FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) – In a special-called meeting of the Kentucky State University Board of Regents on Wednesday, some members questioned the process by which the finalists for president position were chosen.

The meeting lasted more than three hours, two of which were behind closed doors in an executive session.

After hiring a search firm at the cost of $70,000, the Board of Regents landed on three candidates for the position of president.

Back in May, Raymond Burse suddenly resigned as president. Dr. Aaron Thompson stepped in to fill that role on an interim basis.

The Board of Regents' three finalists for the job are:

  • Said Sewell, a provost at Lincoln University in Missouri. Last September, the faculty Senate there voted to say it had no confidence in Sewell’s abilities.
  • M. Christopher Brown, a provost at Southern University in Louisiana. In 2014, he resigned as president of Alcorn State University after numerous reports of failures to seek required bids for upgrades to the president’s house.
  • Thomas Colbert is a justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court and alumnus of Kentucky State University.

Since the finalists were named, questions have been raised by students, faculty and alumni about how the search process was conducted and whether board chairwoman Dr. Karen Bearden has had undue influence during the process.

“That was a process that occurred independent of the board chair, as I was instructed to do through the charter and list of mandates that were given to the search committee,” said regent and search committee Chairman Ekumene Lysonge.

Both members of faculty and the student body are questioning why Dr. Thompson was not included as a finalist. Thompson attended the meeting Wednesday but did not speak.

“We do have questions as to why he wasn't added, but we believe that the Board of Regents hopefully has our best interests at heart,” said student Alexis Anderson.

Earlier in the week, the faculty senate voted to move forward with the next steps toward a no-confidence vote for the Board of Regents. The decision for the final vote will rest in the hands of the full faculty. That could come as soon as next week.

“We really want to move forward with the business of the university, but we are concerned with the leadership and with the things that are happening here on campus,” said faculty senate president Dr. Kimberly Sipes.

At the meeting of the Board of Regents on Wednesday, the search firm hired to conduct the search provided testimony at the request of the board in the hope of quelling concerns.

“We have been faithful to the process. We have worked diligently. We want this to be successful,” said Wanda Bigham of Academic Search. “We want Kentucky State to be strong going forward in the future.”

The only two regents who questioned Bigham and her colleague were Paul Harnice and Elaine Ferris.

Harnice was particularly concerned that background checks were not performed on the three finalists before they were presented to the public by the search committee.

Regent Lysonge assured Harnice during that meeting that the search committee “did their homework.”

Board of Regents chairwoman Dr. Karen Bearden declined to be interviewed for this story. 

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