Data is the only thing that separates advocacy from zealotry, and at Shaw University, the numbers are telling a much different story from a narrative being sold by a group of tradition-addled alumni and dissatisfied supporters to discredit the school and its new administration.
This week, Shaw Band Director Charles Brown publicly demanded an apology from SU President Tashni Dubroy for what he called a purposeful and misleading campaign to deny band students of due scholarship money, and an attack on his credibility by way of suspension. His claims come a week after Shaw alumni filed a lawsuit against the current and former board chairmen Joseph Bell and Willie Gary, alleging financial mismanagement and other misdeeds against the university over 20-plus years.
A couple of these things just don’t compute. First, Dr. Brown demands an apology from the same president whose orders he refused to follow in her requests to help the school raise funds for band member scholarships. Then he releases a secretly taped conversation between himself and Dr. Dubroy, which local media says supports his view of a grand executive conspiracy to deny students scholarships.
The data says that university officials prioritized scholarship funds in order to strengthen recruitment resources for the entire university, and specifically, high achieving students who can boost the university’s academic profile to corporate and government agencies which control Shaw’s philanthropic destiny.
Brown also says that his suspension for a Title IX investigation is separate and apart from his disagreement with Dr. Dubroy about band funding, and done to retaliate for his stance on supporting students. But according to files obtained by the HBCU Digest, Brown was suspended for allegedly denying female students the opportunity to participate in the school’s danceline, for being ‘too overweight.’
“When the girls’ thighs are that big, its just too big. And it just has to blend with the rest of them. And if you look at that girl, although she’s lost 25 pounds, she needs to lose 25 more to look like the rest of the girls,” Brown said on the recording. “I have to have standards. I have to.”
So the guy who won’t fundraise for students, and who apparently discriminates against students for body type wants an apology for mistreatment? Years and impact aside, this rings of an old school mentality using every resource available to hang on while a campus all around him speeds towards 21st century best practices and perspectives.
And the same is true for the alumni suing the Bell and Gary. Apparently, there is a vision of Shaw which they have seen as students, or which they see more clearly as graduates not on the campus, because they believe the school remains in imminent peril under its current administration.
It is true; the Shaw board has blown it on several occasions with questionable presidential searches and hires, and a lack of priority on fundraising and transparency with alumni and students. But this is the same board which twice hired Dorothy Cowser Yancy to lead the institution, and she in return set historical standards at Shaw for fundraising, fiscal management, campus development and outreach.
It is the same board which hired Dr. Dubroy, one of the youngest presidents in the country, to lead Shaw with a new focus on operational efficiency and new age vision for entrepreneurial and professional development of graduates. That board hired a credentialed Shaw alum in Dr. Dubroy who, after 150 days of headaches from this group, could easily walk away and leave her detractors satisfied with having gotten their way, but clueless on who the next president should be and the strategy for growth would be moving forward.
It is the same board which recently oversaw the 2013 reaffirmation of accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges without sanctions, and last weekcelebrated its 150th anniversary gala by raising more than $600,000 for scholarships. To put that in perspective, UNC-Chapel Hill has paid $10 million and counting just to find out how deeply its own academic fraud issues have run, and to try and preserve its image in the aftermath.
But more than that, is it really a good idea to take Willie Gary to court? I mean, WILLIE GARY?
All HBCU alumni should be pursuers of accountability from their campus leaders, because leaving bad leadership in place without alumni pressure only amounts to political and financial strain for the entire campus.
But the numbers just don’t add up for Brown, and the alumni who think that Dr. Dubroy and the current Shaw board are out to destroy the university with incompetence. In fact, the numbers show otherwise.
Data has a funny way of erasing or affirming doubt in institutional solvency. It’s just too bad that it doesn’t have the same effect on bruised egos from hurt alumni.