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Texas Southern President Placed On Leave

Texas Southern President Placed On Leave
While Investigation Into Spending Continues

By Marlon A. Walker

The provost at historically Black Texas Southern University has been placed in charge of the school’s operations while the president is on paid leave pending the results of an investigation into her spending.
Dr. Priscilla Slade, currently in her seventh year as president, was placed on leave last month after questions surfaced about money she spent on landscaping at her new home. There were also allegations that she had amassed nearly double the $50,000 annual limit on her school-issued credit card. She has been asked not to comment on the issue by the university’s board of regents.

“It’s just unfortunate that this incident has come up at a time when the university is moving forward at such a rapid pace,” says Dr. Sanders Anderson, faculty senate chair and associate professor of political science.

Dr. Bobby Wilson, provost and vice president for academic affairs and student services, will assume responsibility for university operations during the investigation, according to a letter posted on the school’s Web site from J. Paul Johnson, chairman of the board of regents.

University officials say Slade’s spending was questioned after a board member invited to see her new home was told that its furnishings had been paid for by the school.

“Apparently, it was nothing the board member knew about. She wanted to know why,” says Winifred King, TSU’s spokeswoman.

A search into the school’s records found that $85,000 in furnishings at Slade’s new home had been charged to the school. Two previous presidents had done similar things, King says.

“The board understood why she did it,” but regents had concerns that they had not been notified, King says.

At its February meeting, the board decided to look into Slade’s other purchases. A bill for $138,159 was paid for by the school to cover landscaping on the home. Slade paid the bill a week after it was discovered by the regents, claiming it was sent to the school in error.

King says a verbal report by the law firm looking into spending procedures prompted the board to suspend Slade indefinitely with pay. She believes something will be done by the next meeting on May 5.

Slade’s suspension is just the latest of several issues that have come up at the school in the past few months. In March, the school’s chief financial officer, Quintin Wiggins, resigned. He was held responsible for paying the landscaping bill, which should have been approved by the board because it was over $100,000. The board also discovered that he had nine misdemeanor convictions for writing bad checks, according to an article in the Houston Chronicle.

“You can imagine how disconcerting it was,” Anderson says. “[The faculty] was waiting for the next shoe to fall.”

Anderson says the faculty is ready for a decision to be handed down so the school can return to normal.

We want it to be handled fairly and expeditiously. It’s taking too long to make a decision. Our main concern is for the university itself,” he says.
In the meantime, Wilson will oversee athletics, strategic development, construction and the physical plant. Dr. Charlene Evans, the school’s senior vice president of university relations and ombudsperson, will oversee human resources, the office of development and external affairs. Dr. Gayla Thomas, senior vice president for enrollment management and planning, will assume additional responsibilities for areas under information technology.

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