As speculation swirled over the last month about former Jackson State University president Thomas Hudson’s resignation, the Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees repeatedly promised the public it would discuss “the future leadership” of the university at its regular board meeting.
But on Thursday, the board provided no new public information about leadership at Mississippi’s largest historically Black university, where Hudson is the third president in a row to resign. IHL’s press releases said “the Board of Trustees will discuss the future leadership of Jackson State at its regular Board meeting later this month.”
“This is going to be a brief meeting,” said Tom Duff, the board president. “Are there any additional items that we need to be discussing as an IHL board that we’ve not been talking about for the last few days?”
Hearing none, trustees voted to go into executive session to discuss two Delta State personnel matters and one Jackson State personnel matter around 9:20 a.m. Trustees adjourned at 11:43 a.m. No information about any actions was provided.
The only public reference to the university came when Duff thanked Jackson State’s temporary acting president Elayne Hayes-Anthony for her presence at the meeting.
After trustees went into executive session, Hayes-Anthony addressed the press outside the IHL meeting room. She said she was interested in becoming Jackson State’s permanent president and that she would apply for the position if the board conducted a national search.
But she added that she has no preference for the kind of process she’d like to see the board use to fill the position. In 2020, many faculty members had called for the board to conduct a national search – instead, the board elevated Hudson from interim to permanent president.
Hayes-Anthony also addressed concerns about the board’s lack of transparency. Unlike Hudson’s predecessors, the public doesn’t know why he resigned. The announcement earlier this month came on the heels of the board voting to renew his four-year contract in January.
“I’m sure they will get to the community and let them know what their deliberations are,” she said.
Several administrators, alumni and faculty members from Jackson State attended the meeting.
Ivory Phillips, a dean emeritus at Jackson State and a former faculty senate president, said he wasn’t surprised the board said nothing about the university’s leadership. Still, Phillips thought the board should have at least addressed the process it will use to select the next president.
“The board is more notorious than any other agency in terms of not revealing anything,” he said.
Phillips noted that the board did not link to its agenda online and that the paper copy distributed at the meeting did not contain minutes describing any action that occurred during its executive sessions about Jackson State over the last month. The board emails a copy of its agenda the day before the meeting and typically uploads that copy to its website.
Caron Blanton, the board spokesperson, said she did not know when the board would release the minutes from those executive sessions.
At the March 2 meeting which took place before the board announced Hudson was placed on administrative leave, Blanton told reporters and members of the public that any action taken by the board must be reflected in meeting minutes “within 30 days of the meeting.”
“If they did take action, it will be in the minutes,” she said.
Molly Minta covers higher education for Mississippi Today, in partnership with Open Campus.