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Friday, September 29, 2006

Delaware State U. library festering mold problem not a priority

Judging from their statements, Delaware State University officials have their priorities for capital improvements in a peculiar order. Artificial turf on the football field, a wellness center-sports arena and a new student center come first. Then they'll work on solving the mold problem in the university library.

Never mind the potential nasal stuffiness, throat irritation, coughing or wheezing, eye or skin irritation that students with mold allergies might contract. Never mind that some people could even have more severe reactions.

Because few students apparently use the library, President Allen L. Sessoms justifies putting this problem on the back burner. He's supported by the chairman of the board of trustees, who contends that the Internet has outpaced libraries as a research tool for students.

Actually, the Internet has outpaced books as the primary research tool for college students. The American Library Association says Internet access is almost universal in libraries at institutions with enrollments of over 1,500 (98 percent). DSU has about 3,200 students.

And the computer lab in the mold-riddled William C. Jason Library-Learning Center was open and operating this week with students.

If, as the university contends, this building has been a maintenance problem since it opened 20 years ago, then the bigger question is what will it take to get its problems to the front burner? A lawsuit from an asthmatic student? This administration definitely doesn't need more legal challenges.

If the library is to be closed, renovated or razed, the health of the students should be the primary reason for doing it.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Coach has Prairie View turning a corner

When Henry Frazier III was living on the East Coast, he knew enough about Prairie View A&M football to joke about it.
Frazier, then the head coach at Bowie State in Maryland, was introduced to a new school staff member who was a Prairie View alum.

"The first thing I said was, 'You've got an awful football team,' " Frazier said.

Since then, Frazier has gained first-hand knowledge of Prairie View. In December 2003, he became the latest coach hired to resurrect the nation's worst football program, one that set an NCAA record by losing 80 consecutive games.

"This is the greatest opportunity in all of college sports," Frazier said. "There was no opportunity like that besides Prairie View. Everyone had documented the losing. I said that if I could turn this around, people may say I can coach a little."
Frazier admits that it was partly an ego thing, and that friends thought he was crazy to leave Bowie. He was young, successful and figured that he could always get another job if he fell on his face.

So far, he's exceeded all expectations but his own.

Nobody is saying that Prairie View is back, even though the Panthers take a 2-1 record into Saturday's State Fair Classic against Southwestern Athletic Conference opponent Grambling State.
But no one laughs, not anymore.

"It's been a sight to see," said Hakeem Muhammad, a sophomore defensive back from Skyline who was the SWAC newcomer of the year in 2005.

After winning three games in 2004, Frasier took Prairie View to 5-6 last season.

This year, the Panthers beat Southern for the first time since 1971. A winning season would be its first in 30 years.
"I think we've turned the corner ... there's still a couple more corners to turn to get to where we want to be," said athletic director Charles McClelland, who increased football scholarships to the Division I-AA maximum of 63.
Frazier turned around Bowie State in five seasons. He faced an enormous challenge at his new school.
Think of what Bill Snyder confronted at Kansas State en route to the "Manhattan Miracle."

Then multiply it by 10.
Frazier wasn't the only person making fun of Prairie View back in the 90s. The school, located about 45 miles northwest of Houston, endured a losing streak that spanned from 1989 to 1998. The Panthers once lost 92-0 to Alabama State. In 1991-92 after scholarships were slashed, the football and men's and women's basketball teams combined to go 0-65.
Even after the streak ended, Prairie View's troubles continued. Frazier's predecessor, C.L. Whittington, went 1-10 in his only season.

During his job interview, Frazier saw the doubts and skepticism about the program "in everybody, from the cleaning people to the administration to the players," he said. "They didn't believe in themselves. They didn't believe they could do it."
Frazier has relied on a formula incorporating steps for each season. The first revolved around a series of questions involved "what." The second focused on "when." This year is "why."
The turnaround has been more than gimmick. Frazier focuses on his players off the field too. He has an open-door policy and leads Bible study every Wednesday.

Prairie View A&M running back Arnell Fontenot (28) has rushed for 255 yards (4.25 average) and three TDs.
"The only thing that made everybody buy into it is that Coach had been in this situation before," senior linebacker Van Sallier said. "He made us believe that we were going to win."

Frazier also challenged his coaching staff. After Prairie View finished spring practice, Frazier and his assistants toured 11 major college camps, including Texas, LSU, Oklahoma and TCU.

Frazier has emphasized defense. Prairie View enters Saturday's game allowing just 197 yards a game, tops in the SWAC. Depth has grown. Even Muhammad has found it difficult to crack this year's starting lineup.

The offense is led by junior Arnell Fontenot, who is on pace to lead Prairie View in rushing for the third consecutive season.
A win over Grambling would be Prairie View's first – that word again – in 20 years.

Frazier knows not to be fooled by the Tigers' 0-3 start. Nor will Prairie View's rebuilding be judged by one game.
He and his players know the progress they've made.

