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Facing financial struggles and accusations of mismanagement, the president of Howard University is stepping down at the end of the calendar year.
President Sidney Ribeau announced his retirement in a letter to the Howard community today. The letter highlights the successes his five-year tenure, from academic initiatives to the construction of new campus buildings.
Left unmentioned are Howard’s recent troubles. Undergraduate enrollment dropped by more than 6 percent last academic year from the previous one as fewer accepted students chose to attend Howard, though it did rebound slightly this year. The university announced cuts of 75 staff positions due to tight finances. Its hospital’s revenue is plummeting, and its heralded development project, the Howard Town Center, is stalled.
Ribeau wrote in a January internal staff memo obtained by Washington City Paper that Howard faced a “significant budget challenge” due to “a significant decrease in student enrollment in the fall semester, along with other revenue shortfalls and an anticipated reduction in Howard’s federal appropriation due to sequestration.”
The biggest public embarrassment for the university came from two letters this spring: one from Renee Higginbotham-Brooks, vice chairwoman of Howard’s board of trustees, who warned that Howard is “in genuine trouble” and “will not be here in three years if we don’t make some crucial decisions now,” and one from 13 Howard deans who complained that “fiscal mismanagement is doing irreparable harm to the University’s academic programs, institutional reputation, and future viability” and “placing the very survival of the university at risk.”
University officials have consistently denied that anything is amiss, but it’s clear that Howard is not on the same footing it once was as one of the premier historically black colleges in the country. More changes are likely ahead for Howard; now we know that Ribeau won’t be the one to spearhead them.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery