By Zenitha Prince | Special to the Trice Edney News Wire from the Afro American Newspaper
The ink was barely dry on the contract signed by Alabama State University President Gwendolyn Boyd when fractures began to appear in her relationship with the institution’s Board of Trustees. Recently, those fissures grew into a chasm when the board voted 8-6 to put Boyd on administrative leave, citing yet-to-be-publicized charges that undermined its confidence in the school’s first female chief.
“It was disappointing, very disappointing,” Boyd told the Montgomery Advertiser about the decision. “It definitely caught me off guard. It’s not good for the university, but they are the board, and they get to make that decision.”
For those following the saga at the southern HBCU, however, Boyd’s suspension was not particularly surprising. Three months into her tenure, Boyd became embroiled in a heated argument with former board trustee Marvin Wiggins and attorneys Kenny Thomas and Donald Watkins over her attempt to unilaterally reorganize the school’s administration. It was only one of many power struggles that eventually spilled into the media through a series of publicized letters.
Boyd—whose contract included a clause that somewhat dictated the single woman’s love life—seemed determined to prove she would not be controlled by the board. The trustees, on the other hand, have accused Boyd of incompetence and absenteeism, blatant disrespect, misuse of funds, inadequate fundraising, deliberate lack of communication and of forming an “unholy alliance” with Gov. Robert Bentley, with whom they had an ongoing feud. Both sides leaked information to the media to further their agendas.
While that controversy unfolded, the university’s bond rating was downgraded three times, it was put on accreditation warning, and the school continues to be shadowed by grand jury and forensic investigations into its use of funds. As previously reported by the AFRO, the Board’s then-chairman and then-vice chairman Elton Dean and Marvin Wiggins, respectively, were removed by the governor over accusations of conflict of interest.
According to the Advertiser, a post-determination hearing on Boyd’s suspension was set for Nov. 14. Provost Leon Wilson is currently acting president.
“At this time, it is important that the Alabama State University family remains focused on our top priority and greatest treasure, which is our students,” Wilson said in a statement. “We will continue our educational agenda, and I, along with our leadership team, faculty and staff, will serve our students to the best of our ability. The most important thing for the University right now is to maintain its stability. I ask that the community keep me and our University in its prayers.”
Boyd’s suspension follows the ousters in the past two months of Carolyn Meyers at Jackson State University, Lady June Cole at Allen University and Elmira Mangum at Florida A&M University.