Four Wayne State Board of Governor members voted to fire President M. Roy Wilson at a Monday meeting — but other members said they didn’t have the authority to do so.
Sandra Hughes O’Brien, Michael Busuito, Dana Thompson and Anil Kumar approved a motion to terminate Wilson, unless he resigned by Tuesday, Nov. 5, according to a statement from the four. They cited “nontransparent and unaccountable leadership,” as the grounds for his dismissal.
On Oct. 28, board secretary Julie Miller sent an email to the BOG and Wilson to inform them of the meeting. O’Brien, Thompson, Busuito and Kumar said Monday’s meeting was an executive meeting because the subject line and message referred to the meeting as a “special executive committee meeting.”
The four members said this evidence legitimizes their vote.
Board Chair Kim Trent begs to differ. She said the official meeting notice that went out referred to the event as a board discussion and the subject line Miller sent out was a mistake.
“There was nothing in the actual board notice that suggested this was an executive board committee meeting,” Trent said.
Governor Bryan Barnhill was not present. Trent, Vice Chair Marilyn Kelly and governor Mark Gaffney walked out during the vote.
Trent originally called for the meeting to discuss the Heart of Detroit Tuition pledge, she said. In late October, the four board members publicly criticized the pledge, saying they weren’t informed about it in a timely manner.
“I really wanted to stay late and allow them to get their questions answered because some of them have gone to the media to say they were in the dark about this program,” Trent said.
Trent sent out a statement to WSU employees on Nov. 5 stating Wilson was not terminated.
“The claim that a vote was taken last night during an executive committee meeting of the board to dismiss the president is false. There was no executive committee scheduled and no executive committee agenda was established as is required by university bylaws.
“Vice Chair Marilyn Kelly and I have assured the president that he should lend no credence to claims by other board members that he has been fired. I can assure you that Dr. Wilson has no plans to step down as president.”
After the vote, the four members sent an email to President Wilson that informed him of his termination, according to their statement. Trent also confirmed this.
They also sent a message to WSU Police Chief Anthony Holt.
The message advised Holt to “work in consultation with General Counsel Louis Lessem’s office and to implement the termination in accordance with the law.”
Trent and Kelly instructed Wilson to ignore these messages, according to his statement.
“I have no intention of stepping down. In fact, I’m more committed than ever,” Wilson said.
Trent also told Holt to ignore the message. She instructed him to only accept board communications from her.
“I will be the only board member (Holt) will be communicating with in the near future,” Trent said.
O’Brien criticized the university’s public relations efforts in response to the controversy.
“The administration is circling the wagons in an effort to protect the president from the results of a legitimate vote taken at a special executive session of the Board,” she said. “Since when does (Trent) send out a university-wide statement on behalf of a minority of the governing board? Will there be an equal time?”
Jack Thomas is a correspondent for The South End. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Cover photo by Jonathan Deschaine. Jonathan is the multimedia editor for The South End. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org