Your Ad Here

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

TSU faithful Hope Games Return to Campus

Homecoming weekend at Tennessee State University brought out thousands of students, faculty and alumni to watch the Big Blue Tigers take on Samford University at LP Field. Many of them are wondering if TSU games will eventually be back on campus.

One elected official is also calling for the games to go back to "The Hole." State Senator Thelma Harper wants to take the games and the festivities that go with them back to TSU's campus. Many TSU fans feel the same way.

TSU's homecoming parade began a day of festivities leading up to Saturday's game against Samford University.

"We look forward to this every year," loyal fan Kandes Dungey says about the Homecoming game.

In recent years homecoming has been a little different than in the past.

"For those of you who don't know where "The Hole" is. It's where the heart is," Harper said.

Speaking to a crowd of TSU students, alumni and local officials Friday, State Senator Thelma Harper said she wants the city and state's help to revive a school tradition.

"We want to come home. We want to come back to the Hole," she said.

Hale Stadium - otherwise known as the Hole - sits on the TSU campus. It was where the Tigers played football for nearly 50 years. In need of repair, the state made a deal with the school in 1999 to let TSU use what is now LP Field as their home stadium.

"By moving it downtown it was a great idea. It gave us more room, more parking. However, with the true tradition, I think it should be right here," Torry Smith says.

Many alumni say, although LP Field is a state of the art facility, they miss the days at the Hole.

"I think it would be awesome. Everything is right here. You don't have to leave campus. There's more school spirit," says student Beatrice Edmundson.

Others say they enjoy going to games in the pro-stadium.

"Tennessee usually brings in a crowd of people. I don't know if the Hole can withstand the number of people that Tennessee brings in," says Thomas Gaitner.

No matter where fans think the games should be played, they're all ready to support their team.

No discussions have been made with the city and state about reviving Hale Stadium.

The first game TSU played at LP Field (called the Coliseum then) was in September 1999. The Big Blue Tigers took on Alabama State in the first John Merritt Classic, and won the game 41 to 8.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Carlton Brown Resigns As SSU President

Students came to the impromptu meeting with Savannah State University President Carlton Brown Monday expecting a pep talk after Saturday's homecoming festivities.

Instead, Brown announced his plans to take a position handling presidential initiatives for the university system chancellor.

"I will depart the presidency of this institution as of Dec. 31 and assume a new position with the Board of Regents," Brown said.

Many of the students who filled the campus ballroom had heard rumors during the homecoming game Saturday, but assumed it was just talk from football boosters angry about their team's losing record.

"Oh, my God!" sophomore Claudine Niba shouted at the news.

The room fell silent as Brown went over a long list of changes that has taken place since he became president in 1997: increased enrollment, stronger academic programs, new housing, endowed scholarships and improved services.

But Brown said he must follow the wishes of the Board of Regents and new Chancellor Erroll Davis. The chancellor's office will conduct the search for Brown's successor.

"I am pleased that Dr. Brown will be joining me to assist in the implementation of a major initiative. Our new system-level projects initiative will involve our institutional presidents, and Dr. Brown's expertise will be invaluable as this program moves forward," said Davis in a Board of Regents press release.

University System spokesman John Milsaps would not say if Brown was reassigned or if he applied for the job.

"We will let the statement stand on its own without further clarification," he said.

This is the second such unexpected change in SSU's administration in three months.

Savannah State University's second in command, vice-president of academic affairs Joseph Silver, surprised students three months ago when he announced he was leaving on sabbatical and will retire in January.

Both Silver and Brown were appointed by former Chancellor Stephen Portch in 1997 to lead the university out of a period of academic instability and campus unrest.

The previous president John T. Wolfe, left the institution after campus protests and demands for his resignation from alumni groups.

Brown was entering a campus with a protest culture. Eight of the 10 presidents before him resigned after mounting pressure from faculty, the community, students or the Board of Regents. The two who didn't resign died while in office.

From the beginning of Brown's tenure, there were groups of alumni, sports boosters and faculty protesting his appointment.

Some were upset that a local search was not conducted to fill the top campus spots. Others were unhappy with the aggressive and sometimes uncompromising style of handling staffing and program changes on campus.

They staged protests, filed lawsuits, circulated petitions and sent letters to the Board of Regents.

Brown's popularity with some of these groups reached an all-time low because of the embarrassing winless seasons that followed a decision to move SSU athletics into Division I in 2002.

