Hicks gets sacked by grambling state – Grambling State University Pres. Raymond Hicks - Higher Education

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Hicks gets sacked by grambling state – Grambling State University Pres. Raymond Hicks

by Garry Boulard

Grambling State University president Dr. Raymond A. Hicks is
leaving his job after losing the confidence of the Louisiana Board of
Trustees for State Colleges and Universities while ongoing financial
and administrative problems continue to plague the northern Louisiana
school.

Hicks confirmed his decision to leave in a hastily arranged press
conference earlier this month, declaring that to “continue to fight for
the opportunity to complete the plan of this presidency could destroy
me personally and professionally, as well as destroy this great
institution.”

Hicks said he was forced to resign after being told by Carl
Shetler, the new chairman of the Louisiana’s board of trustees, that a
voting majority of the state board had coalesced “to end this
presidency today, after only two years.”

Hicks’s sudden departure leaves Grambling reeling. Dawn Wilson, a
spokesperson for the board, said there is currently no “immediate
candidate to replace Dr. Hicks,” although on recent occasions Grambling
Provost Leonard Hayes has served as acting president in Hicks’s absence.

“A committee of three has been appointed by the board of trustees
to discuss and make recommendations for an interim president,” Wilson
added. “And we are obviously hoping that person will be named as soon
as possible.”

Brandy Evans, campus editor for the Gramblinite, the school paper, said Hicks’s exit leaves many unanswered questions.

“All the students know for sure is that he resigned and that he was
obviously forced to do so. But none of us know the reasons why,” she
said.

In fact, the only thing that nearly everyone at Grambling is
certain of is that Hicks’s tenure as president was stormy. He was named
acting president in July 1994 after the former Grambling president,
Harold Lundy, was fired by the board in the wake of a state audit which
unearthed two dozen instances of rules violations and mismanagement.

Hicks was named president one year later. Since then he has been at
the center of an endless swirl of controversies that include: the
exodus of the university’s bursar, comptroller, and general accounting
manager after a state audit reported missing deposits totalling
$20,000; a grading scandal that included a total of nearly 1,400 grade
changes, mostly for athletes whose low scores threatened their
eligibility as players; and a state report released earlier this year
showing that Grambling is burdened by a continuing uncollectible debt
load of just over $1 million.

To add to Hicks’s troubles, tougher admission requirements and
higher tuition have resulted in a steady decline in enrollment–down
from more than 7,500 in 1993 to less than 6,000 this fall. In addition,
Grambling has an overall budget shortfall of some $4 million.

“Dr. Hicks just lost his support among a majority of board members
who felt he was not working fast enough to solve Grambling’s problems,”
said Vickie Jackson, director of Grambling’s university relations. “I
don’t think his exit was entirely unanticipated.”

Hicks, however, defended his tenure in office, noting that he
“worked hard to implement solutions which would have restored the
integrity and improved the quality of this learning community.”

In his first year in office, Hicks appointed five new vice
presidents. And earlier this year, he was credited in a study published
by a state educational consulting committee for taking steps to put
Grambling on a more sound financial footing.

But Hicks also made many enemies, according to Evans. Perhaps his
most dramatic confrontation came when he sought to force the retirement
of football coaching legend Eddie Robinson in 1996. The attempted
ouster occurred after back-to-back losing seasons and a National
Collegiate Athletic Association investigation into possible rules
violations. In response, hundreds of alumni and students flooded the
president’s office with calls of protest, prompting Hicks to relent and
permit the 78-year-old Robinson to coach one last season.

For now, Hicks will “relinquish the day-to-day management of the
university,” but his official resignation will not be effective until
next June. Until then, Hicks added, he will “do as Mr. Shetler
requested, I will take earned leave.”

While Hicks has given up his authority as president; he will
continue to receive his $105,000 a year salary up to June 30, 1998. In
a more than two-hour stretch of negotiations between Hicks and the
members of the board, which included several phone calls between
Shetler and Hicks and a series of faxed statements, Hicks was allowed
to remain on leave up to December 31, 1998, after which time he is
expected to resume his duties as a full professor in Grambling’s
College of Education at $65,000 a year.

In addition, Hicks agreed to move out of the spacious president’s
residence by the end of the month, a move that will be aided by
university workers.

Although Shetler was unavailable for comment, one Grambling
official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said a move may be
underway — after the forced departures now of two consecutive
Grambling presidents — to appoint a short-term outsider whose mission
would be to “clear up, as much as possible, most or all of our
financial troubles. That way the next president might at least have a
fighting chance.”

COPYRIGHT 1997 Cox, Matthews & Associates



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