"We've accomplished many things," Sallier said. "Within, we know it's been very successful.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Now TSU, law school should join

The first class of the Nashville School of Law at Tennessee State University was set to graduate this year.
But there was no pomp and circumstance. No happy tears. No tassel-moving. Like a weird version of "It's a Wonderful Life," there was no graduation because there is no law school. A merger of the two schools never happened.

It should have happened. Still should now. Still can now. It's a marriage made in heaven: TSU needs a law school to raise its prestige and help diversify its campus. The Nashville School of Law needs to affiliate with a university so it can gain accreditation — without it, its grads cannot practice law outside Tennessee state lines.

A yearlong effort to merge the two in 2002 fizzled like a rain-soaked sparkler. But this is now. The 38-year-old desegregation case was gaveled to a close last week. TSU stands to get millions of dollars in the court settlement. And at least one powerful TSU alumnus believes it's time to try again for a law school, with or without the Nashville School of Law.
"Yes, it can happen," said State. Sen. Thelma Harper. "Why shouldn't we have a law school? With the energized alumni association across the country, and with the local input and with the administration's input, I think it has an opportunity to happen like never before. There is not a better time than now."

The Nashville School of Law opened in 1911. It offers low-cost night law classes for working people. It's also a political petri dish, breeding judges, council members, prosecutors and renowned defense attorneys.
But it can be accredited nationally only if there's a full-time faculty. Longtime NSOL officials, such as Dean Joe C. Loser Jr., have feared accreditation would prove too expensive to benefit the type students they have now and want to keep. Loser did not return a phone call last week.

In 2001, a proposed settlement agreement was reached in the desegregation lawsuit. It gave the law school and TSU a year to discuss a possible merger (the law school was not involved in the lawsuit).

They did just that, coming up with a brilliant proposal: The law school would merge with TSU and set up shop in Nashville's old downtown library. They would continue to have night classes but also would have a full-time day program.
They got down to brass tacks, but the whole thing fell apart.

TSU Prof.Ray Richardson, an adviser to the president, said last week they would love to have a law school, in theory.
"We're still gung ho," he said. "The reason we're not pushing for it is that we signed on to the agreement that if the Nashville School of Law did not come on board, then we would get a Ph.D. program. We can't get a Ph.D. program and turn around and ask the state for a law school.

The main reason the deal fell apart was NSOL officials feared the state's precarious financial position. Those involved said if the state's financial status ever changed, the door would reopen.

Well, lookie here: One lawsuit settled? Check. Millions of available dollars? Check. State government in good financial shape? Check. One wide open door? Check.
If not now, then when? •

Monday, September 25, 2006

TSU gets $40M boost from deseg case

Calling it a "shot in the arm," Tennessee State University President Melvin Johnson detailed how the university will spend $40 million from a settlement in a lengthy desegregation case.

The windfall consists of state and federal matching funds and will be disbursed over the next five years, but TSU already has a plan, Johnson said.

"Enrollment is what we strive for," he said. "Enrollment comes when you have high-quality programs."

Along with $30 million that will go to a new TSU Endowment for Educational Excellence, an additional $10 million will be used to implement new programs and enhance existing ones, as well as supplement financial-aid programs.

A majority of the windfall will go to TSU's Avon Williams Campus in downtown Nashville.
Pushing enrollment is vital, Johnson said after the settlement was announced Thursday.

"Welcoming diversity is a big part of increasing enrollment — it's not only a black and white issue, it's gender and age," Johnson said. "We want to be open to everyone. We have to serve the Hispanic community and any other ethnic group."
Johnson said the settlement money gives TSU the resources to grow as it has wanted to grow, not only in curriculum but also in numbers.

The settlement "marks the end of an era and the beginning of new opportunities, not only for Tennessee State University but also for the citizens of this community," Johnson said, adding that TSU wants to be Nashville's public university.
Filed in 1968 by Rita Sanders Geier, a former TSU instructor who challenged racial segregation in the state's higher education system, the lawsuit was ended Thursday morning in federal court.

As a result of the case, TSU has received approximately $200 million over the past 15 years. Most of that money — roughly $127 million — was used for new buildings and renovations at TSU's main campus on John Merritt Drive. About $23.5 million has been used to renovate the Avon Williams Campus.

TSU financial aid programs will use its $5 million piece of the settlement to establish scholarships for nontraditional students and reduce tuition for graduates of the area's community colleges — Nashville State Technical College, Columbia State Community College and Volunteer State Community College.

Another $5 million of the settlement money will be used to pay for new programs and expand existing ones.
As for the $30 million for the Endowment for Educational Excellence, the state contribution consists of about $15 million, supplemented by federal matching funds. •

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Higher enrollment, refinancing could help Benedict balance budget

Benedict College has enrolled 2,508 students so far for the fall semester, president David Swinton said Friday, and has about 70 more students who are in classes and awaiting approval of their financial aid packages.

