Are Layoffs Imminent At Tuskegee?

July 30, 2016 17 By Michael
Every morning the Tuskegee President Brian Johnson wakes up in Grey Columns, a house built by slaves. Meanwhile the university may be forced to institute massive layoffs to keep the university afloat.

Every morning Tuskegee University President, Brian Johnson, wakes up in the Grey Columns, a house built by enslaved people from Africa. Meanwhile the university may be forced to institute massive layoffs to keep the university afloat. Photo Credits: (c) 2014 Harold Michael Harvey

Are layoffs imminent at Tuskegee? That is the water cooler buzz on the East Alabama campus of Tuskegee University. Strong rumors are circulating that pink slips are just around the counter for employees at the university founded by Lewis Adams and $2,000 from the State of Alabama 135 years ago.

According to sources on campus, university employees fearing layoffs are submitting applications in droves at businesses and government agencies in Alabama. According to our sources, the university has almost run out of money and the impending layoffs are a last ditch effort to keep the university afloat.

Last spring, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools continued Tuskegee University on a one year warning notice in order to give the university time to assure SACS that certain financial issues are under control. The SACS warning notice question the use of Title IV funds that have to do with overages in student financial aid money. According to federal guidelines, if any financial aid money is left over, that money is to be given to the student. It is not to be used for operating expenses of the university (See Morris Brown College). SACS wants to make sure that Tuskegee is in compliance with this regulation. Additionally, SACS raised questions over the financial strength of the university and its ability to raise funds.

Last year, Tuskegee University issued for the first time in over three years, what they purport to be a financial statement. The financials were lacking in the most basic accounting principles, so it is hard to tell just how solvent or how much financial trouble the university is in at this time.

According to our sources, the university is hoping to borrow several million dollars to pay their operating expenses and to make payroll. If they are able to do so, perhaps layoffs in the near future will be averted.

Part of the problem stems from the fact that when the Board of Trustees selected Dr. Brian Johnson as president, they allowed him to place his capital campaign in the third year of his administration. President Johnson has raised virtually no money other than the money he receives when visiting regional alumni chapters. At this writing Johnson is one month into his third year at the helm of Tuskegee. He has a major fundraising event in the works for later this fall. If the university is unable to develop a good capital campaign layoffs are inevitable.

But for now, university officials met last week and discussed plans to trim $5 million from the budget. The Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center is badly in need of funds to meet operating expenses, an alumni familiar with the situation said. Graduates fear that the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center is on the brink of closure.

Meanwhile, the Tuskegee National Alumni Association is set to convene its national conference in Las Vegas next month. Many graduates decry this as excessive spending during a period of financial instability at the university. They contend that the money spend on a hotel and conference facility in Vegas could have been better spent at the Kellogg Center and by providing campus dormitories that are vacant this summer as additional lodging space. Thus, investing the national conference dollars into the facilities of the university.

One alumni chapter ( Atlanta Tuskegee Alumni Club) is so concerned about Johnson’s failure to correct the SACS deficiencies and to raise money for the university, that earlier this year, they issued a “Vote of No Confidence” against Johnson and the Board of Trustees for their negligence in managing Johnson’s progress.

However, the Atlanta Club’s Board of Directors failed to forward the vote of the rank and file members to the university. This action by the Club’s board of directors caused Atlanta area alumni to form two renegade groups, the Tuskegee Think Tank and Concerned Tuskegee Alumni. They have called a joint meeting in Atlanta, Georgia for Saturday, July 30, 2016 to discuss proactive strategies to protect the Tuskegee University brand. In the short term, layoffs may occur before things get better.

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.