Grambling Officials: Presidential Trip to Cuba Was a Vacation

An international trip for Grambling State University President Willie Larkin that was labeled as way for the university to expand its “educational borders and university brand” was today relabeled as a personal vacation for the campus CEO.

Campus officials clarified the nature of the travel today after refusing requests for Dr. Larkin’s itinerary and contact information for schools or academic officers with whom Dr. Larkin may have met during his trip to Cuba earlier this month.

“The specific details of Dr. Larkin’s visit to Cuba can’t be discussed at this time. However, once the agreements are defined, details will be forthcoming. International opportunities and expansions are being explored with a number of countries in mind, including Cuba.  This effort is part of our new 5-year Strategic Plan.”

When asked why details would not be released for a business trip commonly promoted by institutions and presidents around the country, officials gave details on the true nature of the trip – a personal excursion during which Dr. Larkin intended to learn about the country’s higher education system.

Dr. Larkin planned a personal vacation.  He took the opportunity during his personal time to look into educational opportunities for the benefit of Grambling State and to learn more about Cuba’s culture and higher educational system. After he planned the trip, he became aware that his trip coincidentally overlapped with Tom Joyner’s visit with the group of HBCU presidents.

In an initial release about the trip, school officials cited existing agreements between other U.S. institutions and the University of Havana, as models for Grambling’s international development strategy. From the release:

Grambling State University’s president, Dr. Willie D. Larkin, sees many possible prospects, as well. “One of my goals is to expand Grambling’s international footprint over the next 5 years.” Dr. Larkin is currently visiting Cuba to become more acquainted with the country’s culture and educational systems. It is important that all of our supporters know that I am constantly mining for unique advantages for our students, faculty and staff. I am looking for golden prospects, as they relate to higher education. Cuba is a goldmine just waiting to happen.”

That release, which ran in several Louisiana media imprints, did not mention the trip as a personal vacation, but did offer a glimpse of Dr. Larkin’s travel schedule.

“As we have just finalized our Strategic Plan for 2016 – 2021, part of our mission for the University is to seek to reflect in all of its programs the diversity of the world. My visits to Havana, Cienfuegos, Santa Clara and Matanzas have begun the process of educating ourselves on Cuba’s rich culture and strong educational system. Opportunities are before us; we are looking forward to building relationships with this beautiful country.”

Those cities were an identical match to the travel schedule of the Morgan State University Choir, which toured the country as a goodwill performance trip during the same dates as Dr. Larkin’s visit.

Photos of Dr. Larkin posing with the university choir were shared on the Facebook pages attributed to the university, and MSU President David Wilson. Dr. Larkin’s trip coincided with the Grambling’s public release of its five-year strategic plan.

Dr. Larkin served as chief of staff at Morgan State, prior to being appointed as GSU president last June.

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