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Oakwood University alumni worry about school’s future amid current administration

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — A shift in concern and frustration has brought together many Oakwood University alumni and others with a connection to the school.

“I’m a concerned Oakwoodite, so there’s no way I’m not here today to voice my concerns… lovingly, but firmly,” said Oakwood University alumna Sibyl Beaulieu. “We are very committed to this position and the stance we are taking – we want to see action. »

Concerned Oakwoodites, a group formed in September, held a news conference Monday. They say they are concerned about the current administration and its management of finances.

“The science department here at Oakwood is absolutely amazing,” said Oakwood University alumna Dr. Helen Powell-Stoddart. “Dr. Vanderpool is the most amazing chair of the department, my daughter loves her. I want every department to be like this.

A lack of transparency, accountability and corrective action is what forced the group to go public with its concerns.

Concerned Oakwood residents say they are committed to supporting Oakwood and all its stakeholders.

The group wants Oakwood to survive the current challenges and thrive. For this to happen, they believe it is imperative that the Oakwood University Board of Trustees and administration step up their efforts in the following areas:

  1. Retention of faculty and staff: Oakwood reportedly has more than 60 job openings while also being subject to a hiring freeze. Current and former employees complain about working conditions: no air conditioning in certain buildings, ceiling tiles needing to be replaced, etc. Several high-ranking employees have recently resigned, at least one without a job opportunity.
  2. Ethical practices and procedures: Some former employees have expressed concerns about expectations or orders that may not be consistent with state and federal policies. We believe that the integrity of our institution must never be compromised, for the sake of its students – past, present and future.
  3. Student registration and retention: All of the concerns we have presented jeopardize Oakwood’s ability to recruit and retain students. Students are the lifeblood of any educational institution. Their care and well-being must be paramount.

Concerned Oakwoodites co-founder David Person provided News 19 with a copy of an audit report for the years ending 2020, 2021 and 2022.

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Person said a former Oakwood board member recently told him the school had $43 million in consolidated liabilities.

“Maybe there’s a way to explain it or contextualize it that would indicate that this is not a threat to the survival of the university,” Person said. “I don’t know, but I know that $43 million is not spending money.”

The person told News 19 a meeting was planned for Monday afternoon so group members and the university’s board of trustees could sit down and talk about their concerns. Here is a statement from the founders of Concerned Oakwoodites following their meeting:

We appreciate the invitation from Oakwood University Board of Trustees Chairman Dr. G. Alexander Bryant to meet with board members regarding our concerns. We consider this a modest first step, although we believe it could have been more productive.

While we thank the board members for listening and engaging us, we are disappointed to have left without a commitment from the board on a specific action plan or a timeline for receiving one. The good news is that while the Council deliberates, concerned Oakwoodites will also consider our next steps.

Hopefully we can find common ground with the Board in the future. But otherwise, we will remain vigilant in our efforts to promote transparency, accountability, and corrective action within our beloved Oakwood University.

Concerned Oakwood residents say the time for concerns about reputation is over — and they won’t back down until they save their university.

Oakwood University alumna Christel Lobbins says, “I know enrollment is lower than when I was a student here. I would like to see enrollment increase because of this and our students want to attend Oakwood like we did when we were young.

Founders of Concerned Oakwoodites

News 19’s Lynsey Smith reached out to Oakwood University ahead of Monday’s press conference for comment.

A university spokesperson provided Smith with the following statement:

“The 40-member Oakwood University Board of Trustees held an eight-hour session today. They reviewed reports, institutional progress and rumors regarding the University’s financial situation that were circulating on social media. The Commission examined multiple allegations made against the known facts regarding the operation of the establishment. After reviewing the University’s financial records, the Board concluded that the multiple allegations were unfounded and inconsistent with the financial records. The Board of Trustees focused on the University’s financial challenges during its executive session, which are being addressed in a variety of ways and will be announced once this year’s audit is completed. The Council recognizes that faith-based educational institutions face financial challenges, and Oakwood University is no exception.

The Council also appointed a cohort of trustees to hear the concerns of a group calling itself the Concerned Oakwoodites. Five members of the group raised their concerns with Council officials, and the Council committed to responding publicly after reviewing them. Board Chairman Dr. Alex Bryant said, “This entire episode reminds us how important it is in the modern era to communicate more frequently with our stakeholders on the issues that matter to us. mutually.

Additionally, the Council announced plans to host a large town hall meeting via Zoom, attended by alumni from across the country. The Council also plans to schedule several visits to the United States, Canada, Bermuda and the Caribbean, which are the main countries from which students come,” said Norman Jones, executive director of integrated marketing and public relations. from Oakwood University.

Oakwood University

SStay with News 19 online and on air as we receive developments.

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