Despite the controversy, Brown's administration has accomplished a 1,000-student jump in enrollment, replaced dilapidated housing facilities, constructed Tiger Arena and earned accreditation or re-accreditation for business, social work and engineering technology programs.

"I trust my record demonstrates that this administration has acted in the best interest of the students and the institution," Brown said.

Tearful students who lined up for hugs after Brown's short speech said they felt his record had proved that.

"I don't understand all the booster stuff," said SSU junior Kimberly McBride. "But for students you don't usually get a president like that, someone who makes you feel welcome, like when you go to college you're coming home."

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Southern University sponsors after-school program

Southern University’s Department of Sociology is sponsoring an after-school support program for students in grades six through 12.

Called Southern University Empowering Youth Choices, the program will include social, academic and recreational activities, according to director Riad Yehya, a sociology professor.

The program will include field trips, he said.

The program seeks to reduce premarital sex, decrease out-of-wedlock pregnancy, retard sexually transmitted diseases and enhance personal, interpersonal and academic skills.

Yehya said the program, funded by a grant of about $70,000 from the state Department of Social Services, will be based at Crestworth Middle School sixth grade, 2555 DeSoto Drive.

The program begins today and runs through Feb. 28 from 2:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays. Up to 60 students can enroll.

Friday, October 20, 2006

St. Aug. students march for safer dorms

RALEIGH - About 125 St. Augustine's College students marched to the State Capitol on Monday, protesting what they described as mold in their dorm rooms, invasions of their privacy and an unsafe campus environment.

One student leader at Monday's protest said several students complained of illness from mold growing in their dormitory.

David Affarenee, a sophomore, said there is mold and mildew on the walls inside Weston Hall and Baker Hall. A third dorm, Boyer Hall, is infested with roaches and waterbugs, students said.

"They just paint over all the mold and mildew," Affarenee said. "Some kids have gotten sick."

A school official confirmed Monday that one of the dorms did have mold in 2004 but that it was cleaned out.

According to a 2004 report school officials released Monday, two species of mold were found in the air supply and air handling vents of the men's dormitory Boyer Hall by an environmental consultant the college hired. The molds, Aspergillus, Penicillium and Cladosporium, can cause respiratory difficulties and skin reactions in people with allergies or asthma.

The consultant, General Engineering and Environmental of N.C., based in Research Triangle Park, found that the inner lining of a hot water tank in Boyer Hall could cause skin irritation to those who used its water.

The ducts in Boyer Hall were cleaned, and the water tank was replaced, college spokeswoman Katrina Dix said Monday.

St. Augustine's President Dianne B. Suber said the "mold" students are concerned about is "mostly mildew." But according to the Environmental Protection Agency, mildew, like mold, is a fungus and can cause health problems.

"We have old buildings. They do get damp," Suber said.

Last year, the RTP consultant found no evidence of environmental issues at the co-ed dorm Weston Hall, and determined that the mildew in the bathrooms and shower areas was the result of hot water and humidity.

The consultant also inspected the school's fine arts building for mold when an employee complained of skin rashes after working in a particular area. Mold was found, but at levels not normally associated with skin or respiratory irritation, according to General Engineering and Environmental's report. The college cleaned the building's air ducts.

St. Augustine's is the second Triangle university in recent years bedeviled by mold problems. In 2003, two newly built residence halls at N.C. Central University in Durham were closed after potentially toxic black mold was found.

The demonstration Monday occurred one day after St. Aug's, a historically black college with 1,400 students, kicked off its homecoming week celebrations on campus.

The students -- some clad in black with some carrying signs demanding change -- began marching off campus near the Emery Gymnasium about 10:30 a.m. They gathered on a sidewalk in the 1300 block of Oakwood Avenue before marching downtown to the State Capitol.

As they assembled, leaders who said they were speaking on behalf of the student body listed other issues that had ignited their activism. They said they were also concerned about campus safety, especially after what they described as a gang-related brawl last year between students and about 20 nonstudent members of the Bloods street gang.

"Nothing was done about it," Affarenee said.

Marc Newman, the college's vice president of institutional advancement and development, said the altercation was not gang-related, did not involve 20 people and that the campus does not have a gang problem.

"Why is it anytime there's an altercation between black men, it's a gang-related fight?" Newman asked. "There's no graffiti here, and no people walking around in crazy colors," he added. "When you walk around this campus, you see nothing dealing with gangs."

The students also complained about privacy issues. They said campus police and administrators routinely check their rooms for campus violations, mainly drugs.