The historically black college on Columbia’s Harden Street had 2,552 students last fall, and was forced to cut employee pay and spending when the 2005 enrollment lagged expectations.

Stabilizing enrollment will allow the college to have a balanced budget, Swinton said, and to work on easing the college’s approximately $106 million debt.

In their fall quarterly meeting, Benedict trustees spent about three hours in closed session with banking representatives discussing conversion of about $20 million of the college’s short-term debt into long-term debt.

The refinancing agreement is vital to easing the financial crunch brought on by several years of borrowing and deficit spending.

Trustees voted to instruct Swinton to move quickly to negotiate the final terms of a refinancing agreement, which then would be taken up in a special session of the trustees.

Trustee Steve Morrison, outlining the actions of the finance committee, said the school was getting control over a troubled finance office, looking to hire a comptroller and a budget director, and catching up past-due debts to local businesses.

Each year since 1997, the Education Department has cited Benedict for deficiencies in solving accounting and policy problems left from previous years.

“We were not paying our partners in the community on a timely basis and we were borrowing to pay those debts,” Morrison said. He said payment of monthly bills is now taking place in 30 to 45 days.

He said the college hopes to have the two key financial officers hired by January, to which trustee William Diggs said, “Wait a minute. That’s one of our weak areas. We need those people now.”

Finance director Brenda Walker said January was the outside timetable to hire the two people, and she hoped it would be done sooner.

Morrison said several measures over the past year have helped cut spending and balance the budget:

• Employees must shoulder more of the health care cost with higher co-payments.

• Salaries were cut 5.6 percent on an annual basis.

• Some positions were left vacant.

• Travel and discretionary spending was restricted.

• Doing custodial work with college staff instead of contractors saved about $150,000.

• Managing food service with college staff instead of contractors saved about $1.6 million.

New trustees Vince Ford and Darrell Jackson attended their first board meeting Friday. Ford’s first question was to have his own copy of the college’s directors and officers insurance policy, which provides liability coverage for the trustees. Swinton promised him a copy, which he said provides $10 million in coverage per incident.

The trustees engaged in a lengthy, introspective, and sometimes tense discussion of the quality of the information the board members receive, and the oversight role the board should play.

It started with the finance committee report. Members who had attended the meeting had information that was not provided to other trustees.

“The whole board is responsible for what is done, not just the committee,” Diggs said. “I’m going to ask questions about finances in this meeting.”

“There has to be a better way for committees to bring us solutions,” trustee LeRoy Walker said. “We have plenty of good information within the board. We are not processing it effectively.”

Trustee James Clark, who chairs the finance committee, responded: “I hear what Rev. Diggs and Dr. Walker are saying. I’m willing to serve on any committee to improve our flow of information.”

Swinton grew defensive when Jackson asked for copies of the finance committee documents.

“I want to be a little cautious about asking for the handouts. We’re not trying to have these out in the street,” Swinton said.

Jackson responded: “That’s not directed to Dr. Swinton,” adding that his request was to board chairman Charlie Johnson.

“I’m the president of the college,” Swinton said.

“You are not the chairman of the board,” Jackson said.

“Every member of this board has the same status,” Diggs said.

Swinton reiterated: “When something gets out from this body, it causes us problems, it hurts us.”

When asked to vote to approve the finance committee report, Jackson and Ford abstained, without comment.

Clark, the finance committee chairman, said to Jackson and Ford, “I’d ask you to tell me how to improve the report.”

Thursday, September 21, 2006

SU students rally against violence

Close to 1,000 students and others — concerned about violence in the neighborhood surrounding Southern University and how that violence affects the school’s image — cheered, chanted and danced Wednesday during a campus anti-violence march and rally.

The events came 11 days after a Jaguars’ fan was killed off-campus during the university’s first home football game against Mississippi Valley State.

Chancellor Edward Jackson called the student-organized event historic.

“You have moved the spirit of this university today and will be remembered for decades,” Jackson said at the rally following the march. “With this statement you have done more good than most can do in a lifetime.”

Southern law school student Tinashe Chimwaza said he didn’t know about the march until he heard the university’s band playing and people chanting, “Stop the violence; increase the peace.”

Although he didn’t join the march, he stopped and watched on his way to class. “I think it’s a good thing,” Chimwaza said. “I always believe movements on college campuses influence the communities around them.”

Students also are taking their efforts against violence to another level with a town-hall meeting set for 7 p.m. today and a community outreach initiative.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Grambling gets money for new projects

The Joint Legislative Committee on the Budget endorsed a plan to tear down 10 residence halls at Grambling State University and contract with a Valdosta, Ga., firm to construct new housing and convert a bookstore into a food court.
The construction would be done in phases, first demolishing Jones and Martha Adams halls at the start of the project and then knocking down Attucks, Bowen, Bethune, Douglas, Holland, Knott, Tubman and Truth halls.

