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ASU’s Boyd avoids termination … for now

Josh Moon

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By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter

As Alabama State University president Gwendolyn Boyd walked out of a board meeting at which she argued to keep her job, she was smiling and positive.

“I think it’s absolutely something we can work through,” Boyd told reporters.

It’s not.

Trustees set a Dec. 16 hearing to officially address Boyd’s employment and a motion to fire her for failing to maintain the confidence of the board. During the contentious public “discussion” between Boyd and trustees on Monday, it was more than apparent that the two sides are far apart.

“That was a rough meeting,” trustee Pamela Ware said as she left.

Asked about Boyd’s status and how likely it would be that she remains as president, trustees wouldn’t speak on the record. However, speaking on the condition of anonymity, three trustees said they hoped they could reach an agreement for Boyd to resign so they wouldn’t have to fire her.

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As part of the final motion of the day during that meeting, as the future hearing was being set for Dec. 16, trustee Taylor Hodge also recommended that ASU’s attorney, Dorman Walker, be allowed to negotiate a potential settlement with Boyd. That motion was approved.

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“I suspect that’s what’s going to happen – I sure hope so anyway,” one trustee said.

The issues between Boyd and the trustees were not new, and most of the trustees came prepared to fire Boyd on Monday. Only a request from famed civil rights attorney Fred Gray, who is representing Boyd, delayed that action.

Gray’s request noted that Boyd should receive an opportunity to hold a discussion with the board prior to the hearing at which her continued employment would be decided. The trustees granted that request and began one of the oddest public displays in higher education history.

For more than two hours, trustees posed questions, stated personal opinions, offered critiques and flatly accused Boyd of lying to them. Boyd attempted to defend herself and fired back occasionally herself.

The majority of the problems were related to communications between Boyd and the trustees – a problem that has gone on for years. Trustees have complained numerous times during open meetings that Boyd and her staff have either ignored or flatly refused their requests for information and explanations. Boyd has seemed to ignore that criticism.

But the third-year president had her most trouble when asked about being less than truthful with trustees. At least six trustees recounted – in painful detail – personal and specific instances of Boyd telling them things that were not true.

The most harmful – judging by the audible gasps in the room – came from trustee and former Auburn coach Joe Whitt, who called Boyd out for lying about the circumstances of ASU giving up the AHSAA high school basketball regional tournament. That tournament brings hundreds of high schoolers to ASU’s campus, but it has also been expensive to host.

After Boyd told trustees that the City of Montgomery essentially bailed on a promise to help and then took the event and put it Garrett Coliseum, Whitt said that was patently false.

“You said a second meeting never happened,” Whitt said, “but that’s not true. I was at that meeting. You were not there. But the mayor of Montgomery bent over backwards to help us.

“We just all need to be a little more truthful in our answers around here,”

The question moves now to what happens next, and there aren’t many options. Either Gray and Walker work out a deal that sees Boyd leave ASU amicably, or they don’t and the Dec. 16 meeting winds up her last day.

Boyd does have until Dec. 11 to respond in writing to all of these trustees’ complaints from Monday’s meeting.

“I’d like to see what she says,” a trustee said. “But truthfully, I’m not sure it matters.”

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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