Executive session meeting minutes show that the Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees “terminated” Felecia Nave as president of Alcorn State University — a modicum of information but more clarification than the board has provided in other instances of presidential turnover this year.
The board initially refused to say if it had fired Nave or let her resign, but per executive session meeting minutes released Thursday, the unanimous decision on April 20 was to terminate Nave “for the board’s convenience, effectively immediately.”
Just two days earlier,Nave — the first Black woman to lead Alcorn State, the oldest public historically Black university in Mississippi — interviewed as a semi-finalist for thechancellor positionat Louisiana State University, Shreveport.
Nave did not get the position.
Though it’s unclear what role that interview played in the board’s decision,Tom Duff, the outgoing IHL board president, said in a press release announcing her departure last month that “the Board wishes Dr. Nave well as she pursues new opportunities.”
The board appointed Ontario Wooden, whom Nave hired as provost and senior vice president for academic affairs in 2020, as interim president with a salary of $300,000. He reported directly to Nave, and the two overlapped in administration at North Carolina Central University.
Nave’s contract was set to end on June 30 of this year, per a version obtained by Mississippi Today in 2021. The contract lays out three paths the board could take to terminate her employment: “Financial exigencies as declared by the board,” “for good cause,” and “for the Board’s convenience, without any showing of good cause or other cause.”
It is not clear if the board could have terminated Nave for its convenience with good cause or without. If the board terminated Nave without cause, the contract shows that Nave is entitled to a payout of the remainder of her state-funded salary, which was $300,000. She has had 30 days from the date the board voted to terminate her to vacate on-campus housing.
Nave’s termination made her the fourth public university president to step down or leave since June 2022. In each instance, IHL has provided little information about the circumstances surrounding those decisions — details on why presidents leave usually comes from the individuals themselves.
Earlier this month, Rust College, a private college in Holly Springs, announced its president Ivy Taylor was leaving.
Jared Gilmore, an Alcorn State alumnus, said he was shocked by the board’s decision to terminate her. He is involved with a group called Alcornites for Change that had sought to hold Nave accountable for widespread issues on campus like declining enrollment, dozens of employee resignations and “deplorable” conditions in athletic facilities.
The board should answer if Nave’s handling of those problems played any role in its decision to terminate her, Gilmore said.
“The goal was never to just get her fired,” Gilmore said. “The goal was to have some accountability for the position because again there were so many things that were going on that were detrimental to the institution.”
Gilmore said Alcornites for Change had repeatedly sought meetings with the board and with IHL Commissioner Alfred Rankins, the president of Alcorn State before Nave, about their findings. But prior to firing Nave, IHL never returned their inquiries.
“It was a shocker to us because my thing was, we’ve been presenting the information, we have been rallying the stakeholders, and all of a sudden, boom, they make a decision,” he said. “We need to know where we go from here because we have some issues.”
IHL has yet to announce a timeline for a presidential search.