The Grambling Black and Gold Foundation Inc. would design, finance, construct, furnish and manage 1,294-bed privatized housing on campus, purchase, renovate and manage the Steeple Glen 48-bed apartment complex and convert the bookstore building and connector into a food court and "hang-out place for Grambling students."

Monday, September 18, 2006

SAS visit could spell end of LeMoyne-Owen

LeMoyne-Owen College, already on probation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, could face the death penalty pending the results of an accreditation visit next month.

SACS placed LeMoyne on probation for "failure to demonstrate employment of competent faculty members" and the school's "lack of a recent history of financial stability." SACS will return to LeMoyne on Oct. 12 to see if the school has met standards required for accreditation. A final decision about the school's status is expected in December.

School leaders must pay off $7 million worth of debt, and needs to raise $1.9 million to cover the 2006-07 budget. The $1.5 million anonymous donation the school received several months ago was applied toward last year's expenses.

Grant to help revitalize Morgan community

Morgan State University will receive a $600,000 federal grant to help revitalize neighborhoods around its Northeast Baltimore campus, the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced this week.

Morgan will use the money to create a community revitalization plan, help develop a neighborhood charter school and convert a 200-year-old grist mill on campus into a "community welcome center," said university spokesman Clinton Coleman.

The grant is part of $10.4 million allocated this year by HUD's Office of University Partnerships to 13 historically black colleges and universities.

Historically black colleges are often in underserved neighborhoods, said Darlene Williams, assistant secretary for policy development and research at HUD, which is why they are targeted for assistance.

"Historically, they are in areas where there's been some significant shifting in the demographics over time," she said. "But black colleges and universities have also been a key economic engine for revitalizing the community that surrounds them."

Previous community-revitalization grants in Maryland include $500,000 in 2001 to Bowie State University and $550,000 in 2004 to the University of Maryland Eastern Shore for converting an abandoned 4.5-acre clam factory into a youth recreation center.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Construction costs stifle A&T’s plans

Administrators at N.C. A&T were planning on building a 65,000-square-foot, $19.2 million building for its School of Education.

Then they got the bid prices back.

The rising cost of construction materials took a bite out of the budget for the project, forcing the university to shave 7,000 square feet from the design.

Even with the alternative choice — which removed 15 offices, a computer lab and some classroom space — officials had to come up with an additional $1.4 million to pay for the structure.

The modifications are a point of concern for administrators in the school and come at a time when the UNC system has made teacher education a priority system-wide.

A&T’s board of trustees’ buildings and grounds subcommittee discussed the changes at a meeting Friday morning. The full board of trustees will consider the matter at its meeting Wednesday.

Willie T. Ellis Jr., A&T’s vice chancellor for business and finance, said the university’s commitment of $20.6 million to the project is evidence of the university’s dedication to teacher education.

If the money was available, the school would have it, Ellis said.

"We could not identify an additional $3 million to support the original design of that building," he said. "Based on the resources available at this point in time, this is the best we can do."

The dean of the School of Education said the building, as originally planned, was designed with the growth of the school in mind.

"To cut the facility designed for growth, when a major initiative is to provide more teachers, is very discouraging for my faculty," said Lelia Vickers, the dean.

Vickers said everyone at the meeting had a clear commitment to teacher education and her job was to advocate for the best facilities possible for her students.

"When we look at all the reports out there from around the world that say we’re being challenged in competing, one of the areas we have to improve if anything is education. Where you start with that is training highly qualified educators to go out to the schools," she said.

Other administrators at the school said students already felt that they didn’t have equal facilities compared to other spaces around campus.

"We feel our students should have an equal environment on campus," said Dorothy Leflore, a member of the school’s faculty.

The School of Education, which has about 1,000 graduate and undergraduate students, is based in 52-year-old Hodgin Hall; additional offices are in Corbett Gym and the Fort Building.

In addition to the new building — which is named after former Chancellor James Renick — the school is also in line to get additional space in the Yanceyville Center, a facility being renovated on Yanceyville Street.

A&T started work on the Renick building about two weeks ago and the project is scheduled to be finished in December 2007.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Massey to retire as Morehouse president

Morehouse College President Walter E. Massey announced Thursday that he will retire from his post at the end of the academic year.

Massey, 69, said Thursday that Morehouse's Opening Convocation was "bittersweet."

He said he had been talking with the board for two years about retiring and waited to do so until key leadership positions were filled and the school's ambitious capital campaign had come to a close.

"I'm leaving the college in very good shape," he said at the ceremony. "We have a key and dedicated professional faculty. We've increased levels of efficiency and Morehouse is a fiscally sound institution."

He touched on the highs and lows Morehouse has experienced in the last year in his speech, including the butal murder of a student by current and former Morehouse students, and the college's tumble in the Black Enterprise magazine rankings of best colleges for African American students.

Massey called the magazine "misinformed."The rating dropped from number one to 45 this year, in part because of low graduation rates.

