Less than a week after being interviewed for a feature in Diverse¸ the president of Arkansas Baptist College, Dr. Joseph L. Jones, was fired by the board of trustees. However, Joseph—a trained political scientist—said that he resigned from his post.
Jones told Diverse on Monday evening that he informed the board of his resignation on Friday. On Sunday, the board sent him an email stating that he had been terminated. The email did not detail the reasons for the firing, said Jones. The college released its own statement on Monday.
“The termination of Dr. Jones was predicated on his lack of transparency with the Board on issues that could place the Board and the institution at significant risk of financial and legal jeopardy,” the release stated. “This lack of transparency prevented the board from having the information necessary to make timely decisions that would have been necessary to avoid these potential risks.”
When contacted by Diverse, board chair Dr. Kenneth Harris declined to comment any further.
Jones said that he could not provide details for why he resigned but said it was “around the financial health of the college.” He added that he was completely surprised by the email from the board.
Jones—who was a participant in American Council for Education Fellows program, which trains individuals to become college presidents— took the helm at the troubled institution last September. The college’s enrollment had plummeted over the past five years, and its finances were under heightened monitoring by the Department of Education.
Jones’s alleged lack of transparency as stated by the board is striking considering he emphasized the importance of administrative transparency during his interview last week with Diverse. He explained how within the first months of his presidency he hired consultants to enhance the culture of transparency in the college’s leadership.
“I have an amazing staff and faculty and we try to be as transparent with them as we are with the media,” he told Diverse.
This commitment to open communication was one of the key tenets of “The Way, The Truth, The Life,” a five-year strategic plan designed by Jones and his team.
It remains unclear exactly what specific risks resulted from his alleged lack of transparency. As recently as late November, the college has had payroll-related problems resulting in delayed payment of employees. Jones told Diverse that he would be implementing a permanent solution to prevent future delays.
Jones told Diverse on Monday that he has hired a lawyer. When asked what he hopes to accomplish by taking legal action, he responded, “to get the true story out for why I resigned.”
It is unclear who will serve as interim president until the college finds a permanent replacement.
Joseph Hong can be reached at [email protected]