Wednesday, August 24, 2011
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OUR CHILDREN'S PRESIDENT - In the rancor that has seized political discourse in Washington, D.C. and across the nation, it is easy to forget that this is the first generation of children to grow up knowing an African-American president. But they also see how many in the nation disrespectfully treat President Obama. How will this affect them in the future? [White House Photos]
By Cash Michaels
Republicans don’t like it. Conservatives can’t stand it. And Fox News has made it clear that they won’t tolerate it.
But African-Americans here in North Carolina, and across the nation, are giving Congresswoman Maxine Waters the big “thumbs up” for telling the conservative Tea Party - seen by many to be a right-wing radical arm of the Republican Party - to, “…go straight to hell!”
“Well, that is where the Republican Tea Party is going, [and] it is going to be crowded in that little ol’ hand basket,” remarked Wes, one of many who commented on FaceBook this week about the incident at The Carolinian’s request.
Another Facebooker remarked that “Congresswoman Waters was far too kind.”
Still another said, “I think she should apologize…for not saying it sooner.”
And Annette E. chimed in, “All of the racist comments that they have been making, and they want her to apologize for that!”
Indeed, of the nearly one hundred responses The Carolinian got on FaceBook, none were critical of Rep. Waters, supporting her leadership in standing up to what they see as determined right-wing opposition to President Obama, and their issues.
On the congresswoman’s own FaceBook page, however, opponents blasted her.
Is THAT what you call "Liberal civility"????,” wrote John C. “You call this providing leadership? RESIGN, MADAM!”
Another critic, Victor B, wrote, “She should deal with the hate, violence in her own constituent's neighborhoods, and Broken families, and fatherless kids, and The results of years of Democrat policies in the Black Community,, this is nothing to do with Tea Party, but they need a scapegoat rather then focus on their own dysfunction!”
Clearly, Rep. Waters’ rhetorical declaration of war with the Tea Party has further enflamed the political rhetoric in Washington, D.C. and the country.
It was last year that the national NAACP created a firestorm when it passed a controversial resolution accusing the Tea Party movement with using “racial epithets,” “engaging in explicit racist behavior” and “displaying signs and posters intended to degrade people of color generally and President Barack Obama specifically.”
And just this week on NPR’s “All Things Considered,” former NAACP Board Chairman Julian Bond was asked about racism and the Tea Party.
NPR HOST: Some people read into the Tea Party's almost neuralgic reaction to government spending, a sense that white people figure black people benefit disproportionately from federal programs. Do you suspect a racial subtext to that whole argument?
BOND: Absolutely. And I'm not saying that all of the Tea Party members are racist. Not at all. I don't think anybody says that. But I think there's an element of racial animus there and the feeling that some white people have that these black people are now getting something that I'm not getting and I should be getting it, too.
Clearly, with a floundering economy and rising unemployment, the feelings are becoming more frayed in the nation as poll after poll shows Americans are increasingly losing faith in President Obama, the Congress, and the country’s overall direction.
Waters, a veteran California Democratic representative known for challenging the powers that be, made her controversial remarks last Saturday during a black community summit in Inglewood, California.
During pointed remarks about how joblessness in the African-American community nationwide is at least 16 percent - twice that of white Americans - an angry Rep. Waters assured the audience that she and the Congressional Black Caucus were willing to take on their Republican colleagues in the GOP-led US House, and the small faction of GOP Tea Party House members who caused the country’s recent debt ceiling crisis.
“I’m not afraid of anybody,” an angry Rep. Waters told the audience. “This is a tough game. You can’t be intimidated. You can’t be frightened. And as far as I’m concerned, the Tea Party can go straight to Hell!”
As the cheering crowd jumped to their feet in rousing applause, Waters added that she was willing to help the Tea Party get there too!
The reaction from across the political spectrum was quick, and predictable.
