‘The honeymoon period is over’: JSU faculty senate votes no confidence in president, administration


‘The honeymoon period is over’: JSU faculty senate votes no confidence in president, administration

The Jackson University faculty senate voted “no-confidence” in President Hudson and his administration on Thursday.

A two-page resolution from the governing body elected by faculty to represent their concerns called out Hudson and four members of his administration for a “continuous pattern of failing to respect” shared governance and other professional norms of higher education at the historically Black university in Mississippi’s capital city.

Though his tenure has brought JSU athletic success and millions in research dollars, faculty say their concerns have gone ignored for months as Hudson has stopped meeting with them. With the no-confidence vote, years of behind-the-scenes issues – like mold, lax campus security, and worsening pay inequity as high-level administrators have received pay raises – are bubbling into the public eye.

“There are serious issues regarding effective leadership at Jackson State University,” stated the resolution, which also named Joseph Whitaker, the vice president of research and economic development; Michael Bolden, vice president of facilities and operations; Robin Pack, the executive director of human resources, and Brandi Newkirk-Turner, the associate provost.

One faculty senator, at a meeting in August, described the general sentiment toward the administration this way: “The honeymoon period is over, and now the pressure is on.”

At that same meeting, another senator concurred that faculty were starting to feel “like second class citizens.”

In a statement, Hudson said that he is looking forward to working with the faculty senate to address their concerns.

“I’m proud of what my administration has been able to accomplish to date,” Hudson said, “and I am committed to continuing the work to collaboratively execute the strategic plan to make Jackson State the best institution it can be.”

While no-confidence votes signal faculty dissatisfaction with their president, they have no binding effect. Such votes are relatively rare in Mississippi. The most recent was in 2019 after the Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees appointed Glenn Boyce as chancellor at the University of Mississippi. While faculty at Alcorn State University had conce

Hudson was appointed acting president in the wake of a scandal at JSU after former president William Bynum was arrested in a prostitution sting. Hudson, a Jackson resident and JSU alum, had broad support on campus when the IHL board solidified his appointment at the end of 2020.

A few months before Hudson was confirmed by IHL, faculty, noticing that new hires were making more than tenured faculty, started asking his administration to conduct a pay equity study. Black women in particular were increasingly making below the median salary for faculty, according to a data analysis from an Oct. 21 faculty senate meeting.

More than two years later, JSU still hasn’t funded the study. Human resources issued two requests-for-proposals, but the only vendor that replied in 2021 was outside the budget, according to faculty senate meeting minutes. It is unclear how much the university committed to the study.

In April 2022, the provost told the faculty senate they had negotiated the original bid down to $40,000, but that was the last update the senate received on the pay study.

Hudson said in a statement that he is committed to funding the pay equity study and that his administration “has worked extensively with the Faculty and Staff Senate to make it a reality.” He told Mississippi Today that “the pay equity study, it just is what it is. We’re not sure what angle they’re going with the delay.” 

For the first year and a half of Hudson’s term, the primary vehicle for faculty to address their concerns with administration was a monthly meeting held by faculty senate leadership. The faculty senate executive committee would talk with Hudson about pressing issues and relay his comments to the senate at large.

But at a meeting with the cabinet on Aug. 23, 2022, Hudson informed the executive committee that it would be his last, according to faculty senate meeting minutes. While the provost would continue to attend, going forward, Hudson wanted “more holistic engagement” with faculty, like town halls. If faculty had concerns, the meeting minutes say that Hudson requested they email other members of the administration and copy him.

Hudson “indicated that he does not think that it’s the best use of his time to go down what is basically a list of concerns every meeting,” the meeting minutes say.

Don Spann, the faculty senate treasurer and a visiting assistant professor, said the executive committee asked Hudson “what do we need to make sure we utilize your time wisely?”

“One of the things he basically said was to make sure it aligns with his strategic plan,” Spann said, adding he felt like Hudson was basically saying, “if it’s not in line with my strategic plan, then I’m not really going to take the time out to listen to it.”

At a faculty senate meeting two days later, faculty expressed concern with Hudson’s request. One senator called town hall meetings “public relation meetings” and another noted that, without changes, faculty “will get frustrated.” One senator said she had a “concern that this format will create a lot of going back and forth and a writing campaign.”

On Sept. 16, the senate sent a letter to Hudson outlining its concerns about the meetings. He never responded, according to the senate. 

Emails from faculty senators to administration started to go ignored. They haven’t received an update on the pay equity study in months.

In particular, faculty have repeatedly asked the administration to address what they say is a persistent lack of public safety on campus. Faculty have noted at senate meetings they don’t see security on campus and that there have been car thefts and incidents of homeless people harassing students.

“The campus is too open to strangers,” the Sept. 2022 meeting minutes note.

Spann said that while Bolden has attended faculty senate meetings to talk about facilities and security, he is disappointed with the lack of progress on safety initiatives, like making sure campus cameras are working or hiring new officers.

The Senate shared the resolution with IHL and the commissioner, the staff senate and SGA, and the alumni association. The reported that IHL will investigate.

“We want to make the university better as a whole,” Spann said. “In order to do that, you have to have dialogue. But if you’re not at the table with the president, it’s not effective communication at all.”

This article first on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Anna Wolfe to discuss welfare scandal at Delta State University


Anna Wolfe to discuss welfare scandal at Delta State University

Anna Wolfe

In a free event open to the public, investigative reporter Anna Wolfe will discuss her reporting on the Mississippi welfare scandal.

Delta University’s event featuring Wolfe will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 31 in Jobe Hall Auditorium.

