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HBCU Education

Despite reports, Morehouse president hasn’t been fired over Trump statement

John S. Wilson is expected to leave in three months when his contract ends

Morehouse College’s announcement on Monday that its chief operating officer would be in charge of day-to-day operations prompted reports that school president John S. Wilson was being pushed out early because of comments he made about the recent meeting of presidents from historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) with the Trump administration. But Cathy Tyler, Morehouse’s executive director of strategic communications, said in an email Tuesday night that Wilson “remains our president and I understand that the board of trustees will be sending out a new statement.”

On March 1, the university released a letter by Wilson describing the meetings with President Donald Trump and others as “a troubling beginning to what must be a productive relationship.” Some news reports characterized his comments as saying that HBCUs “had been played.”

On Monday, the university released a statement from the board of directors saying that William Taggart would be placed in charge of day-to-day operations. HBCU Digest reported that Wilson had been fired, based on that statement from Robert C. Davidson Jr., chairman of the college’s board of trustees. Wilson is expected to leave Morehouse in three months, when his contract expires.

HBCU students and faculty across the country were skeptical about the meeting between Trump officials and representatives from more than 100 HBCUs and affiliated organizations because many see the president as divisive and insensitive to issues facing African-Americans.

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Last week, that skepticism got some support after Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said that “HBCUs are real pioneers when it comes to school choice.” This statement is historically inaccurate and her disregard or ignorance of the history of African-Americans upset many people.

DeVos’ comments tainted what was otherwise a relatively “positive” meeting, Wilson told The Undefeated. The two-day dialogue with the administration left Wilson cautiously optimistic about the chances of HBCUs receiving additional funding soon:

“I remain encouraged by the possibilities because, again, if it is their ambition to do something unprecedented and historic, then we have no choice but to remain optimistic,” Wilson said. “Bottom line is these things take time often, so I’m not distracted by the fact that it did not happen on the visit itself.

“I believe it to be a start of a relationship. There is time to put what would be a truly historic commitment into the budget that will be announced very soon.”

“They [HBCU presidents] have to understand the situation that they are getting themselves into,” said John Cooper, a junior political science major at Morehouse. “Every day is a battle in the political realm for us to advance. Every move by whoever is openly or obviously oppressing us is a chess play.”