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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Wilberforce University Appoints New (Apparently Polarizing) President

Posted By on Tue, Sep 30, 2014 at 12:47 PM

Wilberforce University, the oldest private historically black college in the country, has appointed its 20th president after a nationwide search. Dr. Algaenia Warren Freeman, a veteran HBCU administrator, will take the reins from interim president Wilma Mishoe just as soon as she wraps up some final business obligations. 

"Dr. Freeman’s experience in institutional advancement and operations, as well as her success in academics and student support, made her the perfect candidate for President of our renowned University,” said Mark Wilson, new chairman of the Wilberforce Board of Trustees, in a university press release. “Her dedication to the HBCU community is unwavering, and we believe she will be the force for change our institution needs as we advance into a new day."

That may be true, but Freeman has created enemies during her prior tours of duty in academic leadership.

Though she immediately cut costs and increased financial contributions at Indianapolis' predominantly black Martin College when she arrived in 2008, she also polarized the faculty and staff with what many considered brazen, ill-considered tactics. According to a report in the Indianapolis Recorder, Freeman had gone on "countless tirades." 

"These outbursts allegedly included cursing, berating individuals and other forms of emotional and psychological abuse," the story stated. "If you were on Freeman’s good list, then life was good for you; however, if you were on the bad list, things would be incredibly challenging."

Though she's older and more experienced than Richmond Heights' recently recalled Mayor Miesha Headen, it's easy to draw some basic comparisons.

"Her tactics drew complaints from employees who said Freeman was overly harsh and shuffled people into jobs that made little sense," reported the Indianapolis Business Journal, upon Freeman's departure from Martin in 2010. "Students protested after a popular professor was fired, and seven members of the university’s 16-person board of trustees resigned in 2008, including at least two who said Freeman’s methods were a factor." 

At Wilberforce, she'll look to immediately make an impact on the budgetary side. She won't be available for an interview until she gets settled, says the university's PR firm Trevelino Keller, but their press release does offer one quote from the new prez: 

“I’m very excited to join the Wilberforce community, and continue this University’s history of academic excellence,” Freeman says. “An exciting future awaits Wilberforce. Through this experience I have seen the dedication of all those involved in this process, and the passion that each and every person has for the university. Together, through our devotion, we will support this great university’s mission while upholding its legacy.”

Given Wilberforce's precarious accreditation situation, the pool of candidates couldn't have been all that deep, even with the aid of "global executive search firm" DHR International. But the good news is this: Freeman appears to have gotten results in prior leadership positions, even if she embittered half of the community while doing so. 

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