FROM STAFF REPORTS
Four months after Bethune-Cookman University’s Board of Trustees voted 19-10 to keep her as president, Dr. Trudie Kibbe Reed resigned the position she has held for seven and a half years.
The exact date and circumstances of her departure were not given in a statement issued Tuesday by the university, which cited Reed’s achievements.
Focus on positives
“During her tenure, Bethune-Cookman achieved university status with the launch of its first master’s degree program in transformative leadership, earned its highest enrollment in history, graduated its largest class on record, received an ‘A’ bond rating and improved its physical plant by building several new buildings on campus, which were fully paid for without debt to the university,” the statement said.
“When Reed arrived at Bethune-Cookman, the endowment was $28 million and has increased to $43 million today. Additionally, the university has received seven accreditations in approximately 18 months, including reaffirmation of accreditation with no recommendations for improvement from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.’’
She is the first woman president of B-CU since the founder, Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune.
Reed’s resignation follows a tumultuous 2011, as indicated in a nine-part investigative series published from June through September in the Florida Courier entitled “Crisis at B-CU.”
The newspaper series detailed how the private HBCU based in Daytona Beach was slapped with 13 state and federal lawsuits and administrative complaints, including legal actions filed by longtime professors, the former men’s basketball head coach and the former football head coach, and a former student who said she was raped by a group of basketball players and that the university tried to cover it up.
The series revealed that B-CU also is currently on the American Association of University Professors’ list of “censured administrations,” which means that conditions for academic freedom and tenure are unsatisfactory at a college or university. B-CU is one of only 49 institutions nationwide on the censure list.
The Florida Courier also published the results of a previously secret 360-degree presidential evaluation report that prescribed strong medicine to fix what ails B-CU – including more administrative input and control of Reed by B-CU’s Board of Trustees.
In the report, her supporters described Reed as “a visionary and transformational leader who has worked tirelessly to raise the profile of the university nationally.”
On the negative side, the report indicated that trustees, faculty members and some administrators were apprehensive about high staff turnover, an air of “intimidation” on campus, concern about retaliation and favoritism, a lack of best practices, and lack of accountability and transparency to the Board of Trustees.
On Aug. 12, Reed survived a “no confidence’’ vote by trustees. At the same meeting, by a majority vote, the board instituted a five-member committee appointed by board chairman Dr. Larry Handfield that was to identify specific problems in Reed’s administration, present those problems to her, and give her a chance to correct them within a designated time period.
Handfield resigned from the board at the same time Reed’s resigned, though he will remain a board member. The Florida Courier tried unsuccessfully to reach Handfield for comment.
Dr. L. Ronald Durham, pastor at Greater Friendship Missionary Baptist Church in Daytona Beach, and a former member of the Board of Trustees until recently, reflected on Reed’s presidency.
“The landscape of the campus, from beautification to new structures, to the renovation and acquisition of new facilities, all speak to her success. It was regrettable and unfortunate to hear of her leaving so unceremoniously. It is my sincere hope that the board members would do something prior to her stepping aside fully that would recognize her accomplishments.’’
Catherine Kershaw, an alumna and nearly 35-year employee of B-CU, said she was “very proud of the prominence Bethune-Cookman University has attained under Dr. Reed’s leadership.
“In spite of historic economic challenges, Dr. Reed has continually built a strong team of university administrators who have embraced her vision of financial solvency; high quality, ethics-based education; excellent customer service for our students, and an academic arena that provides great opportunities for our faculty to explore and develop,” Kershaw said.
Florida Courier Staff Writers Ashley Thomas and James Harper contributed to this report.