"By any standard, we are a better institution then when they ranked us two years ago," he said.

Morehouse senior Marcus Edwards, who serves as the school's student government president, said Massey's leadership -- particularly through the past troubled months-- has inspired students.

"He has done an amazing job and never tried to sweep anything under the rug" Edwards said. "He's a great leader."

Massey took office in 1996 and presided over years of financial success for the college. It recently finished an ambitious $105 million capital campaign, raising $15 million above that goal, and built a 74,000 square foot Leadership Facility. Among those contributing to the campaign were Oprah Winfrey, who donated $5 million.

The a physicist and former director of the National Science Foundation was provost and senior vice president of academic affairs at the University of California before coming to Morehouse.

He is Morehouse's ninth president and a 1958 graduate of the college. He has his wife, Shirley Anne, have two sons.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Morehouse School of Medicine accused of anti-gay firing

A former employee in the registrar’s office at the Morehouse School of Medicine is preparing to file a discrimination complaint with Atlanta’s Human Relations Commission, charging her bosses with firing her because she is a lesbian.

Ashland Johnson, 23, who processed student transcripts and enrollment verification at the Morehouse School of Medicine since July 2005, was fired Aug. 28. Her termination letter from the school’s human resources department alleged her “failure to consistently meet the performance and attendance standards” of her job.

But Johnson said there were no complaints about the quality of her performance until she missed work due to a back injury this past July, during which Johnson’s supervisor discovered an e-mail from her lesbian partner on her computer.

“I came back to work and she told me she accessed my files,” Johnson said of her supervisor, Morehouse School of Medicine Registrar Karen A. Lewis.

“I noticed a difference as soon as I came back,” Johnson continued. “[Lewis] said, ‘I’ve been on your computer, I’ve seen your documents, and I think you would be better-suited to work in another department.’”

Following her return work, Johnson and Lewis traded numerous e-mails and memos, with Johnson repeatedly requesting a transfer to another department and Lewis highlighting what she considered deficiencies in Johnson’s work performance.

The ACLU of Georgia is assisting Johnson as she prepares the paperwork for her complaint with the city of Atlanta, and plans to represent her during a hearing with the Human Relations Commission, said Beth Littrell, associate legal director of the ACLU of Georgia. The Human Relations Commission is a seven-member citizen panel charged with enforcing the city’s anti-bias ordinance, which prohibits discrimination in areas such as employment and housing on the basis of sexual orientation, among other categories.

Johnson is also using internal routes within the Morehouse School of Medicine to appeal her firing, but said she has not been given a timeline for when the appeal will take place.

The Morehouse School of Medicine is a private, historically black two-year medical school that was created within Morehouse College in 1973. Two years later, the Morehouse School of Medicine became an independent institution, and it currently is not affiliated in any way with Morehouse College, according to Gayle Converse, a communications officer for the Morehouse School of Medicine.

Lewis declined to comment on Johnson’s allegations of discrimination.

Outside activities’ prompt dismissal?

Prior to the July incident when Lewis accessed Johnson’s computer, Johnson said the two women “got along very well.” They exchanged Christmas gifts, and Johnson went to see a couple of movies with Lewis’s son, Johnson said.

Despite the friendly relationship, Johnson said she was too fearful to tell Lewis about her sexual orientation.

“I knew to keep it under wraps,” said Johnson, who was aware that Lewis attended a strict Pentecostal church. “One time she made a comment about Hurricane Katrina in front of me — that it was a result of people’s lifestyles.”

Johnson missed two days of work in early July after throwing out her back, and upon returning to work she was locked out of her computer work station and had her office keys taken away, according to memos and e-mails exchanged between Johnson and Lewis.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Del State Band Director Charged with Rape

The director of the Delaware State University band has been charged with raping a student, state police said Monday.

Miguel A. Bonds, 31, was arrested Sunday night and charged with second-degree rape, two counts of third-degree unlawful sexual contact, and providing alcohol to an underage person.

Authorities said a 20-year-old student told investigators that after the school's football game Saturday afternoon, he mentioned to Bonds that he was planning on pledging a fraternity next year, and that Bonds offered to "teach him what he needs to know about pledging."

He said he followed Bonds to his apartment, where they watched a movie, according to authorities. The student said that Bonds gave him a drink made with vodka and that he immediately felt dizzy.

As he drifted in and out of consciousness, Bonds began performing oral sex on the student and touched him inappropriately, police said.

The student awoke Sunday morning naked on the floor and nauseous, police said. After leaving the apartment, he received a phone call from Bonds, who asked whether he remembered anything, police said.

University spokesman Carlos Holmes said Bonds has been placed on paid administrative leave pending resolution of the charges. Bonds, who previously worked at Stillman College in Alabama, was hired by DSU last spring and began working for the school this summer, Holmes said.

