State Watch

Howard alumni accuse university of excluding students, others from board of trustees

Ten alumni from Howard University filed a lawsuit on Monday claiming students, alumni and faculty were improperly excluded from the school’s board of trustees.

The group’s lawsuit claims that alumni, faculty and student affiliate positions have yet to be reinstated on the governing body while the board made major decisions for the university. The group states that bylaws require a full board to make these decisions, according to The Washington Post

Specifically, the suit claimed that Howard’s board of trustees was in violation of its bylaws when it did not fill vacant spots on the board in April 2020. The board moved to nix the seats entirely in June and to amend its bylaws to do so in November, the Post added. 

The suit said that Howard alumni have been “injured via their disenfranchisement at the highest level of the university’s governance,” the newspaper noted. 

The issue was one of the reasons for a 34-day student protest that ended almost a month ago. 

Donald Temple, the attorney for the alumni, said in an email to The Hill that the situation has created a “circuitous process for alumni given the want of transparency.”

He added that the board “blatantly violated its by-laws” and “used that hiatus to illegally vote faculty, students, and alumni permanently off the Board in its November 5, 2021 amendment of its by-laws.”

The board has worked to “modernize” its operations, Frank Tramble, a spokesperson for the university, told the Post. Tramble added that an advisory council would launch next year as the board updates its structure and seeks to expand the pool of possible trustees.

“The Howard University Board of Trustees remains committed to its decision to update and modernize the board structure,” the university said in a statement provided to The Hill.

“All of the actions the Board has taken to modernize its governance structure are fully within the Board’s authority. The Board is committed to having at least 50 percent of the board be represented by alumni — currently, the Board is majority alumni,” the statement added.

“I consider the board of trustees at Howard to be arrogant and ignorant and unlawful in the way in which they have reacted,” Timothy Jenkins, a 1960 Howard graduate and one of the lead plaintiffs in the case, said in a statement to the newspaper. 

Jenkins added that he “was the person who made the motion in the 1970s to create a position on the board of trustees at Howard for students and for faculty,” noting that he would “make sure this unlawful act does not go unchallenged.”

There are 20 trustees on the board, and the body previously had seven affiliate positions including two students, two faculty and three alumni, the Post noted.

— Updated Dec. 15 at 5:32 p.m.

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