Lincoln University President Brenda Allen and the institution’s board of trustees have navigated a summer of acrimony that led to her reappointment and a five-year extension over last weekend.
Neither side commented on how the trouble started or how it ended, beyond the common HBCU refrain of “we’re moving forward.”
“The board is pleased with the direction of Lincoln and credits the recent successes of the University to Dr. Allen’s leadership and the team she has assembled. In the past three years, with her vision, leadership, and tireless devotion, the Lincoln community has experienced renewed energy.”
“I am confident that the administration and board are more aligned in our vision for the future because of discussions during the past three months,” said Allen. “By working together with the board, we will lead this institution through this unprecedented time and emerge more resilient and ready for the next 167 years. We have developed a clear strategy to reimagine the legacy of Lincoln. Now let’s keep moving forward.”
While stakeholders at Lincoln are overjoyed with the news, they shouldn’t be. No one knows how the beef between the two sides started, how it became so intense that lawsuits were being filed and the governor and attorney general of Pennsylvania became involved, or if it has even been truly resolved or just managed for the time being.
Lincoln alumni, students, faculty, and donors deserve more than “we won, Dr. Allen is staying.” Her staying is the ideal outcome for a leadership melodrama, but the unsolved plot point remains; how were the forces to remove her empowered in the weeks leading up to her dismissal, but weakened days after her attempted removal and when politicians and petitioners got involved?
And how did those powers reconcile to swing from one dramatic leadership choice, dismissal, to a long-term deal?
Transparency always matters but even more so in this case. HBCUs are being targeted for record-breaking philanthropic support and donors are citing leadership stability among the reasons for their giving.
Politicians on both sides of the aisle are using HBCUs as a platform talking point, and what they say will be shaped by leaders’ advice and institutional performance.
When Lincoln is brought up in conversations for individual or collective HBCU support, people involved will say “no, don’t include them; you know that board is crazy,” or, “don’t put Lincoln in it, you know they don’t like their president.”
It’s not Allen’s job to tell the public how and why she was almost fired. That’s on the Lincoln board. And if its members can’t put together a reason for their misfire, then they have to know that they’ve done more than render themselves impotent on any real kind of oversight for Allen; they’ve also handicapped any real shot at groundbreaking support for a leadership structure theyv’e broken in half without explanation.