Clark Atlanta University faculty and staff got two strong messages Monday in their battles with President Walter Broadnax, who they want fired.
First, the Georgia Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit by a group of CAU Engineering Department faculty members and students who sued Broadnax and the school to keep CAU from disbanding the 13-year-old program as a way to save money.
Then a few moments after he got that news, Broadnax said he isn’t going to step down.
“Not going anywhere,” Broadnax said. “That’s not the plan.”
The embattled Broadnax has been heavily criticized by some faculty and students who believe his leadership at the historically Black university has been lacking, particularly in a time when CAU has been struggling financially.
When Broadnax became president in 2002, the school’s expenses exceeded revenues by $7.5 million. Broadnax said cash flow problems — which also meant it was a struggle then just to make payroll — actually mean that figure was more like $25 million.
Broadnax and the school’s Board of Trustees decided to streamline the university. Among the biggest cost-cutting moves was to disband the school’s library science program and the engineering program. Both moves led students and faculty in each department to unsuccessfully file lawsuits to stave off the slashing of both programs.
The library sciences program was shut down in 2004 while the Engineering program is slated for closure in 2008.
Engineering faculty and students argued school administrators, mainly Broadnax, ignored policy and procedures when the decision to shut down the program was made. They appealed a lower court ruling against them.
But in a short opinion issued Monday, Georgia Chief Justice Leah Sears agreed with the lower court ruling, citing other court case where, “….students may not enjoin ‘the operation and management of a (private) college.’”
That decision was welcomed by Broadnax.
“It’s an objective confirmation of the correctness of the appropriateness of the path the university has followed the past couple of years,” Broadnax said.
He points to the fact that the school’s debt has fallen while the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, a regional accreditation group for colleges and universities, recently reaffirmed the school’s accreditation without any additional recommendations.
But last month, 86 percent of the CAU faculty who participated gave Broadnax a “no confidence” vote in his leadership of the university.
Engineering Department chairman Dr. Lebone Moeti has been the plaintiff in the faculty and students’ lawsuit against the university for closing his department.
And as the head of the CAU Faculty Assembly, which represents the school’s 240 faculty members, Moeti has been firm on the fact that in order for the school to truly move forward, Broadnax still needs to go.
“And this is based on his leadership,” Moeti stressed. “It has nothing to do the programs he’s closed.”
Moeti says Broadnax hasn’t reached out to faculty and staff; isn’t a very good fund-raiser; and continues to tout numbers that Moeti says aren’t accurate (for example, Moeti calls Broadnax’ assertion that the school had a $25 million debt in 2002 a “lie and misrepresentation.”).
“The only way (CAU) can be renewed and move forward is (Broadnax) should step down, resign or retire,” Moeti said.
That won’t happen, Broadnax said.
His five-year contract runs out on July 31 and has not been renewed yet. But the school’s Board of Trustees continues to stand behind the embattled president. He expects the contract issue to be resolved soon.
He also said there are those in the campus community who are behind him, noting only 47 percent of the faculty participated in that May ”no-confidence” vote.
Broadnax said the unhappiness with his leadership bothers him and he’d like to continue reaching out to Clark Atlanta’s students, faculty, alumni and staff.
“It’s painful when somebody says they want you to go,” he said. “But I do remember why I’m here. I came here to help the institution be better than it was. It isn’t about a simple popularity contest. There’s work to be done, and I stand by my record.”
But the next phase of his tenure will be different. The Board of Trustees plans to hire an executive vice president who will handle the day-to-day management of the school while Broadnax focuses on fundraising.
And while Broadnax’ current duties will fall to the still-unhired new executive vice president, “There’s only one chief and that’s Walter Broadnax,” he said.
That’s what bothers Moeti.
“As long as he remains,” he said, “he remains in a cloud of controversy. We don’t know how the university can move forward in a positive manner with him still here.”
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