Between 2012 and 2017, Alabama State University hired and fired two presidents, had its accreditation downgraded, saw multiple trustees removed from the board, was the subject of several nasty lawsuits involving executives and employees and was the subject of a forensic audit.
In the last two weeks, the university reinstated a presidential search once deemed too expensive to launch, and was today cleared of charges associated with the audit. ASU officials didn’t mince words on what it thought about the empty investigation which dragged its name through controversy and cost state residents millions.
“Today, more than four years after Governor Robert Bentley authorized the first of several FSS contracts to produce an audit of the University, and after three years – plus, when FSS submitted a shabby, so-called “Preliminary Update” of its audit; FSS failed to produce a final audit report or a scintilla of hard, true evidence of criminal wrongdoing at ASU, even after collecting more than two million dollars of Alabama taxpayer money for what can only be called a “witch hunt.”
This misuse of taxpayer dollars is shameful, as well as the false allegations and innuendos purported against the University, which only aspired to give its students the very best education possible.
Alabama State shares some blame for the troubles it has faced over the last five years. The corruption and political jockeying of its board and executives mingled frequently and toxically with the changing landscape of higher education, and the growing accessibility of media, information, and activism.
But it has been and always will be just like most other public institutions with politically appointed boards and small town perspectives on power and influence; barring none among historically black and predominantly white schools of all sizes and missions.
But what Alabama State suffered from most was an ambitious governor which tried desperately to destroy public confidence in its public HBCUs with the signature political tricks of the trade; infighting, innuendo, and investigation. He was relentless in using audit authority and media access to suggest that both schools were to be distrusted on issues of finance and self-governance.
But now that former governor Robert Bentley’s worst intentions have given way to his worst decisions and behaviors, everybody else in legislature and government can’t be left holding the bag for his seemingly racist approach to higher education administration. So now, all is quiet about a former AAMU executive’s moving expenses. ASU in less than a week is finally able to manage its own leadership affairs and to court donors and corporate partners without the cloud of a false audit hanging over its campus.
And all it took was for Bentley to proven as a lying, manipulative, crook. But if that’s what it took to make things marginally better in Alabama, heaven help what it will require in Louisiana, North Carolina and other states where rich white guys with money and patience are far smarter with the same ideas of destruction for public HBCUs.