Documents obtained provide more info on TSU president’s paid leave

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By: AANI staff

HOUSTON — While the city of Houston is stumped and demanding answers as to why embattled Texas Southern University President Austin Lane was placed on paid administrative leave, African American News and Issues has obtained documents which provide a little more insight on the decision.

On Jan. 10, AANI was the first newspaper to break online that the TSU Board of Regents placed Lane on leave after sources alerted us there were major movements happening at the university.

The BOR handed down the decision while at a retreat at the Houstonian Hotel, days before the university’s spring semester was to begin, and since then, it’s been a “mum’s the word” mystery.

A vague explanation about Lane’s leave was released on TSU’s website, in addition to a video allowing audiences to hear the decision being read aloud.

Lane spoke out initially, saying he was blindsided by the news, but has since not spoken to the media.

Chief Financial Officer Kenneth Huewitt was named interim president, and his first order of business was firing Lane’s right hand man, Special Assistant Wendell Williams.

Again, no official explanation released to the public, leaving many to wonder “what’s really going on?” Well, it depends on who you ask.

Some say “finally,” there is a board in place that’s ready to protect the integrity of the university and they were, simply, doing what needed to be done.

While others say the university, under Lane’s administration, was better than it has been in years and this is nothing more than a “witch hunt” aimed at getting rid of Lane and his executive staff for personal reasons.

Which brings us to Williams and his escalating tensions with Board member Wesley Terrell. Since 2018, Williams has filed two grievances against Terrell, one claiming Terrell made inappropriate comments regarding Williams’ wife – allegations which Terrell denies – and the case was still pending when Williams was fired.

So, is this part of a vendetta?

AANI reached out to Williams for comment.

“I am embarrassed for TSU and the affect this is having on our students and our potential growth,” Williams said.

When asked if he will pursue legal actions, Williams replied, “I have done nothing wrong and I will take whatever actions are necessary to protect my family and my reputation.”

Many suggest the decision against Lane was made, in large part, after an audit confirmed “improprieties related to the admissions process.” A university employee was fired in November and the BOR continued reviewing enrollment, financial aid, scholarship protocols and standards for all University colleges.

AANI has received an internal BOR memo which appears to back up that claim.

In what we believe is related to the November issue, item “b” under Audit Committee Recommendations states, “the BOR ascribe no credibility to Lane’s 12/3/19 interview statement that he did not know of any financial improprieties.”

Items listed under the “Citations” portion of the document, while not directly stating what Lane is accused of, mentions Lane’s name specifically in items noting what would be considered contractual violations.

That portion of the document reads, “F. Termination for Cause. “Cause” as herein used is defined as (1) commission of a felony, (2) commission of a misdemeanor involving moral turpitude that materially impairs Dr. Lane’s ability to discharge his duties hereunder, (3) fraud, (4) embezzlement, (5) theft, or (6) failure to promptly advise and fully report to the Board any matter known by Dr. Lane that tends to bring public disrespect, contempt or ridicule upon the University or (7) any act that creates a material adverse effect on the reputation and/or brand of the University.”

Did Lane do anything to hurt the reputation of TSU?

It is indisputable that, since assuming leadership in 2016 and becoming the 12th president of Texas’ 2nd largest Historically Black College and University (HBCU), TSU has made major advancements.

The annual Maroon and Gray Gala, launched by Lane and his wife, Loren, has become a record-breaking event, raising a million dollars last year, graduation rates have increased, alumni support is on a high and scholarship money has poured in, but “something is afoot,” as the saying goes.

Careful dissection of the publicly posted board meeting videos appears to show BOR members sparring in October about Lane’s direct staff, and procedures about firing, in addition to concerns over expenses linked to an office for Lane’s wife and enrollment numbers.

Since the new BOR officers took position late last year, movements against Lane and his staff are causing a stir. Is the new board just “out for blood,” or are they the “cleanup crew?”

AANI has been the leader in uncovering information about this matter and we are continuing to dig for answers. Stay connected with us for more breaking details.

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TSU President Austin Lane placed on paid administrative leave