Let’s play the game where we spot unenforceable contractual clauses and laugh at people who are afraid of modernity.

Actually, let’s play the game where we marvel at how good it must be to be a university president, even at a small school that most people have never heard of. Then we can imagine all the personal freedoms we’d willingly give up if we could in order to have such a life. Because I can think of a number of unmarried women who would cede control of their bedroom to the state in order to have such a sweet job….

Alabama State University (not to be confused with the University of Alabama) has hired a new president. Congratulations to Gwendolyn Boyd.

Boyd has a pretty good job. He salary is $300,000 a year, which is fun since the historically black college is facing a “damning audit,” according to Inside Higher Ed. That $300,000 is actually a big pay cut at ASU; the last guy made $685,000. Still, Boyd gets an expense account, a $1,000 car allowance, and the ability to live in the president’s house on-campus.

Though that last perk comes with a catch. Her contract states:

5.4 For so long as Dr. Boyd is president and a single person, she shall not be allowed to cohabitate in the president’s residence with any person with whom she has a romantic relation.

Has Alabama always been like this? Like even before the white man got there? If there was an Iroquois blogger back in the day, would he or she have written, “at least we don’t believe that state laws should invade the privacy of your fur skins like those hick Muscogee people.”

In any event, for her part Boyd didn’t seem troubled by this drastic infringement or her rights, nor did she particularly care to become informed about the legal standing of her contract. And really, aren’t those great qualities to have in your university president?

Boyd, who is single, said she didn’t have a lawyer when she signed the contract but has no problem with the language.

“I do live alone, so it was not problematic for me,” she said.

Yes, well, luckily for Boyd and for all university presidents everywhere, it’s likely that this clause is entirely unenforceable. As Raymond Cotton, a Washington lawyer who specializes in negotiating such contracts, told Insider Higher Ed, “I don’t know of any state that has the right to invade someone’s residence even if the state owns that residence. To convey that residence and dictate what kind of romantic relationship you can have in that facility — I mean, she’s not in prison.”

Remember, the clause isn’t just saying that she can’t “cohabitate” with any old person off the street. Actually, if she *did* just run a goddamn halfway house out of her new residence, it seems that would be fine. The clause attempts to restrict her from living with a person she’s in a “romantic” relationship with… unless she gets married.

That’s some nerve. I can’t tell is Alabama State is trying to be discriminatory towards gays and lesbians (I don’t think you’ll be surprised to hear that gay marriage has not been approved in Alabama), or if it’s trying to be discriminatory towards gays and lesbians AND enforce the pre-marital sex concepts more appropriate to 1014 than 2014. But whatever they’re trying to do, it’s dumb.

And they’re sending the wrong message. Whatever benefits you think you gain by having a president with old-school values, at a school, a historically black school no less, surely a more important lesson is to be educated about your rights.

President’s Home or Prison? [Inside Higher Ed.]


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