In a sudden and strange turn of events, North Carolina A&T State University Chancellor Stanley Battle has announced that June 30th will be his last day on the job.
Citing personal and family reasons, Battle, who had only been on the job since July of 2007, did not elaborate as to what his future plans were nor did he indicate how long he had been contemplating such a move. His unexpected departure raises many questions about the future of N.C. A&T, which perennially ranks as one of the top historically Black colleges and universities in the nation, including the largest producer of engineering students among all historically Black universities.
Some observers questioned Battle’s appointment, noting his lack of experience at a research institution having previously served at Coppin State University in Maryland, which is much smaller than N.C. A&T.
Battle’s predecessor, Dr. James Renick, stepped down in 2006 amid accusations of malfeasance that were never substantiated. Those charges were recently found to have been without merit. At the time of his departure, the school went to the extraordinary measure of removing his name from the school of education. Since he was vindicated, there has been no comment as to whether the school would restore his name.
The sudden departure comes at a time when many HBCUs are being scrutinized as to their relevance amid severe budgetary contraction.
“I was very surprised that Dr. Battle is resigning. He was only at A&T for two years,” says Dr. Leonard Haynes, head of the White House Initiative on HBCUs. “Anytime you have instability in leadership at any institution it’s not a good thing.” Since 1892, N.C. A&T has had only 11 presidents. But since 1999 it has had three, including Dr. Lloyd Hackley who served on an interim basis in 2006.
Neither the system president, Erskine Bowles, nor members of the N.C. A&T board have indicated when they will replace Battle or the type of leader they will pursue for N.C. A&T. “ Certainly the president and the system and local board will have a lot to say,” says Haynes.
Dwayne Ashley, president of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, an advocacy and fundraising organization for public HBCUs, says it is all about institutional match.
“The boards have to select a consensus builder who understands the culture of the institution and is able to build a consensus among all the stakeholders, including faculty, foundations, the private sector and the legislature. It’s a very tough job, especially in today’s environment.”
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