Tuskegee Alumns:”No Confidence”

Brian Johnson, seventh president of Tuskegee University letting it all hang out at a sorority party.
Brian Johnson, seventh president of Tuskegee University letting it all hang out at a sorority party.


On Saturday, the Atlanta Tuskegee Alumni Club issued “a vote of no confidence” on both university President Brian Johnson and the Board of Trustees. The group is unhappy with the state of affairs at Tuskegee University.

On one motion, the Atlanta Alumni Club voted 36-2 to issue “a vote of no confidence” on the manner in which President Johnson is discharging his duties at Tuskegee. Then they voted 32-2 to send “a vote of no confidence” to the Board of Trustees, due to their failure to properly oversee the operation of the university.

This was an unprecedented move by the Atlanta Tuskegee Alumni Club. It has never in its history issued “a no vote of confidence” against the president or the board of trustees. After a lengthy presentation by the “Listening Committee,” Atlanta lawyer Oliver Hunter, offered a combined motion to take “a vote of no confidence” on President Johnson and on the Board of Trustees. An alternative motion by Lillie Lanier split the issue into two  separate votes.

The Atlanta Alumni Club heard committee members detail the conclusions reached after their exhaustive research of issues facing the university.

Chief among reasons this alumni club has lost confidence in President Johnson has to do with his mishandling of communication with Cynthia Bazile Smith. Her son BJ Smith, a Tuskegee student, was murdered at an off campus block party in 2013. Johnson refused to meet with her when Smith sought clarification regarding promises Johnson’s predecessor, Dr. Gilbert Rochon, had made to the Smith family.

Also, the “Listening Committee” found issue with President Johnson’s conduct with coeds on campus and what they claim are his efforts to promote himself rather than prosecuting the business of Tuskegee University.

Additionally, the committee cited Johnson’s order to campus police to bar Reverend Harold Lusk from the campus after Lusk attended a public Vesper service and asked Johnson a question during the question and answer session.

The Atlanta group found most egregious a recent financial report which did not disclose the university’s indebtedness, coupled with the fact that alumni were given less than 24 hours to respond to a proposed five year plan.

Members expressed disappointment that the Johnson administration has not taken sufficient steps to resolve the Warning Status placed on the university by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

The Board of Trustees came into the cross-hairs of the Atlanta group because of their failure to reign in former President Benjamin Payton and now Johnson. The “Listening Committee” found that President Payton in his last eight years in office took out millions of dollars in loans from the federal government. The loans are now coming due, which is creating a difficult financial situation for the university. The Atlanta group expressed a lack of confidence in neither Johnson nor the Board’s ability to refinance those loans in a manner that will enable the university to remain solvent.

The Club’s President, Rose Merry Brock, said that their “vote of no confidence” will be forwarded to the Southeast Region Tuskegee Alumni Association and then onto the National Tuskegee Alumni Association.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Harold Michael Harvey is a dues paying member of the Atlanta Tuskegee Alumni Club but neither participated in the discussion nor cast a vote on either motion.

Harold Michael Harvey is an American novelist and essayist, the author of Paper puzzle and Justice in the Round. He can be contacted at haroldmichaelharvey.com.




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Published by Michael

Harold Michael Harvey is a Past President of The Gate City Bar Association and is the recipient of the Association’s R. E. Thomas Civil Rights Award. He is the author of Paper Puzzle and Justice in the Round: Essays on the American Jury System, and a two-time winner of Allvoices’ Political Pundit Prize. His work has appeared in Facing South, The Atlanta Business Journal, The Southern Christian Leadership Conference Magazine, Southern Changes Magazine, Black Colleges Nines, and Medium.

7 replies on “Tuskegee Alumns:”No Confidence””

    1. I certainly hope Tuskegee University does not go the way of St. Paul College. As you are probably aware, I have been reporting on issues affecting Tuskegee University governance for several years now and have come under extreme cruel criticism for being the bearer of bad news.

      1. It is certainly proper to be the bearer of bad news if that news is brought in the interest of making alumni aware of administrative failiure to see the dangers of fiscal and organizational irresponsibility and thereby call the administration to task to face the reality that the “pride of the swift growing south” is in dire straits and must comply with guidelines and protocol to keep it afloat.

  1. Thank you Harold Michael Harvey. TU has a rich heritage and a world renowned University. My husband and I are TU alumni and wish the TU Legacy to continue. Harvey Maxwell recently had a mini stroke. My name is Dandy Bettis Maxwell. Sorry that we are sick and shut-in but we are with you. Keep us informed.

    1. Thank you Mrs. Maxwell. Tuskegee University has a proud and long legacy. The Atlanta Tuskegee Alumni Club did their due diligence and stepped up big time on Saturday. Give my best regards to Mr. Maxwell. I wish him a speedy recovery.

  2. So, let me get this straight. The Atlanta Club’s Vote of No Confidence was blatantly ignored by the Trustees? Isn’t this a violation of sorts? Sounds like a shady move by the BOT, which should NOT be tolerated and should be exposed at the National level.

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