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Friday, December 28, 2007

Texas Southern researchers link mold to neuropsychological illness

Researchers at Texas Southern University say contamination of the indoor environment by toxigenic molds is directly related to adverse health effects.
Mold releases spores into the air to reproduce. These spores grow readily in damp environments and are easily inhaled.

According the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “ Molds can trigger asthma episodes in sensitive individuals with asthma. People with asthma should avoid contact with or exposure to molds.” However, mold exposure is not limited to affecting only asthmatics.

TSU researchers examined twelve female office workers who presented with symptoms of neuropsychological illnesses with mold as the suspected cause.

The subjects complained of weakness and numbness in their legs, dizziness, loss of memory, light-headedness, vertigo, fatigue, getting lost in familiar territory, and confused thoughts. All the subjects showed abnormal antibodies to Alternaria tenuis, Pullularia pullulans, and Epicoccum nigru, each a form of mold.

The TSU researchers concluded that chronic exposures to toxigenic molds appears to lead to neuropsychological manifestations.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Finalist for Texas Southern president expected to be named soon

The search for Texas Southern University's next president is drawing to a close, although the selection could not come soon enough for some state lawmakers.

The university's governing board is expected to receive a recommendation from an advisory search committee at a specially called meeting — more than 18 months after the firing of former President Priscilla Slade.

Although the regents could act immediately upon the recommendation, it's likely that they will wait before making a decision because not all of them will attend the meeting, said Glenn Lewis, the board's chairman.

The short list of candidates, according to people familiar with the search process, includes interim University of Houston President John Rudley; the city of Houston's chief administrative officer, Anthony Hall; and Ivory Nelson, a former Texas A&M University System administrator who now leads Lincoln University in Pennsylvania.

It's unclear how many candidates the committee will recommend to the board.

Lewis declined to comment on the candidates but previously praised Rudley, who served as TSU's chief financial officer and internal auditor during the 1980s. He said the board needs to make a decision soon but cannot afford to make the wrong one.

"It needed to be done yesterday," Lewis said.

The board is under pressure to move quickly to the fill the position, which has been vacant since the firing of Slade in June 2006 amid a spending scandal.

TSU is at risk of losing accreditation if campus leaders do not rectify a series of financial and management issues within a year. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools placed the state's largest historically black university on probation last week because of the school's poor financial picture.

"I would hope that a decision be made and a new president on campus by the beginning of next semester," said state Rep. Garnet Coleman, a Houston Democrat whose district includes the 9,500-student campus. "If not, it's a big problem."

The spring semester begins next month.

The university had suspended the search this year after Gov. Rick Perry decided to replace the entire nine-member governing board. The search resumed in September after Lewis added three regents to the advisory committee, which includes alumni, faculty and community members and students.

The committee, headed by Gerald Smith, chairman and CEO of Houston investment firm Smith, Graham & Co., had narrowed the field of candidates to 18 names in November but accepted applications and nominations through last Friday.

Rudley will be the interim president at the University of Houston until Renu Khator, formerly the second in command at the University of South Florida, takes over the reins next month. Rudley is expected to return to his role of vice president for administration and finance.

Hall, a TSU-trained attorney who oversees the day-to-day operations of the city, is a former City Council member and state representative. He also recently served with Lewis on Perry's blue-ribbon committee on the future of the university.

Nelson, a noted chemist, served one year as acting president of Prairie View A&M University and six years in the top job at the Alamo Community College District in San Antonio. He has been president of the historically black Lincoln since 1999.

After the finalist are named, state law requires the regents to wait 21 days before voting on the appointment.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

SC State plans to have new president by July

South Carolina State University trustees are working toward having a new president by July 2008, the board chairman said Wednesday.

The S.C. State Board of Trustees met by telephone to develop a framework for hiring a new president and to select a firm to help in the search.

The trustees approved creating an 11-member presidential search committee including three trustees, two elected officials, one faculty member, one staff member, one student, one member from the Board of Visitors, one member of the national alumni association and one member from the local corporate community.

The trustees expect to name the members of the committee by the end of the year, board Chairman Maurice Washington said.

He said search committee members will have to possess a knowledge of S.C. State, a commitment to S.C. State's greater good, credibility, clout, a willingness to devote time and an ability to maintain confidentiality. He also said the board wants to ensure the committee is diverse.

"Selecting a CEO is the board of trustees' most important task," Washington said before going into a two-hour executive session with the board.

Last week, the board voted not to renew President Dr. Andrew Hugine's contract, which was due to expire in June. He was placed on administrative leave, with his last day scheduled to be Jan. 4. Dr. Leonard McIntyre was appointed interim president.

The board on Wednesday also approved the selection of Academic Search, Inc. to assist the university in the nationwide search for its next president. Washington said the firm was an attractive pick because it works exclusively with higher education institutions and has a previous working relationship with S.C. State.

