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O'More faculty has 'no confidence' in college president

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Concerns over inappropriate behavior, misuse of funds submitted to board

FRANKLIN -- A vote of no confidence in the performance of longtime O’More College of Design president Dr. Mark Hilliard almost two months ago appears to have fallen on deaf ears after allegations of malfeasance were made against him, Franklin Home Page has learned.

After initial complaints lodged by O'More administrators and faculty in addition to alumni and students apparently were ignored, on June 24, a letter, signed by 30 staff members, was sent to O'More's Board of Trustees outlining specific complaints of Hilliard's inappropriate behavior and misuse of the private college's funds.

Yet as of Aug. 16, no action or investigation into the complaints against Hilliard have taken place, according to an O’More administrator. Hilliard’s current contract, renegotiated in 2010, runs through 2018. He joined O’More in 1998 and serves as its president, CEO and a professor of educational wellness and behavioral science

The letter, claims that Hilliard’s “reckless actions, which are varied and numerous and range from fiscal irresponsibility to the effective abdication of his fundamental duties, have disrupted and diminished student learning, faculty capacity and the mission of the college over the course of a period of years.”

The letter also questions Hilliard’s use of college’s funds and claims the school’s survival could be at risk.

Attempts to reach Hilliard to respond have been unsuccessful thus far. Board president Dr. Scott C. Williamson has told Franklin Home Page he would be available to discuss the developments Monday.

Founded in 1970, O'More offers Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees in fashion design, interior design and visual communications. Its seven-acre main campus is situated four blocks from Main Street, on South Margin Street.

Several supporting documents obtained by Franklin Home Page claim that Hilliard has not accurately reported financial figures to the board and has spent money from the school’s budget “researching” themes for parties and fundraising events on the campus which often see no return in funds. 

The documents include the 13-item "Summary of Concerns Regarding Illegal, Unethical, and Inappropriate Conduct of President Mark Hilliard."

In a separate letter to the board, a department chair expressed concerns over Hilliard’s performance as president calling him “distracted.” The letter states that Hilliard has started and put money toward 30 clubs for a college that has an enrollment of approximately 200 students.

“We’re a college of fewer than 200 students, comically incapable of supporting such an array of societies and alliances even if they were somehow relevant,” the letter read.

Funding for an on-campus sensory garden "is a significant expense in the annual budget — including the fish — and the subject of campus jokes," the department head wrote. "This garden is not related to design education, nor will plans to make it look like a Monet landscape redeem it.”

Sources have told Franklin Home Page that staff and faculty have reportedly hired an attorney to prevent retaliation and have called for a meeting with the board to explain the charges that led to the no-confidence vote.

Franklin Home Page will continue to report on this story as developments occur.

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