"They are doing drug checks five days a week, three times a day, morning, noon and night," said Philip Ativie, a junior business administration major from Alexandria, Va.

Suber could not confirm or deny the frequency of room checks but acknowledged the college has stepped up its vigilance to stop the flow of drugs on campus, partly in response to student complaints about drugs in the residence halls.

"I think parents would want to know that we are checking rooms to make the campus a healthy and stable environment," Suber said.

Affarenee said that, in the past, students have written Suber letters and filed petitions asking the administration to look into the unsafe conditions at the dorms.

Some students were not impressed with Monday's protest.

Senior Class President Christal Sims, 23, of Raleigh said positive changes have occurred on campus since her freshman year.

"We have new computers, new desks, more security, new cafe services and now, a new residential hall," Sims said.

Suber watched the demonstrations from the windows of her office in the Boyer Building.

"There's a little piece of me that's proud and pleased," Suber said about the demonstration. "I am a product of the '60s, and I value being heard."

Monday, October 16, 2006

Lawsuit claims black colleges unequally funded

BALTIMORE - The state has not distributed equitable funds to historically black colleges, according to two Morgan State University students who filed a lawsuit in Baltimore City Circuit Court Friday.

The Coalition for Equity and Excellent in Maryland Higher Education, a recently formed Maryland based nonprofit organization, filed the suit in Baltimore City Circuit Court on behalf of two Morgan State students.

The students are seeking a level playing field and to fully fund all academic programs at black colleges.

The 39-page lawsuit alleges the Maryland Higher Education commission has not complied with the U.S Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights requirement to fund all colleges equally.

“We are disputing the claim that state of Maryland is in compliance with federal requirements to fund all institutions of higher learning equitably,” said David Burton, president of the coalition. “It’s been systemic over a long period of time.”

Burton pointed to the Maryland Higher Education Commission’s approval of duplicate programs for white colleges that traditionally were offered by historically black institutions as proof that funding is unfair.

“The approval of Towson’s MBA program and University of Baltimore’s four-year program triggered the lawsuit,” he said. “Allowing duplicate programs hurts the competitiveness of historically black colleges,” he said, citing Morgan State’s MBA program, which he said now must compete with Towson’s.

Maryland Secretary of Higher Education Calvin Burnett said approving Towson’s program expanded educational opportunities for Maryland residents. Burnett also said he obtained additional funding for Morgan’s MBA program after he approved Towson’s MBA program in 2005.

“After I approved the Towson program, I asked the governor for $1 million for Morgan State’s MBA program and he approved it,” he said. “I’m perplexed, we go to great lengths to provide equal funding.”

A spokesman for Morgan State University said the school had not seen the lawsuit.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Homecoming at Howard

More than just a football game!

Notorious B.I.G., LL Cool J and Ludacris have all rapped about the week of partying that surrounds Howard University's annual homecoming celebration. Diddy, Jay-Z and Kanye West have performed at the university's free outdoor Yardfest concerts. Venus and Serena Williams took a turn on the catwalk during the annual fashion show a few years ago. Hip-hop celebrities (and would-be stars) line up every October to lend their name as "hosts" for events at nightspots across the city. Add up all those factors and you have one of the key social events on Washington's calendar -- a cross between the NBA All-Star Game, Urban Beach Week and Mardi Gras.

Tailgating before a football game, alumni reunions and parent-student get-togethers are the highlights of most colleges' homecoming festivities, but Howard's is on another level. There are other items on this week's agenda, such as lectures, faculty sessions and alumni brunch and networking events. But for good or bad, the celebrities and the parties -- almost all of which take place at nightclubs off campus and are not sponsored by the university -- have become a focal point. Just ask most of the people cruising down U Street this weekend. They have no ties to the school. They never ran Yard. They've just heard about the parties, and they're here to join in.

Read more at: No Party Like a Howard Party

Friday, October 13, 2006

Coppin gets NASA grant to study slave trade

U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings visited Coppin State University Wednesday to announce a federal grant using NASA satellites to study the ecological health of areas that played key roles in the slave trade.

Cummings lauded the program, called The Middle Passage Project, as an opportunity for students at the historically black college to explore their heritage.

“To set foot in Africa and explore the land of your ancestors is an incredible opportunity,” he told the assembly of students and faculty. “Take advantage of it.”

