As the 17th president of Shaw University, Tashni Dubroy pledged Monday to boost finances, increase business partnerships and silence critics of the historically black school, now in its 150th year.
Dubroy, 34, is the third woman to lead Shaw and its second-youngest, and as a 2002 graduate in chemistry she touted her personal connection as key to transforming the Raleigh university in a time when the relevance of HBCUs is being questioned.
“I am you,” she said. “In me you will find a leader who walked these halls, learned in these classrooms, ate in the cafeteria and slept in the dorms.”
She noted the view from Estey Hall on campus offers a view of the Red Hat tower and PNC Plaza in the skyline. “It will be even more poignant when we partner,” she said.
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But her announcement as president drew protesters who handed out leaflets and carried signs calling for Board of Trustees Chairman Joseph Bell to step down. Security guards instructed the protesters, roughly a dozen people, to stop circulating their information and to take their signs off campus.
They criticized Bell first hiring an inexperienced president. Dubroy has worked at Shaw for five years, partly as a chemistry professor and department head, and for the last year and a half as special assistant to the president for process optimization. In his announcement Monday, Bell praised Dubroy for finding $2 million in cost savings.
“It’s a made-up title,” said Emily Perry, a past Shaw alumni leader, who said Interim President Gaddis Faulcon would have made a better choice. “These are difficult times for a university. You’ve got to be able to raise money.”
They also criticized scholarships they say are given exclusively to students from Savannah, where Bell lives, costing hundreds of thousands in tuition. Brenton Logan, a senior studying sociology, recently wrote the board a letter saying that these scholarships often come with a stipend and are free of academic criteria. He said Monday that he had not heard a response, but that Faulcon, the interim president, had told him the scholarships needed changing.
“It is so unfair that every year these students are allowed to attend Shaw University without paying anything,” he wrote, “while other students have to find part-time jobs, take a number of loans to supplement their financial aid to attend Shaw.”
In her speech Monday, Dubroy noted that Shaw’s founder, Henry Martin Tupper, was 34 when he started the school. She said turning around Shaw, which has struggled financially, will be a challenge met by her innovative solutions, quieting the school’s critics.
“Today,” she said, “with my appointment, the statute of limitations on those criticisms have expired.”
After the speech, Dubroy noted that Perry helped recruit her to Shaw in the past. She said she did not know about the Savannah scholarships related to Bell. “It’s one of the first things I’ll ask him,” she said.
Founded in 1865, Shaw is the oldest historically black college in the South. Its student body includes more than 2,000 students in 30 degree programs.
Financial trouble and unstable administration have persisted for years.
Shaw’s latest 990 federal tax form shows a positive balance of about $1 million, but it ran a deficit the same size a year earlier. HBCUs nationwide have faced similar struggles, the alumni note in their letter. St. Paul’s College closed in Virginia in 2013, plagued by debt.
Shaw has sought permanent leadership since Clarence Newsome left as president in 2009 amid red ink and decaying buildings. Dorothy Yancy stepped in for two short terms after Newsome’s departure, and Irma McClaurin served as president for less than a year.
Meanwhile, the six-year graduation rate at Shaw stands at 30 percent, statistics show. A private school, Shaw charges roughly $24,000 a year in tuition, room and board, according to its Web site.
Dubroy has already won praise around Southeast Raleigh. Lonnette Williams, chair of the Citizens Advisory Council in the South Park neighborhood, said the new Shaw president had been active in their mural project. She applauded her energy and outgoing nature.
“It’s not pretense with her,” she said.
Dubroy earned her doctorate in physical organic chemistry from N.C. State University. As a businesswoman, she has co-founded a hair care company and a hair salon in downtown Raleigh. She said Shaw has been too dependent on tuition and she hoped to broaden its revenue stream through grants and partnerships.
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