Howard University President H. Patrick Swygert announced on Friday his plans to retire effective June 30, 2008, the announcement coming just weeks after faculty members demanded he step down.
In a memo to the Howard community, Swygert noted several of the university’s achievements, including producing Rhodes Scholars, Fulbright Scholars and a Marshall Scholar; raising $250 million in a successful capital campaign ahead of schedule and recruiting 142 new tenure-track faculty and 17 others with tenure since 2001.
“I owe much to the University. My Howard undergraduate education, law degree and my faculty and staff mentors, coupled with the lifelong friendships of my classmates, prepared me to succeed in the world beyond The Capstone. Let me thank as well all those who helped to make and continue to make my tenure as President such a joy,” wrote Swygert, who has led the university since 1995. “So many have contributed so much to the University’s successes, and I thank each of you for making such success possible.”
The retirement announcement comes on the heels of a damaging letter the faculty sent to the Board of Trustees, which raised concerns about financial problems from Howard University Hospital spilling over into academic budgets, among other issues.
The Council of the Faculty Senate, a leadership council representing more than 1,000 professors, voted 16 to 2 with one abstention to send a letter to the Board of Trustees calling for Swygert’s ouster, citing fiscal mismanagement that has put the university in a “state of crisis.”
“Not only have the faculty lost confidence in the ability of President Swygert to lead this university, but more importantly, the faculty have exhausted their patience and seek to end what has become an intolerable condition of incompetence and dysfunction at the highest level,” read the letter.
Faculty Senate Chairman Dr. Theodore Bremner said that letter was sent to the Board of Trustees because Swygert had not honored previous meeting requests, and overall morale was low.
“This is business, and has to do with the management of the university. As far as the Council is concerned, the president has failed. We have an obligation to make a recommendation,” Bremner said at the time.
When Swygert met with faculty in late March, he failed to dissuade them from pursuing recommendations to initiate a search for a new president.
Swygert’s retirement announcement did not mention the flap with faculty, but he did address the university’s financial standing. “Our fiscal discipline has enabled the university to maintain a strong financial posture as evidenced by the university’s A+ credit rating from Standard & Poor’s, which coupled with our Moody’s Investor Services rating gives us as high a credit rating as any local college or university,” according to his retirement announcement.
Swygert said he plans to work on a number of important initiatives during the upcoming academic year and work with the Howard community to assure a smooth transition to new leadership.
A search committee is being formed to begin the search for Howard’s 16th president.
–H. Patrick Swygert
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