NAACP and Black Caucus scrutinize process used to choose UofM president

Published: Nov. 10, 2021 at 7:32 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The Memphis NAACP and the Shelby County Black Caucus have raised concerns about the process for selecting the next president of the University of Memphis (UofM).

NAACP President Van Turner says the group has yet to hear from the University of Memphis Board of Trustees about their concerns.

But he hopes their voices are heard.

Dr. Bill Hardgrave is the new president of UofM.

“I need to get to know Memphis. I think I know Memphis. I grew up knowing Memphis, but I really need to get to know the community and those things we need to work on to make sure we have a fantastic town and gown relationship,” Hardgrave said.

Hardgrave grew up in Arkansas and most recently served as Auburn University’s provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs.

While the UofM Board of Trustees voted unanimously Tuesday to approve Hardgrave for the role, some in the community have concerns.

“The fact that there’s a 40-percent African American student population at the university sort of inspired us to write the letter,” said Turner.

Turner along with the Shelby County Black Caucus and the Memphis Branch of the NAACP wrote a letter to the UofM Board of Trustees, expressing disappointment with the lack of diversity among finalists for the position.

“Of course, the selection is what it is, but then going forward we want to make sure this is on their mind that they appreciate what we have to say,” Turner said.

The letter requests details about Hardgrave’s commitment to diversity, asking what initiatives will Hardgrave undertake as now president of a university that is over 40 percent black, and what training or experiences will Hardgrave commit to broaden his awareness considering he is leaving an institution that is 3 percent black.

They asked that the board respond to the letter within 10 business days.

During a press conference Tuesday, Hardgrave said he is committed to learning.

“We need to make sure this is a body that’s inclusive and everybody feels safe and welcomed here,” he said.

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