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Monday, January 04, 2010

Meyers out as Norfolk State president

Carolyn Meyers, president of Norfolk State University, will resign effective June 30 to pursue other interests, Ed Hamm, rector of the school's Board of Visitors, said today.

Meyers, 63, has been president since 2006 and is in the fourth year of a five-year contract.

Hamm said the board might select an interim assistant to work with both the president and the board, "to help facilitate the continued growth of the university. The board will probably make that determination around March, the time of its next scheduled meeting.

Sources close to NSU's 13-member board said Meyers' future had been in question for the past four months.

In October, the board held a six-hour closed meeting to discuss Meyers' performance and internal audits. The next month, Meyers was named a finalist for the president's post at Morgan State University in Baltimore but did not get the job.

Admirers and critics alike describe Meyers, an engineer by training, as an intelligent scientist with disarming charm.

But the board has lost confidence in Meyers, say a number of people who did not want their names used because of their close ties to the university. They list what they consider too many instances of poor judgment and weak leadership.

Sources cite concerns that Meyers has allowed improper enrollment practices that could have jeopardized the school's accreditation. In addition, they say, she hasn't given Norfolk State the vitality and focus it needs to be an academic contender; and she became "too chummy" with some board members and their relatives -- inviting them to her home for card games, for example -- which blurred the line between employee and boss and diluted the governance the school needed.

Flags also have been raised by the faculty senate, whose last report to the board listed several issues with Meyers, including a lack of follow-through on plans and recommendations and stated that "there appears to be an absence of vision and fundraising among our leadership."

One of the board's most pressing concerns is an internal audit that was initiated after a staffer called the State Employee Fraud, Waste and Abuse Hotline program in March.

The worker alleged that the university was accepting students who did not meet the minimum requirements.

The investigation found that the school had a "significant number" of nonqualified applicants who were processed for admission or were accepted for enrollment the past three years. The audit did state that many of the students who were accepted did not enroll at the school; the report does not state how many.

Nonetheless, the audit found that some enrollment decisions were made without required documents or before official transcripts or SAT scores were received, even though the university did not have a policy that allowed for such conditional admissions. In addition, the office of admissions used guidelines that were more lenient than the policy adopted by the board in 2007.

The audit found that the school was not consistently following those guidelines, either.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, the governing body that accredits Norfolk State and other universities, and the NCAA require that all admission criteria be published and applied consistently.

Following the audit, the board last month revised its admissions policy and is expected to announce a new admissions director this week.


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