It seems that the honeymoon of Alabama State University’s newly elected President Gwendolyn Boyd and the school’s board of trustees is over.
The board unanimously voted Dec. 20 to select Boyd, an ASU alum and a former Delta Sigma Theta national president, to be the next—and first female—president in the university’s 146-year history.
However, a series of letters obtained and recently published by The Montgomery Advertiser show that the love between the new president and some trustees may have diminished.
The back-and-forth letters emerged after Boyd presented a new organizational chart at a trustee committee meeting on April 25—and then almost immediately released the information to the media.
Some board members seemed to resent the media involvement and their not being sufficiently consulted; they were also miffed by a typo that showed the Board of Trustees reporting to the president, and not the other way around.
“I write this letter to you on behalf of the [ASU] board of trustees out of profound concern with regard to the way you have chosen to manage your interaction and relationship with the ASU board,” Board Chairman Elton Dean wrote in a letter dated April 28. “It is unclear what has caused a shift from our very open, communicative and positive relationship to one that appears to be acrimonious and contentious, and to borderline on blatant disrespect and insubordination.”
Dean further said that Boyd seemed not to understand the role of the board and that it had the statutory authority to approve the final organizational structure. He also questioned her seeming disregard for that authority.
“Your dealings with the Board are unacceptable and do not reflect conduct befitting a chief executive officer,” Dean wrote.
In a response dated April 28, Boyd defended her actions.
“It is with shock and dismay that I read your stated correspondence, which does not reflect accurately the events which transpired or the cordial relationship that I thought I had with the members of the board of trustees,” Boyd wrote. “In my opinion, your assessment of me is unfair and inaccurate.”
Boyd said she has always been conscientious in responding to board members’ visits, phone calls or texts. She also recounts an April 11 meeting with Dean during which he reviewed the draft of the organizational chart—an action Dean denies—and told her to “just give it” to other board members at an upcoming meeting.
Boyd also references an April 24 meeting in her office with Trustee Marvin Wiggins, ASU general counsel Kenny Thomas and attorney Donald Watkins. The meeting, Boyd said, was held to discuss forming a relationship with the FBI, a follow-up to a previous meeting in which someone tried to convince Boyd to provide statements from the sister of former ASU employee Jacqueline Weatherly. Weatherly’s sibling, allegedly said that the former employee has lied in her sexual harassment suit about the actions of ASU Executive Vice President John Knight.
According to the Advertiser, Weatherly was one of three former female employees who sued ASU for discrimination and harassment and were awarded over $1 million in damages and back pay.
Boyd indicated that she chose not to speak with the FBI since the case had already been adjudicated and she felt it was not in the university’s best interest to dredge up more “negative press.” Wiggins, she said, was angered by her decision.
“Yes, I did stand my ground with (Wiggins),” Boyd wrote. “I absolutely will not be bullied, intimidated, coerced or harassed by Trustee Wiggins. His tone with me was very unprofessional and demeaning.”
Wiggins responded by letter to Boyd on April 29, apologizing for her perception that he had attempted to coerce her and for his tone appearing unprofessional.
“I am alarmed by your assessment since it is inaccurate and untrue,” Wiggins wrote. “I understand and appreciate you as an individual and as president of [ASU].”
Wiggins’ letter did not reference the FBI matter but outlines his recollection of their conversation about the role of the board and the president.
In response to his statement that the board has to approve certain decisions made by the president, Wiggins said that Boyd indicated that she could hire and fire whomever she desired without board approval and that she could also restructure the university as she desired without board approval.
According to the Advertiser, Dean recently said the issues between trustees and Boyd had been worked out in private.
A spokesman with Boyd’s office told the AFRO that “rather than comment on the situation you reference, President Boyd is focusing on her role as the leader of our University and her desire to enhance the already good progress that we are making in the lives and education of our greatest asset, which is our students.”
“She is also busy working on the proposed implementation of her campus-wide reorganization plan that comes up for discussion at a Board of Trustees meeting on May 23,” he added.