Leaders of major Tea Party groups, like the Tea Party Patriots, blasted Rep. Waters’ remarks, and called on President Obama to publicly condemn them. They also invoked the widely reported story that Vice President Joe Biden, during a closed meeting with House Democrats during the debt-ceiling crisis, allegedly referred to Tea Party members of Congress as “terrorists.” They also alleged that some Democrats have also called them “hostage takers” for being publicly willing to allow federal government to go into default on its fiscal obligations by refusing to raise the debt ceiling.
Tea Party members of Congress say they are only carrying out the mandate of the voters who elected them in last November’s stunning midterm elections, where Republicans won 60 seats to claim the majority.
But even before Rep. Waters’ sharp declaration, African-Americans were appalled with racist statements about the president, and bigoted signs at Tea Party rallies, that sent the clear message that right-wing America is actively seeking to “take back their country” from President Obama and his multi-cultural supporters.
“When you have conservative radio talk show host Tammy Bruce, who calls the first lady trash, when you have Glenn Beck, who says [Pres. Obama] has a hatred of white people, when you have Sherri Goforth, who worked for the Tennessee GOP state senator, who sends an e-mail out depicting the president like a spook, does not apologize initially because of the racism e-mail…what you have here, you do have individuals who have a problem with this,” journalist Roland Martin told CNN in 2009.
It’s not just Rep. Waters who says the Tea Party has gone too far. Even North Carolina’s Democratic congressman are calling out the right-wing for their hardball tactics.
“I think the Obama Administration has underestimated at every stage how extreme and uncompromising they are,” Rep. Brad Miller [D-NC-13] told The Carolinian several weeks ago. “The Tea Party began with kind of a coalition of all of the most extreme right fringe groups.”
“There is no compromise in that, and they believe they have a set of beliefs that have very little to do with reality,” Rep. Miller continued. “They don’t let reality intrude too much into what they believe.”
Last spring, Rep. G. K. Butterfield [D-NC-1], told The Carolinian he knew what would happen once the Republicans took over Congress last November.
“When we campaigned in 2010 we tried to warn our citizens that if the Republicans became the majority that they would just reign tyranny over our communities, and that is absolutely true,” Butterfield said. “ The Tea Party Republicans control the Republican caucus in the House. There’s not but 87 of them who’ve come to town, but those 87 are very loud and very vocal, and very demanding. Right now it seems that these 87 are really controlling the agenda that the Republicans are putting forward.”
“Rep. Butterfield continued, “ Their agenda does not include low-income people, it does not include minorities, and certainly it does not include those of us who live in rural communities.”
Butterfield added that the Republican majority in Congress has two objectives - to both discredit President Obama and make sure that he’s defeated in the 2012 elections; and also to cut federal discretionary spending.
Thus, the reason why the Congressional Black Caucus has recently been urging President Obama, sometimes in stark and highly critical terms, to stand up to the Tea Party members of Congress, and fight hard for the issues on which he was elected.
Rep. Waters blasted the president last week for failing to address black unemployment specifically, and allowing the Tea Party to effectively walk over him.
“The Tea Party discovered something,” she told an audience in Atlanta, Ga., one of three locations where the CBC held a job fair. “That is if they organize, if they talk loud enough, if they threaten, if they register to vote and elect a few people, they can take over the Congress of the United States. They called our bluff and we blinked. We should have made them walk the plank.”
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
UPDATE: On the Thursday, August 18, 2011 edition of "The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell" on MSNBC, Prof. Melissa Harris- Perry examined the alleged Koch Brothers connection to the 2009 Wake County School Board elections. Here is The News & Observer's WakeEd take on the segment, with the video below -
In addition, here are three stories from Facing South, published by the Institute for Southern Studies. The first deals with the NC Americans for Prosperity revising history on school re-segregation. The second talks about the controversy surrounding the Brave New Film documentary on the Koch Brothers role in Wake School Board elections.
Finally the third focuses on conservative businessman Art Pope, and his Tea Party/AFP connections. The Koch Bros. have responded, denying the allegations.