"We did a background check on him; we didn't find anything on him," said Holmes, adding that DSU police conducted another background check after the rape allegations surfaced.

Bonds was being held at the Delaware Correctional Center in lieu of $12,100 bond. It was unclear whether he had retained an attorney; the jail could not provide any details.

About 90 students are involved in the band, known as "The Approaching Storm." The public university, originally founded in 1891 as the State College for Colored Students, has about 3,700 students.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

SC HBCUs among those being honored this week across nation

From their founding in an era of racial segregation, historically black colleges and universities have evolved into premiere institutions of higher education in The T&D Region.

This week, they are getting special recognition. The U.S. Senate has proclaimed the week of Sept. 10 as National Historically Black Colleges and Universities Week.

U.S. Senators Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, and Saxby Chambliss, a Republican from Georgia, introduced the resolution, which passed unanimously.

"HBCUs have a rich heritage and have played a prominent role in the history of the United States," they said in a statement.

"They have allowed many disadvantaged students to attain their full potential through higher education," the senators added.

HBCUs "provide quality educational experiences and play a vital role in an increasingly complex and highly technological society," the senators said.

South Carolina's oldest HBCU, Claflin University in Orangeburg, traces its roots to the Baker Biblical Institute, founded in Charleston in 1866, which was a year after the Civil War ended.

Three years later, Boston philanthropist Lee Claflin and his son, Massachusetts Gov. William Claflin, provided the financing for a group of prominent Methodists to purchase the Orangeburg Female Academy.

On the grounds of the academy, Claflin University was founded on Dec. 18, 1869. It merged with Baker Biblical Institute in 1871. An act of the state General Assembly established the South Carolina State Agricultural and Mechanical Institute. It operated in association with Claflin from 1875 to 1896.

In 1878, the institute was made the Orangeburg Branch of the University of South Carolina.

The federal Morrill Land Grant Act of 1890 required all states that refused to equally admit African-Americans to educational institutions to maintain comparable, separate publicly-funded institutions for blacks.

"The state of South Carolina tried hard not to do it," U.S. Rep. James E. Clyburn said in a 2004 visit to South Carolina State University in Orangeburg.

"They were thinking of all kinds of excuses not to establish this school," said Clyburn, a student of history. One of the biggest excuses was that there was no land available for it.

"Claflin (University) gave the land and forced the state's hand," Clyburn said.

The state Legislature passed an act on March 3, 1896, that created the Normal, Industrial, Agricultural and Mechanical College for the Colored Race.

In 1954, the college got a new name: South Carolina State College. It became a university on Feb. 26, 1992.

Claflin was founded as a university, became a college decades ago and restored its original name in October 1999.

To this day, the campuses of the private HBCU and the public HBCU sit side-by-side and engage in friendly rivalry as they serve traditionally underserved populations.

This year, Claflin made a top-10 list in U.S. News & World Report magazine's college rankings, while S.C. State made a top-10 list in Washington Monthly magazine's college rankings.

Voorhees College is a private, coeducational, four-year liberal arts college affiliated with the Episcopal Church.

Its origins go back to the Denmark Industrial School, founded in 1897 by a 23-year-old black woman named Elizabeth Evelyn Wright.

Starting in 1901, Ralph and Elizabeth Voorhees of Clinton, N.J., provided the financial support for construction of a new campus for what became known as the Voorhees Normal and Industrial School.

In 1929, Voorhees became a junior college and the first black college in South Carolina to gain accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Many of the buildings were constructed solely by the students at the school, who were studying construction trades such as masonry and carpentry.

The name Voorhees College was adopted in 1962. Five years later, Voorhees became a senior degree-granting institution and received full accreditation as a liberal arts college.

The fourth HBCU in The T&D Region is also situated in Denmark.

In 1947, the state Legislature authorized the establishment of the Denmark Branch of the South Carolina Trade School System. It opened on March 1, 1948, as a residential school mandated to educate blacks in various trades.

The school became known as the Denmark Area Trade School, then in 1969 became the Denmark Technical Education Center.

In 1979, the institution became Denmark Technical College and gained accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Today, Denmark Tech is a comprehensive two-year technical college offering associate degrees, diplomas and certificates.

Claflin and Voorhees have been open to all races since their founding. S.C. State began admitting white students and faculty in 1966. Denmark Tech today also admits students of all races.

Although segregation is gone, all four "historically black" institutions have seen continued growth and progress in recent years.

For instance:

* S.C. State is completing a 755-bed student apartment complex and has nearly $100 million in construction projects on the planning boards, including a new library and a new science and engineering technology facility.

* Claflin has spent $50 million upgrading virtually every aspect of its campus during the tenure of the current president, Dr. Henry Tisdale.

* Voorhees has completed a rural health facility that will serve as the focal point for millions of dollars of research into reducing health disparities in minority and underserved communities.

