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Monday, April 07, 2008

Ala. A&M fires president

Dr. Robert Jennings, the president of Alabama A&M for a little more than two years, was fired by the school's board of trustees by a 7-1 vote last week.

The board voted to dismiss Jennings immediately, but did not name an interim president.

Jennings had served since January 2006 as Alabama A&M's 10th permanent president. A trustee committee had investigated allegations that he violated school policies in the hiring of an executive assistant in 2006, later paying the assistant for time spent away from campus, and possibly predating a computer memo in the matter.

There were also complaints that Jennings did not provide enough information to the board or communicate well enough with them about a number of major changes he made, and to which some faculty bitterly objected.

Jennings has said, through an attorney, he will challenge the firing in court.

Rather than immediately appoint an interim president, trustees voted Monday to adopt a motion offered by trustee Judge Lynn Sherrod that establishes a "transition team" and plan to run the school for a couple of weeks.

Revolving chaos
For the past several months, a special board committee has been looking into allegations that Jennings had improperly arranged to pay a former executive assistant for time that was actually spent attending a graduate course in Minnesota.

Since 1984, the year Richard D. Morrison retired after leading the university for 24 years, seven presidents have served nine terms as president of Alabama A&M. Over and over again, for reasons ranging from scandal to board dissatisfaction, the president's office at A&M has been no better than a revolving door.

Casual observers suspect A&M problems stem from its board. "It's the board, and always has been the board," said one. During one presidential search, many years before this current configuration of the board existed, I was told that the board was advised by a committee of community leaders it had created who the top candidates should be from a list of possible presidents.


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