Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco of Louisiana has hired a lawyer to investigate allegations that her assistant chief of staff sexually harrassed employees of the Southern University System. Ms. Blanco’s aide, Johnny G. Anderson, is also chairman of the system’s governing body, the Board of Supervisors.
Mr. Anderson told The Advocate, a newspaper in Baton Rouge, La., that he is innocent, and would not step down from his university post or his job with the governor. State Sen. Cleo Fields, a Democrat from Baton Rouge, called on Governor Blanco to ask Mr. Anderson to step aside for fear that he could influence the investigation from either or both of his positions. Mr. Fields said he would introduce a resolution next month in a special session of the state Legislature that would prohibit members of the governor’s staff from simultaneously serving on government boards.
The allegations against Mr. Anderson are unclear. The governor’s special counsel, Kimberly Robinson, said that her office had not seen specifics of the complaints from employees. The issue came to light when the university system’s president, Ralph Slaughter, sent a letter about the complaints to another state senator, Charles Jones, a Democrat from Monroe, La., asking him to look into the matter.
Mr. Anderson was re-elected on Friday to a third term as chairman of the system’s board.
The governing board of Texas Southern University, still reeling from a spending scandal and layoffs, appointed a retired U.S. Air Force brigadier general as interim president Monday.
James Timothy Boddie Jr., who once led NASA's Aircraft Management Office, will assume the top job at the nation's second-largest historically black university upon finalizing an employment contract, officials said.
The regents turned to Boddie, 75, after firing Priscilla Slade in June on the grounds that she misspent $286,000 of the school's money to furnish and landscape her house. Slade and three former aides now face criminal charges.
"Right now TSU needs someone who is rigid, and he fit the bill," board Chairman J. Paul Johnson said.
Johnson said the board also wanted a strong leader who would represent the university well in Austin when state lawmakers convene in January.
"The legislative session will be extremely important for us," Johnson said.
In August, TSU eliminated 178 jobs, including dozens of faculty positions, in anticipation of a $13.7 million shortfall this year. The regents also raised tuition and fees by 21.5 percent — the first increase in two years.
Enrollment declined about 2 percent this fall, but the drop was not as steep as the 7 percent campus leaders forecasted.
Boddie has not worked in academia but said his skills as an administrator — once leading a 6,000-troop base in Korea, "a city within itself" — translates into leading TSU. He said he sees his role as fixing the university's problems before a permanent president is hired.
The University of Maryland Eastern Shore's fall enrollment increase of 6.7 percent is tops among the traditional four-year universities in the University System of Maryland (USM) in fall 2006.
Total enrollment at UMES is 4,130, the first time in the institution's 120-year history that the student body headcount has exceeded 4,000. UMES has experienced significant enrollment growth for several years; in 1996 the headcount was 3,166.
“The University of Maryland Eastern Shore has become an institution of choice for all students in Maryland,” said President Thelma B. Thompson. “Recent accreditations, our unique academic programs, an outstanding faculty, an infusion of new scholarships and one of the most beautiful campuses in America are drawing more and more students to UMES.”
UMES, a historically black college that is one of the most racially diverse among the USM's 13 universities and research institutions, has a student population that is 77.4 percent African-American, 11.3 percent white and 88.7 percent other races. Students come from over 31 states and over 60 foreign countries. All counties in Maryland are represented and 922 (22.3 percent) are from the Lower Eastern Shore.
The University has 1,614 male students (representing 39.1 percent of the student body) and 2,516 female students. Undergraduate students number 3,697, and graduate students, 433. UMES had 29 undergraduate majors, 11 master's programs and six doctoral programs, and some 94 percent of the faculty have the terminal degree in their field of study.
According to a USM preliminary enrollment report, 5.1 percent more students enrolled in System institutions this fall than this time last year. Headcount enrollment numbers have reached a record high, boasting 135,005 new students, excluding University of Maryland University College’s (UMUC) overseas students, for the 13-member system.
While Salisbury University (5.3 percent), Towson (5.1 percent), University of Baltimore (1.1 percent), University of Maryland, Baltimore (2.0 percent) and University of Maryland, Baltimore County (1.3 percent) all reported increases, UMES’ enrollment increase of 6.7 percent is the highest increase since its founding.
