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Chancellor of Southern University resigns amid scholarship flap – Marvin Yates


The chancellor of Southern University’s Baton
Rouge campus abruptly resigned in the wake of a scholarship scandal.

In resigning, Dr. Marvin Yates, who had served as chancellor at the
largest Southern University campus for nearly seven years, denied any
wrongdoing in the scholarship irregularities that had drawn criticism
from a Louisiana state legislative auditor and from a legislative
committee. (See Black Issues, December 25.)

However, he did say that he could not overcome the negative
perceptions that were generated by media reports about the scholarship

After meeting with the board for two hours in an executive session,
Yates refused to comment on his reasons for stepping down. In a
resignation letter unanimously accepted by the board, Yates did not
specifically mention the scholarship program or the highly publicized
criticism that the program generated from the legislative auditor or
the Louisiana House Education Committee.

“While the media has been persistent in painting a misleading and
inaccurate picture in its coverage, I wish to state emphatically that
during my tenure as chancellor, I violated no university policies or
state laws in managing the university,” he said in the letter.

Yates is the second Louisiana chancellor to resign in the wake of a
scholarship scandal in the past fifteen months. Former Louisiana State
University (LSU) Chancellor William “Bud” Davis and his chief aide,
David “Sonny” DeVillier, resigned in the fall of 1995 after DeVillier
was found to have given some LSU chancellor’s scholarships intended for
minority students to White members of a fraternity.

Like Yates, Davis denied any involvement in the misdirected scholarship awards, but ultimately resigned anyway.

Some ten days before Yates resigned, the Southern University
chancellor was questioned by the House Education Committee about a
statewide legislative audit that was triggered by the LSU scholarship

The problems uncovered by the legislative audit were not limited to
Southern University in Baton Rouge, but Yates’s campus was cited for
the highest number of irregular awards. Statewide, the audit found that
from $82 million to $90 million in state student aid had been
improperly awarded or had been mishandled by officials at public
universities in Louisiana during the 1995-96 academic year.

The problems at Southern University included some chancellor’s
awards that went to children of university employees, to employees
themselves, and to students with failing grades. The audit noted one
instance of an award to a Southern University student who earned only
one credit and another to a student who earned no credits at all the
entire year.

During his testimony before the House Education Committee, Yates
told lawmakers he did not know who made improper scholarship awards
under a program run through his office. However, he assured the House
Education Committee that all problems had been corrected.

Legislative Auditor Dan Kyle told the committee that he found no
indication of criminal wrongdoing at Southern University or any of the
state campuses. However, Kyle said the audit was conducted on a random
sampling of state scholarships, so the problem could be more extensive
than cited in the report.

In accepting Yates’s resignation, Southern Board Chairman Joe Gant
flatly denied that Yates was asked to resign during the lengthy
closed-door session.

“The chancellor was not asked to resign. If anything, it was just the opposite,” Gant said.

But in calling the emergency board meeting the previous day, Gant
said the board intended to ask Yates for more specifics surrounding
irregular scholarship awards cited by the legislative auditor. Gant
said he had spent all week at the Baton Rouge campus examining
financial records and other documents involving a variety of issues.

The resignation accepted by the board gives Yates a leave of absence
from Dec. 19 through June 30, 1998, at his current annual salary of
$122,000. He will then receive one year of paid leave of absence as a
tenured professor, at an annual salary of $98,166. Yates will continue
to receive that salary when he returns to work in July of 1999 as a
tenured professor in Southern University’s College of Education.

After accepting Yates’ resignation, the board appointed Provost Ed
Jackson to serve as interim chancellor until the next board meeting in
January. Gant said the board will decide at that meeting how to proceed
in a search for a permanent chancellor.

COPYRIGHT 1998 Cox, Matthews & Associates

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