Kentucky State Regents Oust Board Chair, Install New Officers

By a dramatic 6-5 vote conducted via secret ballot, Kentucky State University regents ousted long-time board chair Karen Bearden and installed new executive board officers, the latest chapter in a six-month controversial stretch surrounding the flagship HBCU’s organizational chart.

The State-Journal reports on the executive shuffle, which comes five months after a faculty vote of no-confidence in Bearden, and a consultant’s report which suggested that the board was a root source of interference in the institution’s unstable work environment, with sources indirectly referring to Bearden as a key figure in campus struggles. From the Journal:

“There’s a distance the Board is supposed to keep from campus,” Nelson told The State Journal in March. “It reviews policies, but is not supposed to be involved with day-to-day life on campus. Some board members stuck their nose in campus affairs in a way they shouldn’t have. Oversight requires that separation.”

“The vote of no-confidence is based on the idea that there is mismanagement and lack of leadership at the top of the university,” former Faculty Senate President Kim Sipes told The State Journal in March.

According to the Journal, Bearden had objected to the called meeting, but that it was allowed to proceed as all members of the board were present for the quorum call. Newly appointed university president M. Christopher Brown II was installed as the board secretary, and Chief Financial Officer Kevin Appleton named as board treasurer; both breaks from the board’s traditional executive cabinet trends of appointment.

Sara Elaine Farris was elected to serve as the new board chair. Named to the board in 2014, Farris is the first African-American woman to serve as a superintendent of schools in the state and is the former Deputy Commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Education.

Kentucky State is the second HBCU this year to alter its leadership structure, following Morehouse College’s leadership exodus which resulted in the resignation of former president John Silvanus Wilson, former board chair Robert Davidson, and all members of the board’s executive cabinet in April.

Cherie S. White
Cherie S. White
Cherie S. White is Digital Strategy Director, a writer and editor.