Former Jackson State University Vice President Dr. Debra Mays-Jackson is alleging that the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees engaged in sexually discriminatory hiring practices after it skipped over her to hire Thomas Hudson as the historically Black university’s president in 2020.
IHL suddenly placed Hudson on administrative leave in February 2023; he resigned from the position at Mississippi’s largest HBCU in March without explanation from him or the board that oversees Mississippi’s colleges and universities.
Mays-Jackson filed her complaint on Nov. 17—the same day IHL announced Marcus L. Thompson as JSU’s new president to replace Hudson. It names 11 current and former IHL board members in addition to the commissioner, Alfred Rankins Jr., as defendants and asks a jury to award compensatory damages and name Mays-Jackson as JSU’s president.
IHL appointed Hudson as interim president in February 2020 when William Bynum resigned after Clinton police arrested him in a prostitution sting; at the time of his appointment, Hudson had been serving as Bynum’s special assistant to the president.
The board permanently appointed Hudson to the position in November 2020 after a shortened IHL search. The lawsuit alleges that Mays-Jackson was not allowed to apply for the position because IHL did not conduct a standard nationwide search.
Lawsuit Cites Misconduct Allegations
At the time of Thomas Hudson’s initial appointment, Dr. Debra Mays-Jackson served as JSU’s vice president and chief of staff. In that role, she oversaw JSU’s departments of public safety, student affairs, student government associations and residential activities; internal audits of university assets; and the management of JSU’s Title III grants. Her title placed her second in charge and required her presence in Bynum’s absence. It also placed her in a supervisory role over Hudson.
Before that, she served as the first woman vice president of Hinds Community College-Utica campus in 2013. Her tenure at Hinds saw increased enrollment at the Utica and Vicksburg campuses, a re-establishment of the campus’s historic agriculture program and
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