By Zenitha Prince
Special to the NNPA from The Afro-American Newspaper
The historic presidency of Alabama State University’s first female chief continues to be shrouded in controversy.
ASU’s accrediting body, The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) placed ASU on a six-month warning period in June, citing the college for failing to comply with six standards. Moody’s recently downgraded the university’s bond rating for the second time in nine months. Two Board of Trustee members were forced to resign last week. This week, a member of the committee that helped select Gwendolyn Boyd as ASU’s first female president in its 146-year history is saying he regrets his choice.
In a nearly 1,200-word Facebook post on July 27, Donald Watkins, a former Board of Trustee member and ASU pro bono counsel, detailed the reasons he felt choosing Boyd was the university’s “greatest mistake.”
“I want to publicly apologize to the entire Alabama State University family. I made a serious error in judgment when I nominated Dr. Gwendolyn E. Boyd and asked the board of trustees to elect her as president of ASU,” Watkins wrote. “At the time, I sincerely believed that Dr. Boyd was qualified for the position. I have since learned that her prior executive experience was greatly exaggerated and that her administrative skills are sorely lacking for what is required to be an effective president at ASU.”
Watkins accused Boyd of being a “part-time executive employee,” who “sprints out of town every Thursday or Friday to advance her ministerial career.” He castigated her for allegedly misusing university funds by accepting a $1,000 monthly car allowance though she does not own a car and is chauffeured by officers that have racked up thousands in overtime pay.
Watkins also accused Boyd of being an ineffective fundraiser. “In her first 100 days, she only raised $26,500 – a pathetic performance by the University’s chief fundraiser,” he said.
The former trustee’s acrimony was especially sharp, however, in his accusations concerning her treatment of the trustees and her alleged role in the forced resignations of ASU Board Chairman Elton Dean and Vice Chairman Marvin Wiggins. Boyd previously butted heads with the pair. In a series of letters, the trustees accused the president of disregarding the board’s authority and of behavior that bordered “blatant disrespect and insubordination.”
Boyd denied the charge. She accused Wiggins of disrespecting after a decision made during a meeting on an ASU controversy involving the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Watkins said Boyd’s alleged alienation of trustees was a result of her “unholy alliance” with Gov. Robert Bentley, who forced Dean and Wiggins from their positions last week.
“As soon as she finished taking the oath of office as president, Dr. Boyd swore her allegiance to Tea Party Republican Gov. Robert Bentley,” Watkins said. And Bentley has repaid Boyd for that allegiance.”
“After Bentley forced the resignation of Board Chairman Elton Dean and removed Vice-Chairman Marvin Wiggins from the board last week, the message from Bentley to the remaining trustees was clear – leave Dr. Boyd alone; she is the governor’s overseer at ASU and she is untouchable,” the former trustee said.
The AFRO contacted Boyd’s office for a response, but a university spokesperson said the president is not making any statements on these matters.
According to the governor’s office, however, Dean and Wiggins were removed because of a conflict of interest. The letter sent to Wiggins, a copy of which was emailed to the AFRO, cites Alabama statute, which states: “It shall be unlawful for any member of the board to be financially interested in any contract or transaction affecting the interests of the university; to procure, or be a party in any way to procuring the appointment of any relative to any position of financial trust or profit; or to influence the appointment, non-reappointment, retention, dismissal or compensation of any employee of the university except through the prescribed procedures for such purposes, and the violation of this provision shall subject the member so offending to removal by the governor or the board.”
From 2010 to January 2013, several of Wiggins’ relative, including his wife, received more than $250,000 in compensation from ASU. Dean has a similar familial conflict of interest, the letter stated. The trustees’ violation of the statute was one of the reasons cited by SACS, the accrediting body, for its warning. Other reasons include problems with financial stability and control of funds, Title IV program responsibilities, and control of sponsored research/external funds.