Four new members of the Kentucky State University Board of Regents were sworn in during the board’s Thursday meeting. One of them succeeds a controversial regent who was ousted as board chair, sued the school and her successor for defamation, and was recommended for removal by a state council.
KSU General Counsel Lisa Lang presided over the swearing-in of Faculty Regent Dr. Joe Moffett, Staff Regent Chandee Felder, Student Regent Kierra Donald and Melanie House-Mansfield, who was appointed to the board by Gov. Matt Bevin.
House-Mansfield, an educator with a background in community volunteerism and advocacy, will serve on the Board of Regents until June 2025.
She replaces Karen Bearden, whom the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education recommended be removed from the board based on a defamation lawsuit she filed in January 2018 against the university. The year prior, the Faculty Senate voted no confidence in Bearden, who was the board chair at the time. Five months later, the board elected Elaine Farris as chair. Bearden was not nominated to continue as chair.
In June 2018, Franklin Circuit Court Judge Thomas Wingate dismissed the lawsuit that alleged members of the KSU Faculty Senate started a campaign to have Bearden removed as chairwoman by accusing her in electronic communications of being “engaged in an ‘inappropriate’ relationship with former Kentucky State University President.”
The suit also alleged current Board of Regents Chairwoman Elaine Farris and former KSU Faculty Senate President Kim Sipes publicly and falsely accused her of “improperly influencing” the presidential search that resulted in current President M. Christopher Brown II's hiring.
After the lawsuit ended in the university’s favor, the Board of Regents ultimately petitioned the Council on Postsecondary Education to review whether Bearden’s actions warranted removal and to make a recommendation to Bevin. She ultimately served out her term, which expired this year.
House-Mansfield lives in Louisville and became the co-founder and chairwoman and director of education programming at the Mansfield Institute for Political Engagement and Public Policy earlier this year, according to her LinkedIn profile. Her career is mostly in education, with stints at Jefferson County Public Schools and Ohio State University.
House-Mansfield received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Kentucky, a Masters of Fine Arts in theater and a Master of Arts in Pan African Studies at the University of Louisville and a doctorate in theater literature, history and criticism from Ohio State University. House-Mansfield fills a vacancy left by former regent Karen Bearden, who was recommended for removal from the board last July by the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education after filing a defamation lawsuit against the university and other board members.
“I’m ready to do the work to help students of Kentucky State University,” House-Mansfield said.
She said she wants to be of help where she can during her tenure on the board. She said the regent's role “is a calling” and she is impressed with the university and its students, who are "enthusiastic about their learning and where they are going to go in the future.”
Moffett, Felder and Donald were all elected by their peers to the Board of Regents.
Moffett is an assistant professor of English in KSU’s Division of Literature, Languages and Philosophy and has been at the university for over five years. He received a Fulbright U.S. Scholar Award in 2018 and taught in Romania at Babes-Bolyai University for six months. He previously held teaching positions at Northern Kentucky University and Kentucky Wesleyan College.
Moffett received a Bachelor of Arts in English from Penn State University, a Masters of Arts in English from West Virginia University, a Doctor of Philosophy in English from WVU and a Master of Library and Information Science from the University of Kentucky, according to his LinkedIn profile. Moffett said he is “honored to be on the board.”
“I try to do my best to represent their (faculty) interests,” he said.
Felder is an administrative assistant for the Faculty Senate and the School of Mathematics and Computer Science under the College of Business and Computational Sciences. She has worked for KSU for over nine years. According to LinkedIn, she previously worked as an assistant clerk for the Franklin County clerk, an insurance agent for State Farm and administrative assistant for Winchester Chiropractic in Winchester. She has previously studied at KSU.
On the board, she wants to “be a team player and represent the staff well.”
“I think it is a very unified board. It is a privilege to serve with them,” Felder said.
Kierra Donald is the current Student Government Association president at KSU. She is from Chicago and is a junior double-majoring in political science and mass communication. Her administration is known as “The Historic 86th Administration,” to pay homage to the year that KSU was founded, 1886.
She said she plans to act within the bounds of her role on the board, keep other regents informed of SGA actions and initiatives and make sure “that student voice is heard in any decisions made by the board.”
KSU’s Board of Regents has eight governor-appointed members and three other members, one of whom is chosen by teaching faculty, one by non-teaching employees and one who is the current student body president.