Jackson State University alumni and constituency groups have been meeting daily to discuss strategies they hope will delay the expected appointment of Dr. William B. Bynum as the next JSU president.
On Monday, the Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL) Board of Trustees search committee named Bynum, president of Mississippi Valley State University, as the preferred candidate for the opening at JSU.
A final decision is scheduled for Wednesday, following a series of public sessions between Bynum and various JSU constituencies.
“We will make sure that JSU is protected, (JSU) determines its own destiny and IHL does not arbitrarily cause the demise of JSU by appointing inferior leaders to Jackson State,” said McKinley Alexander, a JSU alumnus and organizer of an ad hoc committee of concerned alumni.
Immediately after the announcement at IHL headquarters in Jackson on Monday, Jackson State alumni and other constituents who have been critical of the selection process walked out in protest.
That was followed by an outpouring of confusion and concern on social media and a number of phone calls and open letters sent to IHL Commissioner Glenn Boyce and search chair, Trustee C.D. Smith.
Among issues being raised:
• “How do you conduct a national search and wind up in Itta Bena, Mississippi? I’ve seen the cuts at Valley … the finances are different at JSU (multimillion dollar university). Can he manage the money?” asked Levertis Meeks, former professor at MVSU and alumnus of JSU.
• “I’m extremely disappointed especially because every last JSU representative gave (Bynum) a resounding no,” said Kendall Bunch, outgoing student government association president at JSU and member of the interview search advisory committee which was appointed by the IHL board.
• “I am shocked, because Dr. Bynum was a part of the pool of candidates and he did not make the second round (of interviews),” said Dr. Jean-Claud Assad, co-chair of the campus search advisory committee and member of the interview search advisory committee. “IHL is going to have to answer to this.”
• “I haven’t seen an indicator that the college board knows how to select a president for a HBCU (Historically black College and University). The less qualified you are for the job, the more likely you’ll become president,” said Alexander.
• “All (HBCU) universities are not represented on the board … we’re very concerned about that,” said Sen. Hillman Frazier, D-Jackson, vice chairman of the Senate Universities and Colleges Committee and JSU alumnus.
Some concerns have been expressed in public letters written to Boyce and Smith.
“When we arrived to the second round of interviews on May 8, 2017, I was greatly pleased with Commissioner Boyce and the IHL Board of Trustees. Three candidates that we desired to see in the second round appeared before us, and again, we shared our views with a clear motive of obtaining the best candidate for Jackson State University. Following those interviews I was nervous and something just did not feel right,” wrote Kendall Bunch, member of the interview search advisory committee
Dr. James T. Minor was the interview search advisory committee’s preferred candidate according to a member of the committee.
Minor, a JSU alumnus, was also popular among the general public for his service as deputy assistant secretary in the Office of Post-secondary Education at the U.S. Department of Education from March 2014 to August 2016. Minor is currently the senior strategist for academic success in the chancellor’s office at California State University.
“As an alumni family, we are enormously disappointed that the board chose not to honor the recommendation made by the representatives of the Administration, Faculty, Staff, Students, Foundation, Community and Alumni,” wrote Yolanda Owens, president of the JSU National Alumni Association and member of the interview search advisory committee.
“As previously stated and with all previous communication pertaining to the process, none of the members of the JSU ISAC (search) Committee were given advance notice of the May 22, 2017 press conference. Two members of the JSU ISAC Committee were present. However, none of the members of the Board felt it necessary to be present, other than you, the Commissioner and the President of the Board of Trustees,” she wrote.
Jean Frazier, member of the interview search advisory committee, wrote: “Equally troubling are the public statements that followed in a press release disseminated by the Institutions of Higher Learning, naming the committee members, which gives the impression that the JSU ISAC Committee was involved in the selection of the preferred candidate and that we endorse the decision made by the Board. ”
Many of these groups are urging JSU alumni to bring at least 20 other persons to join them on May 31 to challenge the IHL board during Bynum’s full day of meetings with constituents at the JSU Student Center.
The schedule for those sessions:
9 a.m.: Administration, faculty and staff
10 a.m.: Students
11 a.m.: Alumni/community
1 p.m.: Board meeting
1:30 p.m.: Press conference
Former JSU president Dr. Carolyn Meyers announced her resignation in October, less than a week after the Institutions of Higher Learning appointed an accounting analytics firm to assess the university’s finances. IHL trustees reported that Jackson State’s cash reserves declined from $37 million to $4 million over four years.
The board hired Ridgeland-based Matthews, Cutrer & Lindsay P.A. to assess the university’s finances between fiscal year 2012 and fiscal year 2016.
Dr. Rod Paige was named interim president of JSU in November.