Updated: 1:30 p.m. Friday
A university official e-mailed The Post this statement: “The Howard University Board of Trustees has convened for its annual retreat. The Board is slated to discuss a number of strategic priorities including sustaining enrollment growth, framework for major campaign, transition update and the presidential search process including engagement of students, faculty, staff, alumni and other key stakeholders. As customary, details regarding Board actions will be shared with campus constituents on Monday following the meeting.”
The Howard University Board of Trustees is convening Friday for a two-day retreat with, presumably, much on the minds of its 33 members.
The university’s president, Sidney A. Ribeau, abruptly announced his retirement this fall a few months after signing a contract extension. The interim president, Wayne A.I. Frederick, is putting his team in place.
The board itself had an internal division exposed in June when a letter of critique from vice chairwoman Renee Higginbotham-Brooks was made public. In the letter, dated April and addressed to trustees, she warned of financial challenges facing the university and asked for a vote of no confidence in Ribeau and board Chairman Addison Barry Rand. The chairman replied that the university was in strong shape.
For these reasons and more, this board retreat is of special significance for a school in Northwest Washington seen as a flagship among historically black universities.
What the board will discuss is not spelled out anywhere in a public agenda. The university, which receives annual federal appropriations of more than $200 million, is private. The meeting is private. The location, said by one knowledgeable person to be off-campus, is officially undisclosed. Another knowledgeable person said it will be at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Prince George’s County.
Recently the university’s Faculty Senate approved a resolution of no confidence in the executive committee of the board.
Rand replied in a letter dated Oct. 23:
“While the Board is disappointed in this action by the Senate, we remain committed to working with the Faculty Senate, Interim President Frederick and the Howard Community to advance the University and ensure its future. It is important that the Board and the University’s key stakeholders are aligned. The Board takes very seriously its role as steward and fiduciary of the University and will continue its commitment to effective governance, even as difficult decisions must be made. Your concerns as key stakeholders are very important to the Board. The Board of Trustees recognizes and appreciates your support in the advancement of Howard University.”
The letter indicated that trustee Benaree Pratt Wiley — a Howard graduate and sister of former D.C. mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly — is chair of a transition committee. Who is on that committee is unknown. A Web site for board committees indicates “this page is under construction.” It has been marked that way for many weeks.
American appears to have one of the more transparent boards. Its board chairman, Jeffrey A. Sine, wrote a public letter dated Monday that summarized what happened at a board meeting last week. Such letters are not to be found on the Howard Web site, although the university is considering steps to make the board’s operations more transparent.
In response to a query from The Post, Howard did disclose in October who is on the executive committee of its board. The members were listed as Rand, Higginbotham-Brooks, Wiley and 15 others: Charisse R. Lillie, Robert L. Lumpkins, Stacey J. Mobley, Norman K. Jenkins, Reed V. Tuckson, Gregory A. White, Gerald D. Prothro, Larkin Arnold Jr., Amy Hilliard, Vernon E. Jordan Jr., Mark A. L. Mason, Floretta Dukes McKenzie, M. Kasim Reed (the Atlanta mayor), L. Douglas Wilder (the former Virginia governor) and John D. Zeglis.