Tuskegee University Fires President Johnson - Higher Education
Higher Education News and Jobs

Tuskegee University Fires President Johnson

Email


by Jamal Eric Watson


Tuskegee University — the private Alabama institution founded by Booker T. Washington — has fired its current president.

Dr. Brian L. Johnson

The Board of Trustees has decided not to renew Dr. Brian L. Johnson’s annual contract, effective July 1, 2017. It’s unclear exactly why the trustees decided to let Johnson go, but a source familiar with the situation said that several trustees were angry to learn that Johnson has interviewed for the top post at North Carolina Central University (NCCU), which is located in his hometown of Durham, N.C.

He is reportedly a finalist for the job.

NCCU has been without a permanent leader since its former chancellor, Dr. Debra Saunders-White, died last November from cancer.

A W.E.B. Du Bois scholar and expert in 17th to 19th century American literature, Johnson took the helm as president in 2014 at the age of 40. He previously held teaching and administrative positions at Gordon College, Claflin University and Johnson C. Smith University.

Contacted over the weekend, Johnson declined to be interviewed for this story.

Raised by a single mother in Durham, Johnson earned an undergraduate degree from Johnson C. Smith, a master’s degree in English from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and a Ph.D. in American literature from the University of South Carolina in 2003.

Observers had high hopes for Johnson, who was praised for his visibility on campus, his engagement on social media and helping the university secure philanthropic partnerships with outside foundations.  In an effort to encourage alumni to give to the university, he personally pledged $100,000 over a five year period and was intent on increasing the school’s enrollment from about 3,100 students to 10,000.

But there were some who wondered if the selection of Johnson, with his humanities background, was a good fit, particularly for an institution that is so focused on STEM.

Despite its name recognition, Tuskegee has struggled with its finances. Among HBCUs, the university’s loan debt is considered high, according to the Capital Financing Program of the U.S. Department of Education.  Tuskegee is ranked number three, having borrowed $132 million between 2002 and 2010.

A source said the trustees have not done enough to address the institution’s long-term debts.

Johnson’s departure means that Tuskegee will join several other HBCUs, including Morehouse College in Atlanta, Ga., that will be looking for permanent leaders.

Dr. Marybeth Gasman, the director of the Center for Minority Serving Institutions and the Judy and Howard Berkowitz Endowed Professor of Education at the University of Pennsylvania, said she is worried about the vacancies.

“I’m concerned about presidents of HBCUs being given the chance to lead,” said Gasman. “However, I’m most concerned about few people wanting to be presidents of HBCUs given the current atmosphere for leadership.”

Jamal Eric Watson can be reached at jwatson1@diverseeducation.com. You can follow him on Twitter @jamalericwatson

 

RELATED ARTICLES >>
Amherst College to Use Mellon Grant to Develop Diverse Faculty As a recipient of a prestigious $500,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Amherst College will develop an initiative to identify and prepare students from underrepresented minority groups to become faculty in the humanities. The grant i...
State of the Union Address Omitted Key Concerns in Education, Experts Note President Donald Trump President Donald J. Trump delivered his first State of the Union address since taking office, calling the current era “our new American moment.” But he missed an opportunity for substantive conversation on the growing conce...
Black History Month: Opportune Time for Health Emphasis In celebration of Black History Month, we remember Booker T. Washington as the founder of a historic initiative focused on addressing Black health disparities. Washington founded Tuskegee University, an HBCU formerly named Tuskegee Institute. What ma...
Central Michigan University President Steps Down After an eight-year tenure, Dr. George Ross will resign from the presidency at Central Michigan University in July. Dr. George Ross Ross, who became the university’s 14th president in 2010, made the announcement Monday on the university’s webs...
Semantic Tags: