Five Reasons Why the Alabama State Board Was Right to Fire Gwendolyn Boyd

Even when wrong, an HBCU board is always right.

Mickey Welsh (Montgomery Advertiser)

Even when wrong, an HBCU board is always right.

Alabama State University trustees fired university president Gwendolyn Boyd yesterday, almost three years to the day after selecting her as permanent president and more than a month after it unofficially fired with a suspension for non-confidence.

Dr. Boyd and many in her corner believe that the board’s dissatisfaction over institutional contract management, personnel decisions and lack of communication were overblown, unclear and could’ve been fixed with the right kind of arbitration. A healthy percentage of the board believed the same; it will begin a search for a new president following an 8–6 vote.

Even with one person determining the future of the institution, there’s still much we’ll never know about the state of Dr. Boyd’s relationship with the board, her insistence to avoid or cater to corruption that plagued the institution prior to her hiring, or the level of political influence involved in the board’s deliberations.

For several reasons, she had to go; for her benefit and the benefit of the school.

1. Keeping Dr. Boyd would’ve made the school a daily front-page story in Montgomery.

This is the same school where a former trustee and board attorney wrote a scathing editorial about Dr. Boyd following its original attempts to mobilize for her firing two years ago.

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Two months ago, stories the school’s business dealings with Steve Harvey and contracts with prisoners began to surface in the media, which if you know anything about how media works, had to have come from internal sources. Had she been retained, how many and how frequently would these kind of attacks or leaks plagued the university?

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2. No one actively tried to stop her from being fired

Four years ago, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley personally worked to keep Dr. Boyd’s predecessor Joseph Silver in place — a sign that many interpreted as the board’s effort to keep a political operative away from leading the institution.

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It is telling that Bentley has been silent on the Boyd saga at ASU, and moreso that local media hasn’t asked him about it. Moreover, the student and alumni furor over Dr. Silver’s departure has not been present for Dr. Boyd’s, another sign that folks in and around Montgomery agree on more than they disagree.

3. The timing is messy, but better than any other time she could have been fired.

Dr. Boyd will leave Montgomery eight days before Christmas, and during a time where most of the nation is focused on how President-elect Donald Trump is prepping to obliterate American strongholds in diplomacy, education and national security.

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People are paying attention, but not as much as they would if this were a standalone event in the spring or summer.

4. The board will need an extensive search to find a suitable replacement.

Everyone who will want to follow Dr. Boyd into Montgomery as a permanent president will likely be unqualified and unfamiliar with ASU culture. They will need the entirety of the spring semester and most of the summer to do what actually should have been done after Dr. Silver’s resignation; the installation of a former, long-serving HBCU president who can come in and coach the board up on how to avoid political influence and fiscal crisis.

And then hire that president with an understanding that they will only be there for three-to-five years to make things right and to help in recruiting and hiring a suitable replacement.

5. Dr. Boyd deserves to be free of ASU.

Dr. Boyd did some good things at Alabama State. She knew the financial situation was dire, and understood the school’s research capacity in the STEM fields. She did all she could to strengthen both areas, with great gains that will last beyond her tenure. Missteps certainly could have been fixed, but as we now know, women have the slimmest of margins to err in HBCU leadership and to avoid board excoriation for it.

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As an accomplished scientist and preacher, she seemingly isn’t hard up for a job or money. She can do much better than to make a living dealing with a board that for many reasons, is allergic to taking the right approaches to saving the school.