LeMoyne-Owen College board seeks dismissal of lawsuit by faculty over president

Local News

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) – The president and board of trustees of LeMoyne-Owen College are asking that a federal lawsuit filed against them by faculty of the institution be dismissed.

A “Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s Complaint” filed July 10 states, “Plaintiff’s complaint consists of some vague, some contradictory, and conclusory allegations alluding to an apparent dissatisfaction with the current administration of LeMoyne-Owen college, nothing in Plantiff’s Complaint amounts to a cognizable claim for breach of fiduciary duty, or temporary injunctive relief. Accordingly, Plaintiff’s Complaint should be dismissed with prejudice in its entirety.”

In May the faculty of the historically black college filed the lawsuit over claims of breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and for temporary injunction.

The complaint stems from LOC faculty and student concerns since the appointment of Dr. Andrea Miller as president in 2015.

The lawsuit alleges that Miller “changed the structure of the college’s governance from a transparent co-governance between the administration and the faculty to a unilateral, closed door managements by the administration only.”

The LeMoyne-Owen College Faculty Organization claims that “closed door” policy was literal and figurative.

They also refer to a history at the college with past administrations of the inclusion of faculty when it comes to key decisions. The group points to the employee handbook to support that as policy.

The lawsuit claims Miller’s actions “undermine the authority granted to the faculty by the Handbook and recognized by the National Labor Relations Board.”

A majority of LOC faculty took a vote of “no-confidence” in Miller’s leadership April of 2017. Later that month, the board met with faculty resulting in the hiring of consultants, F&H Solution Group to facilitate dialogue between the administration and faculty.

A report from that dialogue included in the lawsuit outlines the concerns recorded by F&H from both sides and also notes “both faculty and administration observed a lack of engagement from the board” saying they “played a passive role and in doing so it has created an ambiguous situation that indirectly fosters the conflict.”

Miller has a long history with LOC as an alumnae, professor and vice president before becoming president of the college.

The F&H report concluded that “from President Miller’s perspective LeMoyne-Owen College had significant changes that needed to be made to remain viable and competitive in today’s environment. She saw the faculty as resistant to change and at times a barrier.”

According to the report, Miller believes the faculty has a different definition of the handbook’s explanation of shared governance than hers.

Miller asserts through the report that her concerns over college retention, graduation rates, and employment and graduate school rates needed addressing, but faculty were not cooperative and aimed to have her removed as president.

In the report, faculty expressed frustration, disappointment and hurt over what’s transpired over the past 2 years. While they agreed change needed to occur at LOC, they didn’t see Miller’s approach as healthy. Their issues included: Miller speaking negatively about LOC, bullying tactics by Miller, concerns over accreditation.

According to the report, faculty offered documentation to support their claims including emails, Board of Trustee meeting notes, financial, previously written complaint reports by faculty, fundraising, and enrollment information.

Further faculty grievances allege accreditation information submitted without faculty input and Miller’s proposed changes to curriculum, faculty handbook, degree offerings, and LOC mission statement.

All of which the lawsuit requests a court ordered injunction to keep those things from taking place.

The lawsuit asks that the faculty organization be recognized as a collective bargaining unit or agree to terms of the faculty handbook returning them to the governance model observed before the current administration.

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