Alabama State University Elects Local Politician as New President - Higher Education
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Alabama State University Elects Local Politician as New President

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by Joseph Hong


The past three years have not been easy for Alabama State University. Between 2014 and 2015, the university cut over $75 million from its budget, according to a letter from former president Gwendolyn Boyd to university stakeholders. In 2016, Boyd, whose tenure started in 2014, was dismissed by the school’s board of trustees for reasons she said she “can’t define.” Reports following her dismissal stated that her firing was the result of a combination of reasons including a university contract with comedian Steve Harvey and a high school basketball tournament being moved away from ASU.

But after celebrating its 150th birthday this summer, Alabama State University hopes a new president can help the institution move forward.

On Friday, the board of trustees at Alabama State University appointed state Senator Quinton Ross as president of the institution in a 12-2 vote on Friday, beating out three former university presidents. Ross inherits the office from Dr. Leon C. Wilson, the provost and vice president for academic affairs, who has been serving as interim president since Boyd’s departure. Ross said that he hopes to respect the institution’s history while guiding it towards a more secure future.

“There is much work to do and the path forward may not be easy, but together we can preserve and add to the rich legacy of ASU for another 150 years,” he said in a statement on Friday.

As a former high school principal who also served as director of adult education at a community college for 10 years, an educational consultant for two and a state senator for 15, Ross has paved his path to university administration. In the Alabama senate, he has been a member of various committees and served as vice chairperson for the Education and Youth Affairs Committee.

Born in Mobile, Alabama, Ross was raised in Pontiac, Michigan and has been living in Montgomery for more than 20 years. He received his bachelor’s degree in political science, a master’s in secondary English and a doctorate in educational leadership, policy and law, all from ASU.

“I was just very impressed with Dr. Ross overall,” ASU board chairman Alfreda Green told Alabama Political Reporter on Friday. “The things he said during his interview, his history with the school – I think he will make an excellent president.”

The two dissenting votes came from Trustees Robert Gilpin and Joe Whitt. Gilpin told AL.com that he received background information about the candidates on the day of the vote. He told local news outlets after the vote that “the process has been tortured.”

Whitt was even more vocal.

“How did y’all arrive at these candidates? Three didn’t last in their positions (as university president) more than two years and one had no prior experience (as president),” Whitt said, according to the Montgomery Advisor. “We’re sitting here with a faculty that hasn’t had a raise in seven years. Students don’t have air conditioning. Students don’t have heaters. We don’t need someone to train on the job.”

AL.com reported that both Gilpin and Whitt changed their votes in a second round of voting.

ASU’s faculty members, however, were not granted a vote. Dr. Derryn E. Moten, professor and Chair of the Department of History and Political Science, explained that a faculty representative served on the presidential search committee and that the candidates interviewed with faculty and staff separately.

“A motion to hold a general faculty vote was made in the faculty senate executive committee meeting this month, but was voted down,” he write in an email. Although Moten was not at the meeting, he said the opponents of the motion to vote were worried that a faculty vote would contravene a decision by the Board of Trustees. He acknowledged that the Board possesses the authority to hire and set salaries for presidents but still found the faculty senate executive committee’s decision “disappointing.”

Moten said that he looks forward to a productive relationship between the new president and the faculty.

“The Board selected Senator Quinton Ross Jr., and I am confident the faculty will work with him and his administration in good faith for the success of the university,” he said. “I believe the faculty want to see President Ross succeed and that the faculty will put its shoulder to the wheel along with the president to push the university in a positive direction.”

Outside of the university, Governor Kay Ivey of Alabama expressed confidence in Ross’s ability to lead ASU.

“Dr. Quinton Ross is a true public servant,” she said in a statement. “He has a heart for Alabama and for Alabama State University. His wealth of experience in higher education and in state government will serve him well as he takes on the mantle of ASU President.”

Joseph Hong can be reached at jhong@diverseeducation.com