* Denmark Technical College has built a $4.2 million state-of-the-art library and has acquired a building in Barnwell to expand its outreach programs.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Fired TSU president taken off teaching

Texas Southern University has relieved former President Priscilla Slade of her teaching duties and started the process to revoke her tenure, campus officials said Thursday.

The university's acting president, Bobby Wilson, notified Slade of the decision this week, saying her presence in the classroom poses "an ongoing threat of disrupting the academic process."

The move comes just days after Slade, who faces felony charges related to her spending of university money for personal expenses as president, requested and received teaching assignments this semester.

In June, the university's governing board fired Slade for using school funds to buy furniture, landscaping and a security system for her house, but did not take away her tenured faculty position. Her return last week provoked immediate controversy.

"There were a lot of people who were upset that the ex-president was allowed to teach," said board Chairman J. Paul Johnson. "It has been disruptive."

Slade denies wrongdoing

Johnson said he had no role in the decision to dismiss Slade from the faculty ranks because matters of tenure should be handled by administrators and professors. Wilson, who was in Washington, D.C., to meet with lawmakers, could not be reached for comment.
Slade has denied any wrongdoing and sued the university over her firing as president, claiming breach of contract. Her attorneys did not return telephone calls seeking comment.

Under the university's rules, Slade has 30 days to file a grievance to the provost, who would appoint a committee of seven faculty members to consider the case. After holding hearings, the panel would then make a recommendation to the university's president. A final decision still could be many months away.

Slade, meanwhile, will be on paid leave. Under university policy, administrators can return to the classroom at 75 percent of their administrative pay, based on a nine-month academic year for professors.

Slade's adjusted salary — $208,275 a year — makes her the highest-paid professor on campus, officials said.

The firing of a tenured professor is a rare event in academia. It has been more than two years since TSU dismissed a tenured faculty member, officials said.

"The faculty takes tenure very, very seriously," said Cary Wintz, a history professor who has served on tenure committees. "The burden of proof is on the administration."

Lifetime job

At most universities, professors with tenure have the implicit promise of a lifetime job. They cannot be dismissed, transferred or demoted, with the exception of extreme misconduct on their part or a financial emergency at the school, thus protecting scholarly work from outside pressures.
Sanders Anderson, president of TSU's faculty council, said Slade would receive an unprejudiced hearing from her colleagues. "To revoke tenure at any university is a great undertaking," Anderson said. "This faculty has demonstrated that it will be fair."

Slade earned a doctorate in accounting from the University of Texas at Austin and received tenure before becoming the president of TSU in 1999.

The board fired Slade after the university's attorneys concluded that she failed to follow university policies and state laws while spending more than $260,000.

A criminal investigation later revealed more than $1.9 million spent over Slade's tenure, including artwork, club memberships, spa treatments and tickets for sporting events. If convicted, Slade faces the possibility of life in prison.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Xavier U. Joins Other New Orleans Universities in Suing Insurers Over Katrina Coverage

Xavier U. Joins Other New Orleans Universities in Suing Insurers Over Katrina Coverage
Chronicle for Higher Ed.

Another New Orleans university is suing its insurers for allegedly failing to cover damages incurred in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Xavier University of Louisiana, which suffered an estimated $40-million in property damages, sued the American Bankers Insurance Company of Florida last week, saying that a year after the disaster struck, Xavier was still waiting to be fully reimbursed for its losses.

It is also pursuing a case against the Traveler's Property Casualty Company of America, arguing that the levee breaches that caused several feet of water to pour into the ground floors of Xavier's buildings were the result of human error, not a natural occurrence. Traveler's has argued in court that it is not liable for damages caused by floods because of a flood exclusion in Xavier's policy.

Last week's lawsuit, filed in federal court in New Orleans, described how university officials, including President Norman C. Francis, had proceeded with costly repairs to campus buildings while waiting for insurance reimbursements (The Chronicle, February 10).

"Because of its commitment to the community and its students, Xavier committed to the ambitious plan of repairing its campus such that Xavier could be open for classes on January 17, 2006," the lawsuit states.

The suit adds that American Bankers Insurance has paid some but not all of the university's claims. A spokesman for the insurance company declined to comment on the lawsuit, saying the company's lawyers had not yet reviewed it.

Other New Orleans universities that have sued their insurers include Dillard University, Loyola University New Orleans, and Tulane University (The Chronicle, September 1).

In its lawsuit against Traveler's, Xavier argues that the water that damaged campus buildings resulted from the collapses of the 17th Street Canal and London Avenue Canal levees, and that those breaches were the result of human error in the levees' design and construction, not Mother Nature. As such, the damages should be covered under the university's "all risks" policy, according to Xavier officials.

"We're arguing that because the levee breaks were manmade, Traveler's cannot assert the flood exclusion," said James M. Garner, a lawyer representing Xavier who is expected to make those arguments in court this month.

The lawsuit argues that a flood caused by human design or construction flaws is different from a naturally occurring flood. The United States Army Corps of Engineers has conceded those design and construction flaws, according to the lawsuit.

