Wilberforce, resigning trustee argue over university finances, academics

Aerial view of the campus of Wilberforce University.

Credit: Contributed

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Aerial view of the campus of Wilberforce University.

Credit: Contributed

A Wilberforce University trustee resigned from the school’s board in June, saying the university needs to make drastic changes to how it is run. But Wilberforce’s president is questioning why the former trustee is publicly criticizing the school.

The former trustee, Errenous E. McCloud, is a bishop in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the church that sponsors and runs Wilberforce, one of two historically Black universities in Ohio and the only private HBCU. Central State University, across the street, is a public HBCU.

In a June letter addressed to board of trustees chair Mark Wilson, McCloud listed 17 reasons why he felt he needed to resign from the board of trustees, including allegations the university was mismanaging money.

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“None of the things that Wilberforce was doing were related to providing students with quality education, preparing graduates to go out into the community and becoming contributing citizens to that society,” said McCloud, who oversees the church’s third district, including western Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia.

McCloud said he asked for some specific paperwork around some of the debt the university has while he was a trustee, but was denied.

The university’s president, Elfred Anthony Pinkard, disputed that claim, saying trustees have access to all requested financial paperwork. Pinkard said the university’s audit is available to all trustees each year after it’s completed. He said that at each board meeting, in February, May and September, the university’s chief financial officer provides a comprehensive report on the financial state of the university. McCloud was at those meetings and participated, Pinkard said.

Pinkard noted the university has about $10.3 million in debt, down from about $33.6 million in 2020.

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“Unfortunately, Bishop McCloud’s entire letter is replete with misinformation and a distortion of fact, and we continue to be chagrined and befuddled regarding the purpose of his actions,” Pinkard said.

McCloud told the Dayton Daily News he thought resigning from the board would lead other board members, as well as the president of Wilberforce, to resign, allowing the university a fresh start.

The rest of the board of trustees who served with McCloud remains, as does Pinkard. Wilberforce appointed Bishop Anne Henning Byfield, the bishop of the 13th district of the AME church in Kentucky and Tennessee, as McCloud’s replacement.

“I bring a pretty good reputation to this work, and I’m not going to risk that reputation behind stuff that I don’t understand,” McCloud said.

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This is not the first time Wilberforce has faced public questions about university operations and finances from inside of the school.

In the spring, the Wilberforce University faculty body called for the resignation of the president, board chairman and financial officer. Wilberforce has 11 full-time faculty represented by the association, plus others who do instructional work. The university questioned how broad the support was for the vote.

Beginning in 2018, Wilberforce was on probation from the Higher Learning Commission, or HLC, due to financial and institutional issues, and was removed from probation without any sanctions last November.

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