Tuskegee Protest Day 2
The student protest at Tuskegee University continued into its second day. Friday approximately 100 students assembled at the Booker T. Washington monument. They demanded that the Board of Trustees fire President Brian J0hnson by the end of the day.
The board did not fire Johnson.
One board member, who requested anonymity in a phone conversation, said “it is unlikely the Board will terminate Johnson’s contract.”
“Johnson,” the board member said, “possesses the skills necessary to fulfill his contract, but he lacks the social skills to get along with other members in the Tuskegee community. If he can learn how to attract friends he will be successful.”
After nine months of Johnson posing for campus selfies with students and crashing student block parties, student leaders say they have had enough and want Johnson replaced with a Tuskegee alumnus.
On Day 2 of the student protest, student leaders passed the ball into Johnson’s court. They called on Johnson to resign by the close of business on Monday. If Johnson does not voluntarily resign, the students said they would continue their protest and issue a demand upon “the Board of Trustees to resign, beginning with the Chair of the Board, General (Ret.) Charles Williams.”
The operation of the board has been called into question after Dr. Gilbert Rochon walked away from the job two years into a five-year contract. There were no reasons given for Rochon’s sudden resignation, Neither were there any public allegations that Rochon had engaged in any wrongdoing.
Several university insiders have said, they believe Rochon’s departure was orchestrated by Williams.
Rochon was replaced by Dr. Matthew Jenkins, an alumnus and major contributor to Tuskegee. He was appointed acting President until the search committee could find a suitable candidate to take charge of the university. Many insiders believe that Williams hand picked Jenkins.
Jenkins immediately picked a fight with the student community and laid off staff members. He was at odds with two of the constituencies of the university and was replaced when Williams presented Johnson to the Board last spring.
According to one board member, Williams did not present the top three finalists identified by the search committee, instead he asked the board for approval of Johnson. The Board gave its approval without objecting to the manner in which the other candidates had been kept from them.
This explains why student leaders believe the entire board should resign. However, under the rules that govern this board -which date back to 1880 – it is a self-perpetuating board, that selects its successors.
A flyer circulated to student protesters states, the demonstrations will continue until their demands are met. Also, the students pledge not to attend classes until they reach an agreement with the university.
Meanwhile, alumni are circulating on the Internet a March 28, 1997 news report written by Tom Stabile and published in The District Line. This article alleges Williams engaged in improprieties in the 1990s when he was employed by the New York City School Construction Authority. The article also discusses alleged improprieties when he worked as Chief Financial Officer for the District Public Schools in Washington, D. C. In the article Williams denies the allegations.
Harold Michael Harvey, is the author of the legal thriller “Paper Puzzle,” and “Justice in the Round: Essays on the American Jury System,” available at Amazon and at haroldmichaelharvey.com. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org