SCSU Foundation board members resign over Norton dismissal

Two directors of Southern Connecticut State University’s private fund-raising arm have resigned in protest over circumstances surrounding the dismissal of Southern President Cheryl Norton, a foundation official has confirmed.

In a sharply-worded resignation letter, director Robert S. Frew accused Connecticut State University System Chancellor David G. Carter, who removed Norton, of “micromanaging” the system’s four campuses, and charged him and the CSU board of trustees with “arrogance and incompetence.”

“It was such a secret process,” said Frew, a former SCSU computer science professor who stepped down after six years on the board of directors of the SCSU Foundation.

Another board member, Carlton Highsmith, could not be reached for comment Friday, but the foundation’s executive director, Megan Rock, said his resignation also was in connection with Norton’s dismissal. Highsmith is retired vice chairman of SPG Paperworks Corp.

The foundation’s volunteer board includes 25 elected members, Rock said.

The reasons for Norton’s dismissal have never been made public, but the matter is the subject of an informational forum in Hartford Wednesday by the legislature’s Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee. At the 1 p.m. forum at the Legislative Office Building, lawmakers also plan to ask about a policy allowing the university chancellor to dismiss presidents without a vote of the system’s Board of Trustees.

Only weeks after that policy was adopted last fall,  Carter notified Norton that she would be dismissed. The chancellor oversees four CSU campuses, including Southern’s campus in New Haven.

In a letter to the foundation board, Frew said, “I am deeply disturbed with the behavior of Chancellor Carter in removing Cheryl as our president,” he wrote. “In my opinion she has changed, for the better, the character and motivation of Faculty, Staff, and Students.”

Some faculty members had urged Carter to choose someone from Southern as an interim replacement for Norton, but Carter instead selected Stanley Battle, former president of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. Battle and Carter were colleagues at Eastern Connecticut State University when Carter was Eastern’s president in the 1990s.

The CSU system announced Norton’s departure as a “retirement,” but documents obtained by The Mirror indicated that Norton, 61, had been forced out and had negotiated a settlement with the CSU system.

Under terms of her settlement, Norton will be on paid leave beginning June 1. She will retain the title of president and remain on the university’s payroll for a year at her annual salary of $285,200.  During that time, the university also will pay Battle an annual salary of $280,200.

In his letter, Frew said he hoped both Carter and the CSU Board of Trustees would be removed from office.

“We now have a Chancellor who is acting as a Super President, micromanaging the affairs of the campuses. . . . In this time of financial crisis we cannot afford this arrogance and incompetence,” Frew wrote.

Carter, through a university spokesman, declined to comment.