Elections to determine new trustee

The USF Board of Trustees will most likely have to wait until after the gubernatorial election before a new member replaces former trustee Patrick Swygert.

Swygert, president of Howard University, resigned from the board Monday after he was appointed by President George W. Bush to become chairman of Brown v. Board of Education Commemoration Commission.

Though BOT chairman Dick Beard said diversity on the board is important to all trustees, Swygert was the only African-American trustee to be appointed to the board in the summer of 2001. The board has previously received criticism for being predominately led by white members.

“We hope to get a candidate with a diverse background with the right qualifications to be appointed by the governor,” Beard said. “We’re still looking around, and we are trying to find candidates.”

Beard said, however, it is not the board’s decision to appoint a new member. That responsibility instead belongs to Gov. Jeb Bush. But if Democrat Bill McBride is elected governor on Nov. 5, he could reappoint the entire board.

For now, Beard said trustees are waiting on election results to see whether Amendment 11, which would relocate powers on spending and tuition to the state level under a Board of Governors, will pass.

“With that question mark on Amendment 11, we don’t know yet,” Beard said. “We are going to wait and see how that works out.”

The BOT voted last week against Amendment 11, which would relocate powers on spending and tuition to the state level under a Board of Governors.

As the board waits for elections to determine its structure for next year, Swygert will begin his duties as chairman of the commission.

Swygert will work with the Department of Education to plan educational activities to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education in 2004. Work preceding the case, which desegregated the American public school system, took place at Howard Law School, and defendant Linda Brown was represented by alumnus Thurgood Marshall, who later became the first black Supreme Court justice.

Swygert has served as Howard University’s president since 1995.

Howard University spokeswoman J.J. Pryor said Swygert’s appointment to the Commemoration Commission allows the university to reconnect with an important part of its history.

“We are all very excited that President Swygert has been appointed to the commission,” Pryor said. “We feel that he would be a likely person to serve the position (as chairman), since Howard University played such an intricate role in that case.”

Prior to becoming president of Howard University, Swygert served as president at the University of Albany and State University of New York, where he was a mentor for USF President Judy Genshaft.

As the only board member to have a dissenting vote in the board’s decision to seek the termination of controversial professor Sami Al-Arian last year and the only member with a career in academia, Beard said the board is losing a valuable member.

“We’ll certainly hate to see him go,” Beard said. “But we understand that he was appointed by the president to take this role.”