Central State president steps down: 5 things to know

Central State University President Jack Thomas’ announcement this week that he will stop down as university president when his contract expires at the end of June comes at a pivotal time for CSU and after Thomas faced criticism.

Here are five things to know about Thomas’ tenure at Central State.

1. Thomas took the helm of the historically Black university amid the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 and social unrest surrounding racial justice issues after the death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers. In his first interview with the Dayton Daily News, Thomas said he planned to raise CSU to national prominence. Thomas was no stranger to controversy. He left his last job as president of Western Illinois University amid a “public campaign for his ouster, with allegations of infighting and racial animus,” reported the State Journal-Register of Springfield, Illinois.

2. Thomas’ letter announcing the end of his presidency listed several major accomplishments (see the full letter below). One of his signature accomplishments was increasing online enrollment at CSU, particularly through a free college program. But that program was shut down because of action by the U.S. Department of Education. Students can stay enrolled, but it’s no longer free, leaving the future of online enrollment at CSU unclear.

3. Thomas oversaw some major campus expansions, including a new honors residence hall that opened in November, two new research buildings being built with federal grants, and a $3 million campus broadband expansion. The university announced last year it’s planning $65 million in infrastructure improvements.

4. Thomas personally was criticized for how he dealt with staff. University trustees hired an outside legal firm to investigate after five women alleged discrimination and harassment. Investigators concluded: “President Thomas’ leadership style as it relates to the complainants may be characterized as rude, belittling and bullying, but does not rise to the level of harassment,” says a report presented to university trustees on Feb. 7. Two of the woman have since sued the university.

5. Though only leading the university for three years, Thomas’ legacy will be felt at CSU for years to come. He implemented a new strategic plan dubbed “Reach Higher, Go Further, Thrive!” Read Thomas’ letter announcing the end of his presidency below for his thoughts on his proudest accomplishments at CSU.

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