PINEVILLE, La. (BP)–Bill Hudson has been named the new chairman of the trustees at Louisiana College just over a week after Joe Nesom resigned from the post. Hudson will lead the trustee board as it faces an investigation by its accreditation agency.
A majority of trustees had asked for a special meeting July 9 to remove Nesom from office and elect new officers three months early, according to The Town Talk in Alexandria, La. Nesom, whose tenure would have ended in September, sent a letter of resignation to the executive committee of the board and to the media June 30, contending that various trustee actions may be harmful to the college’s integrity and financial stability.
Among Nesom’s contentions: “… a number of board members are trying to frustrate the selection process for a new president.”
The college’s interim president, John Traylor, declined to comment when asked by Baptist Press to respond to the predictions about the school’s future listed by Nesom in his resignation letter. Instead, Traylor offered numbers to contact Nesom about his statements.
“That may be the best approach for these things rather than me trying to respond to what he’s saying,” Traylor told BP. “Forgive me for not making comments, but I think that in light of everything it would be best for you to get information from him.”
Among the negative consequences Nesom said may happen if the trustees continue on the same track:
— A “loss of donors” who will be concerned about “the academic integrity of the college.” Neson predicted the loss of “millions of dollars in future endowment,” adding he knows of at least one such donor, with “better than $5 million” in the balance.
— “A genuine threat to the accreditation of the college because of investigations that are certain to come from the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. These investigations will focus on the actions of board members who have held what have been essentially ‘rump’ sessions of the board,” Nesom wrote.
— “Litigation, for sundry reasons, that will be harmful to the college.”
— “A general loss of good will from the constituency of the college.”
— “A loss of students and qualified faculty and staff members who will not want to remain under leadership of questionable integrity.”
“I am not encouraged by what I have seen recently,” Nesom, pastor of First Baptist Church in Jackson, La., wrote in the letter. “We seem to have forgotten the hope of making Louisiana College a better school. Our concerns have turned from academic excellence, and from a desire to see the college embrace its Baptist heritage with enthusiasm, to concerns that have nothing to do with historic Baptist doctrine or practice.”
In recent months, Louisiana College’s president and a vice president resigned at a time when some students and alumni were voicing discontent with a trustee-enacted policy to establish accountability regarding selection of classroom textbooks and other instructional materials. A second trustee policy involved requiring all new faculty members to submit a worldview statement that includes their views on the sanctity of life and marriage. Additional policies are being examined, and a committee of trustees is revising the faculty handbook.
Because Nesom’s comments regarding the integrity of the board of trustees, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools has announced it will send a fact-finding committee to visit the campus in the fall.
“We have received a number of statements from individuals, news clippings and documents forwarded to us,” James T. Rogers, executive director of the SACS Commission on Colleges, said in The Town Talk. “Some questions have been raised, and we need to determine if what has been reported is factual.”
After the SACS committee’s visit, the college will have the opportunity to comply with suggested changes before accreditation is revoked.
One of the issues that has been raised is whether members of the trustee board have made unilateral decisions and hosted unauthorized business meetings as Nesom suggested in his resignation letter.
“We will certainly respond to every question [SACS] has and do our best to comply with whatever their suggestions are, of course,” Traylor, a trustee and the interim president, said in The Town Talk.
Hudson, the new trustee chairman, downplayed the significance of such an investigation. “That’s not the end of the world,” he told the newspaper. “That’s not an uncommon occurrence that SACS will visit a college from time to time to ask questions. They say, ‘Here’s what you need to do,’ and the college complies.”
Hudson, pastor of First Baptist Church in Rayne, La., was elected July 9 in a private, off-campus session of the trustees. The vote was unknown, according to The Town Talk. Committee chairs will be selected at the regular board meeting in September, and Hudson will remain chairman for at least the next year.
Nesom, while no longer chairman, does retain his position on the board of trustees. He also mentioned Louisiana Baptist Convention leadership in his resignation letter, suggesting a change was needed there.
“I hope that this will call attention to the fact that something has gone badly wrong in the nomination process for members of the Louisiana College board,” Nesom wrote. “The only thing that can correct that problem is a change in the leadership of the convention itself, and the need is urgent.” The executive director of the convention, Dean Doster, announced his retirement at the state’s executive board meeting in early May but made no reference to the Louisiana College controversy as influencing his decision. His eight-year tenure will end Jan. 31, 2005.