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No confidence: Howard faculty members say in vote they have lost faith in school’s leaders

Howard University President Wayne A.I. Frederick has lost the confidence of faculty members, according to a vote. (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

The embattled president of Howard University received a vote of no confidence this week from faculty members, a rebuke that followed a student occupation at the historically black university in Washington.

Documents obtained Thursday by The Washington Post show that 61 percent of faculty members who took part in the vote expressed a lack of faith in the leadership of Howard President Wayne A.I. Frederick.

More than 50 percent said they had no confidence in Chief Operating Officer Tashni-Ann Dubroy and Provost Anthony K. Wutoh. A majority also expressed no confidence in the executive committee of the school’s Board of Trustees.

More than 900 full-time faculty members were eligible to take part in the vote, which started April 4 and concluded Tuesday. About 30 percent of eligible faculty cast ballots.

Stacey J. Mobley, chairman of Howard’s Board of Trustees, pointed to the size of the vote count, saying that fewer than 300 faculty members took part.

“Simply put, this is a small representative sample and the vote doesn’t reflect the overall sentiments of the majority of the membership,” he said.

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In a statement, Mobley said the board was disappointed with the vote, and disagreed with the results. There is “no question that Howard University has the right leadership in place,” Mobley said.

“Transformation and change is not easy, but despite these challenges, Howard’s current leadership has made positive strides to improve operations and infrastructure, increase resources and modernize the institution, while ensuring Howard remains true to its mission,” Mobley said.

The faculty vote does not have immediate consequences on the fate of Frederick or other school leaders but casts another shadow on his four-year tenure as president.

A Howard spokeswoman said Frederick was not available for an interview Thursday.

Howard faculty members have expressed concern about building conditions, a loss of staff and lack of a robust strategic plan to move the university forward.

“The message is for [Frederick] to resign,” said Taft Broome Jr., a Howard professor of engineering. The trustees, Broome said, have a “very high tolerance for incompetence.”

“The board has got to act,” he said. “And if they fail to act and say that they are going to support the president once again, then I don’t want to be the one to predict the consequences of that on campus.”

A worried student emailed Howard’s president. He replied about her ‘tone.’

The vote results emerged not long after students ended a lengthy protest on the campus in Northwest Washington. Protesters in late March flooded Howard’s administration building, staying for eight days as university officials and student leaders negotiated.

The occupation of Howard’s “A” building ended April 6, as school officials announced a “statement of commitments,” which were meant to address the needs of the campus.

Students who took part in the occupation had called for Frederick to resign, although they later backed down from that demand.

“There’s a lack of trust in our leadership,” said Alexis McKenney, a Howard senior and member of HU Resist, the student group that led the protest. “There’s a very real concern about transparency, and the lack thereof.”

That, she said, translates into faculty members who don’t have confidence in university leadership.

“Including the president,” McKenney said.

Frederick, a surgeon and Howard graduate, was named interim president of Howard in 2013 and was named the school’s 17th president in 2014. A native of Trinidad, Frederick was just 16 years old when he arrived at Howard in 1988. By age 22, he had earned a bachelor’s degree in zoology and a medical degree. He returned to Howard in 2006 as a faculty member and later earned a master’s in business administration, his third degree from the school.

During the student protest, Frederick received support from the university’s Council of Deans, which represents leaders of Howard’s schools and colleges, and from the school’s alumni association.

“My fellow board members and I charged President Frederick with making progress on the critical issues facing our university,” Board of Trustees member Marie Johns said at a news conference last week, as officials marked the end of the occupation. “While he has made significant advancements, we all acknowledge there is much more work to be done. He is committed to stewarding this institution and he continues to have our unequivocal and unwavering support.”

It has been a rocky few months at Howard, a school that recently disclosed allegations of financial aid misdeeds and began the new year struggling to cope with the bitter cold that swept through the District.

Howard on Monday released a report on the financial aid scandal, which led to the firing of six employees at the university. The school said the former employees misappropriated $369,000 in financial aid from 2011 to 2016.

In March, Frederick provoked the ire of students after criticizing a student for her tone when she emailed him to say she was concerned about housing. When Frederick responded to the student, he said her “tone and tenor” were inappropriate. The student posted an image of the exchange to Twitter, where it garnered attention.