Less than 12 hours after Saint Augustine’s University trustees announced the removal of president Dianne Boardley Suber, two high-ranking university officials disciplined by the former leader – one fired and the other placed on leave – were reinstated into their old positions, university Board of Trustees Chairman Rodney Gaddy said Monday night.
Angela Haynes, rehired as vice president for business and finance, was fired last week prior to a statement by Boardley Suber announcing “specific administrative changes” in the school’s business and financial operations after the school received attention “for issues of ineffective oversight in the areas of financial and grants management.”
Connie Allen, who Boardley Suber placed on leave in March, was reinstated as the school’s provost.
Boardley Suber announced late Friday she was retiring at the end of the academic year – an announcement that came as trustees were on a conference call discussing her future. The board voted to fire her during the call but were unable to reach her until Saturday.
“When we looked at all the challenges we had financially and we looked at the accreditation questions that were coming up, it was just decided that, in the future, a change of leadership would be very important,” Gaddy said during a press conference Monday morning.
Ronald Brown, Saint Augustine’s vice president of strategic initiatives, will serve as the school’s acting executive director until the board can name an interim president, which Gaddy said could happen in the next two weeks.
Financial problems and a federal inquiry
Boardley Suber’s firing and the reinstatements of Haynes and Allen are the latest in an effort by university trustees to clean up the historically black Raleigh school amid financial problems and a federal investigation.
The university’s finances have been scrutinized within the past few months after the school lost $3 million in tuition revenue due to falling enrollment. A contractor filed a lien against the school over $675,000 owed for work on its football stadium, which remains unfinished, but the lien has been settled.
The school is also under investigation for allegedly providing false information on a federal grant proposal. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, which accredits the university, has also requested information regarding the school’s finances.
In February, Saint Augustine’s eliminated over a dozen positions and planned to furlough faculty and staff over spring break in March. School leaders later canceled the furloughs.
Money issues prevalent among HBCUs
Saint Augustine’s financial problems are the latest facing historically black colleges and universities:
• Money issues at Shaw University have led the school to use the business practice of “process optimization” to boost efficiency and cut costs.
• Ten of the state’s 11 HBCUs saw enrollment drop this year. Budget cuts forced Elizabeth City State University to reduce its number of degree programs, and North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro applied for and received six federal grants to cover some funding gaps in research and teaching.
• Saint Paul’s College in Lawrenceville, Va., closed last year after Saint Augustine’s board of trustees decided not to take over the school.
• Morris Brown College in Atlanta, which has been in bankruptcy hearings in recent months and has seen enrollment plummet, is working to sell its property to the city.
• A Howard University trustee wrote last year, regarding the school’s finances, that “Howard will not be here in three years if we don’t make some crucial decisions now.”
Saint Augustine’s financial and administrative troubles have led to low morale and increased tension on campus, but Gaddy on Monday called on trustees and alumni to boost their financial support and help recruit students.
“This is a strong university and a place where we can provide strong education,” he said. “We have to make sure we’re sending signals to potential students of Saint Augustine’s that we are, in fact, a viable institution.”