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Who is to blame for the high turnover rate among HBCU Presidents?

Morehouse College is one of the most unique and transcendental colleges in the world.  With graduates consisting of Martin Luther King Jr, Spike Lee, and Samuel L  Jackson, the mystique of the college is well known within the black community.  But with the recent news of current President John Wilson leaving the illustrious institution, the winds could be changing for the once proud HBCU.

Outgoing President John Wilson had strong White House ties serving as the head of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.  There he operated as an expert and liaison between HBCU’s and the government.  As a former Morehouse graduate, the transition from the government post to Morehouse President seemed like a match made in heaven, but it was not so.  Many assumed Wilson would be a catalyst for major funding opportunities due to his government network.  Unfortunately the large funding offers never came.

As Wilson prefers, he will leave Morehouse in June, but he is not the only HBCU President exiting his office.   Wilson follows a long list of Historically Black College’s and Universities (HBCU) presidents leaving within the past year including former presidents at Florida A&M, Alabama State, Kentucky State, and Jackson State.

With such high turnover within the HBCU levels, I think an important question must be raised.  Is there a problem with the selected leaders at HBCU’s or does the fault lie with its Board of Directors?

Morehouse’s last two Presidents (Pres. Wilson 2012 – 2017 and Franklin 2007 – 2012) have combined to last less than former Pres. Walter E. Massey who reigned supreme from 1995 – 2007. Dr.

Leonard Haynes, who worked with Morehouse and other HBCUs over the past two decades in the federal government, sat down with Diverse Education and gave his thoughts on the current situation at the college. “To lose a leader at this point raises some questions about what does the board want and are there clear distinctions between making policy and playing administrator,” Haynes explained.  And I agree!

What exactly are Morehouse board members looking for?
Are they expecting the old and traditional style of leadership?

If this is the case, it is well past time for change. Before giving up on a particular leader, all personal differences have to be set aside in order to benefit the college as a whole. Those making the big decisions have to realize that constant change at the top leads to disorganization and results in the loss of potential sponsors.

In general, HBCU board members need to thoroughly evaluate potential candidates to determine if they will fit the mission of the college and uphold the institution’s goals in the best form possible. As a graduate of Morehouse, the current trend of Presidential turnover worries me.  I urge the Board of Directors of Morehouse College to consider its potential President very carefully before coming to a decision.  Please, for the sake of or great college, make the right decision!

If not, maybe it is time we seek new Directors, or maybe it is time for Morehouse College to appoint a female President to truly shake things up.

-Ray Hayes

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