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HBCU administrator's death by suicide prompts calls for president's resignation

HBCU administrator's death by suicide prompts calls for president's resignation

Calls for the resignation of Lincoln University of Missouri President John Moseley are growing following the death of Antoinette "Bonnie" Candia-Bailey, a university alum and vice president of student affairs who died by suicide on Jan. 8.

Candia-Bailey began working at Lincoln University, a historically Black university in Jefferson City, Missouri, in May 2023. She received a termination letter on Jan. 3. The letter stated that she was terminated for cause, including allegations of insubordination in allowing an ineligible student to work, allowing ineligible students to obtain a discounted housing rate and failing to adhere to confidentiality requirements in a grievance matter filed by two of her subordinates.

In a letter dated Jan. 8 addressed to Moseley and obtained by ABC News, Candia-Bailey said she experienced months of harassment, bullying and differential treatment from her white colleagues while working under Moseley and his administrative leadership.

In her letter to Moseley, Candia-Bailey recalled an apparent meeting between the two: “I couldn't even finish the meeting because you didn't hear me. I left in tears. You intentionally harassed and bullied me and got satisfaction from sitting back to determine how you would ensure I failed as an employee and proud alumna."

Candia-Bailey also stated in the letter that she was never made aware of concerns about her performance until a November 2023 performance review and was never given an action plan to address the concerns afterward.

Candia-Bailey also had submitted complaints to HR and to the Board of Curators about Moseley, according to other emails and letters obtained by ABC News.

PHOTO: Dr. John Moseley. (Lincoln University)
PHOTO: Dr. John Moseley. (Lincoln University)

Candia-Bailey, 49, had previously worked as vice president of student affairs and chief diversity officer and Title IX coordinator at Elms College in Chicopee, Massachusetts, according to Lincoln University's announcement of Candia-Bailey's hiring. She also served in administrative positions at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Towson University, North Carolina A&T State University and North Carolina State University.

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Following her death, Lincoln University’s Board of Curators announced plans to “engage a third-party expert to fully review potential personnel issues and concerns recently raised regarding compliance with the University’s established policies and procedures," read a statement sent by the university to ABC News.

Moseley, 47, volunteered to be placed on paid, administrative leave while that review is conducted, according to the Board of Curators.

Moseley has a doctorate in educational leadership and policy analysis, according to a university website profile. He was previously the director of athletics at the university and the head men's basketball coach before taking over the position as president, according to Moseley's LinkedIn profile. Previously, he was associate head coach at North Carolina Central University, another HBCU, according to the profile.

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Moseley has not yet returned ABC News’ request for comment. The university has not yet responded to further requests for comment.

“As a Board, we are committed to make certain the mental health of Lincoln University employees is a priority and that every employee is always treated with dignity and respect,” said Board of Curators President Victor Pasley.

He continued, “The Board has confidence in the leadership team we have at Lincoln, but as we all work together to serve students and the Lincoln University community, this review will fully examine important questions, concerns and gather facts."

Moseley is facing calls to resign from the university's students and alumni after the alleged complaints against him were revealed.

"The present administration has become a liability to the mission and health of the institution," said Lincoln University Alumni President Sherman Bonds in a Jan. 9 letter to the president and Board of Curators. In the letter, he demanded "a change in the Office of the Presidency of the University effective immediately."

He added, "The Board of Curators has the fiduciary responsibility to ensure there comes no harm to the institution's mission or brand. Today, I, along with many others, assert this appeal to you and the Board. We -- the community, family members, friends, and alumni -- seek a path to healing."

LU students took to campus protesting Moseley's tenure last week, according to the Jefferson City News Tribune.

Friends and family of Candia-Bailey told ABC News she had recently signaled signs of stress and unhappiness with her workplace.

PHOTO: Dr. Antoinette 'Bonnie' Candia-Bailey. (Lincoln University)
PHOTO: Dr. Antoinette 'Bonnie' Candia-Bailey. (Lincoln University)

In a letter obtained by ABC News, Lincoln University said it conducted an investigation in December 2023 into concerns reported by Candia-Bailey that Moseley was making jokes about and disclosed her mental health to others and that it “did not find that Dr. Moseley engaged in such actions.”

The letter adds, “the investigator determined that you have taken no responsibility for the poor work you have done since your arrival at the University, and have set yourself against Dr. Moseley, believing he is the problem and that it is his responsibility to provide you with actionable items to make you feel better in your position as Vice President of Student Affairs, Dean of Students.”

Candia-Bailey is remembered fondly by her loved ones, who say she was a hard worker.

Kendra Perry, a Lincoln University alum and close friend of Candia-Bailey’s for almost 30 years, told ABC News in an interview that she knew about Candia-Bailey before meeting her on campus in the 1990s.

“I had met some of her friends and they said ‘when you meet Bonnie, you’re going to love Bonnie. Oh my god, just wait until you meet her.’ So I'm like, ‘Wow, I'm intrigued’ because they spoke so highly of her. And it could not have been any truer when I met her.”

Perry described Candia-Bailey as a motivator, who was a mentor as well as a friend.

"I was in the same spot that she was in and bullied by my boss and I was being beat up on," said Perry. She said Candia-Bailey drove two hours to meet up with Perry during the day to talk about what Perry was experiencing: "When I went to see her, I started crying. Like, I cried like a baby because I was holding it in and I was so angry. But I was able to be humble around her. I could just be myself and cry and blubber and just express myself. It was a no judgment zone."

In a Jan. 12 statement, Candia-Bailey's family said she was known for her "vibrant personality, quick wit, and infectious smile."

"Born with an extroverted spirit, she never met a stranger and was admired for her kind and compassionate nature," said LaDonna Candia-Flanagan, her aunt. "Dr. Bonnie's confidence, unique style, and her ability to challenge the thoughts of others set her apart as a true leader."

Lincoln University in Missouri is not associated with Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, another HBCU.

If you are struggling with thoughts of suicide or worried about a friend or loved one, call or text the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 for free, confidential emotional support 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

HBCU administrator's death by suicide prompts calls for president's resignation originally appeared on abcnews.go.com