budget. This comes at the expense of staff and faculty. Morale is low and workloads are absurdly high. This inevitably impacts student experience,” a staff member said.

Inclusivity and safety on campus

Respondents generally shared more concern than approval of Varlotta’s influence and impact in the campus community. 

“Faculty feel disrespected and alienated- that is not a great leadership situation,” a faculty member said.

“Doesn’t understand the ethics and culture of the university,” an alum said.

“At CLU, President Varlotta has created a culture of fear, harm and I cannot imagine the university thriving under her leadership. I feel no physcological or job safety. Community has be driven apart and is in shambles. It is painful to watch the Regents and the Convocators not hear from students, staff and faculty about the truth of what has and is happening under her leadership. I wish our leaders would listen to other voices and be bold in their leadership to take the soul of the campus back. Just like the faculty did in their no confidence vote,” a staff member said.

University Reputation 

Multiple respondents said they feel Varlotta has not properly represented the university both on and off campus.

Her actions have brought negative attention to Cal Lutheran, damaging its reputation, and discouraging potential students from enrolling. Instead of approaching decisions with the intention of seeking mutual understanding or finding solutions that benefit everyone, she has failed to do so,” an undergrdaute student said. 

“She has ruined this university and she needs to stop blaming the pandemic. This is her doing.  We have a horrible reputation in the community because of her. We can’t retain or recruit faculty or staff because of the openly public toxic nature she has created. Morale is at an all time low. She has taken away financial benefits from the faculty and staff because she hasn’t been able to fulfill the basic duty of her job, which is to fundraise. So she gets paid tons of money to fail at her job while the rest of the hardworking people are barely making it on small salaries that used to be supplemented with other financial benefits but have now been taken away because she has driven this university into financial hardship. Students are very unhappy with her and rightfully so. She has no presence on campus when she should be getting to know the students and the amazing things they are achieving,” a faculty member said.  

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