The $186,000 federal grant will allow six students in Coppin’s geography program to use satellite data provided by NASA to study the ecology of Ghana, St. Kitts and Barbados — key landfalls for slave traders. The students will use NASA satellite data to assess the ecological health of the coastlines and rain forest, as well as to assess carbon management policies. Participating students said the program was a good opportunity to improve their science skills while keeping important history alive.

“We’re using present technology to help us connect to the past,” said Micah Crump, a junior at Coppin and one of the program participants.

Douglass Reardon, project director, said that the program uses African American history as a guide to better understanding ecological systems. “We can use science to study how the environment influences human history,” he said. He also said that the data will be used to guide preservation efforts of key historical sites.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Aggie-Eagle is over, but debts linger

A nonprofit foundation led by Assistant City Manager Lawrence Wray owes more than $57,000 to North Carolina A&T State University, proceeds from the now-defunct Aggie-Eagle Classic football game.
Wray will travel to Greensboro, where N.C. A&T is located, today in hopes that the university will forgive the debt, which he said happened when the annual game failed to raise expected money.

At the same time, the Capital Area Sports Foundation is obligated to pay more than $46,000 to N.C. Central University in Durham -- a football-related payment Wray hopes to iron out soon.

The outstanding money stems from a historic rivalry between the schools played out on the gridiron in Raleigh each year until 2005.

The foundation, which has Wray as president, hosted the Aggie-Eagle classic in Raleigh at Carter-Finley Stadium from 2002 to 2005 -- the year that N.C. A&T bowed out.

Through a promotion agreement, the foundation was to pay each school an honorarium each year: $150,000 in 2005.

So far, the Greensboro school has been paid $92,524 of that amount, according to documents that Wray provided. The Durham school got $103,308.

Wray said Tuesday all parties knew the 2005 game would fall short when it was shifted from Sunday to Monday -- the Labor Day holiday.

"We didn't make as much money as we thought we were going to make," he said.

Wray described the foundation as "just gone now."

"We're not doing anything," he said, adding that the foundation also owes N.C. State University an unknown sum.

The foundation keeps separate finances from the city of Raleigh, but the city acts as its bookkeeper. Taxpayer money has gone toward Aggie-Eagle games in the past.

'All in this together'

Raleigh and Wake County put $30,000 toward the classic in 2005, according to a letter from James D. Williams Jr., Durham attorney for the foundation.

In 2002, taxpayers got the bill for about $50,000 when the game came up $140,000 short on a rainy play date. The city and county's agreement to subsidize the event helped keep it from moving to Charlotte that year.

But Williams wrote in a memo to Wray this week that the city had no additional financial obligations to either university.

On its 2005 tax return, the foundation reported $881,988 in total revenue and $898,942 in expenses. Wray acknowledged the group is in the red.

Wray wrote then-N.C. A&T Chancellor James C. Renick and N.C. Central's Chancellor James Ammons earlier this year, asking that the outstanding money be forgotten now that the foundation is in the red.

"We were all in this together," Wray said.

Administrators at N.C. A&T are reviewing the situation and would not comment Tuesday, said Mable Scott, vice chancellor for university relations.

Ammons was out of town Tuesday and could not be reached. Wray said he planned to visit the Durham campus soon.

Grand tradition fizzles

The Aggie-Eagle Classic lasted more than 80 years, moving to Raleigh in 1994.

N.C. A&T pulled out of the game in hopes of playing an all Division I-AA schedule. N.C. Central is a Division II team, and in 2005, N.C. A&T officials thought playing the classic hurt the team's chances for at-large bids to the NCAA tournament.

On game day in 2005, attendance was reported at 35,000, up more than 7,000 from the previous year.

But fans doubted the crowd count, noting that two-thirds of the 53,570-seat stadium appeared empty and tailgaters failed to pack the parking lot.

Still, Wray sounded upbeat a few days before the game, even after N.C. State University's home opener pushed them off the Sunday schedule.

"I thought [playing Monday] would affect [attendance] in terms of participation of individuals," he told a News & Observer reporter at the time. "We were able to overcome that by getting word out relatively early and then being able to fill Sunday with something great."

Tax return questions

Officials at N.C. A&T had questioned the foundation's 2005 tax return, which lists a $160,415 contribution to each school.

David Erwin, the city's accounting manager, explained in a memo in October to Wray that the returns are prepared to reflect the calendar rather than fiscal year. So the figure includes some money from the 2004 Aggie-Eagle classic.

But the memo also noted errors with the tax return -- there was not an even $160,415 paid to each school -- that will require an amendment to be filed.

