HBCU DIGEST: NCCU, Fayetteville State at opposite ends of UNC System leadership maneuvering

A look at Fayetteville State Chancellor Darrell Allison's first months

North Carolina Central University trustees had to debunk rumors this week that Chancellor Johnson Akinleye would be fired next month. 

“Rumors regarding Chancellor Akinleye’s departure from NCCU are false and untrue,” wrote NCCU Board of Trustees Chairman Kevin M. Holloway. “Chancellor Akinleye is a stellar leader whose dedication to all NCCU constituents has resulted in the university’s position and profile as a top-ranked regional and national institution.”

That’s what NCCU board members had to say, but there was only silence from the University System of North Carolina’s Board of Governors. This body ultimately decides if there are leadership changes at any public institution in the state. 

And in North Carolina, there have been plenty of them

All public institutions in North Carolina are at the mercy of the BOG’s corrupt political and industrial whims. Chancellors, programs, and appropriations are moved around the state like chess pieces to settle scores, raise stakes, and improve the power of board leaders and their proxies. 

Former BOG member and current Fayetteville State University Chancellor Darrell Allison knows this better than anyone. Today, the school announced that the most significant state appropriation it has received in decades will subsidize tuition costs to about $500 a semester as part of the NC Promise initiative. 

The move comes five years after former FSU leaders declined the invitation to lower the price point as part of the controversial program, which aimed at boosting lagging enrollment at several historically Black and minority-serving institutions throughout the state. 

Allison was appointed by way of a search process that wasn’t, by a board no one trusts and against the will of student and alumni stakeholders. But because of his experience on that UNC Board and his keen knowledge of how to work politics and people, rage around Allison’s appointment has subsided behind well-promoted construction projects and legislative commitments to new buildings and programs at the campus. 

Fayetteville State is now part of an initiative the Board of Governors always wanted it to join, just a month after the school announced an articulation agreement with East Carolina University for graduate school admission consideration. Meanwhile, NC Central is the only HBCU in the system to have an enrollment decline for fall 2021 and is in the shadows of nearby NC State University receiving significant funding for expansion in programs and facilities

Akinleye appears to be on the way out, and Allison seems to be off to a strong start. The difference between them is their respective lengths of service, relationships to the BOG, and the two schools’ proximity to things that the BOG wants to accomplish. 

It’s the Carolina Way.