OPINION: College board’s duplicity, double-talk, and secrecy continue regarding Jackson State’s leadership

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Jackson State University played rivals Alcorn State University in the 2021 Soul Bowl to a crowd of over 58,892. (Advocate photo by Joshua Martin)

The college board met on Thursday, March 23, which was a week later than its usual meeting day. It proceeded through an unusually brief agenda, after which it went into executive session.

The larger than usual crowd of attendees at the meeting was quite disappointed because many of them were there to witness the board’s promised discussion of the future leadership of Jackson State University. Although the board may have, in fact, discussed the matter in its executive session, many in the crowd were not familiar with the double-talk, duplicity, and secrecy of the board and were thus quite unprepared to be dismissed without any item on the agenda being related to Jackson State University, especially not anything about a presidential search.

Dr. Elayne Hayes Anthony, who was in attendance as temporary acting president, may have been put in an awkward position since she was introduced, but with nothing about her future being discussed. She left the meeting, just as the rest of the attendees, when the board went into executive session. She indicated to the media that she is interested in serving as the permanent president and would apply when the process begins.

The matter of the future leadership of JSU was further ignored by the board since it made no comments on President Thomas Hudson’s resignation as of March 31. Along that same line, there were no minutes from the special board meeting two weeks earlier, wherein Hudson was placed on administrative leave and Hayes Anthony was named to the position.

Many have questioned the reason for the abrupt actions against Hudson. The board, however, if its history is a reliable guide, is not likely to ever publicly disclose that information.

These items weigh heavily on the minds of many alumni due to the fact that they and other members of the JSU community have had very little input into the matter of presidential selections since the days of Dr. James Hefner more than 30 years ago. Since that time, they have been frequently and repeatedly embarrassed by the permanent presidents appointed by the college board. They desire more input into the selections, as has usually been the case at the larger, predominantly white universities.

Hours after the board meeting, the trustees released a relevant communique. It indicated that Dr. Steven Cunningham, an alumnus of JSU, was named to head the presidential search. This, however, was not earth-shaking news. It is a fairly standard practice to have an alumnus to lead such searches. It is also no real favor being done to have listening sessions for a few people in the JSU community. There simply needs to be a full, written, iron-clad commitment to that community that it will have the major voice in making the future presidential selection. 

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OPINION: College board’s duplicity, double-talk, and secrecy continue regarding Jackson State’s leadership

By Dr. Ivory Phillips
April 2, 2023