In the latest twist in a battle over the leadership of Morgan State University, the Board of Regents voted Tuesday to oust board chairman Dallas R. Evans, who had led a push to not renew the contract of university President David J. Wilson.
The regents voted 9-5 against Evans, the managing director of a Washington-based home builder who has served on the board for more than 20 years.
"Everybody thought this would be a wise decision to keep the board in a positive attitude," said board vice-chair Martin Resnick, the founder of Martin's Caterers, who will serve as interim chair.
The vote represents the latest salvo in a struggle between Evans and Wilson, who became president after the retirement of Earl S. Richardson, Morgan's leader for a quarter-century.
In December, the regents abruptly voted 8-7 to seek a new president at the end of the school year, when Wilson's current contract expires.
That decision drew an outcry from students, faculty members and community leaders who praised Wilson's 10-year plan for the university and drive to bolster Morgan's reputation as a center of urban research.
Several weeks later, the board convened again and voted 14-1 to draft a new one-year contract for Wilson. Evans cast the lone dissenting vote.
Resnick said that a committee of regents was working to draft a new contract for Wilson. The committee will also choose a liaison to work on improving communication between Wilson and the board — a concern cited by some regents as the cause of discord.
Wilson, who has led the university for the past 21/2 years, declined to comment in detail about the decision to oust Evans as chairman, saying he had enjoyed working with him and looked forward to working with the new board leadership.
Evans said he would abide by the board's decision, but said the controversy surrounding Wilson had not been resolved.
"This situation as relates to Dr. Wilson is far from over," Evans said. "There will be more to come — I'm certain of that."
Evans, whose term on the board expires in 2015, was adamant in his opposition to Wilson's leadership.
"I'm very satisfied with the position I've taken," said Evans, who has chaired the board for more than a decade.
He connected the board's decision to doff him to Wilson's influence. Wilson, he said, had waged a "very proactive campaign to position himself to continue."
Student leaders said Tuesday that they hoped the regents' decision indicated that the board had chosen to support Wilson.
"I'm happy we still have Dr. Wilson as our president," said Student Government Association vice president Alvin Hill. "That was our mission as an SGA."
Hill, a senior, said that he was grateful to Evans for his long service to the university but that it was "time for a new face."
"We hope the board will continue to challenge Wilson, but also work with him," Hill said.
Deanne Perry, president of the Graduate Student Association, said she was heartened by the board's decision.
"This shows Morgan is serious about changing," Perry said. "Students were outraged with what happened with Dr. Wilson's contract not being renewed."
Perry said she was hopeful that Wilson would remain at Morgan to implement his 10-year plan, which calls for improving the neighborhoods surrounding the Northeast Baltimore campus, among other initiatives.
"My hope, and the hope of others, is that Dr. Wilson will stay past the one-year renewal," she said. "Who could the university put in place who would do a better job than Dr. Wilson is doing for us?"
Evans led the effort in early December to seek a replacement for Wilson. The board, meeting in a special closed session a few days after classes ended, voted to not renew Wilson's contract.
One regent, the Rev. Frances "Toni" Murphy Draper, wrote an open letter criticizing the decision, which came a month after the board unanimously approved a positive performance review for Wilson.
When the regents met again in late December, they voted to draft a new contract for Wilson before the end of January. That contract has yet to be negotiated or approved.
Wilson said Tuesday that he was not troubled by the delay; board members said they hoped to soon have a contract.
Evans sent regents a harshly worded letter last month saying that Wilson had "severely compromised" the university and blaming the "turmoil that has beset the Morgan community" on him.