Concerns with inadequate living conditions, poor technology, outdated curricula and low wages
HOLLY SPRINGS • Nearly 1,000 Rust College alumni, faculty, staff, students and supporters have signed a petition asking that the college’s president, David L. Beckley, Ph.D., step down after 26 years at the college. The group says Beckley’s poor leadership has prevented the school from advancing and has created a culture of fear at the small, liberal arts college.
Cries from alumni, students and parents have been largely ignored over the past 20 years. Many are withholding financial support until Beckley is no longer president.
A letter from Leslie-Burl McLemore, Ph.D., a 1964 graduate and retired political science professor from Walls, Miss., has elevated the issue. McLemore’s July 1 letter, Thank You Dr. Beckley, But Your Time is Up sent to Beckley, the Rust College Board of Trustees and hundreds of Rustites, asked the president to step down.
“I have decided that I cannot remain silent any longer about conditions at Rust and the quality of leadership provided by Dr. David Leonard Beckley,” McLemore said in the letter. “Dr. Beckley has overstayed his tenure at Rust. It pains me that he has refused to move the College into the 21st Century.”
Following McLemore’s letter, more than 70 letters have been sent to the board citing concerns about dorms with mold and bedbugs, textbooks more than 10 years old, outdated curricula and unfair treatment of faculty, staff and students. Alumni and parents were upset to learn that the college’s prized Rust College A’Cappella Choir travels in a 23-year-old bus that does not have a restroom and is known to break down during many of its trips across the country.
Alumni say though they are happy that Rust College has no debt and boasts of a $46 million endowment, those gains have been made on the backs of students who live in poor conditions and have limited access to technology.
Alumni, students, faculty and staff have long complained about poor technology. Recently, officials said the college was hacked on or about July 17. To date, Rust College employees have not been able to open or send emails. The extent of the damage is not known.
Faculty – who sign nine-month contracts, but must work ten months – are among the lowest paid in the state. Staff members are often required to work more than 40 hours per week without overtime pay. Employees make mandatory contributions to the school’s Chest Fund and, without direct deposit, must pick up their paychecks from the campus administration building.
The Board of Trustees denied an appeal from alumni to have Beckley retire in December of 2019. Instead, the board announced it would move forward with plans for Beckley to retire in 2021.
McLemore and a growing group of supporters are committed to making sure the college has strong leadership soon.
“Although I have been in love with Rust for 59 years, it is larger than I am," said McLemore, also a former student government association president at Rust. “Rust College is all of us and many generations to come.
“Our criticisms regarding leadership at Rust are not criticisms of the institution itself,” McLemore continued. “Rust College is a treasured place in the hearts and minds of thousands around the world. In fact, we love Rust enough to do the painful work required to make it better.”