St. Aug's provost put on administrative leave

jstancill@newsobserver.comApril 1, 2014 

— The provost at St. Augustine’s University has been put on administrative leave by President Dianne Boardley Suber as upheaval continues at the private, historically black university near downtown.

Connie Allen, provost since 2010, was placed on paid leave on March 17, she said. Allen said she was told her status was pending an internal investigation. “I don’t know the details of the investigation,” she said.

Allen is a chemist and former faculty member at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts and Yale University. As the chief academic officer, she oversees deans and academic departments at St. Aug’s.

She declined to comment on what’s happening on the campus, except to say, “I believe I followed everything that I should have done in this situation.”

“Generally, in any organization, if you have a complaint, you take it to your supervisor. If that doesn’t work, you take it to your supervisor’s supervisor. ... I went through the normal course for any concerns that I had,” she said.

Suber could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

It was the latest personnel move on a campus that has seen a string of administrative exits in recent months, including Leon Scott, the executive vice president, and Marc Newman, vice president for institutional advancement and development. Scott and Newman have declined to comment on their departures.

The university has been in financial turmoil for months, with staff cuts and an auditor’s report that showed a $3 million drop in net tuition revenue in 2013. In February, Suber had notified employees that they would be put on unpaid leave during spring break in March.

At the time, she issued a statement that said, in part: “Higher education institutions in general and HBCUs, in particular, all over the country are facing financial challenges as federal and state cuts have had a direct impact on our students being able to afford to attend college. As a private, tuition-driven institution, St. Aug is definitely feeling the impact.”

Days later, the university canceled the furloughs, but Suber cautioned that the financial difficulty was not over.

“Saint Augustine’s University must increase student enrollment, build financial support among alumni and other constituents, friends and benefactors, and adjust its spending philosophy and practices to reflect the ‘paying’ capacity of its students coupled with ‘real’ money raised through its fundraising initiatives,” a March 4 announcement by Suber said.

The financial problems have led to special trustee meetings in recent weeks. The board last met on Friday.

An audit report in September found business functions in disarray, including delayed accounting and poor collection of student past-due accounts. Check-writing procedures were questioned. The university is also being sued by the contractor on its football stadium, who stopped work after bills went unpaid.

The university’s cash flow was hurt by the drop in students this year. Full-time equivalent enrollment was 1,267 last fall, but university officials said 200 students did not return for the spring semester.

Stancill: 919-829-4559

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