Wolfe’s series The Backchannel gained national attention in 2022 when she revealed text messages and emails between key players of the welfare scandal, including former NFL player Brett Favre and Gov. Phil Bryant.

This article first on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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IHL wants a new president at Delta State by summer 2023 


IHL wants a new president at Delta State by summer 2023 

The Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees wants to hire a new president at Delta University by summer 2023 or sooner.

The interim president, E.E. Butch Caston, who IHL appointed last July, had said he would stay in the position for a year. The 22-page profile recently finalized by Academic Search, the headhunting firm that IHL is contracting for the search, gives some clues to the type of president trustees want to take over after Caston.

While the regional college in Cleveland, a small town in the Mississippi Delta, is contending with plummeting enrollment and shaky finances — problems that are widespread in higher education — potential applicants do not need experience working in university administration, so long as they’re successful in their field and have a “deep knowledge” of higher education, according to the profile.

IHL prefers candidates with a terminal degree, but the profile does not say it is required.

The profile makes clear that despite the challenges facing Delta State, IHL wants candidates with ambition that match the university’s vision to become “the best regional university in America as it combines a heritage of academic strength with a robust commitment to serving people and communities, particularly in the Mississippi Delta.”

Delta State opened as a teachers college in 1924. The profile touts the university’s small student-to-teacher ratio; efforts to increase diversity, equity and inclusion like the annual “Winning the Race” conference; and its estimated $175 million annual economic impact on the Mississippi Delta.

The next president will be expected to increase enrollment, both graduate and undergraduate, and retention across all classes, according to the profile. This is a significant challenge, as Delta State has lost enrollment faster than any other public university in recent years. Headcount has dropped 29% percent since 2014, with just 2,556 students enrolled this year.

Another challenge that IHL wants the next president to tackle is growing the university’s annual fund and modest $30 million endowment by reaching out to alumni, community members and regional employers. State appropriations, once the school’s most significant source of funds, have plummeted in recent years.

Adjusted for inflation, Delta State receives less money from the state than it did in 2000. The university’s cash on hand was less than half of IHL’s recommended reserve of 90 days in 2020.

At Delta State, the enrollment and financial challenges are reciprocal. The lack of funding over the last decade has led the administration to slash scholarships and raise tuition and that in turn has made the university less affordable to students.

In 2014, tuition at Delta State cost $6,012 a year before room and board. This year, it’s up to $8,435, a quarter of the median household income in Bolivar County.

Most students receive Pell Grants — federal financial aid for students from low-income families — and are from Mississippi. Though the university has long, and still does, serve one of the highest percentages of Black students of any public university in the state, its demographics don’t line up with the Delta’s. In 2020, 33% of students at Delta State were Black and 55% were white, according to federal data — a near inversion of the demographics of Bolivar County, which is 65% Black and 33% white.

IHL wants the next president to “demonstrate a lived commitment” to diversity, equity and inclusion and to work well with faculty and staff by hewing to the “the principles of shared governance.”

On behalf of the board, Academic Search will take confidential applications until the position is filled but prefers candidates submit by January 31. Presidential searches are secret in Mississippi.

Candidates must submit a cover letter, a “written philosophy” of diversity, equity and inclusion, a resume and five professional references.

This article first on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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JSU asks students to delay move-in due to city water pressure issues, again


JSU asks students to delay move-in due to city water pressure issues, again

Citing low water pressure due to broken pipes near campus, Jackson University sent an email Tuesday morning asking students to wait to move into dorms until later this week or this weekend.

Residence halls are scheduled to open tomorrow, Jan. 4, at 4 p.m.

The request comes after freezing temperatures strained Jackson’s ailing water system over the holiday, causing water line breaks throughout the city and near JSU’s campus.

“As an update, the City of Jackson continues to make repairs to broken water pipes near campus,” the university wrote. “While we anticipate these repairs should be completed before classes begin on January 9th, our water pressure on campus remains low at this time. For your convenience, students who can are encouraged to arrive in the latter part of the week or weekend.”

This is the second consecutive semester that JSU has asked students to delay moving into dorms due to water issues on campus. Last fall, in the weeks leading up to the citywide water crisis, JSU postponed move-in for 750 students for two days, citing “unprecedented water pressure issues” affecting water flow on the upper floors of student housing.

Many students went home during the water crisis last year. Students who stayed on campus had to use portable showers and toilets, and there was no laundry service.

The city’s water issues have caused periods of low to no water pressure at JSU as far back as 2010. The campus, west of downtown and far from the water treatment plants, relies on some of the oldest pipes in the capital city.

In recent years, the Jackson State and the Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees have explored moving the campus off the city’s water system, which currently supports heating, cooling, potable and non-potable water, and fire protection systems.

These efforts have, so far, seen little to no success.

During last year’s legislative session, IHL requested more than $17 million in funds for water-related projects on JSU’s campus. The did not fulfill those requests.

JSU has requested federal pandemic dollars to pay for a plan to build its own water system, but the state has said the award is not guaranteed. It’s unclear if the Department of Finance and Administration has awarded these funds.

A bill proposed last session by Rep. Angela Cockerham, I-Magnolia, sought $8 million for JSU for costs associated with building a separate water system. It died in committee.

Four Mississippi universities have their own water systems, according to the Institutions of Higher Learning. They include Alcorn State University, Mississippi Valley State University, Mississippi State University, and the University of Mississippi.

The uses its own water source for about 90% of campus with the remaining coming from the city, IHL’s spokesperson, Caron Blanton, wrote in an email earlier this year.

This article first on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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