Morehouse’s new president discusses long to-do list

Morehouse College’s new president laid out his goals Friday for the campus, which include boosting four-year graduation rates, doubling its endowment and working with neighboring schools in the Atlanta University Center to stop sexual misconduct.

David A. Thomas, who took office New Year's Day, told reporters in his first news conference, that student, faculty and administrative leaders from Morehouse, Clark Atlanta University, Spelman College and Morehouse School of Medicine will meet later this month to discuss joint training and other ideas to address sexual harassment and violence.

Some AUC students late last year began an awareness campaign on the campuses and on social media called #weknowwhatyoudid to raise concerns that administrators weren't taking sexual misconduct claims seriously. Administrators at each school said they would work to improve the investigative process, among other things.

Thomas, a Harvard University professor, administrator and former dean of Georgetown University's McDonough School of Business, addressed another ongoing issue in a brief interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, saying he hopes Morehouse has a formal policy concerning transgender students by this fall. Morehouse is the nation's only historically black college for men.

Morehouse has been without a permanent president since April when it released John S. Wilson two months before his contract expired. Interim president William Taggart died in June. Board member Harold Martin stepped in as interim president from June through December.

Thomas said he wants next fall’s freshman class to have a four-year graduation rate of 70 percent. The current rate, he said, is slightly above 40 percent.

His motto for students: “In the door, out in four.”

Thomas said Morehouse faculty will better track student performance through a more “intervention-oriented” advisement system to boost graduation rates. Some area campuses, such as Georgia State University, have used a similar concept, called “predictive analytics,” to track student data to help them academically.

Thomas, like many college administrators, talked about improving alumni giving, but said he wants graduates to help recruit students and serve as mentors.

The new Morehouse president said he hopes the federal government takes a “doing no harm” approach to higher education funding, saying he’d like to see policies that make it easier for students to access financial aid. About 85 percent of Morehouse students receive some sort of financial aid, he said.