Morehouse takes possession of King Papers

Several years ago, when the personal writings of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. were shipped from Coretta Scott King's basement to Sotheby's auction house in New York City, few suspected that they would ultimately end up only a few miles from where they started.

And where they belong, said Walter E. Massey, the president of King's alma mater, Morehouse College, now the official steward of one of the most important collections of writings in America.

"I feel very proud this happened while I was president, especially since I knew this was going to be my last year," said Massey, who is retiring at the end of this academic year. "This means a great deal to us. The papers being at Morehouse reinforces the college's reputation and visibility in audiences that already know about the college."

Monday, Massey and Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin will officially announce the arrival of the $32 million collection and discuss plans on how the papers will be stored and displayed, as well as how they will be made available to scholars.

Fittingly, the meeting will be on the campus at the King Chapel and in the shadow of a statue of King, the college's most famous graduate.

Although Massey is retiring, Monday's announcements will mark the beginning of a new chapter at Morehouse and for the city. Morehouse automatically becomes a leading destination for King scholars. And, although plans are still on paper, the King papers could serve as a foundation for a proposed civil rights museum in Atlanta.

Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy at Morehouse College is second only to that of his mentor, the man who put the school on the map, Benjamin E. Mays.

"But Martin Luther King goes beyond the college. His shadow covers the way we see the world," said Massey. "Having said all of that, over the last decade, the full knowledge of Dr. King has been fully expressed here. "

Phillip Howard, Morehouse College's vice president for institutional advancement, said the 7,000 pages of documents arrived in boxes on an unmarked truck about three weeks ago.

As simple as that last step was, the road back to Atlanta was a difficult one for the papers. For more than three years the papers were housed at Sotheby's in New York. In the fall of 2003, the auction house announced it would sell the papers and hoped to attract a single institution to buy them. Although the papers had been appraised at $30 million, Sotheby's was looking to sell them for at least $20 million.

When no buyer surfaced, and shortly after the death of Coretta Scott King early this year, Sotheby's announced the papers would be auctioned off June 30 for about $30 million.

"Two weeks before the auction was to take place, we had been contacted by an anonymous donor who had expressed interest in helping Morehouse get the papers at auction," Massey said.

But days before the papers were to be sold at auction, a group led by Franklin purchased them through the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, and tapped Morehouse to oversee them.

Ownership of the papers will remain with a subsidiary of the nonprofit until the Franklin group raises the $32 million needed to pay back the SunTrust Banks loan that made the purchase possible.

More than half of the money to repay the loan has been raised.

The papers are now being stored at the Robert W. Woodruff Library on the Atlanta University Center campus. Veteran archivist Brenda S. Banks, the former deputy director of the Georgia Department of Archives and History, has been named the chief archivist over the collection. An internal committee of library and Morehouse staff has been put together to oversee archival management of the collection.

The papers contain thousands of pages of King's handwritten text — from his "Letter from Birmingham Jail" to a draft of his "I Have a Dream" speech during the 1963 march on Washington. The civil rights leader was assassinated in Memphis in 1968.

The Morehouse collection, along with a collection of more than 80,000 pages of King's writings at Boston University, and a cache of papers still at the King Center represent the bulk of all of King's important writings.

Massey said a public display of the Morehouse papers will open at the Atlanta History Center on Jan. 15, on what would have been King's 78th birthday.

But Howard said the timetable for getting the papers prepared for public use — at least for scholars — will take a while longer.

"Imagine if you had 20 years of your personal papers in your basement. It would take you a while to get those together," Howard said. "Mrs. King did a good job of keeping all of this stuff, but the collection has to be put into shape. It has to be catalogued and inspected to make available for scholars."

Massey acknowledged that Morehouse is still learning how to care for the papers and initially did not have the expertise or facilities of some of the other institutions that were interested in obtaining the collection.

"But even the institutions that did not get the papers are happy that they ended up at Morehouse and have volunteered to help us," Massey said.

Massey said initial concerns that the papers would not be made available to scholars were premature and baffling.

"There is a King papers scholars' community that has made that a big topic of discussion," Massey said. "We realize that there has been controversy surrounding that, but the papers will be available. It is as simple as that."

In order to facilitate that process, Massey has put together a national advisory committee that includes Harvard's Henry Louis Gates, Stanford's Clayborne Carson and Emory University's Rudolph Byrd. The committee will come up with recommendations on how the papers are to be accessed.

