TOPEKA, KAN. >> A state university president in Kansas whose decision in June to cancel a virtual speech by Ivanka Trump angered donors and others resigned today, after less than a year in the job.
The Board of Regents, which oversees Kansas’ higher education system, did not say why Wichita State University President Jay Golden stepped down, offering no details on what led up to it. The university received national attention — and plenty of criticism — for dropping a virtual speech by President Donald Trump’s elder daughter for its technical school graduation.
“The Board is thankful for his service,” a statement from Bill Feuerborn, the regents’ chairman, said. “We are appreciative of his hard work and dedication to the university and are grateful for his commitment to serving students. We wish him well in all his future endeavors.”
Wichita State referred questions to a Board of Regents spokesman who did not return a telephone message from The Associated Press. A home phone number for Golden could not be found.
Regent Jon Rolph, a Wichita restaurateur, told The Wichita Eagle that Golden’s resignation was not related to the Ivanka Trump controversy.
“Being a part of the conversations around accepting Jay’s resignation today, that was clear,” he said.
However, Rolph said state privacy laws prohibit him from discussing the circumstances of the resignation, but added that there was “no impropriety.”
Golden canceled Ivanka Trump’s speech after students and faculty protested.
Steve Clark, a former Kansas regent from Wichita, sought Golden’s ouster in June and sent a letter then to board members saying Golden’s decision to cancel the speech by Ivanka Trump threatened a multimillion-dollar relationship with Koch Industries, the vast conglomerate led by billionaire and conservative political donor Charles Koch.
Clark said Friday that Golden, who previously served as vice chancellor and professor of engineering at East Carolina University in North Carolina, “wasn’t a good cultural fit for our Midwest values here.”
“I don’t think he was very good at balancing the interests of all the university stakeholders, the students, alums, faculty and donors and considering all things,” Clark said. “I think it’s better for him and much better for the university.”
Clark is the chairman and CEO of a Wichita investment firm and served as chairman of search committees for both Golden and his predecessor, John Bardo. Golden became president in January, after Bardo died in March 2019.
Clark told the regents in June that canceling Trump’s speech damaged the school’s reputation with high-profile donors and relationships could be restored only if Golden left.
“There were numerous issues,” Clark said Friday. “There were a lot of people upset at the Trump decision. He had his own agenda and he appeared to maybe not take, as I said, all stakeholders’ interests into consideration.”
But Kansas House Minority Leader Tom Sawyer, a Wichita Democrat, said the announcement caught him by surprise and that Golden appeared to be popular with students.
“I certainly hope it has nothing to do with the Trump thing,” he said. “I would be disappointed if somebody would lose their job over that.”
Wichita State has 14,000 students, including some 3,000 at its technical school and is home to a national institute on aviation research. Parts of Wichita and its suburbs are politically conservative, and Donald Trump carried the county in 2016 by 18 percentage points. Ivanka Trump visited WSU Tech last year to promote its training programs.
The regents’ statement said Wichita State Provost Rick Muma will serve as acting president while the board considers options for an interim president.