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Hampton's JoAnn Haysbert Named to Head Langston (644 hits)

By Roberta Dooms
Black College Wire

Photo credit: Langston University
Dr. JoAnn Haysbert impressed interviewers during her May 19 visit to Langston University
Dr. JoAnn W. Haysbert, provost at Hampton University, has been named the first female president of Langston University.

Haysbert became known in national journalism circles when she served as acting president of Hampton while William R. Harvey was on a leave of absence during the 2003-04 school year.

After the editors of the Virginia university’s newspaper, the Script, refused to publish a letter by Haysbert on the front page, she had the 6,500 copies of the homecoming edition confiscated.

Haysbert had written a letter addressing health code violations in Hampton’s cafeteria that had been reported by the Script, and wanted the letter on the front page. But the students published a follow-up story about the violations on the front page and placed her letter on the third page.

Haysbert later acknowledged that she did not fully understand the student newspaper’s First Amendment rights. In the uproar, the American Society of Newspaper Editors dropped the university as a 2004 site for its High School Journalism Institute, costing the school a $55,000 grant to administer the program, and the National Association of Black Journalists gave Haysbert its 2004 Thumbs Down award.

But the October 2003 seizure of the Script was treated in many ways as a thing of the past when Haysbert was considered for the presidency of the Oklahoma school, where she succeeds Dr. Ernest L. Holloway, who is retiring this year after 25 years as president. Holloway has been an example of a college president who does not believe in censoring the student paper and has said he trusts the students’ fairness.

Dr. Claud Evans, chairman of the search committee and member of the Oklahoma Board of Regents, said that Haysbert made everyone aware of the Script controversy and that it had “no bearing” on the decision. Haysbert is an “extremely intelligent, accomplished and experienced administrator,” Evans said.

Most important, she is “student-oriented” and “student-centered.”

Haysbert was chosen unanimously by the Oklahoma State University/A&M Board of Regents, the regents announced May 20.

“We had tremendous interest in this position from the start,” Jay Helm, chairman of the board of regents, said in a news release. “The search committee looked at more than 40 possible candidates before narrowing the field to four excellent finalists.”

According to news reports, the other finalists were Robert R. Jennings, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Future Focus 2020 at the Babcock Graduate School of Management, Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, N.C.; Donnie Nero, president of Connors State College in Warner, Okla.; and Albert L. Walker, president of Bluefield State College in West Virginia.

An interview session with selected students and faculty took place on campus with each of the final candidates. Each made an opening statement, then engaged in a 20-minute question-and-answer session.

Chaz Foster-Kyser, a journalism instructor and adviser to Langston's student newspaper, the Gazette, said her concerns were eased when the two spoke at a reception.

Haysbert said that a situation such the Script confiscation would never happen again. Haysbert said that she “just didn't know the rules. Dr. Haysbert explained the situation to me, expressed regret over the situation, said she fully supports the rights of the student press and that the Gazette would not have to worry about her interfering with our paper," Foster-Kyser said.

Haysbert "was the best candidate, hands down,” Foster-Kyser concluded.

Shamia Jackson, a junior broadcast journalism major, was also at the interview session and said she found Haysbert's personality and fund-raising record “phenomenal.”

“She has raised over $400 million . . . that's phenomenal and her work in technology was extraordinary,” Jackson said, adding that she hoped that Haysbert could duplicate that success at Langston.

“We have a lot of diverse students who are looking up to her” and have high expectations because she will be the first female president, recent graduate Jessica Lowe said.

Lowe was a student on the search committee that helped narrow the candidates to six. She said that “Haysbert should be prepared to hit the pavement hard because of the excitement.”

Haysbert has worked at Hampton University for more than two decades. Before serving as provost, she was an assistant provost , professor and dean.

Haysbert has a doctorate in administration and supervision in higher education from Auburn University. As Langston president, she is to receive an annual salary of about $180,000.

Langston is a historically black institution with three campuses, including the main one in Langston, and urban campuses in Tulsa and Oklahoma City. The main campus has an enrollment of more than 3,000 students.

The college is named for named for John Mercer Langston, a Reconstruction-era congressman from Virginia, the founding dean of Howard University's law school, an inspector general of the Freedman's Bureau and a diplomat. He died the same year that Langston University was founded, in 1897.

This year it served as the location for the BET reality series, “College Hill.”

“I am humbled, honored and proud that they in turn have given [me] the opportunity to lead a great institution following the work of Dr. Holloway to its next level,” she said in the Stillwater (Okla.) NewsPress. “My effort isn’t to replace (Holloway). You can’t replace giants. I think you continue the legacy they have built and left behind.”

Roberta Dooms is a student at Howard University.
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Wednesday, July 20th 2005 at 7:47PM
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