Broward College President Greg Haile’s future remains in limbo this weekend, with one of his bosses calling for a “cooling off” period after he abruptly submitted his resignation Wednesday.
Haile remains president for now, after the university’s board of trustees decided Thursday not to take steps to find a successor.
Alexis Yarbrough, president of the Broward College Board of Trustees, told the South Florida Sun Sentinel on Friday that she received no warning or phone call from Haile before receiving his resignation letter. She called the emergency meeting Thursday morning to plan next steps.
Haile did not show up at that meeting, but more than a dozen of his supporters did, calling on the board to resolve any differences and not let the president go. Board members agreed to speak with Haile individually and find out why he wanted to leave and determine if there was a way for him to stay.
As of Friday, Yarbrough said he had not yet spoken to Haile. She said she plans to contact him in the near future.
“I think we need a pause, a period of reflection,” he said. “I want to give him that space, that’s why I haven’t spoken to him yet. I think he needs some time to reflect.”
The next Board of Directors meeting is scheduled for September 26. Yarbrough did not speculate whether he will be at that meeting.
“I don’t have any expectations right now,” he said. “In my role as president, I’m focusing on scheduling meetings and making sure I can help staff.”
The Sun Sentinel was unable to reach Haile on Thursday or Friday, despite attempts by phone.
His letter said he would give 120 days’ notice, as required by his contract. Still, Yarbrough said the matter was concerning enough that he called an emergency meeting Thursday with about 12 hours’ notice in which he was considering replacing him. Most board meetings require at least 48 hours public notice.
“The 120 days are words in your contract. In my opinion, that in no way guaranteed to me that we were doing business as usual,” Yarbrough said. “When I received that letter, it was jarring. It was shocking. “I called our staff and they were also shocked and in my opinion we needed to have an emergency meeting to ensure the continuity of our operations.”
Some of Haile’s supporters in the Broward business community said they had spoken with him but did not know the extent of his concerns.
“He’s being very secretive about it and that’s all I can say,” Dan Lindblad, who attended Thursday’s meeting to support Haile, told the Sun Sentinel on Friday.
Haile’s resignation letter was vague about the reasons for his departure, other than to note that most of the five trustees were new. The trustees are appointed by Governor Ron DeSantis.
“Three board members have been appointed in the last six months, and the board as a whole is new, and no board member has yet served a full term,” he wrote. “While they have not requested such a transition, now is the time.”
Haile has faced recent criticism from administrators related to his handling of an administrator’s firing, a decline in enrollment, the university’s finances and other issues. But they weren’t forcing him to leave, Yarbrough said.
“At no time, to my knowledge, has any board member asked him to resign or indicated a desire for him to leave the university or be replaced,” he said. “It wasn’t even on my radar. I don’t know what he has in mind. He was professional with us and he was also professional with him.”
Some critics of DeSantis have questioned whether Haile’s decision to resign may be part of a larger effort by the governor to eradicate what he sees as “wokeness” at colleges and universities.
DeSantis allies have been hired at several colleges and universities in the state over the past year, including New College of Florida in Sarasota and South Florida State College in Avon Park. Additionally, a state governing board suspended a presidential search at Florida Atlantic University, citing “anomalies,” two days after the search committee failed to name state Rep. Randy Fine, a DeSantis-backed candidate, as a finalist.
But the recent appointments to the Broward College Board of Trustees had nothing to do with trying to change leadership, said Yarbrough, one of the new appointees.
“It is not a factor. No one has asked me to undertake such a mission,” she said. “I respect President Haile. “This has been a total shock to me.”