Louisiana Chancellor Steps Down

Louisiana Chancellor Steps Down

BATON ROUGE, La. — After a turbulent two and a half years as chancellor of Southern University’s New Orleans campus, Dr. Gerald Peoples announced his resignation last month.
He says the ongoing controversies at the historically Black campus were taking a toll on his health. “I am going to go and take some rest. I think it (the resignation) is more for medical reasons that anything else,” Peoples says.
Peoples had found himself at odds with the faculty leaders on a variety of issues almost from the time that he took the job in 1998.  Former Faculty Senate President Dr. Bill Stewart notes that Peoples wasn’t among the top five candidates recommended for the chancellor’s job by a faculty advisory panel, but the board hired him anyway.
The conflict between Peoples and the university’s faculty intensified in late 1998, when Peoples took steps to hire Dr. Andrea Jefferson — the wife of Louisiana’s only African-American congressman, William Jefferson — as the school’s vice chancellor for academic affairs.
Andrea Jefferson was serving on the university’s board of supervisors at the time, and stepped down from the board to take the job.
Stewart and his followers claimed that she wasn’t qualified for the job because she had never worked as an academic administrator.  “She’s not somebody that we can respect,” Stewart said at the time.
Stewart noted that Jefferson’s only academic experience to that point was a job with Grambling State University that paid her $50,000 per year to teach one student. The arrangement was terminated after drawing criticism from Louisiana Legislative Auditor Dan Kyle. But Peoples insisted that she was more than qualified for the post, and stuck with her.
As a result of the appointment, Stewart and a group of faculty passed a vote of  “no confidence” in Peoples.
Then late last year, the university was rocked by a scathing legislative audit that, among other things, led to the firing of an administrator on theft charges.
The director of the school’s student center was fired after admitting that he took at least $6,885 in school revenue from video games, pool tables and a bowling alley on campus.
The audit also blasted the school for lack of adequate financial controls for funds from a 1998 celebrity golf tournament that generated some $29,722 for scholarships.
Even though Peoples quickly moved to set up new controls for the tournament, the audit provided more ammunition for faculty members who were  already disgruntled.
After announcing his resignation to the university’s board of supervisors in Shreveport, Peoples acknowledged that the conflicts with faculty members had worn him down.
“It’s almost like spinning your tires in the mud,” Peoples told Black Issues.
During his address to the board, Peoples praised the school’s faculty for its dedication to both teaching and research. But he also defended his hiring of Jefferson, noting that she has proven to be an effective administrator.
In the wake of the negative publicity stemming from the audits and other issues, Peoples urged the board to help emphasize the positive at the New Orleans campus.
“One request I would make is to do a better job of public relations. There’s a lot of good at [the university,]” he said.
Effective March 1, Peoples stepped down as chancellor and is now working as a special assistant to Edward Jackson, the chancellor of Southern University’s Baton Rouge campus.
The board appointed Southern University System Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Press Robinson to serve as interim chancellor at the New Orleans campus.                 



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