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Investigation finds no bullying before suicide of top historically Black Missouri college leader

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March 22, 2024
By The Associated Press

FILE - John Moseley prepares to be sworn in as the 21st president of Lincoln University, Sept. 9, 2022, in Jefferson City, Mo. Moseley, the president of a historically Black Missouri university, has been reinstated after an independent investigation cleared him of claims that he bullied Antoinette Bonnie Candia-Bailey, another top administrator, before she killed herself this year, university leaders announced Thursday, March 21, 2024. (Julie Smith/The Jefferson City News-Tribune via AP, File)

The president of a historically Black Missouri university has been reinstated after an independent investigation cleared him of claims that he bullied another top administrator before she killed herself this year, university leaders announced Thursday.

Lincoln University curators called Antoinette Bonnie Candia-Bailey’s January death tragic in an open letter to students and alumni. They said an investigation by law firm Lewis Rice found no evidence that President John Moseley bullied her.

A spokesperson said curators voted 7-1 to reinstate Moseley, who was on paid leave pending the results of the investigation.

“For us, this report is not the end of a process, but rather the beginning of one,” Board of Curators President Victor Pasley said in a statement. “None of its findings have led the Board to doubt President Moseley’s ability to lead the University, but this tragedy has forced us to grapple more fully with issues facing Lincoln and our individual students and employees – ranging from mental health support to employee work and relationships.”


In a statement, Moseley said he’s grateful for the board’s vote of confidence in him and that he’s looking forward to returning to work at the mid-Missouri school.

Many of the school’s 1,800 students and its alumni group called for Moseley’s termination following Candia-Bailey’s death. A string of #firemoseley social media posts questioned his qualifications, his treatment of the Black administrator and whether it was appropriate for a white man who had been serving as the school’s athletic director and basketball coach to lead a historically Black college.

Monica Graham, a Lincoln graduate and longtime friend of Candia-Bailey, said Thursday she’s “disgusted” and “sick to her stomach” about the results of the investigation, which she said are biased because the law firm was paid and hired by the university. She wants the curators, who hired Moseley, to be held accountable, too.

“The university got blood on their hands,” she said.

Curators admitted that Moseley’s communication style is “direct” and that workplace stress under his leadership led to office tensions. Board members said they’re working with the president on staff training and resources to address those issues.

Graham has said her friend killed herself days after being fired as vice president of student affairs. Graham shared an email in which Candia-Bailey detailed the problems she was having with Moseley, including saying that he harassed her and alluded to her being “an angry Black woman,” which she described as a “stereotype that has demoralized Black women for decades.”

Candia-Bailey wrote that the situation deteriorated after she requested time off through the Family and Medical Leave Act to deal with her “severe depression and anxiety.”

The Lewis Rice investigation found that Candia-Bailey was not eligible for extended time off under the federal law because she had not yet been employed at the university for a year and that the school granted her accommodations to work at home occasionally and use accrued time off.

The university has hired three counselors and created a committee tasked with improving employee and student wellness programs in response to concerns about mental health care raised in the wake of Candia-Bailey’s death.

“An important lesson from this tragic loss of a university administrator who oversaw the mental health services on campus is that simple access to mental health support services is not always enough,” curators wrote in the open letter. “We must move beyond access to acceptance and normalization so that all of our employees and students know that it is normal — and sometimes vital — to seek help.”

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