Fired Arcadia president says school leaders "object" to his return to campus

Carl Oxholm III was inaugurated as the 20th president of Arcadia University in April 2012.
Carl Oxholm III was inaugurated as the 20th president of Arcadia University in April 2012. (MICHAEL S. WIRTZ / File Photograph)
Posted: April 05, 2013

Fired Arcadia University President Carl "Tobey" Oxholm III said he was cut off from the university's e-mail system and told by board leadership they "object" to his return to campus, even to say goodbye.

His comments were included in an e-mail addressed to "friends and colleagues" at Arcadia sent Tuesday evening and obtained by The Inquirer.

"I was told by one knowledgeable trustee that the reason was that they feared I would have upset the students too much," Oxholm wrote.

Oxholm was terminated by the trustees on March 8 after 20 months on the job. Three trustees told him of the decision after the board met in private for more than seven hours, he wrote, adding that they declined to explain the reasons. He did not name the trustees.

Oxholm, a former Drexel University administrator, could not be reached for comment.

Arcadia has declined to say why Oxholm was terminated, calling it confidential. The school didn't return calls for comment Wednesday. The secrecy has roiled some in the Arcadia community who have asked for answers.

In the e-mail, Oxholm said he was stunned by the board's decision to force him out and still doesn't know "exactly what happened. I may never be certain. But the bottom line," he wrote, was that he "had lost the confidence of a majority of board members."

He said he wasn't given the opportunity to discuss with the board concerns it may have had about his performance at the university, which enrolls about 4,000 undergraduate and graduate students.

"I know that our overnight withdrawal from campus might have looked as if I were guilty of something, but I want you to know that wasn't the case," Oxholm wrote.

He said he realized he had an ambitious agenda: "While I was very pleased and proud of what we have achieved together and the new course that we were on, perhaps I moved too fast on too many fronts."

Oxholm said he and his wife, Kim, left the president's house after he was fired and went to their home in the Poconos. There, he discovered that he was cut off from the Arcadia e-mail system, "losing not only our ability to communicate but also our contacts and calendar."

They returned to Arcadia's 55-acre campus in Glenside a week later, when he was told by board chair Margaret Wright Steele that trustees objected to his return to campus to say goodbye, he wrote.

He called his inability to be part of Arcadia's future "one of the greatest sadnesses of my life."

Oxholm, a lawyer, was hired in May 2011 and took the helm that summer. Previously, he had been senior vice president and dean of Drexel's Center for Graduate Studies in California. He said he and his wife have rented an apartment in Philadelphia and will move in May.


Contact Susan Snyder at 215-854-4693 or ssnyder@phillynews.com or follow on Twitter @ssnyderinq. Read her blog at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/campus_inq

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