John Wilson Out Early at Morehouse, William Taggart to Handle Day-to-Day Operations

Just days after a media blitz in which he criticized meetings with presidents and the details of an executive order signed by President Donald Trump in support of historically black colleges and universities, Morehouse College President John Silvanus Wilson has been officially ousted from the position three months ahead of the expiration of his contract.

William ‘Bill’ Taggart will manage the college’s day-to-day operations, according to a letter from Morehouse Board Chairman Robert Davidson. The Howard University alumnus and former president and CEO of Atlanta Life Financial Company joined the Morehouse administration in July 2015 as the campus’ chief operating officer, with executive oversight of the school’s fundraising operations.

“I, along with the entire Board of Trustees, have the utmost confidence as he steps into his new role and leads Morehouse in the coming months,” Davidson wrote in his letter to the campus.

The letter addressed other issues such as concerns about the transparency about the non-renewal of Dr. Wilson’s contract, who was appointed as the school’s 11th president in 2012.

“I want to acknowledge some of the concerns raised by students and faculty related to the Board’s decision process regarding President Wilson’s contract. There are long-standing measures in place that provide guidance on participation in Board decision-making and these guidelines exist to protect confidentialities, eliminate potential conflicts of interest, and to ensure that those who cast votes hold no bias. It is important to note that leading up to the vote, the input of students, faculty and others was taken into account. In fact, prior meetings leading up to our January session included students, faculty and others to discuss the matter. Overall, the full board has been engaged in a comprehensive review of the facts and future direction of Morehouse College over the course of several Board meetings for the past two years. During our January meeting, a majority voted to invest in a new future for Morehouse. We are grateful to President Wilson for his significant contributions as President of Morehouse College and wish him continued success. He leaves our institution with a solid foundation upon which to build.”

Officials said that short-term priorities for the leadership transition would include the transition of members on the board of trustees, fundraising, review of institutional bylaws and the naming of an interim president, if necessary.

Dr. Wilson appeared on several broadcast television and radio appearances following the meeting and his release of a statement, which offered a reserved perspective of the value of the executive order.

“Therefore, since President Trump pledged to “do more for HBCUs than any other president has done before,” we could have reasonably expected him to get started by announcing at least an additional $500 million to HBCUs…this year!  And beside the expectation of new funding, there was advance talk of changes like an aspirational goal of 5 to 10 percent for federal agency funding to HBCUs, a special HBCU innovation fund, large boosts in Pell Grant and Title III funding, and extra tax breaks for those in the private sector who contribute to HBCUs.  But, instead of the long-awaited executive order containing or signaling any of those outcomes, the key change is a symbolic shift of the White House HBCU Initiative from the Department of Education to the White House.  It is not possible to measure the impact of this gesture anytime soon, if ever.”

Other presidents joined Dr. Wilson in criticism of the meeting. Morgan State University President David Wilson took to social media to offer his thoughts.

Dillard University President Walter Kimbrough posted pre-written remarks he was originally scheduled to deliver during the White House meeting, which were cut short after staffer presentations ran long.

I’m still processing that entire experience. But needless to say that threw the day off and there was very little listening to HBCU presidents today- we were only given about 2 minutes each, and that was cut to one minute, so only about 7 of maybe 15 or so speakers were given an opportunity today.

Last weekend, Dr. Kimbrough offered an additional narrative on the opportunities create through the historic meeting.

The consistently unconventional president invited the group to come visit the Oval Office just as we were preparing to begin the scheduled agenda. After greetings by his senior staffers, this group found itself in the Oval, with Trump, all the lights and cameras. Almost immediately, the cable news feeds shared the video of the group and for days historically black colleges and universities were a trending topic.

Whether you support the president or not, or believe he’ll deliver for HBCUs or not, he unquestionably brought our institutions front and center to the nation’s consciousness.

Officials did not release word on if Dr. Wilson would remain at Morehouse in a lower capacity or as tenured faculty.

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