Southern University's Board of Supervisors Friday upheld the firing of Vice Chancellor Brandon Dumas, who was terminated by the system president earlier this week amid a campus sex tape scandal.
The Board voted 9-6 against his appeal after a lengthy conversation with Dumas and his attorney behind closed doors.
Dumas has been on administrative leave from Southern University since June 23 – two days after at least two sexually explicit videos spread throughout Southern University alumni circles and the school announced it was investigating whether the videos constituted a cyber crime involving an employee and a student. The videos were each less than 10 seconds and appeared to be taken on the smart phone app Snapchat. They originally appeared on the porn site Xtube but have since been taken down.
On Thursday, Belton announced Dumas would be terminated effective Aug. 10. But Dumas immediately gave his intentions to appeal to the board.
The university never gave an official reason to media for punishing Dumas. But at the Friday meeting, it became clear that Dumas's connection to the videos was an underlying concern.
During board discussion of Dumas's termination hearing, a board member asked Southern University System attorney Winston Decuir about the employment statuses of the people in the video.
Decuir responded that Human Resources has investigated the videos and interviewed the woman who was portrayed. Decuir said the woman, who is a university employee, told investigators that the man in the videos does not work for Southern. The implication is that the woman was denying that Dumas was in the video, Decuir later clarified.
But at the board meeting, some Southern University stakeholders spoke out against Dumas for other reasons.
"The real problem is we wouldn't even be here discussing this if not for this video surfacing," said Southern University Professor Albert Samuels.
Samuels said the board had cause to fire Dumas even aside from the "salacious allegations."
"Let's just look at performance. This board gave Vice Chancellor Dumas an awesome responsibility," Samuels said. "Every year the numbers have gone the wrong direction. Enrollment is down, retention is down, complaints are up."
Vocal Southern University alumna Sonja Norwood said Dumas's department has been plagued with management problems. But she expressed concern that board members would side with Dumas because of their personal relationships with him.
Dumas's father, Baton Rouge lawyer Walter Dumas, was a former Southern University System Board Member and well known booster.
"This is not about your personal relationship with Brandon K. Dumas, this is about Southern University," she said.
Dumas came prepared to speak. He had submitted a request in writing to have his termination hearing in public, which would have prevented the board from going into executive session. But after some pressing from board members and the system attorney warning him that he could violate the rights of other employees and students with his statements, Dumas and his attorney decided to have the hearing in an executive session.
After the closed door meeting, the board of supervisors appeared conflicted about what to do with Dumas. Initially, board members refused to make any sort of motion regarding Dumas's employment status.
Ultimately, Board Member Tony Clayton filled the empty space with a confusing motion to retract the termination and investigate Dumas's claims over the next 60 days. Decuir said the motion amounted to awarding the appeal.
There was virtually no debate and Dumas came up shy three votes of the nine he needed to prevail in this situation. After the meeting Clayton said board members were not allowed to comment to the media, and directed questions to board chair Ann Smith.
Smith would not answer questions from the media, she only offered a comment saying the board supported the president's decision to make a cabinet change.
Dumas, who initially wanted his defense to be public, declined comment after the vote.
Southern University has taken a lot of hits this past month.
The same week the sex tape emerged, Southern University was placed on a one-year warning list with its accrediting body, which leaves the school at risk of potentially losing federal dollars.
Southern receives its accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, one of the six major accrediting bodies in the U.S. for higher education institutions.
Dumas's university biography says he served on Southern University's SACS reaffirmation committee.
The school is also apparently battling complaints that it botched Title IX investigations. At the same board meeting on Friday, members went into another executive session to discuss complaints that involved accusations of student sexual harassment. However, Decuir said the report would not be public.
He said the Title IX investigation was not about a single person, rather it was a review of the school's processes.
"We're working with the provost on recommendations for how to improve," he said.
Dumas served as one of four vice chancellors who answered directly to Belton, overseeing student affairs and enrollment management.
According to his university biography, Dumas became one of the school's youngest administrators in the history of the institution in 2012, when he was named vice chancellor for student affairs at the age of 27. He was promoted to vice chancellor of student affairs and enrollment management in 2014. At the time of his initial appointment, Dumas's father sat on the Southern University Board of Supervisors, which approves salary increases and administrative hires.
Dumas also served as the board chairman of the East Baton Rouge Parish Council on Aging, but stepped down from that position recently after it was reported he didn't live East Baton Rouge Parish, as required by the agency's bylaws.
Editor's Note: This story has been changed from its original version to reflect that Dumas was short three votes to win his appeal. The original report contained an error.
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