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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -
The Alabama State Board of Trustees met at 10am Friday to address issues surrounding the recent executive committee decision to put ASU President Dr. Joseph Silver on paid administrative leave.
Silver has publicly stated that he's found irregularities with ASU contracts and believes he was placed on leave for moving ahead with plans to hire an independent investigator to look into his findings.
The Board could have voted Friday to terminate Silver's employment, but chose not to take any immediate action regarding the new president out of respect due to the late Thursday evening death of the president's mother.
"Given the news, our board will not consider the primary item of our agenda today related to Dr. Silver," Board Chairman Elton Dean explained after a moment of silence was held in Silver's mother's honor. "In my opinion," Dean added, "it would not be appropriate, and even more, it would not be respectful. Those discussions can wait til another day."
After the meeting, Dr. Silver released a statement thanking the Board for its sentiments, but adding, "I expressly communicated to the board through my attorneys that matters to my personal status not be delayed because of her death."
Dean said after the board meeting that another meeting would most likely be called within 5 to 10 days to discuss further action.
The Board did move ahead with two additional items on its agenda including a vote to name an interim president. By a 7 to 2 vote the trustees appointed a familiar face to lead the university. Former ASU President Dr. William Harris, who recently retired, will manage ASU's day-to-day operations until further action is taken regarding Dr. Silver's status. Those duties had fallen to Executive Vice President John Knight since Monday evening when Silver was suspended.
The Board also voted to accept a resolution to have an external, independent audit of all ASU contracts performed. The firm Warren Averett Wilson Price will conduct the audit. "The integrity and good name of this university is most important to this board," Dean said, "and we are unanimous in the need to separate fact from fiction."
"That is a positive step in the right direction," Governor Robert Bentley, who is also president of the ASU Board of Trustees, explained, saying the people of Alabama deserve transparency "in everything we do."
Bentley, who returned from a European economic development trip Thursday, spent much of the day of his return meeting with different ASU officials, from board members, to the SGA president to Dr. Silver.
Bentley spoke briefly during Friday's board meeting, offering his condolences to the Silver family, and speaking of how proud he was to be a part of last week's opening dedication to ASU's new football stadium. "You only have to look around this campus to see the tremendous progress that Alabama State has made..." Bentley said.
"This university is vitally important to this community, to our state and to our nation," Bentley explained, saying that the students are the top priority and should not be forgotten.
Some of ASU's 6,000 students, who are very vocal in their support of Dr. Silver, took issue with statements made by Chairman Dean during an interview after the board meeting ended. As students chanted outside for Dr. Silver, Dean was asked for his reaction to their overwhelming support. "Students are students," Dean said. "They're children. I respect children. This board respects children."Dean added that "It used to be that they were not heard," but touted the board he chairs, saying that it hears their voices.
Dean, continuing to call the students "children" several times, said of their support for Silver, "They think they're doing what's right, and that's alright. They're children, but we respect them..."
Some students took to Twitter following the interview to WSFA 12 News that Dean's comments were "disrespectful" and to remind him that they are not children.