The lines and anxiety within the Starbucks at Howard University’s bookstore showed little signs of lightening on April 17. An April 5 widely circulated anonymous critique of Wayne A.I. Frederick, Howard’s president, and Provost Anthony Wutoh, made by select members of the university’s faculty was causing concern over Frederick’s future with the university.
“What does it mean for students that those closest to the president and provost don’t believe the school is being managed properly? What is the appropriate response for students?” mused Faison Baylor, a political science student. “I guess my concern is the lack of patience and dialogue among leaders that would allow things to come to a head so publicly. Frederick is still relatively new and no one is going to agree with every, single thing he does or even his methodology. Fronting him though, looks bad.”
At issue, according to Taft Broome, chair of the faculty senate, are a fledgling hospital, in addition to Frederick’s “unfulfilled promises of a new revenue stream from an online learning program, a new faculty development program, a new faculty ombudsman; deceptive transparency, ineffective fund raising, and the lack of a plan for an expansive path forward for Howard University; and a loss of trust from faculty.”
The no confidence vote was answered by Frederick in a memo, saying in part, “Howard’s mission requires that we remain focused on advancing the institution forward. I will continue to work diligently with faculty to make progress on the challenges we face. These challenges aren’t dissimilar to the challenges that all of higher education is facing.”
Ashley Broadnax, a junior chemical engineering student from Bakersfield, Calif., told the AFRO that while she faced several challenges with housing when she initially arrived, (including issues of mold and rodents), her concerns were addressed immediately. Calling the no confidence vote a slap in the face of the president, Broadnax intends to support Frederick’s efforts.
“Our president inherited a lot of problems that were not of his making and to suggest that he is Superman and can fix the problems caused by others – and obviously without the support of some who are closest to him – is unfair,” Broadnax said. “You have to be loyal to your leadership and help where you can. Anything else harms the institution.”
Other students, like Memphis-native Charles Caston, told the AFRO he was more concerned about the school airing its dirty laundry in public than about potential malfeasance. “Whether it’s the crabs in a barrel syndrome or a real concern, it should have been hashed out behind closed doors and with as many attempts at resolution before a no confidence vote was taken,” Caston said. “When White institutions across the nation have differences among their leaders, it’s an internal issue that remains internal until solved.”
Stacey Mobley, chairman of the Board of Trustees, responded with a letter to the faculty senate discounting many of the charges. “A vote of no confidence is deeply troubling, wholly unjustified, and counterproductive to Howard’s goals. In fact, it contradicts the very positive assessment this Board has of the president’s performance to date, his track record of success, and the integrity and good judgment he exhibits,” Mobley said. “The current administration is leading with honesty, transparency, and accountability; these are core values we should all embrace in our leadership.”