On December 21, 2016, N.C. Central University’s Miron Billingsley left his position as vice chancellor of Student Affairs. As word about his resignation spread, rumors began to circulate about why Billingsley left the university.
The Campus Echo attempted to investigate his departure and find truth in the growing rumors – but not without experiencing trouble along the way.
One of the most frustrating issues this reporter faced during the investigation was obtaining information from a number of University sources. This difficulty stunted this reporter’s ability to verify anonymous tips given to the Echo about Billingsley’s departure.
The Echo received anonymous emails claiming that Billingsley had used an apartment in graduate student housing for what one could only describe as “very private” purposes. One tip, provided by a former Residential Housing Association president, even claimed that former Residential Life Director Ronnie Davis, an individual brought to NCCU by Billingsley from his former university, may have provided Billingsley with access to the apartment.
Early in our investigation, The Echo also discovered that numerous former employees at Prairie View A&M had accused Billingsley of being a “bully,” “power-hungry,” and “sexist.” The Echo also discovered an incident report filed by the Durham Police Department. According to the report, Billingsley was involved in an aggravated assault on Nov. 8, 2016. The incident happened on the 600 block of Martha Street, the location of NCCU’s graduate student apartments.
The victim was reported to have sustained minor injuries from the aggravated assault. Durham police filed the case’s disposition as “unfounded,” which means that the police found little to no evidence to support the victim’s reported claims. According to the incident report, the case has been closed.
An NCCU police officer said a university detective was investigating Billingsley, but when the reporter reached out to the NCCU Chief of Police to confirm this, she declined to comment, saying, “The only time it is appropriate for our police department to comment on cases is for safety tips or assistance in identifying people suspected of criminal activity or persons of interest related to a crime for identification purposes.”
One would think that when evidence is discovered, and claims are being made, the parties involved would want to immediately dispel them, explain what really happened, and move on. Instead, the reporter encountered information gridlock.
University Relations declined to comment on Billingsley’s resignation, stating, “North Carolina Central University’s practice is to not comment on personnel matters.” Personnel matters can be a broad umbrella, but Billingsley was not just any NCCU employee – he was vice chancellor of student affairs!
The Echo contacted Ronnie Davis, former director of residential life, for comments about the allegations against Billingsley. Davis’ last day at NCCU, according to University Relations, was Jan. 31, just weeks after Billingsley’s departure.
In a three-minute phone call to Albany State University, his new employer, Davis declined to answer questions about Billingsley, and threatened to call his lawyers for legal action against the reporter and the Campus Echo.
When the Echo emailed Davis at his Albany State University address for comments on the allegations, he replied from his personal email. Davis’ email purported to be a “cease and desist order,” something typically written by a judge. In the email, Davis claimed he had been “harassed by the Campus Echo since my second day of employment at North Carolina Central University.” He mentioned “continued personal attacks” on him by the Echo.
In fact, the Echo had featured Davis in just three stories, none of which were critical of him or of Residential Life. Davis was quoted in the Echo for basic information about Residential Life and campus events.
One has to wonder why Davis responded to simple questions by threatening legal action against the Echo.
The responses we got from the University, NCCU police, and Davis left us with more questions than answers.
For now, we don’t know the true story. What we have found is that it can be close to impossible to get information about NCCU business through official campus channels, especially in situations that could make the University look bad.
Regardless, the Campus Echo will continue to search for the truth in every story.
Interim Chancellor Johnson O. Akinleye has appointed Gary Brown interim vice chancellor for the Division of Student Affairs. The University is conducting a national search for Billingsley’s replacement.
Those with further information regarding this incident are invited to contact the Campus Echo at firstname.lastname@example.org or (919) 530-7116.
Editorial by Tia Mitchell with Evan Owens