UMES enjoys the highest six-year graduation rate (50 percent) among the four black colleges in Maryland, and ranks with the leaders among historically black colleges nationally.
Furthermore, a significant number of UMES students graduating with a bachelor’s degree attend graduate school. Out of 389 students who graduated in the 2004-05 academic year, 101 (26 percent) attended graduate school. University officials expect comparable numbers for the 2005-06 academic year.
Importantly, in keeping with its mission, UMES enrolls large numbers of students who are first in their respective families to attend college. During the 2005-06 academic year, 51 percent of entering freshmen were first generation college students.
Prosecutor seeks to unseal the testimony of ex-TSU president Former Texas Southern University President Priscilla Slade may have lied to the grand jury that later indicted her, Harris County prosecutors told a judge Monday.
Prosecutor Donna Goode sought to unseal Slade's grand jury testimony so that Slade's former assistant can review it for inconsistencies. If conflicts are found, an aggravated perjury charge could be added to the felony charges she faces.
The grand jury indicted Slade and three of her aides Aug. 1 on charges of misapplication of fiduciary property in relation to her use of university money for personal expenses while she was president.
"I think there's enough concern on my part to go through the gyrations of filing the motion," Goode said when asked whether there were specific allegations. She would not comment on the specific testimony in question, however.
Slade's attorney called the effort a "fishing expedition." Slade was fired in June after TSU 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 was spent during her tenure on such purchases as artwork, club memberships, spa treatments and tickets for sporting events.
She is charged with two counts. If convicted, she faces a sentence ranging from probation to life in prison. Slade's attorney, Mike DeGeurin, called the move an attempt to unseal her testimony for witnesses before her trial. By alleging that Slade may have lied to the grand jury, prosecutors can show testimony to witnesses who otherwise would not have had access to it, he said.
"There has to be a particularized need to look into grand jury testimony," DeGeurin said. State District Judge Brock Thomas is expected to rule on unsealing the testimony Nov. 28.
Aggravated perjury is a felony in which someone lied under oath in a court proceeding about something material to the inquiry.
If convicted, Slade could receive probation or up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Slade is scheduled to be tried with three of her aides: Quintin Wiggins, Bruce Wilson and Frederick Holts, who were indicted in connection with their roles in the purchases.
However, some attorneys for the four defendants are arguing that their clients should be tried separately, or "severed" from the others. The judge will rule on severance requests Jan. 9.
DeGeurin said he has not decided whether he will ask for a severance. At least one defendant will go to trial Feb. 16, Goode said, but the possibility of severances makes it impossible to determine who at this point.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced a $12.5 million grant, 5-year grant, to the University of Maryland Eastern Shores and five other universities to conduct research into aquatic sciences to habitat restoration.
It is the second multimillion, five-year grant that NOAA offered the research teams since 2001. The research began six years ago in the Living Marine Resources Cooperative Science Center at UMES.
"I am extremely pleased with this significant infusion of federal funds by NOAA to UMES," said Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, D-Md., a strong supporter of the Marine Science Center. "UMES has earned a national reputation for its programs in marine-related sciences and is uniquely qualified to continue its strong educational and research initiatives in marine sciences."
The other universities that are involved are Delaware State University, Hampton University, Savannah State University, the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute Center of Marine Biotechnology and the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences.
LMRCSC will continue to generate the diverse students in marine sciences that NOAA and other related agencies desire to have a multicultural work force, said UMES President Thelma B. Thompson.
The NOAA grant also funds the students who are working on the research teams.
University System of Georgia Interim Chief Academic Officer And Executive Vice Chancellor Beheruz N. Sethna announced today that he has appointed Dr. Julius Scott, a distinguished and nationally recognized administrator and academician to serve as the interim president of Savannah State University (SSU).
Scott's appointment, effective Jan. 1, 2007, follows SSU President Carlton E. Brown's recent announcement that he is resigning as of Dec. 31, 2006. Scott will serve as interim president until a national search concludes with the appointment of a permanent president for SSU. Scott has served as interim president of University System of Georgia institutions on three other occasions – Albany State University in 1996 and 2005 and the Medical College of Georgia in 2001.
