Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Donald Watkins calls for Alabama A&M president to resign or be fired -- due to conflicts, murky finances, and personal failings that make him unfit for the job

Daniel Wims and Gov. Kay Ivey

The president of Alabama A&M University should be forced to resign or be fired immediately, according to a report today at donaldwatkins.com. Why should Dr. Daniel Wims be ousted? Watkins, a longtime Alabama attorney who has become a leading voice in online journalism, cites three factors -- financial mismanagement, conflicts of interest, and "personal failings that constitute acts unbecoming of a university president."

The Mims quagmire on the Huntsville campus is reminiscent of an episode at another Historically Black College or University (HBCU) -- Alabama State University (ASU) in Montgomery, and A&M's opponent in the annual, top-drawing Magic City Classic football game. The situation at ASU involved a president who appeared to be highly qualified but turned out to be an inept leader. The president's tenure likely was complicated because of meddling from former Governor Robert Bentley, the notorious "Luv Guv," and his senior aide/girlfriend Rebekah Caldwell Mason.

The Daniel Mims situation requires immediate action, Watkins writes, because information has surfaced indicating he is unfit to be president at A&M, partly because the university's background check during the hiring process was "woefully inadequate." Under the headline "What Should Alabama A&M Do About Its Daniel Wims Problem?" Watkins writes:

We all make mistakes in life. Universities make them, too, especially when it comes to picking the right president.

On October 7, 2023, I published an article outing Alabama A&M University President Daniel Wims’ closet donor relationship with the top MAGA Republicans in Alabama. I also exposed Wims’ secret deal to forgo a genuine effort to collect the $527,280,064 that is owed to the university by the state of Alabama.

After the publication of my article, I was flooded with credible information that suggests Dr. Wims may be unfit to serve as Alabama A&M's president. Based upon my independent investigation of this information, it appears that the background check conducted on Dr. Wims prior to his appointment as president was woefully inadequate in many material respects.

A majority of Alabama A&M board of trustees members apparently were  hoodwinked about who Dr. Wims really is.

For the sake of Alabama A&M's future growth, Dr. Wims should do the right thing and promptly resign his presidency. If Wims does not resign, Alabama A&M's board of trustees should remove him as president, immediately.

As for the situation at Alabama State, Watkins had a front-row seat as a member of the board of trustees, and it's a classic example of how difficult it can be to choose a university president -- especially in the politically charged environment that tends to surround higher education. A problem at the presidential level can be a "nightmare experience" for a university's leaders and supporters. Writes Watkins:

On July 27, 2014, I publicly apologized for picking Gwendolyn E. Boyd as president of Alabama State University (ASU). I had made a serious error in judgment when I nominated Dr. Boyd for the presidency in November 2013 and urged ASU's board of trustees to appoint her to the job the next month.

At the time, I sincerely believed that Dr. Boyd was qualified for the position. After Boyd assumed the ASU presidency, I learned that her prior executive experience had been greatly exaggerated. Additionally, Dr. Boyd's administrative skills were sorely lacking for what was required to be an effective ASU president.

When the search for a president began in March 2013, ASU was on top of the world.It was an ultramodern, well-run, and well-respected urban university. ASU had an “A” category credit rating on Wall Street, Level-Six accreditation from its university accrediting agency, and the longest string of "unqualified" or pristine annual financial audits for any university in Alabama.

Even though Dr. Boyd had never led any type of educational institutional, I thought she could be successfully mentored in the presidency by those who had high-level experience in running major institutions.

It did not, however, turn out that way. Alabama State quickly went from a period of prosperity to a time of widespread uncertainty. And "Luv Guv" Bentley and his girlfriend (I mean "aide") Rebekah Caldwell Mason were right in the middle of it. Bentley proved to be wildly compromised, turning into a national embarrassment. Both Magic City Classic schools wound up aligning with him, receiving little in the way of benefits for their troubles. Writes Watkins:

By all objective measures, ASU had reached heights as a university that no HBCU had ever experienced. U.S. District Court Judge Harold L. Murphy, the distinguished jurist who presided over the 25-years-long higher education desegregation case in Alabama, praised ASU’s transformation from a small unaccredited college for “Negroes” to a diverse, doctoral degree granting institution with nationally recognized centers for academic excellence.

Then came Dr. Boyd in 2014. As soon as she finished taking the oath of office as president, Dr. Boyd swore her personal allegiance to the state's right-wing, racist governor -- Robert Bentley -- and his married paramour -- Rebekah Caldwell Mason.

Last Sunday, we revealed for the first time that Robert Bentley was the beneficiary of a $1,000 personal campaign contribution from Dr. Wims in 2010.

With Bentley’s encouragement and backing, Dr. Boyd immediately distanced herself from every ASU official who contributed to the University’s astounding success in the higher education desegregation litigation. Additionally, Dr. Boyd routinely treated ASU trustees like they were social pariahs and political outcasts.

Dr. Wims has engaged in the same kind of "distancing" behavior with respect to Alabama A&M’s trustees. Like Dr. Boyd, Dr. Wims has sworn his personal alliance to the state's top MAGA Republican official -- Gov. Kay Ivey. Instead of making a financial commitment to Dr. Wims to correct the state's $527,280,064 in underfunding for Alabama A&M, Gov. Ivey issued an empty, "feel good" proclamation on October 1, 2023, that declared the month of October to be "HBCU Month."

After six months on the job, I discovered that Dr. Boyd simply lacked the administrative skills needed to be president of any university. While she quickly mastered the ceremonial and superficial aspects of the presidency, Dr. Boyd failed to display the knowledge, skills, and abilities required to run a major university, especially one that was under a direct and politically-motivated gubernatorial attack from Robert Bentley.

Dr. Boyd, who was paid a full-time annual salary of $300,000 in 2014, functioned much like a part-time president. She lived and worked on ASU’s campus about four days per week. Dr. Boyd sprinted out of town every Thursday or Friday to advance her ministerial career. For the first time in ASU’s history, we had a “drop-in” president.

Like Dr. Boyd, Dr. Wims is a “drop-in” president of sorts who lives and votes in Georgia. Wims' personal campaign contributions to top MAGA Republicans in Alabama were made from his home addresses in Georgia.

At A&M, Dr. Wims' issues include "personal failings" that Watkins describes as "deeply troubling":

Like Dr. Boyd, Dr. Wims shares other failings of a personal nature, all of which are deeply troubling. These failings are considered by many to constitute conduct that is unbecoming of a sitting president of a public university.

By September 2016, I had concluded that my nomination of Dr. Boyd for the presidency of ASU was a serious mistake. Hence, I issued a public apology for this mistake. Then, I worked diligently with ASU trustees to correct this mistake.

In November 2016, Dr. Boyd was suspended as president by the ASU board of trustees. The following month, the board terminated Dr. Boyd's contract, citing her "failure to maintain the confidence of the board.”

Alabama A&M and ASU are sister public historically black institutions in Alabama. Based upon what I know today, Dr. Wims appears to be the professional reincarnation of Dr. Boyd, albeit in the male form. He should resign or be fired!

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