Thursday, December 13, 2012

2012 a rough year for HBCU presidents

Alabama State University students protest the suspension of President Joseph Silver (pictured). The university Board of Trustees placed Silver on administrative leave after only two months in office.
Former FAMU President James H. Ammons completed five years in office before stepping down in July of 2012.

Ammons’ presidency was a long one compared to some of his counterparts at other historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) across the South. In 2012, there were a number of HBCU presidents who left under pressure after even shorter periods of service.

Students, alumni, and faculty members at some of these institutions say that dysfunction and under-the-table antics on their respective boards of trustees are to blame for the presidential ousters.

Fewer than four years

FAMU alumnus George C. Cooper began his tenure as the president of South Carolina State University on July 16, 2008 and resigned on March 30, 2012. The last straw between him and the board came after he said an internal investigation led him to fire eight high-ranking employees on February 10, 2012.

David Wilson, who was a finalist for the FAMU presidency in 2002, reported to work as the president of Morgan State University on July 1, 2010. On December 4, 2012, the Board of Trustees voted not to offer him a contract extension. His current employment agreement ends on June 30, 2013.

Board members have declined to give a thorough explanation for the decision. Some news articles speculate that recent shootings and robberies on campus might have been used as reasons to attack Wilson.

The Morgan State Student Government Association is leading a petition drive to challenge the board’s action.

Fewer than two years

FAMU alumnus Henry Lewis, III became the president of Florida Memorial University on February 1, 2011. The Board of Trustees announced his “release” on November 8, 2012. The board has been quiet about the specific reasons for his departure.

Fewer than 12 months

The Alabama State University Board of Trustees suspended President Joseph Silver after only two months in office. He began on September 17, 2012. The board placed him on administrative leave on November 26, 2012.

Silver said the board suspended him after he raised questions about information in the university’s financial records.

“In reviewing the financials, contracts and other pertinent information of Alabama State, I discovered some items I considered questionable and troubling, at best, and a conflict of interest at the least. When I asked for clarifications, I did not get answers. When I asked for supporting data, the data was withheld,” Silver said in a public statement.

Alabama State students are protesting the board’s decision with rallies and a petition drive.

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