South Carolina State University's former top academic official, in a letter to the school's Board of Trustees, said she will take legal action if she is not reinstated.
The Post and Courier obtained a copy of the letter Joyce Blackwell sent Sunday to members of the board. In the letter, Blackwell claims President George Cooper breached her contract when he removed her from her position as vice president for academic affairs without an explanation, placed her back in the classroom and slashed her salary from $140,000 to $90,000.
Blackwell declined an interview with The Post and Courier, because she said her attorney advised her against speaking publicly about the letter.
Cooper did not respond to a call for comment. University attorney Edwin Givens, in a prepared statement said, "S.C. State University vice presidents contractually agree that they will serve at the pleasure of the president. It is completely within the president's authority to remove a vice president from his or her post for any reason or no reason at all, if he deems in his judgment, it is in the best interest of the university."
Board Chairman Jonathan Pinson did not return a call or an email for comment.
Blackwell last week told the newspaper that she didn't know why Cooper removed her, but she suspected it had something to do with the process by which some low-performing academic programs were being eliminated, actions on which Cooper was involved or informed, she said.
She also said she was certain that her removal had nothing to do with her performance.
In the letter to the board, Blackwell said that just four days before she was demoted, Cooper had asked her to serve as acting president while he attended a conference in Florida.
And she claims Cooper demonstrated a "disturbing pattern of abuse of authority and discriminatory treatment" toward her, including:
Blackwell told board members in her letter that if the matter was not resolved internally before winter break, "I will have no option but to seek legal recourse."