Emails provide details of Griffith’s exit from Fort Valley State

Fort Valley State University President Ivelaw Griffith is scheduled to leave office in three weeks.

In an April 14 email to University System of Georgia Chancellor Hank Huckaby, Griffith wrote that he plans to “accelerate preparation for exit” after the college’s commencement on Saturday.

“Thus, my intent is to make Friday, May 22 my last day in office,” he wrote.

That email was one of about a dozen The Telegraph received in response to an Open Records Act request to the University System of Georgia.

Griffith will stay on with the university system through the end of the 2015 calendar year, according to a statement from USG spokesman Charlie Sutlive. Griffith’s new role and title will be “special project coordinator” for the USG, and he will continue to receive his same salary of $260,000, including benefits.

Griffith declined The Telegraph’s request for comment Thursday.

Although the USG and Griffith have never fully explained the reason for his stepping down, Griffith publicly hinted at possibilities during a conference on April 8, saying that some of his reforms for the college had drawn opposition. Those reforms -- including sending underperforming employees home, not allowing “unprepared children” to attend the university, and his talk of attracting international students drew criticism in some quarters.

“If you talk to some other people, it’s like I’m trying to bring Lucifer into the valley by saying, ‘Let’s bring some international students,’” Griffith said during the conference.

Before the USG’s April 1 announcement of his resignation, emails between Huckaby and Griffith show details of Griffith’s plans with the USG being arranged.

“As regards other aspects we discussed last Friday and on (March 24th), I would welcome a one year sabbatical at a significant proportion of my current salary with a continuation of health and pension benefits to enable me to seek alternative employment,” Griffith wrote to Huckaby on March 31.

Griffith added that he would welcome a designation as a “distinguished presidential fellow,” which included asking for business cards and access to office facilities at the Warner Robins campus.

Another request from Griffith was to appoint Angela Harris as the permanent vice president for student success and enrollment management, which included a salary increase from $148,000 to $155,000.

The chancellor granted the appointment request, but “as to (Griffith’s) title and office space during the next year,” Huckaby wrote, “I am confident we can come to an appropriate consensus on that matter; however, I may prefer that you have an office at Middle Georgia State University facility in Warner Robins rather than in the FVSU facility there.”

On April 9, Griffith wrote “As regards office location, if you are uncomfortable with my use of the FVSU Warner Robins Campus, perhaps an arrangement could be made for a neutral site in Warner Robins.”

Later than evening, Huckaby responded, “Macon State has facilities in Warner Robins. I will speak to President Blake.”

Besides his new job and office, Sutlive said the USG would also provide Griffith with a “positive letter of reference.”

Griffith has been president of the university since taking office July 22, 2013. He previously was a political science professor, provost and senior vice president at York College of The City University of New York.

He oversaw the layoff of 14 employees this past September after the university experienced a 25-percent decline in enrollment from fall 2013 to fall 2014.

Griffith, the university’s ninth president, replaced Larry Rivers, who stepped down in June 2013.

To contact writer David Schick, call 744-4382.