|12/13/2007 - Jackson, Miss.
On Thursday, under direction from the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL), Board attorney Cal Mayo asked Lowndes County Chancery Court Judge Dorothy Colom to stay her Opinion and Judgment in the case of the Mississippi University for Women Alumnae Association versus the Mississippi University for Women (MUW), MUW President Dr. Claudia Limbert, and IHL, pending completion of the appellate process. The Opinion and Judgment, issued in September, forces MUW administrators to re-affiliate with the Alumnae Association and terminate their affiliation with the new MUW Alumni Association. The opinion sets a dangerous precedent for higher education by violating the constitutional powers vested solely in the Board of Trustees, and therefore threatening the health and welfare of Mississippi’s eight public universities. Click here to read the defendants/appellants’ brief in support of their motion for stay of judgment pending appeal, or visit http://www.mississippi.edu/mstcb/motion_stay_trial_court_brief.pdf.
Trustee Amy Whitten, Chair of the Board’s Legal Committee, noted that, despite the Board’s best efforts, negotiations with the leadership of the Alumnae Association have not been successful. She went further to explain the broad impact of the ruling. Any public university, she said, may lose its ability to ensure that the actions of officially-sanctioned alumni groups, booster clubs, and foundations that operate in the name of the university with the singular purpose of benefiting the institution are consistent with the university’s mission.
"The idea that a university’s officially-sanctioned associations can act with complete independence and take steps that might damage a university’s reputation or even adversely impact its accreditation is troubling to the Board of Trustees,’’ Whitten said. "Additionally, the absence of a supportive leadership group in the Alumnae Association limits MUW’s ability to achieve its full potential. The stay is imperative so the University can focus on the business of education during the appellate process."
In the motion for the stay, Board attorney Cal Mayo notes that while Judge Colom’s Opinion and Judgment simply reinstated the old affiliation agreement, the leadership of the Alumnae Association has argued that the ruling in fact gives them new and expansive powers to rewrite that affiliation agreement. Changes to the affiliation agreement requested by the Alumnae Association leadership since the issuance of the Opinion and Judgment include giving it the authority to form a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation to accept tax-deductible donations in competition with the University’s Foundation and allowing it the use of the official MUW name, symbols, and logo in any manner it deems appropriate, among other changes.
"As it has been for several years, the goal of the Alumnae Association’s leaders is clear," Mayo writes in the brief. "They want all the benefits of affiliation with the University (use of the University’s facilities, employees, money, names, symbols, marks, and other public resources) without any accountability and without any fear that the University may terminate the relationship with the Alumnae Association, even if the Alumnae Association leaders interfere with and undermine University operations and try to control the management and leadership of the University. Such goals and desires turn on its head the concept of serving as the University’s ‘affiliated entity’ - - - the tail cannot wag the dog," Mayo writes.
The Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning governs the eight public universities in Mississippi, including Alcorn State University; Delta State University; Jackson State University; Mississippi State University including the Mississippi State University Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine; Mississippi University for Women; Mississippi Valley State University; the University of Mississippi including the University of Mississippi Medical Center; and the University of Southern Mississippi.