Eric Taunton, News Correspondent
The Jacksonville State University Board of Trustees voted to approve family medical leave for JSU President John Beehler during an emergency meeting on Saturday, Sept. 21.
In an email to students, Beehler indicated that he requested the leave to “give my full, immediate attention to close family members suffering from serious medical issues.”
Beehler’s evaluation started at 11 a.m. that morning but was recessed until after his 90-day leave of absence.
According to Randall Jones, Chairman of the JSU Board of Trustees, the meeting was not called as a result of the reported statutory rape cases that are being investigated by the Calhoun-Cleburne Major Crimes Unit. Instead, it was called to conduct an annual review of the president and discuss insurance arbitration between JSU and state insurers regarding Merrill Hall.
“I do want to stress that we maintain a safe campus,” said Jones. “In regard to the current reports, nothing has indicated that any of our students are at risk or will be at risk from the matters related to the investigation.”
On Sept. 12, students were made aware via email of “possible criminal conduct” taking place on campus and encouraged students to be cautious and report any suspicious activity. This was shortly before the Anniston Star reported that several rape cases between Jan. 1 and Sept. 3 were being investigated.
More than a week later, a letter from Chairman Jones himself was emailed to students informing them of the decision that the trustees made on Sept. 21.
“First, it was announced during an emergency trustee meeting on Saturday that President Beehler will take a 90-day leave of absence beginning Oct. 1 to focus family health issues,” said Jones in the email. “Although the timing is unfortunate, his leave is no way related to the accusations of secondary (statutory) rape alleged to involve JSU.”
Jones said that a management team will run the university during Beehler’s leave, including Christie Shelton, provost and vice president for academic affairs; Jim Brigham, vice president for finance and administration; and Don Killingsworth, chief external affairs officer, who will act as the acting chief operations officer.