Now Gwendolyn Boyd is Out at Alabama State? How Many Presidents Can HBCUs Fire in a Year?

Old pettiness dies hard in southern HBCU culture.

Amanda Soward (Montgomery Advertiser)

Old pettiness dies hard in southern HBCU culture.

There had been rumination almost from the day she arrived. A contract which mandated oversight of her overnight guests, a blistering editorial from a former trustee accusing her of working as a double-agent for Alabama Govenor Robert Bentley, and in-fighting with trustees in between.

And today, weeks after stories began to pile up locally about contract and personnel management gone haywire, the Alabama State University Board of Trustees voted by a two-member margin to suspend president and alumna Gwendolyn Boyd, on account of a yet-to-be released statement of charges which have eradicated its trust in her leadership.

ASU board suspends Gwendolyn Boyd
Alabama State University Board of Trustees has voted to place university president Gwen Boyd on administrative leave…

The public will see this as the fourth forced resignation or firing of a black woman heading an HBCU in less than two months, following Carolyn Meyers at Jackson State University, Lady June Cole at Allen University and Elmira Mangum at Florida A&M University. All of them faced some level of humiliation at the hands of board secrecy or vindictiveness. For Cole and Boyd, the public is none the wiser about what constituted their lack of performance or created board dissatisfaction.

There are theories in Montgomery; an alliance with Bentley, lack of communication with the board on contracts, hires and firings, a lack of fundraising, too much travel, and not enough growth at home. If any of those theories are true, its reasonable for a board to want to move on in search of a fit that gives one of the state’s two public HBCUs more political autonomy, and stronger prospects for survival.

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But it is unreasonable for ASU to be on the verge of its third presidential search in four years, a Grambling-esque streak that has become all-too-familar for too many HBCUs. What becomes of the Alabama State brand which, in recent months, had begun to blossom in different ways?

Will Steve Harvey’s relationship with the school change as a result of this decision? What will Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., which Boyd led as a former national president, have to say about this? What kind of financial fallout is yet to come from money owed to Boyd, other contracts she may have executed yet to be known by the board or the general public, or lost donors who considered supporting ASU exclusively because of her?

On her watch, ASU received national attention through a well-produced reality show about the marching band. STEM research gained wide attention, and the ghosts of the John Knight-Elton Dean-Donald Watkins axis of nonsense seemed to have been exorcised.

Boyd's good first impression
Gwendolyn Boyd was saying the right things as she began her tenure as president of Alabama State University this week…

And now this.

That’s the thing about ghosts; they never die. And the haunting of Montgomery, AL has claimed another HBCU administration, and brought the collective culture one step closer to the brink of demise of public confidence and industrial relevance.