Prior to serving the University System of Georgia, Scott held the presidency of Wiley College, in Marshall, Texas, from 1996 to 2001. He also held two appointments as president of Paine College in Augusta, first from 1975 to 1982, and later for an unusual second term, from 1988 to 1994.
"We are extremely grateful to have been able to call on Dr. Scott's strong leadership skills again and again over the years," Sethna said. "I am confident that Savannah State University will be in very good hands with his guidance."
Scott holds a Ph.D. from Boston University and additional degrees from Brown University, Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary and Wiley College (with distinction). Named a Distinguished Alumnus of Boston University in 1987, he also holds 14 honorary degrees.
He is a member of Rotary Club International, and was elected a Paul Harris Fellow in 1992. Scott's numerous service roles include having served as secretary of the members of the United Negro College Fund; chair of the secretariat and secretary of the board of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities; and as a member of the University Senate of The United Methodist Church. He also serves as a member of the board of the Carnegie Council on Ethics in International Affairs, a member of the board of the Medical College of Georgia Health, Inc., and as a life member of the North Central College (Naperville, Ill.) Board of Trustees.
Plans regarding the national search for a permanent presidential appointee will be forthcoming in the near future.
The chance to lead one of the "big three" among historically black universities wasn't something the 55-year-old president of Baltimore's Coppin State University was going to pass on.
Stanley F. Battle was elected by the UNC Board of Governors on Friday as the next chancellor of N.C. A&T . He starts his new job July 1 with a salary of $255,000.
Battle said he was drawn by the east Greensboro university's consistent record and reputation, the state's support for higher education and the opportunity to mesh with the greater Greensboro community.
He has one goal for A&T: "To make it the finest institution in the country," he said.
"I enjoy rising early and going to bed late," he said. "I'm going to use every second and every minute effectively and efficiently."
UNC system President Erskine Bowles said choosing Battle was not a tough decision. He said Battle was the type of leader he could believe in, trust in and work with.
"I liked his passion. I liked his seriousness. I liked the fact that he was straight to the point, no nonsense," Bowles said.
"I liked the fact he understood how difficult this job was going to be and that he was tough enough to do it. You can't sense any fear in this man. He's ready for this challenge."
Other qualities — such as his integrity, communication skills and down-to-earth nature — endeared him to others.
"The way he treats the custodian is the same way he'll treat the chairwoman of the board of trustees," said Arnita Floyd-Moody, A&T's student body president and a search committee member.
Battle was a unanimous choice among committee members, said search Chairwoman Velma Speight-Buford.
"Greensboro is fortunate," said Lloyd Hackley, who has been A&T's interim leader since May 1. "They're getting an outstanding chancellor." Battle has been president of Coppin State since March 2003. A man of faith, he said some students at Coppin State call him "Bishop Battle." He's also an avid runner and has a twin brother who shares his love of singing.
Battle said it was too early to start outlining his priorities for the university; he wants a chance to get to know the campus community. But he did emphasize communication with two key constituents: students and alumni.
"A great deal of time will be spent with the students," he told the university's trustees and top administrators during an A&T luncheon Friday. "If anyone has a problem with that, we need to reorder our steps because students are the most important reason why we're here."
At the beginning of the 20th century, George Washington Carver and other researchers and educators at Tuskegee University helped revolutionize Southern agriculture by urging farmers to plant alternative crops such as peanuts and sweet potatoes in fields depleted by decades of cotton farming.
With alumni returning this weekend to celebrate Tuskegee's 125th anniversary, the school's researchers are developing methods to enable astronauts to grow peanuts and sweet potatoes on space missions.
Home of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first black pilots trained to fly for the U.S. military, Tuskegee has become the nation's top supplier of black aerospace engineers and receives research funding from Lockheed and Boeing.
Maintaining the ties it established with corporate America in the early 1900s, the 3,000-student university in the Black Belt draws hundreds of companies to its annual career fair as they seek a diverse workforce to compete in a global economy.
