A judge has ruled Morehouse College’s board chairman acted legally in January when he excluded student trustees from its vote not to renew the contract of its president, but he lauded the students for their “well-pled grievances.”
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney wrote in his four-page ruling issued Monday that the board’s rules allow its chairman to exclude student and faculty trustees from board meetings. McBurney, though, wrote the three Morehouse student trustees “should be commended for pushing to be heard, for arguing for a voice and a vote for the very student body that the Board is meant to serve.”
McBurney ended his ruling with a quote from famed 19th century abolitionist Frederick Douglass.
“Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are people who want crops without ploughing the ground,” the quote says, in part.
The three student trustees sued on the day of the board vote, Jan. 13, to participate in the hearing. The board voted that day not to renew the contract of Morehouse president John S. Wilson when it expires in June. The board has not publicly explained its decision, aside from praising Wilson for his service.
The timing of the dispute is ironic: Morehouse is celebrating its 150th anniversary this month.
McBurney wrote the solution could be Morehouse changing its bylaws that permit its chairman and president to block student and faculty trustees from meetings.
Board chairman Robert Davidson said in a statement Tuesday he was pleased with the judge’s ruling. He said trustees used input from meetings with students before the vote on Wilson. Davidson said the board has included student and faculty trustee representation on the search committee for the next president.
Harold Spence, an attorney who represented the students, said Tuesday that McBurney made a decision “the law required him to make” and that he and his clients will evaluate their options.