For his part, Massey said he will spend most of his last year as Morehouse's president helping Franklin raise money to repay the SunTrust Loan and raising money to maintain the collection on campus.

He said several foundations have already expressed interest in providing support for the "millions, not just hundreds of thousands," that Morehouse will need to maintain the collection, Massey said.

"This is a major responsibility," Massey said. "The eyes of the nation and the world are on us. But I couldn't be more proud. How many college presidents, in their last year, have the opportunity to end their tenure working on something like this?"

Monday, October 09, 2006

Some Morgan students left without rooms

Morgan's incoming class of 2010 was one of the university's largest incoming classes. According to President Earl Richardson, nearly 13,000 students applied for the 2006-2007 academic year and only 2,000 were accepted. Many of the 2,000 indicated their need for housing.

However, the number requiring housing exceeded the number of dorm rooms available. Still, Morgan accepted these students.

"We were told that because the number of people that said they were going to come last year and backed out was so high, enrollment was down tremendously," said Alicia Joynes, 21, Student Government Association president. "So many people applied, but the school didn't believe that they were going to come. But they did come."

More than 100 students were directed to nearby Morgan View Apartments, where the scene quickly became a chaotic battle of wills.

Morgan State police officers patrolled the halls of Morgan View's main office center, fearful of a possible riot. Tired and angry parents demanded housing for their children, while Morgan View administrators appeared swamped by the number of people entering their limited office space.

In an interview with the Baltimore Sun, Morgan spokesman Clinton Coleman said about 130 students were without housing on the first day of class. "It was insane," said Morgan View bookkeeper Carroll Ridgeley. "We worked for months to get things in order, only for things to fall apart. We gave up our free time, but it was unavoidable what happened." Ridgeley said she was shocked by the disarray and unfolding pandemonium at Morgan View, and even more appalled by the behavior of some parents.

"I was in the parking lot and I heard parents cursing their children out for not being rude and not having their situations straightened out before hand," she said.

Maldanado, one of the students waiting for hours in and around the Morgan View facilities, said, "At noon on Sunday, I still didn't have a room. I got one around 9:30 p.m, but the room that they gave me already had someone living in it. I finally got a room around 10 p.m."

After several weeks of housing students at a nearby Ramada Inn, Morgan View distributed blue fliers offering female residents who allowed another student to move into their living rooms a $50 discount off one month's rent. The fliers promised bedding for the visitors.

Some Morgan View residents were insulted by the offer and declined it. "I've lived in Morgan View for three years now," said Kene Thompson, 21, an accounting major. "This is by far the most outrageous thing I've ever heard of." The monthly rent at Morgan View is $520. In addition, the small, confined apartments comfortably house four students with little room for visitors and friends.

Many returning students were given significantly younger roommates who are unaccustomed to the mores and behaviors of college life.

"I personally feel that all freshmen should have the opportunity to live on campus and interact with their peers," said Genera Wright, a senior and Morgan View resident. "I don't know if the transition, per se, is a good transition for them, especially for someone who has never been away from home."

All students are now living comfortably, insisted Dana Roberts, Morgan View's assistant general manager.

"All of our students have housing," said Roberts. "No one is homeless."

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Alumni's lawsuit undermines progress made by GSU president

Yet another lawsuit filed with Grambling University National Alumni Association President James Bradford as a plaintiff punctuates the unwillingness by the organization to resolve differences with the Grambling State University administration.

Such legal manuevering threatens to stall progress under way at the Lincoln Parish campus.

Filed in federal court, the lawsuit alleges mistreatment of employees and claims the university is being led in a negative direction.

To the contrary, progress under Grambling State President Horace Judson's direction is clear. ACT scores of students enrolling at the university are up. Graduation rates are climbing. The school received its first million-dollar chair in mathematics. New apartment-style dormitories are under construction.

Says University of Louisiana System member Mike Woods: "It's a shame with all the positive things going that you have a few disgruntled alums."

This is the latest in a series of lawsuits filed by the alumni association since Judson was named to his post by the University of Louisiana System two years ago. Defendants include Judson, Grambling State Vice President of Finance Billy Owens, University of Louisiana System President Sally Clausen, the University of Louisiana System Board of Supervisors and the Louisiana Board of Regents.

Plaintiffs joining Bradford in the action include the Grambling mayor, other alumni and some former employees.

Such negativity commanding the spotlight takes the focus off more important issues and concerns affecting the day-to-day lives of students, including crowded campus housing. It also undermines efforts by Judson and his administrative team to provide effective leadership for the university that was stymied during the rotation of six presidents in a 10-year period.