One of those students is Carl Orlando Williams Jr. of Montgomery, a junior in mechanical engineering, who is on a scholarship sponsored by Raytheon. He has been chosen for summer internships with Procter & Gamble and G.E.'s aircraft engineering division.
"The opportunities for my generation are unlimited," Williams said.
Legand Burge, dean of Tuskegee's College of Engineering, Architecture and Physical Sciences, said students don't need Ivy League test scores and grades to get in, but they are expected to perform and are rewarded when they do.
"You graduate here, you get a job," Burge said.
'A force for good'
Founded in 1881 by former slaves, Tuskegee has come a long way since its first class of 30 local students met in a one-room shanty under the leadership of Booker T. Washington. At the time, the state of Alabama provided a meager $2,000, strictly for teachers' salaries, at the Normal School for Colored Teachers.
Soon after its founding, the school built a campus on a 100-acre abandoned plantation. Through the years, faculty in the architecture school designed and students built its stately academic buildings around a grassy green that still serves as the heart of the campus.
Washington, born in slavery himself, built a national reputation for an approach to higher education that focused on practical training that improved the economic prospects of blacks on the farms as well as those headed to factories and the trades. TU President Benjamin Payton said Washington promoted self-reliance and uplift and avoided bitterness and grievance.
"He was a strong believer in doing first things first," Payton said. "There can be no true freedom without economic freedom. He was about the development of a whole people. Washington had a vision for helping black folk become a force for good in society."
Washington was criticized by black intellectuals for accepting a second-class form of higher education for blacks and participating in a system of segregation that denied political rights for blacks.
Much of the criticism came from blacks from the North who didn't appreciate the climate of hostility and the threatened violence blacks in the South faced, Payton said. Washington wasn't silent. Tuskegee compiled what is still regarded as the most complete tally of lynchings. That archive served as ammunition for protesting the practice.
Washington also campaigned against the Alabama Constitution of 1901, which stripped blacks and poor whites of their voting rights.
But Washington's focus on economic progress rather than social protest won him widespread support throughout the country from major corporations and philanthropists. Henry Ford developed a close relationship with George Washington Carver, and Tuskegee's relationship with Ford continues today.
Presidents sought Washington's counsel, and TU's national reputation remains. Seven sitting presidents have visited the campus in east-central Alabama, including George W. Bush, who came last April to view the work in nanotechnology being performed at Tuskegee's Center for Advanced Materials.
After Washington's death, subsequent presidents continued his approach, sometimes running into similar criticism.
In the 1920s, the government planned to establish a black veterans' hospital. Tuskegee President Robert Moton pursued and landed the project despite protests by black intellectuals over the segregated nature of the institution. White residents of the area also objected, fearing the hospital would draw a staff of black physicians, nurses and professionals who would control significant economic power.
In the 1940s, Tuskegee President Frederick Patterson landed the Army's flight instruction school for blacks. Again, national black leaders fought the Army Air Corps' plan to establish a separate all-black aviation unit, deriding it as the "Jim Crow Air Corps." But Tuskegee cooperated, and the cadets trained there are better known today as the Tuskegee Airmen.
In more than 200 combat missions during World War II, the Airmen didn't lose a single bomber to enemy fire - a record unmatched by any other fighter group. Their performance helped make the case for the desegregation of the armed forces, and out of that group of airmen came Air Force Gen. Daniel "Chappie" James, America's first black four-star general.
Despite the desegregation of higher education and opportunities available for blacks at flagship schools, Tuskegee's historic mission still remains relevant, Payton said.
And corporate America seems to think there's still a need for Tuskegee. A new home for the business school is being built with the help of a $2 million donation from Procter & Gamble, $1 million donations from Ford, 3M and Praxair, and other large donations from corporations and foundations across the nation.
Closer to home, Tuskegee, which started the nation's first cooperative extension service, remains tied to the Black Belt. With the Alabama Department of Agriculture, Tuskegee is spearheading the creation of a farmers market and cooperative where small farmers from the region can pool their output and provide a steady supply of vegetables for larger suppliers.
