Morehouse, Clark Atlanta Presidents Discuss Fall Online Learning Plans, SWAC Suspends Fall Sports Competition, and Pennsylvania's Attorney General is Not the Hero Lincoln Supporters are Waiting For

Atlanta University Center Consortium President Discuss Fall 2020 Distance Learning Plans

Morehouse College President David Thomas and Clark Atlanta University President George French discuss the Atlanta University Center Consortium’s plans to extend online learning through the fall 2020 semester.

SWAC Suspends Fall Sports Schedule Until Spring 2021

The Southwestern Athletic Conference will suspend all men’s and women’s sports competition through the fall 2020 athletic season, officials today announced.

Competition in men’s and women’s cross country, football, women’s soccer and women’s volleyball will be held in the spring 2021 season, and football will specifically target a seven-game season with six conference games with an optional non-conference game.

From a release:

The SWAC Council of Presidents and Chancellors felt this action was necessary out of growing concern for the health, safety and well-being both mentally and physically of our student-athletes, coaches, administrators, team staff, campus faculty, fans and supporters.

The continued increase of COVID-19 cases across many portions of the league’s geographic footprint and Southern regions of the country played a significant role in the council’s decision, along with data that suggests African-American communities have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

All four of the NCAA’s historically black Division I and Division II conferences have now canceled competition for the fall sports season.

Pennsylvania Attorney General is Setting Foundation For Legislative Interference in Lincoln’s Autonomy

The Lincoln University (Pa.) Board of Trustees’ attempts to explain its non-renewal of former president Brenda Allen’s contract has brought new and unwanted attention from high places in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro has filed a lawsuit against the board, accusing its members of violating open meeting requirements by failing to give due notice of the meeting or its scope in making high-level personnel decisions.

“My office has no position on who serves as president of Lincoln University, but we will take action to ensure the board follows the law,” Shapiro said in a statement. “Lincoln is a jewel of our Commonwealth’s heritage, and students, alumni, faculty and staff of the school that taught Langston Hughes and Thurgood Marshall must have confidence that their leadership complied with state law.”

Shapiro’s lawsuit follows a lawsuit from Allen, who has accused board members of breach of contract. Lincoln trustees say that Allen’s contract ended under regular terms and the university has already begun its search process for an interim president.

While the Lincoln board may have acted with a lack of transparency and detail in its non-renewal of Allen’s contract, attempts for a legal reprieve from the state’s top lawyer reek of legislative interference. Maybe LU let a good president go for reasons unknown and under terms that would be typically scrutinized with a less-than-controversial board.

But Lincoln’s board has been anything but less-than-controversial, dating back nearly six years with the dismissal of former president Robert Jennings, four years ago with petitions to remove former board chair and current commonwealth board representative Kimberly Lloyd, and now with the unpopular decision against renewing Allen’s contract.

It is not unusual for any university board and its stakeholders to fight publicly about leadership decisions, but it is highly unusual for the state to interfere with the charge of trustees representing the community, faculty, alumni, and students of a university. Everyone should be willing to pressure the board to share the metrics involved in deciding to move away from Allen, but the Lincoln community should also be unanimous in opposing interference from the attorney general — a perceived actor working on behalf of Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, who also has voiced support for Allen.

HBCU boards must have the autonomy to make decisions about their own leadership, or they run the risk of lawmakers covertly working to control levers of HBCU development and expansion through handpicked presidents. These handpicked leaders are often appointed to subvert HBCUs under the guise of collaborative and trustworthy management, with their tenures often being marked by lagging performance and executive infighting.

If alumni, faculty, and stakeholders support the attorney general’s efforts to reverse the board’s decision, however ill-intentioned it may have been, then it will open the door to any governor, any attorney general, or any elected official using the power of the public trust to run an HBCU outside of its own mission or executive agenda. And if these powers are ever successful in getting a bad president appointed at the school, it will be that much more difficult for the will of the campus community to have that leader removed.

The public spat about Lincoln’s president is taking place while Pennsylvania lawmakers are constructing ways to merge and consolidate a majority of the schools under the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education — a process that over the years has repeatedly floated the idea of a consolidation of Lincoln and Cheyney University.

Only a handful of people know the truth behind if these two efforts have anything to do with each other, but if Lincoln stakeholders want to minimize the risk that they are connected, then they should oppose interference from the governor, attorney general, or any other official who would seek to bolster one of the ugliest stereotypes about HBCU leadership; that black colleges can’t get right unless white men with money and power step in to help black folks govern ourselves accordingly.