8 January 2024 |
In recent months, a group of Oakwood University’s alumni and former faculty have been calling for increased transparency and accountability from their alma mater. The group, identifying themselves as the Concerned Oakwoodites (CO), has recently intensified their demands, calling for the resignation of the university’s president, Dr. Leslie Pollard.
The group, in their communication with WAFF 48 News, underscored the necessity for change beginning at the university’s highest levels. David Person, co-founder of the Concerned Oakwoodites, a coalition comprising over 1,700 alumni, former faculty, and staff, emphasized the need for systemic change. “What we’re ultimately hoping for is not just a change in who’s in the president’s office, but a change in how Oakwood operates, culturally, and as a system,” Person stated.
A December letter penned by the group outlined several concerns, including financial misrepresentations, enrollment declines, the accreditation status of the nursing program, and salary increases for Dr. Pollard. “It appears as though some things have been done that were patently manipulative and deceptive,” Person added.
The Concerned Oakwoodites pointed to a 2022 audit of the historically Black Seventh-day Adventist institution, highlighting $43 million in total consolidated liabilities. “Consequently, we just had to go dig in the 990 forms and financial statements to come up with our own answers. So there’s been no effort to explain the finances when we see the decline,” remarked another member of the CO Leadership, Joe Booth.
In response, Oakwood University’s spokesperson released a statement acknowledging the challenges faced by many faith-based colleges, including those in the Seventh-day Adventist universities in the North American Division. The statement highlighted the shrinking pool of potential students and the commonality of this issue across educational institutions.
The university’s administration and Board of Trustees have reportedly been engaged in strategic planning, focusing on strengthening Oakwood’s financial base in alignment with market realities. The university emphasized that previous financial and enrollment challenges did not compromise its solvency. It also noted efforts in reducing expenses and increasing revenues, and the recent increase in philanthropic support.
Moreover, Oakwood University proudly announced the achievement of a full 10-year institutional accreditation through to 2032 by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
The Board of Trustees expressed strong support for Dr. Pollard, citing his accomplishments and over 25 years of experience in higher education. The university reaffirmed its commitment to its alumni, faculty, staff, and students, emphasizing the importance of their support and influence in advancing the institution’s goals.
As tensions continue, the university maintains its commitment to engaging with its alumni and stakeholders, promising timely updates and emphasizing the importance of their support and influence in advancing Oakwood University’s future.