By Cash Michaels
Did money from wealthy conservative industrialists Charles and David Koch (pronounced “coke”) - money that has been documented to fund opposition against President Obama, fund the Tea Party movement and the campaign of controversial Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker - indirectly help bankroll the campaigns of the four Republicans who won the majority on the Wake County Public School Board in 2009, and dismantle Wake's socioeconomic diversity policy?
And will money from the libertarian billionaire brothers, whose politics swing to the extreme right, indirectly find its way into the coffers of this year’s school board GOP candidates, including Southeast Raleigh’s Venita Peyton.
A controversial new eleven-minute video titled, “Why the Koch Brothers Want To End Public Education,” produced by Robert Greenwald for Brave New Films, alleges that Koch brothers dollars indeed helped to fuel 2009 Wake School Board Republican candidates John Tedesco; Deborah Pickett; Debra Goldman and Charles Malone. The goal was resegregating Wake Public Schools, increasing the number of high poverty schools after dismantling the system’s socioeconomic diversity policy, and ultimately privatizing the school system once the white population deserted it.
Professor Walter Farrell, of the UNC - Chapel Hill School of Social Work, also says yes, and has been keeping a close eye nationally on who is donating to conservative candidates for office across the board, and why.
“Yes for the Wake School Board and the NC Legislature,” he told The Carolinian. “I am including them in an article I am currently developing for publication.”
“I have reviewed the campaign finance reports of elected officials across the country--minority and majority--whose elections have been bankrolled by the Koch brothers at every level: school board, State Assembly and Senate, U.S. House and Senate.”
Officials with the Tea Party-backed NC Americans for Prosperity refute the film’s contention that the NCAFP bankrolled the 2009 GOP Wake candidates at all, let alone with money funneled from the Koch brothers. It is a well-established fact, however, that area businessman and one-time state lawmaker, Art Pope of Raleigh, did contribute $15,000 to the candidates.
Pope sits on the national board of the AFP, and AFP is funded, in large part, by the Koch brothers, as is the Tea Party movement.
Dr. Farrell says he’s reviewed the same campaign reports that the producers of the film relied on, and he’s clear that there is a Koch brothers’ connection.
He says the industrialists have a “strategy of public school re-segregation throughout the nation” by funding conservative candidates.
“They do so directly and indirectly thru their numerous 527s and in collaboration with their conservative multi-millionaire and billionaire colleagues (including local millionaires Pope and Robert Luddy) who attend their biennial retreats in Palm Springs, CA and special meetings in Vail, CO,” Dr. Farrell wrote.
Professor Timothy Tyson of Duke University has also been following the money in recent Wake political campaigns.
“The main thing is be sure to check all the various committees,” he toldThe Carolinian. “My opinion, frankly, is that there is big funny business going on in those committees--they give each other money, they give to Candidate X who gives to Candidate Y, etc. Also, of course, they give lovely untraceable cash.”
Dr. Farrell also alleges that District 4 Wake School Board candidate Venita Peyton, a Republican, will also see Koch brothers’ money funneled to her campaign.
“The Koch Bros., et. al. and their allies are also funding the campaign of local black serial candidate for public office, Venita Peyton, who was put in the race against [Democratic incumbent] Keith Sutton in order to dilute efforts to upend the Republican majority,” Farrell maintains.
Peyton has not responded to a recent Carolinian request for comment. But on Monday, The News and Observer’s WakeEd blog reported that, “…it looks like …Venita Peyton is willing to throw around some cash to take on incumbent Keith Sutton.” Peyton filed paperwork with the State Elections Board “withdrawing her plan to spend less than $1,000 in the District 4 race.”
Peyton already has the endorsement of the Wake County Republican Party, and is likely to get other conservative thumbs up.
Last spring, long before the Brave New Films video came out, Dr. Farrell published a paper titled, “Inching Towards Resegregation and Poverty Concentration in Wake Schools.”
In the paper’s first paragraph Farrell wrote, “The Wake County’s Public School System is the latest urban district targeted for dismantling and privatization, an initiative begun under the administration of [Pres.] Ronald Reagan when tuition tax credits were proposed as a solution to the challenges of urban education.”
