Higher Education Board Finds No Discrimination at Bluefield State
Decisions made by Bluefield State College President Robert Moore and his staff relating to a discrimination complaint were not racially motivated, the state Higher Education Interim Governing Board said late last month.
“After a thorough review of the allegations the board has found no evidence to support any claims that decisions made or actions taken by President Moore or anyone acting at his behest were or are racially motivated,” the board said in a statement issued after an executive session that lasted nearly two and a half hours.
“The board fully supports President Moore and has every confidence he will continue to discharge the responsibilities of his office in a manner consistent with the best interests of Bluefield State and the citizens of West Virginia,” the statement said.
To emphasize its confidence in him, the board renewed Moore’s appointment as president.
“It’s good news,” Moore said after the announcement. ” I thought from the beginning that the allegations had no basis and the board has agreed. I’m pleased with the decision.”
In January, the board sent two consultants — a vice president of West Virginia University and a Marshall University lawyer — to the college campus to investigate a discrimination complaint filed with the board in October. Cathy Armstrong, chairwoman of the interim governing board, has refused to discuss the complaint because it is considered a personnel matter.
Bluefield State, a historically Black college, gets a $1 million grant each year because of that status. It has two full-time Black faculty members. About 10 percent of its 2,700 students are Black, compared to about 6 percent four years ago.
In 1997, Professor Garrett Olmstead was fired after he criticized the school’s falling Black enrollment. An administrative law judge ordered the school to rehire him in 1998.
Olmstead told The Charleston Gazette in January that, “I don’t sense the racial tension here that I did a few years ago. But just because people aren’t rioting in the streets doesn’t mean there aren’t problems.”
Moore said the school has hired a director of multicultural affairs to increase the number of minorities on campus. He said the task is difficult because of the school’s lack of on-campus housing.
Without a dormitory, recruits are limited to the local population, Moore said.
Still, Dr. Ronando Holland, Bluefield’s multicultural affairs director, says he was disappointed by the governing board’s decision. “It leaves me with little confidence in the board and the conclusions it reaches,” Holland says.
Holland says the U.S. Department of Education will proceed with an investigation “that will be far more thorough.”
“I think the federal investigation is going to turn up something different,” he says.
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