Tension With Faculty Caused Provost Hodge to Resign

Torrence Banks, News Editor

There always is a faculty retreat before a new semester begins so that faculty can discuss routine topics such as new procedures for enrolling cross-registration students or being introduced to new personnel at Woodruff Library. That’s why the retreat on Jan. 9-10 of this year was so memorable, because it’s where Provost Michael Hodge unexpectedly announced his resignation before Spring semester started.

In a lengthy interview with the Maroon Tiger, the Provost stated that tension between him and Morehouse faculty was the main reason he decided to step down from the position he has held since being appointed as Interim Provost in 2017. The tension stemmed from the restructuring of Academic Affairs and Hodge advocating for a furlough policy that would have reduced faculty salaries. The furloughs were never implemented because the Faculty Council strongly opposed them, but the tension had already taken its toll on Hodge.

The restructuring of Morehouse’s Academic Affairs dates back to former Provost Garikai Campbell, who held that position in previous President John Wilson’s administration. Before Hodge replaced him, Campbell had removed all of the deans from the three divisions. As a result, all of the department heads reported to Hodge.

“So, that meant I had about 30 to 35 direct reports,” Hodge said. “That’s unmanageable, especially when I’m trying to set the policy and strategically align the college to move it forward. When I have 35 people to meet with on a regular basis, it’s hard to do.”

The decision to change the academic structure and create seven divisions of like-minded majors created tension between Hodge and the faculty, even though Hodge had Morehouse College President David Thomas’ support. This tension about academic restructuring along with concerns about his leadership led Hodge to craft a resignation letter last October. However, Hodge was encouraged by faculty members to not submit the letter to Thomas.

“I had written a letter of resignation back in October amidst a growing concern among the faculty about my leadership, and whether or not I was blocking the progress of the President to meet his goals, which are very student focused.”

So, Hodge began to wonder if he was interfering with the President’s ability to achieve certain benchmarks.

The furlough policy was another initiative that Morehouse faculty pushed back against. Initially, this policy was implemented to help reduce the college’s cash flow problem. The tension created by this policy and others led to Hodge announcing his resignation on Jan. 10.

“And sometimes that tension gets to a point where it takes a toll on me,” Hodge said. “And so, that tension is where I decided that the time spent here neglecting family, neglecting my own health, just [came] to the point where it wasn’t a viable situation.”

When Thomas received Hodge’s resignation letter, he felt empathetic because when professors stay in administrative roles for more than five or six years, it can be hard to get back into research. It can take over a year to gather data and generate hypotheses for social science projects.

“When you’re a senior faculty member like Hodge, you usually have a five-year pipeline,” Thomas said. “So, once you’re in these administrative jobs for five years, your pipeline is empty. So, you’re basically starting from scratch.

“I experienced this myself when I was a dean at Georgetown for five years.”

Thomas asked Hodge to remain Provost at least until the end of the semester. Not only did Hodge agree to this, but he also said that he is willing to consider staying until a new Provost is in place. Thomas’ current goal is to have a new Provost by July 1. 

The search for another Provost cannot be rushed, considering that is the second most important position at Morehouse. The Provost is not only responsible for overseeing the college in Thomas’ absence, but is also responsible for bringing together faculty members to work as a team. Faculty promotion, research support and mentoring are more tasks for which the Provost is responsible.

“In fact, when you talk to people who’ve been both a president and a provost, they will tell you that it’s much more difficult to be the provost than to be the president,” Thomas said. 

Hodge plans to remain in the Provost position until the end of the semester and return to the classroom in Fall 2020. Currently, Hodge teaches the Senior Seminar in sociology and in the past, he has taught a demography course and a stats and methods course. Because Hodge submitted his resignation in January, the President has time to search for his replacement. 

“For me, going back to the classroom is great because I love working with the students,” Hodge said. “Matter of fact, I have been teaching a course since I’ve been in the Provost position, just to make sure I keep in touch with the students.”

Hodge has been teaching at Morehouse for 18 years. Once Campbell left, Interim President William Taggart named Hodge Interim Provost. 

When Taggart unexpectedly passed away, Hodge stepped in as President of Morehouse College for about 21 days. After his brief period as President, Hodge returned to the Interim Provost position.

“My job was to be someone that people recognized as a force of stability, because Taggart was well loved,” Hodge said. 

Seventeen days after Morehouse announced publicly that Hodge would step down as Provost, the Office of the President sent out a list of senior leadership and faculty members that comprise the search committee seeking his replacement. Dr. Jann Adams, the Associate Vice President for Advancement and Leadership Initiatives, will serve as the search committee chair. 

The Maroon Tiger attempted to reach out to Adams. She said that she was unavailable to participate in an interview.

Students are encouraged to share their leadership recommendations with Adams, Mathematics Professor and Chair of the Faculty Dr. Ulrica Wilson or either of two consultants, Lionel Anderson or Corina Benitz.

“I think it’s safe to say that the committee will make recommendations to the President,” Wilson said. “How many, I’m not sure. The President, of course, has the final say.”

Hodge said that he is most proud of leading Morehouse’s highly successful SACS re-accreditation review. The review team did not find fault with any parts of Morehouse’s accreditation report. Hodge also said that he is proud of the newly renovated Douglass Academic Success Center.

“I think that place is just outstanding and an image of what Morehouse can be when we direct strategically our resources,” Hodge said.

Despite the blowback from faculty members, Hodge is proud to stand by the academic restructuring. He believes that it was crucial to Morehouse’s future.

“I think it is the place Morehouse needs to be in order to become a 21st century powerhouse to produce as least as well as it has in the 20th century,” Hodge said. 

From when he first started as Provost, Hodge increased the number of online courses from one to 12 that will be offered this summer. He also led the effort to improve students’ graduation and retention rates. This year, 70% of students are on track to graduate. 

“Which means if they have been here three years, they are really juniors,” Thomas said. “As opposed to in the past, we often had people who might have been here three years. But in accumulated credit hours, they were actually sophomores.

“That’s the leading indicator as to whether or not by 2022, we will be on track to have our 70% graduation rate.” That would accomplish one of Thomas’ primary goals.

The next Provost at Morehouse College will need to be able to work with non-academic departments. These departments consist of Morehouse’s finance, information technology, Institutional Advancement (fundraising) and communications departments.

“A Provost who is unable to connect across the different units won’t be successful at Morehouse College,” Thomas said.