Later in that research paper, Farrell wrote, “Although the debate has focused on the elimination of Wake’s socioeconomic diversity policy, the real objective is the dismantling of public education as we know it. This will be achieved via the removal of the cap on charter schools and the establishment of publicly-funded vouchers that can be used at private and religious schools--legislation introduced by newly chosen North Carolina Assembly Majority Leader, Paul Stam.”
Indeed, those bills were introduced in the Republican-controlled NC Legislature, but the GOP backed off passage after Democrats and their supporters raised their ire.
Farrell continued, “This is the publicly stated plan of local, multi-millionaire businessmen, Art Pope and Bob Luddy, who are largely responsible for the election of the Wake School Board majority and of Republican majorities in both houses of the North Carolina Legislature.
“Pope and Luddy are aided in their quest by the billionaire Wichita industrialists, Charles and David Koch, who also fund candidates in school board, city council, county commission, state legislative and federal races throughout the nation to advance their privatization and anti-union agenda. (They funded the recent attacks on collective bargaining and public education in Wisconsin.),” Farrell’s paper continues.
“A casual review of campaign finance reports for the Wake County School Board and the NC Legislative Republican majorities reveals significant contributions from Luddy, Pope, Koch brothers-controlled political action committees, and their corporate, pro-privatization of public education allies throughout the nation,” Dr. Farrell added.
To allege that the Koch brothers would even have an interest in local public schools issues isn’t really a stretch. Many people forget that in 1980, David Koch ran for vice president of the United States.
According to an August 2010 New York Times expose’ titled, “The Billionaires Bankrolling the Tea Party,” then Times columnist Frank Rich wrote, “…his campaign called for the abolition not just of Social Security, federal regulatory agencies and welfare but also of the F.B.I., the C.I.A., and public schools — in other words, any government enterprise that would either inhibit his business profits or increase his taxes.”
Last February, US News and World Report writer Peter Fenn wrote, “They funnel money through 501c3 tax-exempt foundations, and they give money to other foundations, lobbying organizations, and right wing think tanks. They have PACs; they support candidates. Only a small portion of what they control do they divulge."
Fenn continued, “…the Koch brothers have personally given over $2 million to candidates over the last 12 years, their PAC has contributed $8 million to candidates, and they have spent $50 million on lobbying.”
Just last week, an online publication called “The Nevada View” published a story titled, “Is Koch Brothers Money Killing Nevada’s Schools?” In the piece, reporter Angie Sullivan tracked the Nevada Policy Research Institute to a master list of the State Policy Network, a national network of conservative think tanks. The concern was that local conservative think tanks were having undue influence in the Nevada Legislature concerning public school policy, and getting their funding from outside the state.
A close look at the foundations funding the local Nevada conservative think tanks show that the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation was a key contributor.
Two of the SPN member think tanks in North Carolina are the John Locke Foundation and the John William Pope Civitas Institute, both in Raleigh.
And one of its many associate members is Americans for Prosperity Foundation.
All three have been recipients of Koch brothers’ largess and generosity.
And all three have weighed in heavily, both against Wake County’s previous student socioeconomic diversity policy, and for the Wake School Board’s neighborhood schools policy that would keep black and Hispanic students in their own neighborhood high poverty schools.
Just this week, Republican Wake School Board Chairman Ron Margiotta, who is close to Pope and Luddy (used to serve on Luddy's private school board), and hired the Civitas Institute to conduct orientation for new Wake School Board members, maintained that he will not support the suggested “blue” school choice plan if it sent black and Hispanic students back to suburban schools, just like the previous student diversity policy did.
WHAT HAPPENS NOW AT SHAW? - As a Shaw University student intently listens, Shaw Board of Trustees Chairman Willie Gary assures those gathered Monday that the historically-black university will be "better than ever" in the aftermath of President Irma McClaurin's controversial departure last week. Gary announced that former interim President Dr. Dorothy C. Yancy will return in September to lead the school. [Cash Michaels Photo]
By Cash Michaels
With the Shaw Marching band in tow, attorney Willie Gary, chairman of Shaw University’s Trustee Board, told students Monday on the steps of the campus chapel that despite its problems, the beleaguered historically black university still offered them, “…one of the best educations you can get anywhere in this nation.”
Many would agree that the quality of instruction at Shaw is not at question, and never has been during the school’s 146-year history.
But throughout that same history, particularly in recent years, the quality of Shaw’s leadership at times, and its management of the school’s fiscal affairs, has raised disturbing questions about its stability and future.
Even Gary, a high-powered attorney and alumnus who gives GOD and Shaw University the glory in the same breath, admits that some of those questions are legitimate.
“I am not proud of the fact that we haven’t had, over the last two years, stability,” Chairman Gary told The Carolinian in an exclusive interview last week. “But you’re going to have some of these tough times. You can’t get around that.”
Getting “around that,” is one thing, supporters of the school say.
Properly managing the plethora of problems that haunt the South’s oldest historically black institution, is quite another.
The sudden “mutual” dismissal last week of Shaw’s 15th president, Dr. Irma McClaurin - the school’s third president in as many years - only further illustrated what many in the Shaw family say is a much needed top-to-bottom restructuring of leadership and purpose there.
Starting with the Trustee Board.
“The Board of Trustees must bear the brunt of this debacle,” wrote Julius H. Cromwell, Shaw Class of ’58, in a letter to the editor in The News and Observer August 12.
“They have lost the respect, confidence and trust of alumni, friends, donors and other supporters of the university,” Mr. Cromwell continued. “I venture to say that board members who are religious leaders and those who run their own businesses would dare not run their organizations the way they have governed Shaw University during the past 15 years.”
Even The News and Observer weighed in with an editorial titled “The ship of Shaw,” saying, “…the university is in serious need of strong, able leaders on its campus adjacent to Raleigh's downtown core…,” later adding that,” All those who value Shaw as a partner in the vineyards of higher education want to see good candidates step forward and wise decisions made.”
Many in the Shaw University family agree.
“We feel that the managerial problems that brought about this abrupt shift are the result of a systemic lack of oversight by the Board of Trustees and Human Resources,” wrote the Save Our Shaw Committee, a group of Shaw alums and former professors last week. “We believe that in the best interests of the University, these two entities should be restructured.”
The complaints aren’t just because of the embarrassing McClaurin episode.
It was May 28 of last year when The N&O reported that the head of Shaw’s national alumni association demanded that the board of trustees “step down or be dismissed” in light of allegations of, “…conflict of interest, fiduciary responsibilities, adverse interest and commitment.”
The problem? Many of the trustees, including Chairman Gary, had allegedly not followed through with their personal monetary commitments to the school, which was swimming in at least $20 million in red ink.
"We can no longer stand by and allow Shaw to appear to deteriorate due to poor judgment,” wrote then Shaw Alumni President Emily Perry in a May 14, 2010 letter to Chairman Gary.
"Now is the time for a new board of trustees that can effectively attend to the fiduciary responsibilities of Shaw," Perry's letter continued. "We cannot afford the continued mistrust, negative news media coverage, hostility, calls, faxes and letters."
But in an exclusive interview with The Carolinian last week, a day after Dr. McClaurin stepped down, Chairman Gary defended the school, and his board leadership, against any suggestions that a drastic change was needed.
“Well I think that’s flat out ridiculous, and you can print that,” Gary said by phone. “Shaw has been in existence for over a hundred years, and we’ve survived, and we’re going to survive for the next 100 years.”
The chairman continued that like any other business, Shaw has gone through “tough times” throughout its history. But Gary bristled at allegations of a conflict of interest leveled last week by WTVD-TV concerning his brother, Freddie Gary, who owns an insurance agency in Florida that has been doing business with the university for years.
