Hours after a March 2019 resignation letter from Saint Augustine's University's former general counsel warning the school's board of trustees of concerns over accreditation violations was provided to the HBCU Digest, a second letter has been made public from a former university vice president.
A communication from former Enrollment Management and Student Affairs Vice President Ronald Brown, believed to have been written last month, details concerns about overreach from SAU Board of Trustees Chairman James Perry and Trustee Brian Boulware concerning personnel management.
Dr. Brown wrote to Trustee Joseph Cheshire about the concerns, which began March shortly after the forced ouster of former SAU President Everett Ward and the appointment of Interim President Gaddis Faulcon. From the letter:
"Although our original mandate was to ensure that we increased the enrollment, I also worked directly with Dr. Faulcon and Board member Dr. Frankie Jones to increase external funding. During the month of June 2019, Dr. Faulcon and Board member Dr. Jones invited members of our support team and an oversight group from the Department of Education (DOE) to campus to advise us on how to improve our efforts in Financial Aid. Surprisingly, they were very supportive of our efforts and the strides that had been made in improving the financial aid program since April 2019. (At this point, we were working with the fourth Financial Aid Director since May 2016). Several weeks following this meeting, Board member Boulware called a meeting with our financial aid team where he stated that the individuals working in Financial Aid were all incompetent and that they needed to be fired. Several days later he hired an individual from Atlanta, GA to be the Executive Director, Consultant of Financial Aid. This is an example that stands out of Mr. Boulware hiring a Financial Aid Consultant from Atlanta, GA, without my knowledge or input. HR guidelines were not adhered to in that case and in other hiring actions. We could have hired at least two local qualified candidates at the cost of this one consultant."
The letter also accuses Boulware of hiring and overseeing the retention of a construction company to make HVAC and mold remediation repairs to an on-campus residence hall. Those repairs, according to Dr. Brown, were never completed.
"Board member Mr. Boulware continued to act as construction facilitator and oversight of the construction company and their work. In short, the residence halls still are being repaired; HVAC systems need constant attention; mold and water leaks are still present; and elevators do not always work, etc. Recruiting students for Fall semester 2019 and achieving a head count of 1,029 and a FTE of 933 was a major and significant feat. However, a major concern I began to have was about retention - that new and returning students would not return in large numbers for the Spring semester, primarily because of the lack of safe and livable conditions to accommodate them."
Those issues were at the heart of a February 2019 report which cited student complaints and illnesses related to mold and heating issues in a residence hall.
A Georgia-based construction firm, Hughes Company Inc., was listed in a September 2019 news report about unpaid vendor contracts totaling more than $1 million.
Dr. Brown told Cheshire that without intervention, accreditation inquiry and sanction would be inevitable for the school which was removed from probation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools' Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) in December 2018.
"In summary, the over-reach of some Board of Trustee members has created obstacles that are untenable. There is a clear violation of Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) Section 4.2.b and Section 4.2.d; and clearly the Board of Trustees has allowed Section 5.2.a to be undermined to the point that it is irrelevant.
Trustee Cheshire, it is my hope that the Saint Augustine’s Board of Trustees will take investigative and corrective actions regarding the information herein contained."