This week Morgan State University (MSU) and Baltimore City Community College (BCCC) joined Coppin State University in announcing a leadership shake-up. David J. Wilson and Carolane Williams joined Reginald S. Avery as soon-to-be ex-presidents. What’s going on?
Coppin president Reginald Avery’s announcement in October that he would step down in January 2013 was not entirely unexpected. During his five-year administration, retention rates increased from 62 to 66 percent in two years, but graduation remained below 25 percent and there was no meaningful increase in student enrollment. Over time faculty and staff’s disenchantment continued to grow, culminating in an increase in staff lay-offs and protest from faculty who gave him a vote of no confidence in February 2012. In his resignation statement, Dr. Avery agreed, “It was …time…to step aside.”
On the other hand, Carolane Williams’ “separation” from Baltimore Community College “came as a surprise” to her. While she has headed BCCC for six years, her administration has been plagued by a drop in student enrollment and a vote of no confidence from the faculty senate in 2010. The “surprise” must have the speed and abruptness of the board’s action, not the action itself.
Now comes MSU president David Wilson. On December 4, 2012 Morgan’s Board of Regents voted 8-7 not to renew his contract in June 2013.
While there has been a spate of upheavals on the campus in recent months which include two shootings, a student being accused of cannibalism, a misdirected e-mail about replacing the school’s football coach and faculty member’s indictment for receiving grants fraudulently, these incidents cannot be directly placed upon the president’s shoulders. He neither could not nor cannot prevent these types of occurrences.
What has he done? Since becoming Morgan’s 12th president in December 2009, he has worked to increase scholarship money, donating $100,000 of his own; he has seen the university break ground for a $72 million business school and he has started an effort to improve areas around the campus. What’s more, university enrollment is up and graduation rates are steady.
So why is he being fired? Scuttlebutt has it that some regents believe that he will not remain at Morgan for the long haul for the following reasons:
1. He had been a finalist for the University of Albany presidency, but withdrew his name from consideration in July; and 2. Supposedly his name was mentioned about a possible position in the second Obama administration. Are nearly half of the regents saying “We’ll fire you before you can walk away to a bigger, more prestigious job?”
They’re cutting off their noses to spite their faces. He came with glowing praise for work in connecting college campuses with the surrounding urban area; he led off a scholarship drive with $100,000; he withdrew from another job search and, oh yes, President Obama, in 2010, appointed him to his advisory board for black colleges and universities.
Morgan has gotten itself an excellent president. He is supported, in the main by students, faculty and staff and he certainly is well-equipped to guide Morgan’s growth in this century.