“He has saved Shaw University thousands, and hundreds of thousands of dollars. And if you check his giving, he has given back the money he’s made in premiums in record numbers,” Gary insisted.
“A conflict of interest means you failed to disclose something,” the chairman continued. “My brother has been writing that insurance now for ten or fifteen years. He’s been giving to Shaw for ten or fifteen years. He’s been saving Shaw money for ten or fifteen years.”
“How are you going to have a conflict of interest with someone who is saving the university tons of dollars?” Gary continued. “Are you saying that because he is a black man that he shouldn’t be doing business with Shaw University?”
Gary also insisted that Shaw was not, “…behind in one single bill,” with alumni giving up, though overall fundraising is down.
“We take lemons at Shaw, and make lemonade,” Chairman Gary continued, adding that Shaw has more scholarly student-athletes graduating in the CIAA than any other school with at least an average 3.0 GPA.
And he was also quick to note the football, tennis and women’s basketball CIAA championships the school recently won.
“So I think Shaw University is doing a helluva job for the community,” Gary said, adding that this year will see the largest freshman class than ever before.
“We’re not perfect, but we’re not pitiful. We’re moving!”
In the interview, Gary confirmed, as The Carolinian exclusively reported last week, that Dr. McClaurin’s inability to raise significant funding during the course of her almost one year on the job “was a factor” in her dismissal (he also conformed that the trustee board terminated her contract), though Gary conceded that she had to deal with a “tough economy.”
Money not raised might not have been much of a factor if it weren’t for the large sums of money spent, sources say. McClaurin reportedly was earning $225,000-a-year on a five-year contract, plus travel expenses and a gated home owned by the school.
But Dr. McClaurin also spent thousands, and really raised eyebrows, reportedly, when she submitted a budget for her October installation ceremony in the neighborhood of over $330,000.
Former Shaw trustee Cornell Adams of New Jersey seemed to confirm that spending at the school in general, and McClaurin’s spending in particular, were key reasons why he left the board in July after serving three years.
That, plus McClaurin’s degenerating campus relations with students and faculty (who protested against her last April after she fired four veteran professors) - even after all of her hard work in making sure the Shaw campus was ready for students after last April’s devastating tornado damage - put the nail in her coffin just 11 months into her tenure.
Chairman Gary said that in the interest of Dr. McClaurin’s “mutual” agreement with the board, he would not go further in detail, other than to say that “For Shaw University, it was just not working out.”
But the chairman did not deny any of The Carolinian’s reporting on why McClaurin left.
On Monday to applause, Gary announced that Dr. Dorothy C. Yancey, the former interim president of Shaw from 2009 to 2010 preceding Dr. McClaurin’s arrival, would be coming out of retirement, and returning to lead the institution for the next two years. Yancy, widely respected for her leadership at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte and ability to raise tons of money, worked to restructure $31 million of Shaw’s debt during her brief tenure.
“She loves Shaw University,” Gary told The Carolinian last week.
Gary also assured at Monday’s on-campus press conference that the case of the four Shaw professors who were fired by Dr. McClaurin last March, reportedly without cause, will get another look, and he hopes for a reasonable resolution.
“This is not a funeral,” Gary continuously said to the crowd Monday, adding that, “We’re doing better today than we have in the past five years.”
“This is a celebration.”
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Editor's Note - After Wednesday's Carolinian Newspaper deadline, attorney Willie Gary, chairman of the Shaw University Board of Trustees, consented to an interview. Read his remarks, and defense against allegations that the school is not being managed properly, in the August 18 edition of The Carolinian.
By Cash Michaels
"Culture clash" is the term many Shaw University employees and alums are using as a key reason to explain the extraordinary and unexpected resignation this week of the school’s 15th president.
Indeed, sources have been informing The Carolinian since earlier this year, the problems at the beloved historically black university, scheduled to begin classes August 17th, despite severe budgetary challenges and recovering from an April tornado that crippled the campus, have been mounting ever since Dr. Irma McClaurin took the helm.
