Special Reports

Lincoln University Suspends Relations With Alumni Association Over Financial Audit and Conduct Agreement


Lincoln University's Board of Curators recently announced a suspension of ties with the Lincoln University of Missouri National Alumni Association (LUAA).

This decision, detailed in a letter from Victor Pasley, the board's president, comes amid ongoing concerns about the association's financial management and operational practices. The board has outlined a series of stringent requirements for the association to meet before the relationship can be restored, emphasizing the need for financial transparency and a formal agreement governing the association's conduct.

Lincoln University Suspends Relations With Alumni Association Over Financial Audit and Conduct Agreement

(Photo : WIKIMEDiA COMMONS / Mark Gordon)

Financial Accountability and Transparency

The board's letter to the LUAA highlighted serious concerns regarding the financial practices of the association. To address these issues, the university has mandated that the LUAA hire an independent accounting firm to conduct a comprehensive audit of its finances for the past two fiscal years. This audit must be completed and submitted to university leaders by September of this year. Additionally, the association is required to establish an independent financial management system for receiving donations online by July and create an independent mailing address.
These measures are designed to ensure that the association's finances are managed with integrity and transparency, aligning with the university's mission to serve the African American community effectively. The emphasis on financial accountability underscores the importance of trust and reliability in the relationship between the university and its alumni association.

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Restrictions on Public Criticism

A significant and controversial stipulation in the board's letter is the prohibition against the LUAA publicly criticizing the university or its representatives. This requirement has been met with resistance from the association's president, Sherman Bonds, who described the move as a form of bullying and an attempt to stifle free speech. Bonds asserted that the association's finances are stable and characterized the board's demands as punitive measures aimed at silencing dissent.

The restriction on public criticism raises important questions about the balance between maintaining a cooperative relationship and preserving the right to free speech. While the university aims to prevent potentially damaging public disputes, critics argue that such measures could undermine the association's ability to hold university leaders accountable and advocate for the interests of alumni and students.

Historical Tensions and Recent Conflicts

The suspension of the LUAA's affiliation with Lincoln University is the latest development in a history of tensions between the two entities. Earlier this year, the association vocally condemned university leadership following the tragic death by suicide of Antoinette "Bonnie" Candia-Bailey, a vice president of student affairs and alumna. Candia-Bailey had accused university president John Moseley of bullying, leading to widespread calls from alumni for his resignation. Although an independent investigation found no evidence of bullying, the incident exacerbated existing rifts and led the association to issue a vote of no confidence in the board.

This backdrop of conflict has fueled suspicions that the board's recent actions are retaliatory. Bonds and other association members believe the suspension and demands for audits are attempts to punish the LUAA for its outspoken criticism of university leadership. The perception of retaliation is compounded by past disagreements over the direction and management of the university.

Finding Common Ground

Amidst the ongoing conflict, there is a pressing need for dialogue and collaboration to resolve the issues at hand. Bonds has expressed a desire to avoid a prolonged legal battle, emphasizing the association's focus on raising funds for student scholarships rather than legal fees. He has called for an in-person meeting with the board to discuss the concerns and find a mutually agreeable solution.

The situation at Lincoln University is not unique; other institutions have faced similar challenges with their alumni associations. For instance, Bethune-Cookman University and Goddard College have also experienced contentious splits with their alumni groups. These cases highlight the complexities of maintaining productive relationships between universities and their alumni associations, especially when there are significant disagreements over governance and accountability.

Ultimately, the resolution of this conflict will require both parties to engage in good-faith negotiations, prioritizing the shared goal of supporting the university's mission and its students. Transparency, accountability, and open communication will be key to rebuilding trust and ensuring that the association and the university can work together effectively in the future.

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