Faculty, alumni, and students at Lincoln University are calling on the school’s board of trustees to keep president Brenda A. Allen, saying her contract has not been renewed since expiring last month.
More than 14,000 people have signed an online petition in support of Allen, who took the helm of the historically Black university in Chester County three years ago. Supporters say she has been a committed leader who forged relationships with everyone from staff to students, and has been a catch for a university that lacked consistent leadership in recent years.
“Never before in our history have we ever had a president that has been supported by everybody — the alums, the students, parents, the faculty,” said Rosalie Hornbuckle, a Lincoln graduate and former trustee.
She and others said they were stunned that the board had let Allen’s contract run out on June 30 — particularly as the school grapples with how to operate this fall amid the pandemic.
“It doesn’t make sense to literally terminate a president in the middle of a crisis. That’s just terrible business,” said Robert Langley, chairperson of the university’s chemistry department and a Lincoln graduate.
The board of trustees is scheduled to meet at 5 p.m. Friday. Its chairperson, Theresa Braswell, did not respond to requests for comment. A university spokesperson declined to comment.
Allen’s supporters said they did not know why her contract was allowed to expire.
Hornbuckle, who stepped down from the board in November due to a work assignment in Maryland, said she had asked to be on a board committee working on the president’s evaluation. Despite her experience in human resources, Hornbuckle said, she was denied a seat on the committee.
“It’s so hard to get a good administrative team. And here you have a president that has the credentials, that has the best interests of the students at heart, and is being given such a horrible time with this board,” she said.
A former provost of Winston-Salem State University who has worked at two Ivy League universities and is a 1981 graduate of Lincoln, Allen is credited by supporters with raising the university’s standing and alumni donations, improving student retention, and ensuring the school’s re-accreditation.
Lincoln — a state-related school — has had struggles with enrollment and finances during the last decade. But its outlook has improved in recent years; Moody’s Investor Services last year noted more stability in state funding and a growing enrollment base. Lincoln enrolled 2,040 undergraduates and 200 graduate students last year.
Allen “really guided us through” the re-accreditation process, said Yvonne Hilton, chairperson of Lincoln’s department of health sciences. “She was just involved. That was unheard of at Lincoln in prior years, to my understanding.”
Faculty members said they only recently became aware of the uncertainty surrounding Allen’s contract. Some learned about the issue from an alumni petition circulating on Facebook, said Lennell Dade, chairperson of the university’s psychology department.
They have since joined forces, working with alumni and others to organize support for Allen, including by contacting political leaders. On June 29, Gov. Tom Wolf sent a letter to Braswell and the Lincoln board calling for Allen’s renewal — writing that Allen’s “collaborative strategic planning process ensures that all voices are represented” as the university seeks to reach more adult, nontraditional, and graduate students.
“We were surprised. The students are surprised. The parents are surprised,” Dade said of Allen’s contract expiring. She said Allen’s photo was removed from the school’s website and her name from the board of trustees’ page July 1 without any announcement.