The Carolinian has learned that after a tumultuous eleven months, the Shaw Trustee Board, according to sources, decided to terminate her contract, and give McClaurin one-year’s severance pay.
Attorney Willie Gary, chairman of Shaw’s Trustee Board, confirmed what The Carolinian learned when he told the News and Observer Wednesday, “ It just wasn’t working.”
Sources tell The Carolinian that the board was reportedly displeased that McClaurin, 58, allegedly wasn’t raising the kind of funding they had expected from her after almost a year in office, and the trustees especially balked when she allegedly turned in a $300,000 budget for her installation ceremony in October.
As is custom in these kinds of separation, both parties agreed to publicly state that Dr. McClaurin’s departure was “mutual.”
McClaurin, an anthropologist, Chicago native and founding executive director of the Urban Research and Outreach Engagement Center at the University of Minnesota, could not be reached for comment Wednesday for this story. But on her website, she seemed to hint in a past writing that professionally, those who work with her can always expect something different.
“In my career, I’ve found that not following the routine trajectory has created unique opportunities for me,” she wrote. “I don’t fit the boxes, but I’ve learned from every experience, even when it hasn’t gone as expected.”
“We also assume the academy supports a free-flow of ideas,” McClaurin wrote. “Well…not all the time.”
Her detractors called her a “self-centered and dictatorial” leader who didn’t understand the culture of historically black institutions, and maybe wasn’t “tough enough” to lead one, having come from a white university.
“Many staff and students said that she is an African-American woman that has a white person’s approach,” said one former Shaw staffer.
An alum who spoke with The Carolinian agreed, using the term “culture clash” to describe McClaurin’s problems at the school. The person added that the problems started at the 2010 Shaw Homecoming activities, when Dr. McClaurin was not “very embracing” at the Shaw alumni meeting, seeming indifferent to the special tradition and pride of the university.
But her supporters counter that McClaurin, “…brought a no-nonsense business approach [to Shaw University] that was severely lacking.” In the end, dealing with the mounting stress and tens of millions in school debt, particularly after working to get the campus repaired and ready for the new semester, may have proved to be too much for the Shaw president.
In March 2011, a Shaw University employee, expressing exuberance and hope about the future of the historically black university under the leadership of Dr. McClaurin, wrote in an email to The Carolinian, “It won't be an easy job.... but we’re up for the challenge because we truly, truly, TRULY love our alma mater,” later adding, “Although it may not necessarily feel like good things are happening at the university...they truly are. People just aren't looking in the right places…yet.”
But by the end of May, that same devoted Shaw alum and employee had a dramatic change of heart.
“What we have seen, smelled, touched and heard over the course of the past four months is enough to make [founder] Henry Martin Tupper himself do cartwheels in his grave,” the emailer wrote. “I want to tell you that Shaw is in serious, serious trouble. But we CANNOT stand by idly, without the desire to help.”
By the middle of July, that Shaw employee had allegedly seen so much that was disturbing, the person was emailing again, literally asking for help.
“I am having serious regrets,” the Shaw employee wrote, later documenting disturbing allegations of malfeasance, failure in personal conduct, conflicts of interest and employee mistreatment covering the entire university administration. “I really wish that I had tried to "pay it forward" from the OUTSIDE because once I got on the INSIDE - - I have observed some things that were immoral, illegal and downright scary. Because of the culture of fear - - no one will rock the boat.”
Actually, at that same time, a former Shaw professor, alleging wrongful termination, was “rocking the boat,” supplying media outlets with documents purportedly showing how fired longtime Shaw employees were allegedly being denied due process.
This week, much of what that Shaw employee and professor allegedly saw and heard came to a head, and the 15th president of Shaw University - the school’s third leader in the past three years - announced her resignation just one month shy of her first anniversary, and two months out from a planned official installation ceremony.
Based on internal sources, former employees and press reports The Carolinian has reviewed, an unhealthy picture of a black university president constantly at war with many of her trustee board and faculty members, and campus employees, has emerged.
