Nicole Pride resigned Friday as president of West Virginia State University, three weeks after five members of her senior Cabinet asked the school’s Board of Governors to remove her “to allow for an investigation.”
Board Chairman Chuck Jones read Pride’s resignation letter near the end of a special meeting Friday at the Erickson Alumni Center. That happened after governors met for almost four hours and 45 minutes in executive session. Board members voted unanimously to accept Pride’s resignation.
“I appreciate the support I’ve received from the campus community and board of governors, and the opportunity to serve West Virginia State University,” Pride wrote at the end of her letter, in which she touted the school’s successes under her leadership.
Board members then unanimously voted to grant vice president and chief-of-staff Ericke Cage operational control of the university, pending the board’s appointment of an interim president. The vote came with the provision that Cage cannot hire, fire or change the terms of employment for university personnel, or execute contracts without prior consent of the board.
“I’d like to thank the Board of Governors for their confidence and leadership,” Cage said after the vote. “I’m looking forward to working with members of the university’s leadership team and advancing the initiatives of this institution.”
Cage arrived in Institute from Norfolk State University, where he held multiple leadership positions. He held several positions in higher education and government before serving at Norfolk State.
Pride was not present Friday, and could not be reached afterward for comment. Cage declined to comment after the meeting. Jones spoke briefly though, saying it was a personnel issue.
“It’s a difficult time for the university, and we’re going to move on,” Jones said. “We’ve got an operational manager. He’s about the university moving forward, and we’re definitely going to do that.”
In the letter of “no confidence,” which was obtained from an anonymous source and first reported by the Gazette-Mail, Cabinet members wrote that “[c]ondescending and abusive dialogue are common in exchanges with Dr. Pride,” and “[h]er harassing dialogue and bullying behavior have contributed to a ‘hostile work environment.’ Her executive leadership team has continued to dwindle as a result of a psychologically unsafe and chaotic work environment.”
The letter led with Pride’s alleged treatment of former interim vice president for student affairs, Trina Sweeney, who resigned July 12 after 22 years working for the university. During a Cabinet meeting July 13, Pride “openly discussed the contents” of Sweeney’s resignation letter and said Sweeney lied to her. The Cabinet members’ letter is dated the following day.
“The executive leadership team was stunned by Dr. Pride’s violation of privacy,” they wrote, adding that Pride spoke about “performance issues” regarding Sweeney and said she thought Sweeney had sent her resignation letter to others.
“Dr. Pride is known for her retaliatory practices,” the Cabinet members wrote.
Board members on Friday did not discuss the allegations or the letter.
On Tuesday, Pride announced J. Paige Carney as the university’s new interim provost and vice president for academic affairs. The announcement did not say what happened to Sharon Warren Cook, who had held the position previously and was one of the five members who signed the no-confidence letter. Board members on Friday did not discuss Cook’s employment status.
On July 23, the Board of Governors held an hours-long closed session during what it called an emergency meeting. The agenda said the closed-door discussion was “to discuss a personnel matter.”
Pride, the first woman and 12th president to lead the Institute school, began her term Sept. 1, 2020.
The university paid Washington, D.C.-based AGB Search $85,000 for the search that ended with the hiring of Pride, not including additional expenses. Jones previously said AGB Search promised to waive the search fee, but not new expenses, to redo the search if the new president left during his or her first year.