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July 19, 2020

Pennsylvania sues Lincoln University over alleged illegal actions taken by board of trustees

The lawsuit claims that the historically black university’s board violated state law at a meeting earlier this month

Lawsuits Lincoln University
Lincoln University Source/Lincoln University

Lincoln University was the first degree-granting HBCU in the country.

Pennsylvania has filed a lawsuit against Lincoln University’s Board of Trustees for allegedly violating state law when the board refused to seat members at a meeting earlier this month.

The lawsuit against the Oxford, Chester County-based historically black university alleges that a special meeting was held on July 10 to discuss new leadership among the school’s board of trustees. Lincoln University was the nation’s first degree-granting HBCU.

University bylaws mandate that 10 days prior notice must be given by the board of trustees to its members before a special meeting is held, and topics not included in the notice cannot be addressed at the meeting.

However, the state said that the board of trustees violated that bylaw because inadequate prior notice was given and the meeting also included a discussion over the removal of Lincoln University’s president, Brenda Allen.

Additionally, five board members were not allowed to participate in the virtual meeting, as the host allegedly muted their microphones on Zoom.

The same five trustees were excluded from the initial roll call, participating in the closed portion of the meeting, and casting a vote on Allen’s contract.

The lawsuit claims that the other trustees went ahead and voted on the renewal of Allen’s employment as president. The vote was allegedly a split tie, meaning that the measure failed. A new motion to appoint a new interim president passed, ousting Allen from the post she held since 2017.

“My office has no position on who serves as President of Lincoln University, but we will take action to ensure the board follows the law,” said Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro. 

“Lincoln is a jewel of our Commonwealth’s heritage, and students, alumni, faculty and staff of the school that taught Langston Hughes and Thurgood Marshall must have confidence that their leadership complied with state law.”

Shapiro and Gov. Tom Wolf are named as the plaintiffs in the case, while Board of Trustees Chair Theresa Braswell is named as a defendant.

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