Mfume named chair of Morgan State board, signals Wilson will stay

Kweisi Mfume was named the new chair of Morgan State University's Board of Regents on Tuesday, more than three months after his predecessor was ousted amid a public battle over university leadership.

Mfume quickly signaled that university President David J. Wilson, whose contract was at the center of the board's upheaval in the last several months, will continue on at the university with the board's full support.

Mfume, a university alumnus, longtime board member, former member of the Baltimore City Council and the U.S. House of Representatives and past president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, will take over the position July 1 from the interim chair, Martin Resnick.

Resnick, the board's vice chair and founder of Martin's Caterers, had temporarily filled the position after a 9-5 vote by the board in February to remove chairman Dallas R. Evans.

Evans, the managing director of a Washington-based homebuilding firm, had led an 8-7 board vote to end Wilson's contract in December, sparking an outcry among students, faculty and community members who said they supported Wilson's 10-year plan for the university.

Faculty members in a ballot vote overwhelmingly supported Wilson; they joined students in rallying for a reversal by the board and an extension of Wilson's contract.

Under pressure, the board eventually reconvened and voted 14-1 to draft a new one-year contract for Wilson. Evans, whose term on the board ends in 2015, cast the lone dissenting vote.

Before his ouster in February, Evans had served as chair of the board for more than 10 years.

The board voted 14-0 Tuesday to name Mfume as Evans' replacement. Evans abstained.

Also on Tuesday, the board followed up on its December promise to keep Wilson around another year by officially voting 14-1 — with Evans casting the dissenting vote — to extend Wilson's contract through June 2014.

Wilson became Morgan's president in 2010 after the retirement of Earl S. Richardson, who'd served in the role for more than 25 years. His original three-year contract expires next month, according to Evans, board chair at the time the contract was signed.

Evans declined to comment on his votes this week.

Beyond June 2014, Wilson will serve "at the pleasure of the board," but Mfume and other board members said Wilson will likely remain well past that time.

"I thank the members of the board for their vote of confidence and I join faculty, staff, students and alumni in looking forward to serving well into the future with Dr. David Wilson," Mfume said in a statement.

In his own statement, Wilson said Morgan "is in a good place, notwithstanding the lack of resources needed to adequately address our needs," and that he and the board will "continue to position the university as one of the top centers of academic excellence in the nation."

The board on Tuesday also formally welcomed the university's new School of Global Journalism and Communications, approved a new doctoral program in transportation and urban infrastructure systems, and voted to implement a December commencement ceremony, the school said.

Students completing their course work in December had previously had to wait until May to walk across a stage and graduate. Wilson had proposed the idea of a winter ceremony on social media, to positive responses from students.

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