The university also draws faculty from developing countries and performs research for the benefit of small farmers of those nations. Researchers are developing sweet potatoes with five times the normal level of protein with the goal of improving diets in parts of the world where meat is scarce, and sweet potatoes with the cholera vaccine embedded in its DNA. That could eventually allow immunization to be spread through their cultivation.
Dennis Waiters of Dallas and Robert Warren of Los Angeles were drawn to Tuskegee for the animal science department, which prepares students for the university's School of Veterinary Medicine. TU has the nation's only vet school at a historically black university, and it has produced 75 percent of the nation's black veterinarians. That and other nationally known programs draw students from 43 states and 34 countries. Only 36 percent of Tuskegee's students are from Alabama
Student Government Association president David Milledge of Montgomery is a senior in sales and marketing. At Tuskegee, he said, students don't encounter the barriers they would find at larger, predominantly white schools.
And there is a sense of ownership as they walk past buildings that students built. All students are required to read Booker T. Washington's "Up From Slavery" as freshmen.
"I don't think you can be a student at Tuskegee and not learn the history," Milledge said.
Coppin State President Stanley Battle will be introduced as the new Chancellor of North Carolina A&T State University this afternoon in a scheduled press conference on the Greensboro campus.
Battle took over Coppin State in 2003 leading them from college to university status. Previously he had served as vice chancellor of student and multicultural affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
The 55-year old Battle has extensive experience in developing academic improvement among low performing students in secondary education.
He is a 1973 graduate of Springfield College, 2 master degrees, one in social work from the University of Connecticut and another in public health from the University of Pittsburgh. He earned his doctorate from Pittsburgh in 1980.
Philander Smith College in Little Rock violated an array of federal student aid requirements, improperly keeping nearly half a million dollars during the fiscal year ending June 30, 2004, according to an audit by the U. S. Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General.
The inspector general’s report recommended that the U. S. Education Department order the college be put on a reimbursement pay plan to return $ 477, 029 to the federal government. The college has accepted responsibility for $ 430, 078 but disagrees with the inspector general’s findings as to the exact amount it owes.
“The positive thing about an audit — particularly when you have a new team in — is that it gives you a complete picture as to where you are when you got there,” Walter Kimbrough, president of the 585-student historically black college since December 2004, said Monday.
“We look at it as a sort of playbook that says if we do these things, it will strengthen our institution.”
Philander Smith’s students can continue to be eligible for federal loans and grants.
But the long-term outcome for the college was unknown Monday. The inspector general recommends that Philander Smith continue to receive federal aid, but also asks the Education Department to consider sanctions against the college. These could range from a fine to termination of participation in federal student aid programs.
Kimbrough said Monday he and the Education Department are already working together. He estimated the college has already returned about $ 100, 000 to the federal government.
The decision to accept or reject any of the inspector general’s recommendations is now up to Theresa S. Shaw, the chief operating officer of the department’s Federal Student Aid Office. When contacted Monday, the department declined to offer any further details other than the report.
Kimbrough said the college would be able to reimburse the government. The college has a total budget of about $ 9. 5 million, he said.
The federal audit examined Philander Smith’s finances from July 1, 2003, through June 30, 2004. Investigators said, among other things, Philander Smith:
Did not maintain proper accounting of Perkins loans. The federal government designates the low-interest loans for students with “exceptional” financial need. Students occasionally made payments to the college’s business office. But officials did not always alert the U. S. Education Department’s central loan database, so some borrowers were not credited for their payments. Because of Philander Smith’s lack of detailed records, the audit could not determine how many borrowers were affected. Distributed $ 289, 861 in federal aid to 64 students who earned zero credit hours in a semester, and therefore should have had their aid halted under federal rules. Failed to return $ 19, 090 for 10 students who later withdrew. The college also did not have a way to identify students who didn’t follow official withdrawal procedures, and as a result, kept an additional $ 127, 265 for 88 students who simply stopped attending classes.
