Former Kentucky State President M. Christopher Brown did not speak on Tuesday at his final board of regents meeting. He resigned from the university’s top post in a letter dated July 15 and quickly left.
However, in a nearly hour-long interview posted on Wednesday night, Brown had much to say about his resignation, the status of the university and the ongoing questioning of what happened during his tenure there. The former president spoke on a podcast produced by HBCU Digest, a website run by journalist and public relations professional Jarrett Carter Sr.
Brown touted the successes of his tenure and underplayed the financial concerns raised by regents to Gov. Andy Beshear; those concerns led Beshear to task former KSU interim president and current Council on Postsecondary Education President Aaron Thompson with reviewing the finances and more of the institution.
Brown suggested that those financial concerns resulted from a “cash flow” problem at the university, and not financial malfeasance on his part. Nor were the concerns truly about any of the lawsuits that KSU has faced of late in play, he claimed.
“This is not about malfeasance, this is not about litigation, this is not about missing money,” Brown said. “It's about a cash flow question, which is, let me say to be honest and fair, a very real question. There's a cash flow question. You have a new board, a new moment and this is the question.”
He said that most every institution has a less robust cash flow in the summer months, when far fewer students are paying tuition.
The "watershed moment" was the question of whether or not the board should build a new residence hall.
"Recent board discussions and conversations about institution finance, have all centered around whether or not the institution should or should not build a new residence hall," Brown said. "It's been the source of a split vote, it's been the source of the rancor. And it underlines and undergirds the current sets of inquiry and investigations into the finances."
The board of regents voted 6-3 to approve the contract with CRM Companies — the developer on several major Frankfort projects including the planned development of parcels B and C downtown — for construction of a $50 million, roughly 408-bed residence hall.
Brown also mentioned that throughout his career, he feels that people have given a heightened level of attention to both his successes and questionable moments. This is in part, he said, because of his big personality.
“I have the ability to assume a significant amount of air in a room, though not intentionally,” Brown said. “I try to be very careful about not shining my light at full blast because it can be a lot.”
Because of that, Brown noted that throughout his career he’s received an abundance of press on both the good and the bad aspects of his tenure at institutions.
He also hinted at some potential future “revelations.”
“I think everyone who's viewing the situation, realizes that there are one, some oddities at play, and two, some revelations that may be in the offing,” Brown said.
He also said he felt like he fell victim to what he considers one of three main “character assertions” that “disrupt the core of the black community” when they’re leveled against leaders like Presidents and pastors.
Those three assertions: financial mismanagement, nepotism and sexual immorality.
“I happen to also be a pastor, so sadly I’m not predisposed to sexual immorality,” Brown said. “Second, I’m an only child with no biological children; you don’t get the nepotism assertion on me. The only character assertion that can really be leveled with any consistency or integrity would be finance.”
Notably, Brown is also a pastor at New Revelation Baptist Church in Las Vegas. His position there has not yet been noted in official media reports, but also has not been a secret; since at least the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, New Revelation has aired all his sermons on Facebook and Periscope.
Brown told HBCU Digest that the “powers that be” pinpointed financial health as a vulnerable area for him leading up to his resignation given his resignation from the presidency of Alcorn State University amid financial concerns in 2013.
“It’s just like a boxer knowing the weak side of their opponent,” Brown said. “The parties that be knew that this was a weak area. They can’t say academics aren’t up, ratings aren’t up, enrollment isn’t up. The only area that’s not fully defended is this area of fiscal oversight.”
Though he did not comment on who “the powers that be” were, he did note that the composition of the board of regents — after being somewhat stable during his tenure — notably shifted in recent months.
New board members Rahul Reddy and Candace McGraw were introduced in early June, though McGraw resigned shortly thereafter. New student regent Jason Robinson was recently named to the board, and Carolyn Burns’ appointment — as well as Regent Chair Elaine Farris’ reappointment — was announced in mid-April.
However, at the beginning of June just before Reddy and McGraw's appointments, the board voted to extend Brown’s contract to 2025 at the recommendation of Farris.
“We talked about the major accomplishments as a board, and we were very pleased with the leadership and things that have taken place,” Farris said at the time.
Brown said that the contract renewal process spurred agitations among those on the board who weren't "100% supportive of the university direction."
"There were those who were thinking, 'oh, this will be over in 12 to 18 months,' and then they're like, 'Oh, no, we're going to do 48 more.'" Brown said. "'No, we weren't prepared for that, that's not what we wanted.'"
As for the lawsuits, both Brown and Carter downplayed them. However, Brown called KSU a “highly litigious” place.
“Very few large agencies are going to be able to avert litigation," Brown said. "… One thing that I will say about KSU is that it is highly litigious. Everyone feels the right to sue. ‘The pencil sharpener was broke on the second floor and I had to go to the third floor so I’m going to sue.’”
When asked about whether he would pursue another presidency role in the future, Brown did not answer directly. Instead, he emphasized both his faith in God and his commitment to making HBCU’s better.
“I want to hear my creator say ‘well done, my good and faithful servant,’ even if there are haters and detractors on the path,” Brown said. “… My grandmother said it’s nothing wrong for people to hate on you or say bad things about you. She just said ‘let it be false.’”
He ended the interview expressing hope that people will remember his tenure fondly.
“I knew that there were 17 people before me and reminded people all the time that there would be a 19th that would come after me,” Brown said “… I hope and pray that people will always remember that I left Kentucky State University better than I found it.”