Last week The Root published an extensive investigative piece that revealed years of turmoil between the faculty, students and board of trustees at Morehouse College. Since these revelations were made public, the repercussions have echoed through the halls of the 150-year-old institution, resulting in what the college’s Student Government Association president has termed a “state of confusion.”
As we previously reported, on Tuesday, March 21, the Morehouse faculty passed a vote of “no confidence” in Robert C. Davidson, the president of Morehouse’s board of trustees. According to interviews and documentation we uncovered, Davidson presided over a board that silenced the voices of faculty and student trustees, resulting in the student trustees filing a restraining order and lawsuit against Davidson, followed by the firing of Morehouse President John C. Wilson on Jan. 13, 2017.
The Root has obtained an explanation of the faculty’s vote titled, “Why We Have No Confidence in Our Board Chairman: An Open Letter From Concerned Faculty at Morehouse” (pdf). The letter reflects the faculty’s concerns over the issues we reported, and cites the documents revealed in our initial article, writing:
The documentation that we have indicates that Chairman Davidson was intent on ending John Wilson’s presidency and that he presided over a series of maneuvers—including what appears to be repeated disregard for SACS [Southern Association of Colleges and Schools] principles and expert opinion, apparent manipulation of Board membership, prima facie intimidation of a student Trustee, and the removal of student and faculty Trustees from the January 2017 meeting—that were designed to secure his intended outcome ...
The faculty is deeply concerned that the Morehouse College Board of Trustees, under the leadership of Chairman Davidson, has suppressed the voices and opinions of these two essential constituencies.
While much of the consternation surrounding the school revolves around the board of trustees’ decision not to renew the contract of President Wilson, the board has already assembled a search committee to find Morehouse’s next president. According to a letter from the search committee (pdf), the school has employed the services of the executive search firm Isaacson, Miller to assist the team in finding a replacement for Wilson. The group has also set up a “Presidential Search” page on the college’s website to keep the stakeholders at Morehouse updated on the progress of the search.
On Sunday the Student Government Association sent an email to the Morehouse College community (pdf) that outlined a few issues that will be addressed at the next board of trustees meeting, taking place this weekend. Aside from the list of concerns outlined by the faculty, the letter states, and The Root has independently confirmed, that the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Commission on Colleges will conduct an investigation, a probe triggered by the media attention this conflict has raised.
In April 2016, Belle Wheelan, president of SACS, expressed concern over the size and number of trustees on Morehouse’s board. The SACS is the “recognized regional accrediting body in the 11 U.S. Southern states (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia) and in Latin America for those institutions of higher education that award associate, baccalaureate, master’s or doctoral degrees.”
In an email obtained by The Root (pdf), faculty members met with Keith Eigel, who completed an assessment of Morehouse College’s board in 2015 and noted his concerns with the board. Eigel urged faculty members to contact SACS and Wheelan with their worries, and the Morehouse faculty has been notified that Wheelan will meet with them Thursday to discuss the ongoing situation. The letter also reveals that—per Wheelan—Morehouse will receive a letter listing their concerns from SACS and will have 30 days to respond:
This all takes place during the yearlong celebration of Morehouse’s sesquicentennial—celebrating 150 years of the heralded institution. Founded in 1867, Morehouse remains the only exclusively male historically black college, boasting a roster of prestigious alumni who include Martin Luther King Jr., Samuel L. Jackson, Lerone Bennett Jr. and Saul Williams.