Neglected to complete required verification of certain information on five of 20 students randomly selected by the inspector general. Under federal rules, an institution is not supposed to distribute aid without verifying such information as the recipient’s gross income, income tax payments, household size and the number of household members enrolled in college. The inspector general recommends the college return $ 35, 222 to the federal government for those five students — $ 862 of that also went to a student who quit going to classes.
Other funds the inspector general recommended Philander Smith be required to reimburse included credit balances from unused scholarship funds and accumulated interest on a direct loan program for which the college did not keep proper records.
The audit also said that “based on the significance of these findings,” the total $ 11. 4 million in Education Department funds that Philander Smith disbursed in fiscal 2004 “might be at risk for similar misuse.”
Kimbrough, who previously had served as a college administrator in Georgia and Virginia, started work as Philander Smith’s president in December 2004, months after the period audited. He learned the audit would take place in 2005.
Trudie Kibbe Reed, Philander Smith’s president at the time, is now president of Bethune-Cookman College, a historically black campus in Daytona Beach, Fla.
By e-mail, she said the college’s financial aid office historically has had high turn-over because of low salaries. During fiscal 2003, she said the inspector general’s regional office in Dallas first informed her that the college had failed to return aid for students who had withdrawn.
At the office’s recommendation, she said she hired a new director of financial aid, who left six months later. Reed also hired a full-time consultant to liquidate the college’s Perkins loan program, which she said was in 80 percent default in 1998.
“When I left in 2004, it was my understanding from the consultant that all problems were either cleared up, or in the process,” Reed said.
Since arriving at Philander Smith, Kimbrough has hired a new director of financial aid. He said the majority of staff members in the college’s financial aid office also have been hired since 2005.
Under the inspector general’s recommendation, the college has phased out its direct loan program.
He said the college also introduced a system for tracking students who receive federal aid, so if they withdraw or fail their classes, their aid can be returned to the federal government.
“We think that this is [the inspector general’s ] duty to make sure that their programs are managed effectively,” Kimbrough said. “We look forward to showing [the inspector general’s office ] and our stakeholders in the college that we can manage the program effectively.”
Meharry Medical College officials announced that Wayne Riley will serve as the college’s new president and CEO.
From a field of approximately 100 candidates, the selection committee selected a leader at one of the nation’s top medical schools whose father is a Meharry graduate. Riley has a resume studded with accomplishments including his most recent job as vice president and vice dean of nationally ranked Baylor College of Medicine, in addition to degrees from Yale, Tulane and Rice universities.
“Dr. Riley clearly was the right choice,” said Milton Jones, chairman of the Meharry board of trustees. “He certainly has a very, very high pedigree of experience, and we’re excited to have him.”
He’s the son of 1960 Meharry graduate Emile Edward Riley Jr.
“Meharry changed his life, and made my life possible,” said Riley, who’ll become the school’s 10th president.
Riley said his vision for the college includes a commitment to underserved populations in providing health care, as well as “ground-breaking research” on diseases that disproportionately affect African-American populations. The college’s mission should extend beyond north Nashville, and redefine the idea of what it means to be a historically black medical college.
In terms of the Nashville community, Riley hopes to further cultivate the alliance between Meharry and Vanderbilt Medical School. He said he will also concentrate on promoting Metro General Hospital, both within the college and out in the community.
“I’ve spent my life in public hospitals,” Riley said. “Metro General Hospital is a community and regional resource.”
Riley takes office effective Jan. 1. He succeeds interim president Anna Epp, who took the helm at Meharry after former president John Maupin left in June
An anonymous philanthropist has given $4.6 million to Bethune-Cookman College.
The gift is the largest in B-CC's 102-year history.
Miami attorney Larry Handfield, a trustee and 1978 alumnus, said the donor is a friend of his who sought out his counsel.
"(The donor) trusted my direction as far as what will be a good purpose," Handfield said Thursday in a telephone interview.
He told the contributor that Bethune-Cookman touches people's lives every day. The school steered Handfield, a fatherless inner-city teenager, to law school.
When asked about the amount, Handfield said: "When someone is being generous, you don't ask questions."
The gift is unrestricted, meaning the college can use it as it sees fit.
Stephen Schafer, vice president for institutional advancement, said the trustees and president are discussing what might be the best use. The "leading candidates" are a football training center and expanding the nursing program.
