College President Retires Amidst Allegations Of Misconduct - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

College President Retires Amidst Allegations Of Misconduct

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by Aundrea Cline-Thomas

FRANKLIN, Tenn. - After 15 years, the President of O'More College of Design is taking early retirement, effective immediately. The decision comes as the school is embroiled in allegations of misconduct.

Four dozen students and parents stood in solidarity as board members from the O'More College of Design walked into the closed door meeting.

"We're not showing signs or gimmicks like that," student Sara Hayes explained. "But we do want to show them we're interested. We care and we're not going to go away.

Their calm is not to be mistaken for silence on issues they said are plaguing the college.

"We simply can't function in this environment. Budgets are frozen right now," student Misti Fahr said. "So we can't actually buy the supplies that we need to do what's we're here to do."

Faculty and staff signed a petition citing no confidence in the leadership of now former college president Dr. Mark Hilliard. In a letter to the board they accuse him of offering underage students alcohol, using the school's non-profit tax status for personal gain and overall mismanagement of funds.

NewsChannel 5 attempted to contact Dr. Hilliard multiple times at work, home and on his cell phone for comment after security asked us to leave the administration building.

"It is an individual problem not an institutional problem," Shari Fox, Executive Vice President said. "So what's happening in our classroom and the proud 43 year history of educating designers, that's still ongoing."

Fox runs the day-to-day operations and was provided to give us a comment on behalf of the college. But she too signed the petition citing "no confidence" in Hilliard's leadership. When asked why she said, "I believe (the allegations) to be true. I wouldn't put my name on anything I don't believe to be true. In my opinion and upon the information I have I do believe them to be true."

On Thursday, Dr. Hilliard will have an opportunity to address the accusations with the board. Chairman Scott Williams said Hilliard's response will determine if they will pursue the allegations further or even seek legal action.

Meantime, Rebecca Stilwell will serve as interim President. Board members said her finance and Human Resources background makes her the best suited for the position. She is not eligible for the permanent job. A search committee is being formed to find Hilliard's replacement.

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