Questions follow surprise resignation of Sofia University head

Neal King had extended contract before his abrupt resignation Saturday

Students and faculty at Palo Alto's Sofia University are asking questions following the surprise resignation Saturday of Neal King, president since 2011.

Seven out of ten members of the school's board of trustees also have resigned, a Sofia staff member said.

The 38-year-old university, previously known as the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology, is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and offers on-campus as well as online degrees in psychology, with a bent toward the discipline's spiritual, emotional and creative aspects.

Robert Frager, who founded the university in 1975 and continues as a professor, said faculty members would rally to restructure the institution.

"Going forward, Sofia needs true leadership and stability," Frager said. "We will do everything we can to restructure the leadership to ensure the continued success of Sofia University for years to come."

Sofia has 526 full-time-equivalent students, according to its Statement of Accreditation Status with the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

Shortly before his abrupt resignation, King had signed a five-year contract extension.

King had led the institution, housed in former office buildings on East Meadow Circle, in its 2012 rebranding from the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology to Sofia University. The restructuring was based on research on social and economic trends in higher education, Sofia said at the time.

With its new name, Sofia broadened from a graduate institute to a university offering both undergraduate and graduate programs, dividing itself into three schools, the Graduate School of Transpersonal Studies, the Graduate School of Clinical & Spiritual Psychology and the School of Undergraduate Studies.

Just last month King hosted California Supreme Court Justice Goodwin Liu, former Stanford University President Donald Kennedy and former UCLA chancellor Charles Young at an event at Sofia celebrating the 25th anniversary of the California Campus Compact, a university consortium for service learning and civic engagement now housed at Sofia.

Chris Kenrick


Like this comment
Posted by Really
a resident of Monta Loma
on Dec 19, 2013 at 2:17 pm

Really now this is news? So he quit, so what, find someone better to replace him.

Like this comment
Posted by harvardmom
a resident of Monta Loma
on Dec 19, 2013 at 5:50 pm

There was a whole bunch of stuff left out of this article. From yesterday's Palo Alto and Mid-Peninsula Daily Post (free hardcopy newspaper):

The founder of a private Palo Alto university that specializes in psychology said last night that he has filed a complaint with the state Attorney General's office against the board of trustees, and said the school could be on the road to bankruptcy.

...Faculty members, students, employees and alumni filled the Unity Palo Alto church to discuss what the institution's founder called "a nightmare."

The founder, Robert Frager, goes on to say that "after talking to about 100 laywers in the last few weeks," he and other faculty had filed a complaint against the school's board. Since organizing the meeting, Frager said the school's president had shut down his email account and confiscated his school computer.

The article talks about the decrease in incoming students, faculty members' salaries being cut by 10%, a hiring freeze, retirement benefits eliminated, health benefits slashed, and employee and cut faculty positions. In November, the 47 faculty members unanimously sent a vote of no confidence to President Neal King, and the board said it thought he should resign by the end of the year. Soon afterwards, 7 of the school's 10 board members resigned. Those who remained refused to show the school's budget to Frager and faculty members but said the cuts had to be made or the university would face bankruptcy as early as March.

About $2 million to $4 million that the school had in a reserve fund as recently as 2011 also seems to be gone. The board can be found guilty of negligence or financial irresponsibility.

The students are rattled, too. "I'd like some kind of answer about my life," said Angelina Graham, a Ph.D. student. Others said they had spent their life savings on an education at the school. Also noted is that the school has had five chief financial offices in the span of 2-1/2 hears.

Sofia charges $750 per unit, which is about what Stanford charges for master's students taking the same number of quarterly units.

Like this comment
Posted by Mimi Matossian
a resident of another community
on Dec 22, 2013 at 12:29 pm

$2-4 million? Wow.

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