"Simply put, if a firefighting helicopter had erroneously dumped hundreds of gallons of water on Xavier's buildings, or a tanker truck carrying water had driven into one of those buildings, spilling thousands of gallons of water, coverages would be provided for these damages," the lawsuit states. "In the same manner, Xavier has coverage in this instance as the damage was caused by the Corps, not a natural occurrence."

The lawsuit also states that Traveler's did not pay Xavier a penny until after the lawsuit was filed, in February, and then refused to pay for anything it considered flood-related.

A spokeswoman for Traveler's said the company's privacy rules did not allow her to speak about individual claims.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Rivers off to a great start at FVSU

There is good news to report coming out of the valley. Fort Valley State University has doubled the size of its incoming freshman class. Preliminary figures show 650 students have enrolled for the 2006-2007 school year. Last year the incoming class was just 317.

The credit for this upsurge in FVSU's popularity has to be given to its top salesperson and president Larry Rivers. After his appointment in February, Rivers has been on a non-stop trek of selling what his college has to offer to about anyone who will listen.

His personal story has to be attractive to potential students. Who should know the school better than someone who graduated from FVSC and went on to Villanova for his master's degree and earned doctorates from Carnegie Mellon University and Goldsmiths College at the University of London. Rivers comes to FVSU from the dean's chair of the College of Arts and Sciences at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee.

He started his tenure at FVSU in grand fashion, donating $100,000 to kick off the Challenge Fund, which has a $3 million goal. The school was recently awarded a $1 million grant to renovate Huntington Hall on campus, and with ongoing construction of six buildings, including five new dormitories that will house 650 students, the future looks bright.

FVSU has longed for a leader with vision, and Rivers has the potential to put the school on the map again in much the same manner that Dr. Frederick Humphries, former president at Florida A&M, did with that school. Humphries did it the old-fashioned way by recruiting good students. In 1992, FAMU recruited more National Achievement finalists than Stanford, Harvard or Yale. Rivers has already drawn a line in the academic sand. The increase in enrollment didn't come because admission standards were lowered. Besides, the Board of Regents sets admission standards and dictates how many students can be admitted on a provisional basis.

In the next few years, with the construction over and steadily rising academic achievement, FVSU can return to prominence, not just as a Historically Black College or University, but a school of choice for all top high school graduates.

(Macon Telegraph Editorial)

Tenn. State's downtown campus undergoing major renovations

Tennessee State's Avon Williams campus is undergoing a major renovation.

Students at the downtown Nashville campus have discovered new classroom furniture and paint. New flooring is in place throughout much of the facility, and the school's library has experienced an extreme makeover.

While much of the the construction was compeleted this summer, a handful of major changes remain. The fourth and final phase of the project includes work on the atrium and facilities management areas, as well as creation of a new open computer laboratory for students and a new home for Continuing Education and Distance Education and Multimedia Services.

The $18.5 million renovation project is expected to be completed in early 2007.

"By day, the building is full of people in hard hats and sounds that go with construction," said Evelyn Nettles, associate vice president for academic affairs. "Then at night it's magically full of students and instructors. The first week has been pretty eventful for the students."

Approximately 2,880 students are enrolled in 192 classes at the campus for the fall semester. The classes meet from 4:30 to 11 p.m.

University officials expect the campus to attract more working professionals who want to learn additional skills or earn advanced degrees. Estimates by TSU show roughly 40,000 people working near the core of downtown Nashville.

Renovations to the 38-year-old, 200,000-square-foot facility began in 2002 with infrastructure changes. More noticeable cosmetic changes began appearing in fall 2005.

The size (of the building) has not changed, but the space is being utilized better. When completed, classroom space will have increase by 10 percent."

A key addition will be a financial trading room on the third floor, where most visitors enter. The room has been designed to allow College of Business students to mimic the feel of Wall Street and to attract outside business.

Also included in the renovation are a new air conditioning system and a wireless computer network.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Fisk students achieve 100% pass rate on state exams

Students at Fisk University received a 100 percent passage rate on state teacher certification test in 2004-2005,
according to the Tennessee State Board of Education.

Graduates wanting to teach in Tennessee must pass the exam, called the Praxis II exam, to become fully licensed teachers. The State Board of Education tracks pass rates to monitor which colleges adequately prepare students.
A college that fails to have 70 percent of its graduates pass is placed on probation, according to the State Board of Education. If the school fails to have 70 percent of its graduates pass two years in a row, the college will have its state certification revoked.

Fisk University, went from 50 percent in 2001-02 to 83.3 percent in '03-04 to 100 percent in '04-05. Fisk had only five graduates taking the test in 2004-05, compared with six in '03-04.

Several colleges in the state require students to pass before awarding a diploma, ensuring a 100 percent pass rate among its graduates. Others encourage students to pass it before they student-teach for a semester.