For the benefit of Morehouse College, an iconic world educational institution with an exemplary staff and consistently impressive student body, former President John S. Wilson needs to walk away from his post immediately and gracefully. May he move on to career opportunities that would be a better fit for his talents.
Persistent news of the toxic infighting at Morehouse has pained me greatly. This great school, founded in 1867, is where both Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and I earned degrees in Sociology. In fact, I was one of the eight students in the only class that Dr. King taught in his lifetime, after earning a Ph.D. degree and systematic theology from Boston University, a successful pastorate at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church and making his mark as a drum major for justice.
I have a deep interest in seeing my Alma Mater continue to succeed. I have prayed with Dr. John Wilson and still have a deep connection with “Dear old Morehouse”. However, I have come to the conclusion with much thought that Morehouse College will be better off without John Wilson, who has proven to be living out his own subjective facts, has great problems with the truth, and cares more about framing his reputation than the school’s.
In January, the Board of Trustees voted within their rights not to extend President Wilson’s contract. They did so after a prolonged period of conversations and questions about whether he had produced all the facts regarding his successes, and graduation rates of students. Thus, it appears that he fails to see that leadership of integrity is governed by, to use the words of Joe Friday in Dragnet, “only the facts ma’m”.
In reaction to the board’s decision, Wilson has launched a campaign to mislead faculty and students into opposing the board.
This unjust battle Wilson has waged has far-reaching implications. As the Atlanta-Journal Constitution reported, there are worries that our nation’s only historically black college for men could possibly be placed on probation, impacting fundraising and student recruitment.
Right now, John Wilson needs to do some soul-searching on whether he loves Morehouse more than he loves himself. By walking away from his post gracefully, the college will be spared from a continued tarnishing of a stellar reputation that has been maintained for over 150 years.
Also, Wilson must commit to truth-telling. His engagement of dishonest, guttural politics wreaks of tactics used by the current White House administration, and it must be stopped. The board gave him the opportunity to deliver on what he claimed he was doing in fundraising. He claimed to have received commitments from Google and other corporations. We heard a lot of words but rarely saw proof. That’s why the board, which has the authority to hire and fire the presidents, ousted him. But unfortunately Wilson has chosen to politicize his dismissal.
I discovered Wilson’s propensity to stretch facts in 2015, after I met with him, prayed with him and tried to give him the benefit of the doubt even as his reputation waned. Moreover, I asked him to be humble, to be honest, and to work with the board as the policymakers to carry out a balanced academic program of character, competency, of creativity, compassion, and courage.
This dishonest battle waged by Wilson won’t stain Morehouse’s reputation – but his own. He should abide by the well-known passage in the Bible: “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” And it shall set Morehouse College free!
Free to fulfill the quest set out by its most famous alumnus Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whom we remember this week on the anniversary of his assassination April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tenn.
Please, Mr. Wilson, let the truth set Morehouse College free!