By Johnny L. Mccray, Jr., Esq
Bethune-Cookman University’s Student Government Association (SGA) planned a protest earlier this week because of reports that the B-CU Board of Trustees (BOT) intends to remove Interim President Hugh Grimes during its meeting later in the week.
The SGA urged students to skip class under the wrongful conclusion that failure to avert the BOT’s expected vote to remove Grimes would result in closure of the university by the accreditation agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), since the university is currently on probation and a review is scheduled in a few months.
The SGA’s admonition is untrue and is merely a calculated, selfish scare tactic. Some students threatened to withdraw and transfer. Sadly, the B-CU National Alumni Association leadership countenanced this dubious misinformation instead of gathering the proper facts and arming our young students with accurate information.
Free speech and peaceable protest are a right, but it must be informed and responsible. B-CU students were misled and lied to. If Grimes truly cared for the students and about honesty, instead of his selfish interests, he would have shared with the students the truth: SACS has no interest in penalizing B-CU for a business decision to terminate an employee.
Grimes’ conscious failure to come clean with the students is unsettling and borders on recklessness. The report he submitted to SACS was untruthful, flawed, woefully insufficient, and largely responsible for B-CU’s probation.
B-CU’s probation stems from failure to comply with accreditation standards in the area of integrity, among other reasons (e.g. misstated student enrollment). Yet, Grimes untruthfully stated publicly that SACS’ action was “a result of negative media exposure and pending litigation.”
Many hoped that concerns of integrity followed Jackson out; apparently not. Grimes, the attorney in Jackson’s administration, has perpetuated such shortcomings. The lack of integrity cuts to the core and the substance of B-CU.
Here’s the truth
Students were not told that Grimes is the subject of a lawsuit concerning the $372 million dorm deal which alleges he committed fraud, negligence, misrepresentation, and violation of Florida’s Deceptive and Unfair Trades Practices Act.
Grimes is also a key witness in another lawsuit against B-CU brought by a foreign developer over a project to build a multimillion-dollar apartment complex off-campus. B-CU alleges the deal was approved by Jackson without board knowledge. Grimes is alleged to have reviewed a letter of intent without informing the BOT.
Grimes is an at-will employee and may be fired at the will of his employer. The BOT has the right and more than sufficient cause to remove him.
If Grimes truly had the students’ best interests in mind, he would have come clean and admitted his removal would in no way adversely impact the upcoming review and not result in the closure of B-CU. In fact, he is aware that SACS focuses on processes and not people.
Johnny L. McCray, Jr. is a Pompano Beach-based attorney. He graduated from Bethune-Cookman University in 1974 and served on its Board of Trustees from 2007 to 2016.
This article originally appeared in the Florida Courier.