After Lincoln University VP took her own life, it’s time for a leadership change now | Opinion

Allegations of bullying and harassment against Lincoln University President John Moseley are beyond troubling. The allegations were made by former vice president of student affairs Antoinette “Bonnie” Candia-Bailey, who committed suicide last week, citing his mistreatment.

If there is any inkling these accusations are true — and based on documents I read, I believe Candia-Bailey — Moseley must resign immediately. He can’t remain in a position of leadership.

For the greater good of Jefferson City’s Lincoln community, its staff, alumni base and students, Moseley should step down as president.

On Jan. 8, Candia-Bailey, 49, took her own life. In a letter provided to me and verified by a Lincoln alum in St. Louis who received a copy, Candia-Bailey documented Moseley’s abhorrent leadership style. She also detailed several alleged policy violations by Moseley that school officials must take seriously.

In the letter sent to Moseley, Candia-Bailey blamed his behavior as the driving force behind her death by suicide.

“You intentionally harassed and bullied me and got satisfaction from sitting back to determine how you would ensure I failed as an employee and proud alumna,” Candia-Bailey wrote.

Students, alumni call for university to act

Many students want Moseley gone. As does the president of Lincoln University’s national alumni association. After reading Candia-Bailey’s detailed goodbye letter, and the effect it has had on students and alumni, I see no other recourse.

Moseley volunteered to be placed on paid leave last week, according to a statement from LU’s board of curators. How gracious of him.

I emailed Moseley seeking his side of the story. All I got in return was a canned statement from the university’s board of curators.

“While the board and university leaders cannot comment publicly on confidential employee personnel information, the recent loss of Dr. Antoinette ‘Bonnie’ Candia-Bailey is tragic,” board of curators President Victor Pasley said in the statement.

Moseley should have resigned instead of taking what amounts to a paid vacation.

Candia-Bailey is a 1998 Lincoln graduate. In April 2023, the university hired her as its vice president of student affairs. Her first day was May 1.

The Chicago native worked in higher education for 23 years before coming back the historically Black university, according to a news release announcing her hire.

Before that, she worked as vice president of student affairs, chief diversity officer and Title IX coordinator at Elms College in Chicopee, Massachusetts. She also had stints at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Towson University, North Carolina A&T State University and at North Carolina State University, according to LU officials.

But it was at Lincoln, under the leadership of Moseley, that Candia-Bailey’s claims of severe depression and anxiety were ignored, she wrote in her letter. He denied Candia-Bailey’s request for a medical leave, according to her sobering note.

“Mental health is real,” she wrote. Yes, it is.

FMLA, ADA leaves denied

In the correspondence, Candia-Bailey outlined several grievances against Moseley and university administration.

She sent several emails to Moseley and LU’s board of curators requesting time off under the Family and Medical Leave and Americans with Disabilities acts but was denied, according to Candia-Bailey’s last words.

The working relationship between Moseley and Candia-Bailey “went downhill after the FMLA and ADA documents were submitted due to my severe depression and anxiety,” she wrote. “I requested to be removed under your leadership … as this was causing significant attacks. This is all documented and emails sent.

“Several times, I asked for help, your expectations, and an improvement action plan, and you ignored my requests (failing to respond to emails), or when face-to-face, you danced around the topic. This is documented and noted.”

In a statement, LU’s board of curators wrote that a third party would investigate Candia-Bailey’s claims.

“As a Board, we are committed to make certain the mental health of Lincoln University employees is a priority and that every employee is always treated with dignity and respect,” wrote Pasley.

This week, the board announced a faculty and student listening session would precede the appointment of an independent investigator, according to Kate Devine, a student reporter for the University of Missouri’s student-led television station KOMU.

The results of this inquiry must be made available to the public.

Moseley fired Candia-Bailey Jan. 3, according to a copy of a termination letter sent to me by the Lincoln alum I spoke with. The president claimed she failed to do her job as VP of student affairs.

“Your employment with Lincoln University is terminated due to your continued failure to appropriately supervise your staff and continued failure to properly supervise the area of student affairs at Lincoln University,” Moseley wrote.

Five days after being fired, Candia-Bailey died by suicide. Before her death, she wrote: “I cried my last tear this morning. I’ve had dark days, but I’ve never been this dark in my 25 years in the field.

“Student affairs was my love, and my love killed me.”

Did board of curators know about concerns?

Why didn’t LU’s board of curators act sooner? Board President Pasley’s ability to lead must be questioned as well. He knew of Candia-Bailey’s issues with Moseley but dismissed her concerns, according to her letter. In the correspondence, she included an email response from Pasley dated Nov. 16, 2023:

“Dr. Candia-Bailey: Hello. Curator Stacia Bradley Brown and I are in receipt of your email dated November 15, 2023. Please be advised the Board of Curators does not engage in the management of personnel issues for Lincoln University and will not be taking further action related to this issue. Sincerely, Victor Pasley, Lincoln University President, Board of Curators.”

Missouri’s governor appoints LU’s board of curators, who selects and monitors the university’s president. Under this set up, Moseley reports to the board only. Who else was Candia-Bailey supposed to contact to help keep Moseley in check?

LU alumni and students should have little faith in Pasley’s ability to show compassion, which is a hallmark of effective leadership. He may want to consider stepping down, too.

In her parting words, Candia-Bailey thought of others, writing: “I hope this message touches someone. If your soul is empty, troubled, in despair, and you see red flags, leave. Don’t try to stick around. My soul can now rest. I’ve filled my earthly dash, March 1974-January 2024.

“A seat has been prepared for me.”

After reading Candia-Bailey’s gut-wrenching suicide note, I don’t see how Moseley can lead Lincoln University.

He must resign immediately.