Handfield was once drum major in the Marching Wildcats Band.
"(He) is a drum major on all fronts for the college. He is leading on a new and powerful level," President Trudie Kibbe Reed said in a written statement.
When new University System of Georgia Chancellor Erroll Davis addressed the Downtown Rotary Club Monday, he drew a crowd of area college officials large enough to fill two tables.
And though his topic was economic development, no one asked a single question about his speech.
"Well I guess I'll answer the question everyone asked me in the hall," Davis said. " 'Are we going to merge Savannah State (University) and Armstrong (Atlantic State University)?' The answer is no we are not."
The room was silent, except for clapping coming from Savannah State University President Carlton Brown.
"Thank you Carlton," Davis replied.
Armstrong Atlantic State University President Thomas Jones turned to Brown and smiled.
The recent and unexpected administrative changes at Savannah State University has peaked public curiosity and fueled an already raging rumor mill.
The quiet resignation of Vice President for Finance Arthur L. Moncrief leaves Savannah State without it's top three administrators.
Moncrief's resignation is effective today.
Vice-president of Academic Affairs Joseph Silver announced three months ago that he was leaving on sabbatical and will retire in January.
And last week Brown announced he will leave the university in January and take a position handling presidential initiatives for Davis in Atlanta.
But contrary to the local buzz, Davis, who insisted that he is not in the "rumor control business," said there is no missing university system money and he is not cleaning house.
"Having that number of vacancies at once is just coincidental," Davis said.
Silver has taken a job with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, according to Davis, and he wanted Brown to coordinate initiatives for system presidents, he said.
"It is to be expected as I come in, I want to put in different systems and teams to put in place the things that I want to get accomplished," Davis said. "Brown will work on what I consider to be a critical initiative of mine."
As for the employee of the vendor-run bookstore at Savannah State who was recently indicted for embezzling funds, Davis said the matter is in no way connected to the university.
"That's a non-issue from the system perspective," Davis said. "It's the vendor's problem."
Davis was put off by the anonymous letters about Savannah State University that he's received since he took over the state university system this summer.
He has made several administrative changes around the state - there was even another unexpected leadership change at another university this month - but the only changes people are talking about are at Savannah State, Davis said.
"I don't think Savannah State's problems are unique. There are problems at every institution," Davis said. "But we just don't have people papering the landscape with anonymous letters anywhere else."
Brown was appointed by former Chancellor Stephen Portch in 1997 to lead the university out of a period of academic instability and campus unrest. At the onset groups of alumni, sports boosters and faculty protested his appointment.
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.
During Brown's tenure, people have staged protests, filed lawsuits, circulated petitions and sent letters to the Board of Regents over everything from tenure and finances to academics and football.
Despite the controversy, Davis said the Brown administration was responsible for tremendous accomplishments, including improving facilities, attaining research grants and increasing enrollment.
In the coming months, Davis said he will appoint a local team to find presidential candidates who can carry out his vision and carry on the work that Brown began. Davis will participate in the interviews and make recommendations to the Regents who will ultimately select the university's next president.
During that process, Davis said he hopes to drive home the point that there are much better ways for the Savannah State community to work out its administrative issues and grievances.
"It does a disservice to the university," Davis said.
No one's calling it Spy 101 yet, but a $2.3 million federal grant won by Norfolk State University will go toward teaching foreign languages, history and religions to students who have their eyes on careers in national security and intelligence.
The grant program helps develop talent for the 16 federal intelligence agencies, including the FBI and the Defense Department, said John Callahan, a spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
"It ranges from... developing tools for espionage to developing key language skills," Callahan said.
"Almost every skill you can imagine is needed in the intelligence community."
Norfolk State announced Tuesday that the money will help finance classes over five years in Arabic, Chinese, Japanese and Korean, as well as Middle Eastern and Asian history and religions, and developing analytical skills. NSU students also will have opportunities for internships and other work with intelligence agencies.
Science is another target area for the grants, Callahan said. A critical need is developing intelligence-gathering systems that communicate among agencies, he said.