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Black Senators Say Auburn Board Needs Diversity

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Screen capture of an image taken of Auburn University's campus. (Credit: eng.auburn.edu)

Screen capture of an image taken of Auburn University’s campus. (Credit: eng.auburn.edu)

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The Alabama Senate has confirmed two new trustees for the Auburn University Board of Trustees. Both of the new trustees, Wayne Smith of Franklin, Tenn., and Michael DeMaiorbus of Huntsville, are white. That’s a point that concerns members of the black caucus in the Senate.

The Senate’s seven black members mostly supported Smith and DeMaiorbus when the nominations came up for confirmation Thursday. But the black senators complained that only one of Auburn’s 15 trustees is black and that in the future they may work to delay future trustee nominations if they are not more diverse.

Smith is chairman, president and CEO of Community Health Systems in Franklin, Tenn., which operates 135 hospitals. DeMaioribus is senior vice president of the space and aviation contractor Dynetics in Huntsville.

Democratic Sen. Hank Sanders of Selma, who is black, said he is extremely concerned that less than 1 percent of trustees are black, while close to 10 percent of the student body is black. The only current black member of the trustee board is Birmingham attorney Elizabeth Huntley, who lives in Clanton.

The two new members of the Auburn Board were nominated by the Auburn trustees selection committee, a six-member board headed by Republican Gov. Robert Bentley.

Sanders said he has been promised numerous times that something would be done to make the board more diverse. He said one proposed solution was creation of the trustees’ selection committee, but the school’s trustees are still mostly white. He said in the future black senators may fight all nominations until something is done to make the Auburn board more diverse,

“All I know is only one of 15 trustees is black and that’s unacceptable,” Sanders said.

Bentley’s press secretary, Jennifer Ardis, said the governor would have no comment on the complaints of the members of the Senate black caucus.

The chairman of the Senate nominations committee, Republican Sen. Jabo Waggoner of Birmingham, said the black senators frequently complain about the makeup of the Auburn board. He said he believes the current process used to pick trustee nominees is fair, although he said he has nothing to do with the names submitted to the Senate for confirmation.

“I don’t take a position on who is coming up,” Waggoner said.

But Sanders said he believes more black trustees would help lead to more black students at Auburn.

“It would create a better atmosphere,” Sanders said.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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