The discord between Bradford and the school administration is no secret. The latest move by the alumni association follows two other recent lawsuits. One claimed wrongful termination of several former campus employees, many of whom were laid off during cash-strapped times following hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The other was filed by Bradford against Judson's wife, alleging libel and slander.

To be sure, Grambling State's history and contribution to North Louisiana are too valuable to be compromised, and it seems senseless to prolong such conflict. Quick resolution is in order.

In his short tenure, Judson has demonstrated his interest in strengthening the school's foundation and shoring it up for the future. It is reasonable to expect the same from one of the campus' main advocates, its alumni association.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

DSU's troubled library building only a small part of the problem


When we read James Merriweather's recent account of Delaware State University President Allen Sessoms' and board of trustees Chairman Claibourne Smith's reaction to the sorry state of the Delaware State University library, we were outraged and embarrassed.

Most universities consider the library the center of academic life and use it as a marketing tool.

Our leaders did not seem concerned about the exposure of students, staff, and visiting citizens to soggy, moldy carpets, furniture, and walls in the library.

We are, however, happy that since the article ran, the president told the faculty that windows in the library would be replaced, although it is too little, too late.

Sessoms' statement that few students use the library is both wrong and an open invitation for them to stay away, hardly what one would expect from an academic. The library and our leaders' comments form only a symptom of a much larger problem at DSU.

Smith's quote that spiffy new athletic facilities attract students while libraries don't is a pitiful statement from an educator. News flash -- students come to college for an education.

This attitude is entirely consistent with the actions of the president and the board of trustees.

A News Journal editorial aptly noted that DSU officials have their priorities for capital improvements in a peculiar order given the expenditures on nonacademic facilities. These priorities go further than just facilities.

Since Sessoms' arrival, the fascination with athletics has been obvious and expensive. Four new associate athletics director positions were quickly created, followed by a business manager for athletics, a director of football operations, and others. Numerous new coaching positions have been created in both old sports and new. Coaches have received very large salary increases.

We agree that athletics is an important part of college life, but watching and listening to our two leaders would lead to the conclusion that they think sports is the most important thing at DSU. We are embarrassed that compared to athletics, academics has faired poorly.

Despite Sessoms' continuing to say that we need more full-time faculty members, few are added.

He boasts about the graduate programs begun under his tenure. However, when permanent full-time faculty positions are not added, those programs seem more about raising revenue and padding the president's resume than about academic integrity.

Even when a few faculty positions are advertised, they sometimes do not attract many qualified applicants, possibly because word is out about the conditions at DSU.

We are embarrassed about classroom crowding and the overuse of adjuncts.

Adjuncts (part-time instructors) can be beneficial when used properly and in limited numbers. We believe that DSU's use of adjuncts is excessive.

We know of adjuncts who teach full loads, including one who is teaching five classes this semester, more than a full-time teaching load.

This is unfair to students who see their tuition raised every year and have a right to expect ready availability of teachers, quality instruction from faculty members who have a long-term stake in their education, and attentive advisement.

We are embarrassed that our board of trustees does not check the facts as presented by the president.

The board too often simply accepts what they are told and does the president's bidding.

If they were more curious, they might be shocked.

We are embarrassed that the learning environment is unlikely to improve with the attitude displayed by our president and board chairman.

J. Thomas Butler is a professor at Delaware State University and Philip Sadler is past president of the DSU Alumni Association.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Ammons to continue his vision for NCCU

DURHAM -- Explosive student growth, a building boom and a torrent of new funding have gilded his first five years as chancellor at N.C. Central University, James Ammons said during a fall convocation on campus Friday morning.

"Together we have accomplished great things," Ammons told the hundreds of students, faculty, staff and guests assembled for the event.

Enrollment has increased by 58 percent since the academic year 2000-2001, to nearly 8,700 students this year, he said. The state's allocation for the school has risen by 78 percent to $105 million. Central has built nearly 700,000 square feet on campus in his tenure. That included expanding the law school, and B.N. Duke Auditorium, as well as building graduate student apartments and renovating residence halls.

Ammons focused on this year's incoming class, which will graduate in 2010, the university's centennial year.

"There is more we must do to prepare our students for the new economy that's ever-changing," he said.

Tobacco is no longer a leading industry for the state, and many textile plants have closed. Companies have sent manufacturing, call-centers and other functions overseas.

Retention and graduation are two ways to help students succeed.

