‘The most terrible, horrible thing I have ever known’: Resignation of Kentucky State University president opens wounds, calls for change

Published 5:05 am Friday, July 23, 2021

Shortly after news broke of Kentucky State University President Dr. M. Christopher Brown II’s resignation amid questions about the school’s finances and several lawsuits against the university, people involved with the university began talking.

Some publicly.

Two former administrators spoke of their time in Brown’s KSU administration with The State Journal, both calling it the most stressful and toxic time of their lives. One professor, under the condition of anonymity, raised concerns about the remaining leadership.

One alumnus, in an Instagram post to his more than 17,000 followers, threatened to release a salacious documentary about financial and sexual wrongdoing at KSU unless the school terminates “anybody that was working in the president’s office.”

Politically prominent alumni have expressed optimism for the future of the university, and former KSU interim President Aaron Thompson — who is leading a review of KSU as president of the Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) — said he hopes the probe leads the university toward a thriving future.

‘The most terrible, horrible thing I have ever known’

Crystal deGregory, a research fellow at Middle Tennessee State University, was one of the more high-profile staff members at KSU.

She served as the inaugural director of the Atwood Institute for the Democratic Ideal, a brainchild of Brown’s. The institute is meant to advance research and dialogue about democracy’s role in solving entrenched socioeconomic problems such as racism or the plight of Appalachian Kentucky.

In her role, deGregory spoke at Carnegie Hall and Harvard; she was quoted as an expert in TIME Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, the Chronicle of Higher Education and several other prominent publications.

It was an ideal job for deGregory, who studies historically black colleges and universities, until it wasn’t.

“I cannot put into words how terrible, how horrible that place was,” deGregory said.

She was removed from her post at the institute after a year and a half with no publicly stated reason. She resigned from her associate professor role six months later because of what she called a “toxic work environment” created by administrators beyond Brown.