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‘Her Race Isn’t My Issue … I Find Her Underqualified’: Morehouse College Gets Mixed Reactions After Hiring a White Woman as Chief Brand Officer and Head of Admissions

The only all-male historically Black college or university is under fire from some of its alumni after hiring a white woman to oversee the school’s marketing and recruitment efforts. One Morehouse man said hiring was an “insult to the legacy of the Morehouse.”

Paula Resley (Morehouse.edu)

According to a press release from the institution, on Friday, May 6, Morehouse College appointed Paula Resley as chief brand officer and vice president of strategic communications, marketing, and admissions for the school.

Resley has been hired to “brand and messaging strategy as well as targeted recruitment and digital engagement,” but graduates are not sure that she is the right person for the job.

An anonymous alum said the hire was an “INSULT to the legacy of Morehouse and a blow to the Brand,” Inside Higher Ed reported.

“The HEAVY emphasis on women is an attack on male leadership and not appropriate for Morehouse,” the man wrote. 

“Just wondering how long before Morehouse ceases to recognize itself. Six months? Let’s take bets on how long before it’s not about Black Men at all. If there are any Morehouse Men who see what I see they should speak up and stop pretending this is ok.”

The pushback found its way through the school’s extensive and multi-generational grapevine, leaving some to ask, “How could a white woman be the face of the school.”

“You’re telling me there were no highly qualified black women to fill that position? What a joke.”

A Morehouse brother remarked, “[It] comes down to her position … one of a person who would be in some cases the outward recruiting and marketing face of the college, but she doesn’t represent the population in any way.” 

Others note that while she has a dynamic career, working at some major brands, “some have looked at her résumé and have seen that she doesn’t have any higher ed experience,” another objector stated.

“There’s some hard eye-rolling around @Morehouse hiring Paula Resley for a trumped up role in #Marketing & Communications. Her race isn’t my issue. As someone who’s been in #HR/Exec talent management for 20yrs, I find her underqualified with tenure issues.”

One grad who objected to the hire said he has “yet to see a reasonable explanation of this anywhere.”

The school does not seem to believe an explanation is needed, standing on her credentials as a valid reason for her appointment on the staff.

Morehouse College President David A. Thomas said, “Morehouse is fully committed to leveraging technology and targeted communications strategies to build our brand, expand our impact, and fulfill our mission.”

“Paula’s experience and expertise, particularly in digital engagement, will help Morehouse continue to expand its international visibility and amplify its crucial voice,” Thomas continued.

Part of that marketing and strategic communications expertise was sharpened across digital and non-digital channels for Fortune 500 companies outside of education. The various industries that she has worked in include publicly traded organizations, companies as they went through the IPO process, privately-owned agencies, and non-profit organizations. 

Resley is also skilled in brand management, digital strategy, campaign execution, content creation, sales enablement, internal and external events and communications, public relations, and crisis management, making her an asset for the 155-year-old institution as it further thrives in the 21st century.

In speaking about her new position, Resley said, “I am honored to join the leadership team at Morehouse College and thrilled to work alongside this inspiring staff, faculty, students, and alumni.”

“The Morehouse College mission of developing young Black men to lead lives of leadership and service is something that I believe in and standards I aspire to uphold,” she said. “With Morehouse College’s decades-long leadership position on social justice, I am motivated by where we will take the College in the decades to come.”

The issue is larger than just her, a white woman, being the face of the Black male institution. The controversy is dripping with the changing reality of HBCUs, where non-Black students currently make up a quarter of the population across the board, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. 

Some schools like Bluefield State College in West Virginia have a predominately white student body. And at least 25 percent of the Black institutions’ faculty members are white, A Primer on Minority-Serving Institutions (Routledge, 2019) reports.

Examples of leadership staff at major HBCUs are the executive vice president at Fisk University and the associate vice chancellor of university relations at North Carolina A&T State University, who are both white.

At Howard University, a white man named David Bennett serves as the vice president of development and alumni relations — another outward-facing position representing the famed institution that graduated the vice president of the United States, Kamala Harris. 

Jarrett Carter Sr., who directs operations, strategy, and communications at Howard and is the founder of HBCU Digest, a blog focused on HBCU news, commented on the changes saying, HBCUs “are starting to broaden their talent pool and consider a lot of different people from a lot of different places and a lot of people are interested in working at HBCUs. I think that that’s a good thing because it shows you the expansion of the HBCU as a mainstream higher education brand.”

Carter’s comments are independent of the school.

Not everyone disagrees with Resley being in the post and thinks the alumni have to give her a chance.

“I think if she does a good job, then I’m happy to have her,” the employee at the college said. “I think they have yet to give this young woman a chance to do her job.”

The person continued, “If they still have an issue, if she can’t bring in the students we believe should be at Morehouse, if she can’t communicate with partners and friends in a satisfying way, then they’ll have something to stand on. But right now, they just seem to not like her for superficial reasons.”

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