Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Carlton Brown Resigns As SSU President
Students came to the impromptu meeting with Savannah State University President Carlton Brown Monday expecting a pep talk after Saturday's homecoming festivities.
Instead, Brown announced his plans to take a position handling presidential initiatives for the university system chancellor.
"I will depart the presidency of this institution as of Dec. 31 and assume a new position with the Board of Regents," Brown said.
Many of the students who filled the campus ballroom had heard rumors during the homecoming game Saturday, but assumed it was just talk from football boosters angry about their team's losing record.
"Oh, my God!" sophomore Claudine Niba shouted at the news.
The room fell silent as Brown went over a long list of changes that has taken place since he became president in 1997: increased enrollment, stronger academic programs, new housing, endowed scholarships and improved services.
But Brown said he must follow the wishes of the Board of Regents and new Chancellor Erroll Davis. The chancellor's office will conduct the search for Brown's successor.
"I am pleased that Dr. Brown will be joining me to assist in the implementation of a major initiative. Our new system-level projects initiative will involve our institutional presidents, and Dr. Brown's expertise will be invaluable as this program moves forward," said Davis in a Board of Regents press release.
University System spokesman John Milsaps would not say if Brown was reassigned or if he applied for the job.
"We will let the statement stand on its own without further clarification," he said.
This is the second such unexpected change in SSU's administration in three months.
Savannah State University's second in command, vice-president of academic affairs Joseph Silver, surprised students three months ago when he announced he was leaving on sabbatical and will retire in January.
Both Silver and Brown were appointed by former Chancellor Stephen Portch in 1997 to lead the university out of a period of academic instability and campus unrest.
The previous president John T. Wolfe, left the institution after campus protests and demands for his resignation from alumni groups.
Brown was entering a campus with a protest culture. Eight of the 10 presidents before him resigned after mounting pressure from faculty, the community, students or the Board of Regents. The two who didn't resign died while in office.
From the beginning of Brown's tenure, there were groups of alumni, sports boosters and faculty protesting his appointment.
Some were upset that a local search was not conducted to fill the top campus spots. Others were unhappy with the aggressive and sometimes uncompromising style of handling staffing and program changes on campus.
They staged protests, filed lawsuits, circulated petitions and sent letters to the Board of Regents.
Brown's popularity with some of these groups reached an all-time low because of the embarrassing winless seasons that followed a decision to move SSU athletics into Division I in 2002.
Despite the controversy, Brown's administration has accomplished a 1,000-student jump in enrollment, replaced dilapidated housing facilities, constructed Tiger Arena and earned accreditation or re-accreditation for business, social work and engineering technology programs.
"I trust my record demonstrates that this administration has acted in the best interest of the students and the institution," Brown said.
Tearful students who lined up for hugs after Brown's short speech said they felt his record had proved that.
"I don't understand all the booster stuff," said SSU junior Kimberly McBride. "But for students you don't usually get a president like that, someone who makes you feel welcome, like when you go to college you're coming home."
Posted by da rattler at 10:18 PM