"They are familiar with many of our needs. They should be able to move quickly through the process and help meet our dates," Washington said.

Academic Search is based out of Washington, D.C. and has served more than 800 clients during its three decades of existence, according to the firm's Web site.

Washington said that Senior Vice President of Finance John Smalls will negotiate the terms of S.C. State's arrangement with Academic Search before the end of the year.

A press release announcing Wednesday's meeting said a contractual matter concerning the 2008 football season would also be discussed in executive session. However, trustees did not mention the issue after coming out of executive session. Athletics Director Charlene Johnson was present at the meeting.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Ft. Valley makes cuts to grow amid challenges, changes

The long list of academic programs shutting down at Fort Valley State University may seem like a death sentence for the, but it's actually part of the school's plans for a revival.

Fort Valley has emerged from a $2.5 million budget deficit by shuttering 12 programs and revamping the remaining offerings.

The university is boosting its once plummeting enrollment by hundreds with an expansive recruitment program, posh new apartment-style dorms and promises of a bright future.

"Some folks told me they had put Fort Valley on life support, that it was on its way to withering up," said President Larry E. Rivers, a Fort Valley State graduate who took charge 18 months ago. "It's a new day in the valley."

Fort Valley, like many other public historically black colleges, is still recovering from the deep imprint racial politics left on the nation's higher education system, said Michael Lomax, president of the United Negro College Fund and former chairman of the Fulton County Commission.

After years of living in the shadow of their majority white counterparts, historically black institutions are working aggressively to draw students, he said.

"What integration did ... was it gave our students an opportunity to be selective," said Dwayne Ashley, president and CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, which provides support for public historically black colleges.

Two years ago, Fort Valley was an aging campus that still hadn't completely recovered from the segregation-era decades when Georgia gave more support to majority white colleges than it did its three public historically black institutions - Fort Valley, Savannah State University and Albany State University.

Fort Valley's enrollment had declined for nearly a decade. It hit 2,100 in the fall of 2006 after the state suspended accreditation for the university's teacher education program, sending 300 students in search somewhere else to get a degree.

For eight consecutive years, the university had received a low rating from the state on audits of financial records, in part because the financial aid department liberally bestowed tuition waivers, helping swell the deficit.

Donations were stagnant.

After Rivers took the helm in March 2006 he went on a speaking tour, expanded the recruitment program and sent his students to high school across the state to talk about their institution.

The university began airing monthly TV shows on a local station to talk about programs and projects on campus.

Donations increased. The university's endowment grew $2 million, to $5.5 million.

Rivers eliminated the campus' deficit by closing low enrollment programs, including programs in physics and office administration, and by laying off 15 employees and not filling vacancies left by retirements. He closed most of the university's teacher education degree programs and is opening new ones to regain accreditation.

The university - which began as a trade school for blacks - is focusing on its teacher education, health science and agriculture programs, said Daniel Wims, vice president for academic affairs.

Rivers had a 3,000 pound bronze statue of the university's mascot - a wildcat - placed in a commons area between academic buildings. The statue, students say, is the symbol of a new type of energy on campus.

"It seems like it's getting better every year," said Jasmine Wilson, 18, a freshman from Columbus, Ga., who said attending Fort Valley State is a tradition in her family.

To reach out to students, Rivers put his profile on online social networking sites Facebook and MySpace. Like many faculty and staff members at Fort Valley State, he makes sure students know they can e-mail or call him any time.

It's that nurturing and family-like atmosphere that minority students often cite as the reason they continue to choose historically black institutions like Fort Valley over majority white campuses.

"I went to other college campuses but I didn't get that home feeling like I did at Fort Valley," said freshman Darrell Lockhart Jr. "I was talking to my friends that went to other campuses. They feel alone. They say they don't know anybody."

Anticipating an enrollment spike this fall, the university opened a $44 million, 951-bed housing complex, financed by the private Fort Valley State University Foundation. Every room was reserved in the first two weeks they were available.

Fort Valley saw the largest enrollment increase of any public college in the state this fall with a 17 percent jump to 2,500 students. Rivers says he wants to see that number increase to 15,000 over time.

Another 500-bed housing building will open next fall, and the university has plans for a $20 million science building and a new stadium.

Rivers wants to expand the university's offerings beyond its traditional teacher education and agriculture-based programs. He's eyeing a nursing and pharmacy program and would like to expand the veterinary technician program - the only accredited one in the state.

Students say they can feel the evolution.

"When I first started attending here, people used paper and pen in class," said Shanoria Morgan, a junior at the university. "Now we sit in class with laptops. Now there's more pride in our school."
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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

SC State Trustees vote not to renew President's contract

Ending weeks of speculation and rumors, the South Carolina State University Board of Trustees voted to oust President Dr. Andrew Hugine, Jr. during a Tuesday afternoon telephone conference.