While much of the blame is placed on Dr. McClaurin, some say Shaw’s Trustee Board must also shoulder much of the blame for some of the administrative dysfunction.
“There was no accountability for funds,” Cornell Adams, a New Jersey businessman and trustee who resigned from the Shaw Trustee Board last month after three years, told The News and Observer. “I didn’t like the situation.”
Adams also made it clear that “there weren’t too many people happy with her.”
Indeed, Irma McClaurin, the first female to take the helm as Shaw University’s permanent president last September (former Johnson C. Smith University Dr. Dorothy Yancey served as interim president prior to McClaurin’s arrival), ran into a buzz saw of backlash almost as soon as she took the torch, sources confirm.
“Most alumni I’ve been in touch with or heard from are pleased with the separation,” responded one Shaw alumna. “It’s been a contentious 11 months or so, which in my opinion, didn’t get off to a good start.”
Perhaps Dr. McClaurin’s biggest controversy during her short tenure was her March 11th termination of four Shaw faculty members who had given a combined 68 years of service to the institution.
After word got out about the firings, protests by faculty, students and alums rang the Shaw Campus in April, alleging that the school violated its own policies in the process.
On April 11th in response, Dr. McClaurin issued a terse statement of rebuke, saying in part, “I think it unfortunate that at the very moment Shaw is gaining positive recognition locally and nationally that a few have chosen to become involved in university personnel matters, on which I am prevented from commenting for confidentiality reasons.”
McClaurin continued, “What I can tell you is that the information recently circulated by disgruntled employees contains only partial truths, and mixes employment activities that occurred years ago for various reasons with more recent actions, and tries to convey that these unrelated incidences are somehow part of an orchestrated plan.”
Shaw University has new leadership,” Dr. McClaurin went on, “…and with such comes change. I regret that many have lost sight of more pressing issues facing our beloved institution, such as the impact of proposed federal and state cuts in financial aid to our students, and the ramifications of such cuts for this institution.”
“To protest during commencement, when students should be celebrating their accomplishments, is an action that is neither in the best interest of our students, nor in the best interest of Shaw University,” she concluded.
Sources say McClaurin tried to resolve the matter by hiring an attorney to act as mediator between the school and the Shaw four.
“We felt deceived when she announced mediation as a way to resolves the issues,” wrote one of the fired Shaw professors in a July 26th missive, adding that because they were terminated for little reason, they should just be reinstated without delay.
According to a July 8, 2011 letter to Dr. McClaurin from the American Association of University Professors, the March 11 letter of termination to the Shaw four notified them that “…their services were being terminated at the end of the 2010-11 academic year.”
The AAUP letter went on, “We understand that they received no explanation of the administration’s action and that they have not been afforded an opportunity to contest the action in an appropriate faculty hearing.”
The AAUP letter goes on to state that,”… the Shaw University faculty handbook contains no provisions for protecting academic freedom through a system of tenure.” AAUP argued that the four, who averaged anywhere from 12 to 20 years apiece, should have been tenured, and in effect, safe from termination long before they were notified.
AAUP urged McClaurin to reinstate the Shaw four, and, “…an attempt be made to seek a resolution acceptable to them.”
As of press time, the Shaw four are still gone, but now, so is the university president who fired them.
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
For Immediate Release
August 9, 2011
Contact: Sherri Fillingham
Phone: 919-546-8250/919-623-9494: Mobile
Statement Regarding Resignation of Shaw President Dr. Irma McClaurin
(Raleigh, NC) – Shaw University has seen many changes and experienced challenges in the last six months. And with change comes transitions. One of these is the mutually agreed upon decision by the Shaw Board and Dr. McClaurin for her to resign her position as Shaw President.
This was a difficult decision by all parties, but we are in agreement that it is the best decision for all involved. Shaw University wishes Dr. McClaurin great success in her future, and is genuinely appreciative of the leadership and vision she brought to Shaw during her tenure. Dr. McClaurin wishes Shaw University only the best as it plots a course toward sustainability, growth, and progress.