"We have to first retain them and make sure they graduate on time," he said.

Ammons wants to raise the six-year graduation rate to 48 percent by 2010. The current rate is nearly 45 percent, which is slightly below the UNC-wide average.

Ammons said the class entering in 2004 had a retention rate of nearly 76 percent, which is below the UNC system-wide average of 78.5 percent. By 2010, he said, he wants that rate to be 85 percent.

To retain students, he said, everyone in the university must help. Residential life, for example, must provide attractive, comfortable residence halls.

"The comptroller and financial aid office needs to make sure students can focus on their assignments, not paying rent or figuring out how to pay for their next meal," he said.

Other future plans include a study and long-term plan for campus parking, he said.

"There is an immediate need to define a campus-wide parking plan," he said.

Before Ammons' address, Mukhtar Raqib, president of the student government, said the convocation is the symbolic start of the academic year. He encouraged students to step outside their comfort zone, get involved with the community, and network with fellow students.

"The more we come together, the more we can achieve as a whole," he said. "Always remember, we are here to achieve and excel academically."

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Spelman, Morehouse tense over rape rumors

The whispered rumors raced around the campus: Morehouse men had raped Spelman women, and the school administrations were covering it up.

Ten days since a group of Spelman students staged an angry anti-rape protest over the alleged sexual assaults of two of their classmates, simmering tensions on both campuses remain. Despite the rumors, which have sparked dozens of conversations and a flurry of e-mails among concerned parents and alumni, no one has been arrested or charged with any crime.

Morehouse students say they have been maligned by the protest and the allegations, which have yet to be proved true. And officials at both schools, which have a long tradition of working together, are busy trying to carefully address the overall issue of sexual violence without fanning the rumors' flames.

"There's a lot of smoke out there, and that smoke has alarmed people," said Kevin Rome, Morehouse College's vice president of Student Services. "But we haven't seen any fire. There's inaccurate, incorrect information being passed around."

The only incident report that has been filed with police regarding a sexual assault of a Spelman student by a Morehouse student is murky, and officials at both schools say they have not seen it.

According to the report, a Spelman student told Atlanta police she had been sexually assaulted by a Morehouse student after a party on Sept. 16. In the report, the student said she went with the man back to his residence where he began making sexual advances. At one point, the student said she told the man, "I'm not doing this." But, after continued advances, she performed oral sex on him. She said "she did not want to, but she did not tell the suspect no," according to the police report. She later had sex with the man, the report states, and did not say no. She told police she was in an "uncomfortable situation and did not know what to do." The report says she went to Grady Memorial Hospital and, after first deciding not to press charges, went to Atlanta police about the incident.

The copy of the report obtained by the Journal-Constitution identifies the man only by a first name.

Spelman students who organized the anti-rape protest said they hadn't seen any police report but had heard that two incidents had been reported to the school's Women's Center.

Spelman senior Leana Cabral, who serves as co-president of the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance, said she and other students decided to hold a rally to get the issue of sexual assault out into the open. In addition to the protest, the students have asked for specific actions by Spelman to address sexual assault on campus, including the establishment of a crisis hotline and sexual assault center.

On Sept. 20, they donned handmade T-shirts with slogans such as, "She's my Sister," and "No means No," and marched through campus. About 150 students crossed over to nearby Clark Atlanta University and onto Morehouse's campus, where the results of student government elections were being announced. Shouting, "Stop the Rape," they faced off with Morehouse students, many of whom were visibly angry, Cabral said.

"They were getting the point so wrong — we weren't going there against them. We were going there to work with them and try to raise awareness," she said.

Rome said Morehouse students were upset they hadn't been told of the protest in advance. "They support the cause," he said. "but they question the tactics."

Spelman President Beverly Tatum, who attended the rally, later said in a letter to the Morehouse community that, while she shared the "concern Spelman students have about the importance of raising awareness about the issues," she did not "support the disruption of activities on another campus."

Morehouse President Walter Massey, who has been out of the country, said in a letter that he and Tatum "are committed to working together to foster a climate of safety and mutual respect" for Spelman, Morehouse and other schools in the Atlanta University Center.

The two schools have launched a series of initiatives to that end, something that was already in the works before last week's protest. A joint task force of faculty, staff and students at both schools will tackle issues of gender, diversity and tolerance, said Sherry Turner, Spelman's vice president of Student Affairs.

"We'll be working together to offer educational forums, workshops and staff training," Turner said. "It will allow students on both campuses to come together."