Southern University at New Orleans campus. Photo courtesy of HCF’s Division of Communications and Marketing.

NEW ORLEANS, LA – Southern University at New Orleans (SUNO) Chancellor Lisa Mims-Devezin has stepped down, just months after the institution was placed on probation by its a accrediting agency and a top administrator became the subject of a federal fraud investigation.

Miss-Devezin’s departure from her post was approved by the Southern University Board of Supervisors back in October, according to a source and to board documents and officials.

She was replaced effectively by James Ammons, the current executive Vice President of the Southern University System and executive vice chancellor of Southern University in Baton Rouge.

Ray Becton, the president and chancellor of the Southern system, told the board on October 14 that Mims-Devezin was “requesting that her employment contract not be renewed.”

In a letter to Becton, also written October 14. Mims-Devezin asked for a month of paid leave at her chancellor’s salary and six-month sabbatical before returning as a faculty member at the College of Arts and Sciences. Her contract was set to expire on December 31.

“I was not fired, nor did I resign,” said Mims-Devezin in an email according to source. “My contract will run its course and expire.”

She touted campus expansion and a rise in research funding during her tenure.

“Clearly, we are charting new territories to build upon the rich history of Southern University at New Orleans,” said Mims-Devezin. “Because of the unwavering commitment to this institution, I strongly believe that the best is yet to come.”

Professors and members of SUNO’s Faculty Senate said the news of her departure as chancellor came suddenly, though after months of controversy at the university. Most SUNO employees learned about the leadership change after documents from the board meeting were posted online.’

This summer, the university was placed on probation by its accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Commission on Colleges, because of chronic financial management issues. Then, in late August, SUNO officials announced plans to furlough employees and increase teaching loads for the faculty. Those measures went into effect in September.

Under the terms of its probation, SUNO will have two years to get on firmer financial ground or it could lose its accreditation, which could mean an end to federal loans and grants for students. Accréditons will do another review in June.

SUNO has struggled for years to deal with dwindling enrollment and state budget cuts, which have forced it to rely on tuition to fund a larger share of its $23.6 million annual operating budget.

Mims-Devezin was named chancellor in late 2016. She had been the interim chancellor and before that dean of the College of Arts & Sciences. She replaced Victor Ukpolo, who resigned as SUNO chancellor after a decade on the job as the school faced one of the lowest graduation rates in the country and a bleak financial outlook.

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