Kentucky State University this afternoon announced Southern University System Vice-President and Provost M. Christopher Brown II as its next president, drawing to a close a contentious year of leadership transition for the state’s flagship historically black land-grant institution.
In a statement, university trustees praised Dr. Brown for his record of land grant administration, and vision for student development at the school which has faced recent controversies surrounding its search process, enrollment trends and previous administration’s record for management of its fiscal and personnel affairs.
“The Board of Regents agreed that Dr. Brown has the experience, credentials, and vision to build upon our strong foundation and lead Kentucky State University and our students to even greater achievement and academic excellence,” said KSU Board Chairwoman Karen Bearden. “His selection comes at the conclusion of a spirited national search that included input from faculty, staff, students, alumni, and community supporters. Dr. Brown is the right leader to bring all of these groups together and set KSU on a path toward continued greatness.”
Dr. Brown comes to Frankfort after two years at Southern, where the institution recently joined several other HBCUs in a national initiative to train black males for careers in secondary teaching. He previously served as president of Alcorn State University, a post during which the university earned accolades for HBCU of the Year and Brown HBCU President of the Year in 2012 and 2013, respectively. The university made historic gains in enrollment, fundraising, faculty and student diversity building and community outreach through its cooperative extension programming in Vicksburg and Natchez.
Dr. Brown resigned from Alcorn in 2013 following charges from the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning of procurement issues involving event contracts and renovations to the university-owned president’s house, but state higher education and law enforcement officials never published direct connections of wrongdoing to Dr. Brown’s authorization of contracts, and did not file charges against or require reimbursement from any current or former employees.
He replaces former president Raymond Burse, who resigned last May just months after publicly saying that the school was under threat of closure due to pending higher ed budget cuts from Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin. Burse resigned amid two lawsuits accusing him of racial and gender discrimination and intimidation intimidation.
Bevin, who today appointed a new board member at KSU who voted against Brown’s appointment, has also faced controversy for his ouster of the University of Louisville’s entire board of trustees, a move which drew one of several lawsuits from state Attorney General Andy Beshear.
Faculty and staff and students at the university were divided over a perceived lack of transparency in the search, which did not include interim president Aaron Thompson as a potential candidate. But some leading HBCU advocates praised the search as a fair process which broke an emerging trend among public HBCUs which has resulted in presidents being appointed without searches or campus review.
“Some may question the qualifications or past records of the finalists,” wrote Thurgood Marshall College Fund President and CEO Johnny Taylor in an HBCU Digest editorial in Februrary. “But having reviewed the list, it is not difficult to see that officials have done a remarkable job of creating a pool with experience, personal brand resonance and a commitment to brand excellence in the HBCU sector.”
“Kentucky State has a chance to demonstrate the effectiveness and necessity of traditional executive searches for HBCUs. They are not high schools subject to popularity contests or political agendas; they are living institutions with the demonstrated capacity to change lives and industries.”