Morehouse College decides to go with a new leader
John S. Wilson is one of several HBCU presidents forced out or retiring in last six months
John S. Wilson will be done as president of Morehouse College after his four-year term ends in June. The school’s board of trustees decided not to renew his contract.
The vote apparently took place at the historically black, all-male college on Jan. 13, when the trustees last met. Notably, three student members weren’t allowed to attend, which drew criticism and calls for protest. No explanation was given for why the board decided to part ways with Wilson.
Jan. 16, the day of the announcement, was the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., the school’s most famous graduate.
“I am proud of the work we have achieved and the obstacles we have overcome while serving as President of Morehouse College,” Wilson, who led the school for four years, said in a statement. “I am particularly proud that alumni fundraising was significantly enhanced, with donations from alumni and the Board of Trustees reaching record levels over the last two years.”
A 1979 graduate of Morehouse, Wilson was named the college’s 11th president in November 2012. At his best, Wilson welcomed President Barack Obama to give the school’s commencement speech and invited Vice President Joe Biden to discuss sexual assault on college campuses.
His goals included improving faculty pay, advancing in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and student aid. To that end, he received $1 million grant to build up Morehouse’s STEM programs.
Students started a petition to fire Wilson, citing cuts to the health professions programming, reduced transparency and raising revenues with no regard for students and parents. Increases in tuition, and a new requirement for students to live on campus for at least three years, meaning the school would receive an additional $13,000 in mandatory room and board fees, were a few of the changes that drew complaints.
A financial crisis in 2013 forced the school to cut or minimize 75 jobs, and in the five years between 2007 and 2012, the school’s enrollment declined from 2,900 to 2,200.
Wilson’s ouster comes almost a year after Buzzfeed wrote a detailed and scathing enterprise piece about sexual assault on Morehouse’s campus. This prompted the school to change its policy regarding sexual assault, but the damage had already been done, and the perception of Wilson doing very little to fix the issues affected him.
Morehouse is one of several historically black universities to part ways with its president.
- After eight years at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina, Ron Carter announced his retirement following the 2016-17 academic school year in August 2016.
- In September 2016, Lady June Cole was fired from Allen University after three years with the school in Columbia, South Carolina.
- Elmira Mangum stepped down as president of Florida A&M University in Tallahassee.
- Alabama State University’s board of trustees voted to suspend Gwendolyn Boyd as president in October 2016.
- Jackson State University president Carolyn Meyers resigned from the Mississippi school in October 2016.
Debra Saunders-White, the first permanent female chancellor at North Carolina Central University in Durham, died of cancer in late November 2016.