The Morgan State University campus continues to buzz about the decision by the school’s board of regents to end Dr. David Wilson’s term as MSU president.
In a Dec. 11 statement, the board said it would not renew Wilson’s contract as president two and a half years into his term at the helm of one of Maryland’s four historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
As of next June, the board said, “Dr. Wilson is expected to become a part of the Morgan State University faculty as a tenured faculty member.”
Dallas R. Evans, chairman of the MSU board of regents, applauded Wilson in the same release that also announced the beginning of a search to replace him.
“Morgan State University remains committed to its mission of supporting, empowering and preparing high-quality, diverse graduates to lead the world,” said Evans.
Board member, retired Army Gen. Larry R. Ellis, will preside over a task force established by the board to forge a transition plan by the end of the year.
In a letter to the members of the Morgan State University community on Dec. 10, Wilson reaffirmed his love for the institution.
“I love Morgan! I love it because we take so many students who enter this institution as freshmen with raw, unrefined talent and have them emerge from this special place four or five years later as gems in the state’s and the nation’s crown.”
“I stand proudly on the body of work we have been able to achieve during my tenure,” said Wilson, who also added that he will not challenge –or speak ill of –the board’s action.
Wilson took over from Dr. Earl S. Richardson, who led the university for more than two decades. He was the 12th president for the historically Black fixture in Northeast Baltimore, its campus sprawling along Hillen Road from Argonne Drive past Cold Spring Lane.
Wilson’s legacy will include a new building for the business school to be named after Earl G. Graves, Morgan alumnus and founder of Black Enterprise Magazine, the newly opened Center for the Built Environment and Infrastructure Studies (CBEIS) and technological upgrades and administrative changes.
But students like Chinadu Nwokeafor, who aren’t crushed to see Wilson go, say he often took undue credit for the upgrades on campus and criticized president’s attitude and way of dealing with people.
Nwokeafor is a member of The X Assembly, a student organization that says they have been active in campus issues. While they received cooperation from the president in speaking out about the killing of Trayvon Martin, a Florida teenager, they encountered resistance from Wilson over complaints about campus food service.
Nwokeafor said they were “belittled” by Wilson on the food issue when they met with the president in November. “We left that meeting with a sense of disappointment, simply because of your harsh method of speaking to us,’’ the group said in a follow-up letter to Dr. Wilson on Nov. 28.
“As we were leaving, you mentioned that we should be focusing more on our grades, insinuating that we were under achievers.”
Nwokeafor said he never believed the president had pure intentions for the university and didn’t like the way Wilson asked students if they “liked what he was doing for the campus,” making it seem like he alone was responsible for the changes in the campus capital plant.
Other students support Wilson. A student-fueled petition to reverse the decision was posted on Change.org.
In her letter to the Board of Regents, Ebony Miller, who orchestrated the petition, said that Wilson made a significant contribution to Morgan.
“The students of Morgan State University have a voice and we want to keep our president,” reads the petition. By Dec. 12, the effort had more than 650 signatures.
Wilson’s supporters said he has had a positive impact in his brief tenure. He was influential in increasing federal grants and contract work by 20 percent. Student retention at Morgan is over 70 percent, a 12-year high, according to Wilson.
“I’m not sure why they don’t feel they need to renew his contract, but Morgan State University does need Dr. Wilson,” said Bashan Prah, 21, a senior civil engineering major in her last year of studies. “Dr. Wilson has been such a great help to our school. He truly cares about the students. We want the Board of Regents to overturn this decision immediately,” Prah told the AFRO.
Under Wilson’s lead, they say, a large part of the campus has become wireless and the registration process for students has been streamlined.
Still, the security issues and violent gun related crimes that have occurred on and around the campus have undoubtedly left more than a few stains on an otherwise successful presidency.
A shooting inside an MSU Student Center bathroom in September further shook a campus that had already received nation attention in June for the alleged cannibalism incident involving former engineering student and ROTC member Alex Kinyua.
Campus violence drew media attention less than two weeks ago with another daytime shooting the same week university police disclosed information about two more armed robberies reported on campus.
The university said security problems have been exacerbated by newly-trending automated teller machines that provide instant access to cash in exchange for used cell phones and MP3 players. Wilson has fought to have the product discontinued in the area. Meant to encourage recycling, these Eco-ATMs have been a catalyst for the crimes around campus, with eight machines located within a 25 mile radius of the campus.
“No one person is taking the blame but when you’re the leader of an institution where such activities are going on, parents, students, and employees all look toward someone in leadership to take responsibility,” said Dr. Max Hilaire, chairman of Morgan’s political science department, adding his belief that “the university was heading in the wrong direction” overall regarding faculty input.