The following is a letter to the Morgan State University community from university president David Wilson, whose contract the school's board of regents has voted not to renew.
Dear Morgan Family:
I was recently informed of the Board of Regents’ decision not to renew my contract as President of Morgan State University. By any objective standard, my tenure at Morgan has been marked by measurable increases in practically every dimension at the University. There has been a 60 percent increase in the alumni participation rate, a more than 20 percent increase in federal grants and contracts, including securing the largest contract in the history of the University, which will be valued at over $30 million over the next five years. We have increased the retention rate at the University, enabling it to rise above 70 percent for two consecutive years, which represents the first time in over twelve years that Morgan has had a retention rate that high. We also have achieved many more notable accomplishments:
- Significantly improved the financial health of the University as confirmed by rating agency reviews.
- Accommodated a 10.5% percent increase in enrollment while State support has remained level.
- Reallocated funding to:
- Build a facility renewal fund to better maintain campus facilities
- Enhance the University’s writing lab
- Provide additional data bases in support of instruction and research
- Enhance Stem Labs
- Maintain accreditations
- Provided a wireless network for 90 percent of the campus.
- Commissioned a comprehensive review of the public safety operations and, as a result, implemented organizational adjustments to increase emphasis on campus and public safety, as well as invested in a variety of programs, systems and equipment to improve campus safety.
- Significantly increased the University’s grant and contract revenue, increasing from $27.1 to $33.0M or by 21.8 percent.
- Provided monetary recognition to faculty advancing in rank or achieving tenure.
- Implemented a comprehensive program to build a culture of providing excellent customer service to parents and students.
- Implemented a broad array of retention programs and services resulting in the second year retention rate increasing from 67.8% to 72.4%, or 6.8 percent, the highest in more than a decade, as well as increasing the University graduation rate.
- Increased the undergraduate degree production from 772 to 902 students or by 16.8% and increased graduate degree production from 197 to 292 or by 48.2% percent.
- Responded to the students’ request for enhanced food service options to include: increased variety, extended hours, and added venues
- Implemented a system to encourage students to park on campus versus in the community.
- Recognized the value of contractual workers (those employed without fringe benefits) by providing tuition waiver benefits for those that want to further advance their education and bonuses consistent with what was received by regular employees.
- Expanded Morgan’s global outreach by establishing student exchange programs with several international universities.
- Expanded Morgan’s outreach with the State by taking some of its popular programs to a regional Higher Education Center in Northeast Maryland and neighboring community colleges.
- Significantly enhanced the University’s capacity to increase private funding, already realizing a 60 percent increase in alumni giving.
- Completed and implemented a strategic plan to guide the University into the next decade, establishing student success as its number one priority.
- Embarked upon the development of a Facilities Master Plan to better position the University in carrying out its Strategic Plan.
- Showcased the entrepreneurial and research potential of the University through an Innovation Day at the State capital.
- Improved communication with faculty, staff and students and the community though a variety of communication media, town hall and civic meetings, community walks, and quickly followed up with positive actions.
- Secured State capital funding to:
- Maintain the construction of the new $81M School of Business on schedule for opening in 2014
- Construct a $66.7 Behavioral Science Center
- Demolish the Old Library and make way for a student services building
- Established the framework for improved community outreach and engagement, as well as economic development, through a program called the Morgan Community Mile.
Let me say that I will not say or do anything to harm an institution that I love, respect and care about deeply. I am just not that vindictive, especially when I know that my students, my faculty, staff and our outstanding alumni at Morgan would not be well served by it. Let me also say, categorically, that I have committed no act of illegality, immorality or malfeasance. I came to Morgan after much soul searching and after turning down presidencies and senior positions at several institutions across this nation. I did so against the advice of some of my closest friends and mentors in higher education because I believed, and I still believe, so much in the mission of this institution.
Despite the challenges that I inherited, I can say that I have rarely had a bad day at Morgan. The few bad days that I have had have come because of having to send so many students back home who did not have the financial resources to keep them moving forward in their respective degree programs. Those few bad days at Morgan have come when I have visited our schools at the University and have heard of the great work being performed by our faculty with very parsimonious resources. I have worked with many of my colleagues at Morgan, from sun-up to midnight, to secure adequate resources to enable our students to enjoy a world-class college experience and to support faculty members who are so committed to the educational transformation of our students. I have sat in my office at my computer numerous times late at night, sometimes wiping a tear or two away from my eyes as I read heart wrenching emails from students who were working for a better life but saw their dreams die on the vine because they simply did not have the $500 or $1,000 they needed to stay enrolled in school. That is why I contributed $100,000 of my own salary at Morgan to start a scholarship program to enable these students to taste the magic of education just as someone had contributed to my undergraduate education to enable me to enjoy that transformation as well.
I love Morgan! I love it because we take so many students who enter this institution as freshmen with raw, unrefined talent and have them emerge from this special place four or five years later as gems in the state’s and the nation’s crown. I stand proudly on the body of work we have been able to achieve during my tenure. It is indeed unfortunate that half of the members of the Board of Regents and I do not see it the same way. But, in my heart of hearts, I know that should this action stand on the part of the Board, I will leave Morgan on June 30, 2013 having moved it to a higher level of excellence and achievement. It is very unfortunate that, based on what I have heard, I am being punished for having a top research university in this nation take note of our achievements at Morgan and express appreciation for the body of work that we have achieved.
I am even more distressed and disheartened that it appears that I am also being punished for allegedly having my name uttered from the lips of some unknown “White House official” for an opportunity with the Obama administration, when I did not even know about such thoughts. And so, with that in mind, I will surely complete my term of office with the same unimpeachable integrity and unwavering sense of purpose with which I began this tenure.
My service to Morgan has been and remains for me a high honor, and I appreciate all of the support that I have received and continue to get from all corners of this university, this state, this nation and the world (See my Facebook page at firstname.lastname@example.org).