Acting on the motion of trustee Lumus Byrd, the board voted not to renew the contract of its ninth president, which expires in June 2008. The board also agreed to immediately place Hugine on administrative leave, with his last day scheduled to be Jan. 4, 2008.

Byrd said Hugine’s contract should not be renewed because of his performance evaluation and an academic review of the university conducted by the Education Commission of the States.

Hugine had been back by U. S. House Majority Whip James Clyburn who said, "Hugine is someone I hold in high regard. Even so, if I felt for a minute that he was not keeping faith with the institution, I would tell him so, but that is not the case."

Hugine did not comment following the vote.

Trustee Col. John Bowden said that he would tender his resignation on that same day if the board accepted Byrd’s motion. Board Vice Chairman Jonathan Pinson, Charles Williams and Bowden voted against the motion.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Claflin Choir invited to perform in China

Choir needs to raise $170,000 to go

The Claflin University Concert Choir has been invited to China as part of a choral tribute and prelude to the 2008 Summer Olympics that will be held in Beijing, China. In order for the choir to go, they must first raise $170,000 by Mach 2008. To date they've raise about $15,000.

About 40 members of the concert choir have an opportunity to take the 10-day June tour of China in what is being called a "Stunning Choral Tribute to the 2008 Beijing Olympics: Perform in Harmony with Olympic Spirit." The Olympic games begin Aug. 8, 2008 and run to Aug. 24.

The choral tour will run from June 8-18 and will include stops in Tian Anmen Square, the Great Wall of China and the ancient Warriors Museum, a collection of 8,100 larger-than-life terra-cotta Chinese figures of warriors and horses dating to the 3rd Century BC.

St. Aug students host holiday party for kids

Students at St. Augustine's College held a Christmas party for more than 140 children in the surrounding Southeast Raleigh neighborhoods Friday.

Children 13 and younger from the Southeast Raleigh YMCA, Boys and Girls Clubs and the Tuttle Day Care Center received toys donated by St. Aug's faculty and staff.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

WSSU seeks to raise graduation rates

The new chancellor at Winston-Salem State University, Donald Reaves, is right to make raising graduation and retention rates his top priority. Low rates in those areas have been a problem at the school for too long.

The school’s four-year graduation rate is about 18 percent, and its six-year rate is about 44 percent. The school is aiming for a four-year graduation rate of 30 percent and a six-year one of 56 percent, the Journal’s Laura Giovanelli recently reported.

Good graduation and retention rates “are the primary reason we’re here,” Reaves rightly said. “In the end, that is the measure of your success.”

Raising those rates won’t be easy. This is a complex problem. Reaves obviously realizes that, and has some good ideas for raising the rates. He wants to make sure there are enough classes and in the right sequence for students to graduate on time. He also wants to hire staff to advise students (faculty does that now) and raise admission standards.

N.C. A&T State University in Greensboro raised those standards this week. At WSSU, Reaves wants to raise the median GPA required for admission to 2.6 and the median SAT score to 800 next year. The medians in those are now 2.5 for GPA and 780 for SATs.

All in all, Reaves is tackling the problem of graduation rates realistically and honestly.

“I think we do a real disservice when students are not prepared,” Reaves said in regard to admissions. “And I think we will do a better job … if we guide them into the institutions that are designed to prepare them, such as the community colleges.

“And that’s a hard pill for some people to swallow, but, in the end, I think they have a far greater chance to succeed.”

When you keep more students, Reaves correctly noted, “you don’t have to recruit as hard year-in and year-out.”

Other factors also figure in the number of students dropping out. There are financial strains, and huge pressures to succeed, especially for freshmen from inferior schools competing against those from better schools. It’s no wonder that many students drop put. But with hard work, the problem can be curbed.

Measures to raise graduation rates such as hiring staff to help students will take money. Academic programs, in general, are expensive. Reaves, like any college president, has to be a good fundraiser. He’s leading by example. He and his wife, Deborah, have pledged $100,000 to WSSU.

Reaves, who was the chief financial officer at the University of Chicago before coming to WSSU, obviously believes in his new school. He has good reason to. His predecessor, Harold Martin, greatly enhanced WSSU.

But like any good college, WSSU is a work in progress that must constantly be led to greater heights. At WSSU, a big part of that journey has to be raising graduation rates.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Texas plans to overall Texas Southern

Texas Southern University is proposing top-to-bottom changes to ease the concerns of state lawmakers, including greater oversight from regents, tighter controls over spending and the involvement of outsiders in academic and financial matters.

The sweeping set of reforms comes after nearly two years of turmoil at Texas' largest historically black university and could lead to an infusion of money from the state.

While the additional funding is an immediate and critical need, campus leaders characterized the proposed strategy as the best chance for improving a school with myriad of problems, including declining enrollment and low graduation rates.

The long-range plan calls for new policies that would require the governing board to be more involved than before, especially in money matters. At the same time, it says the regents' first priority should be to hire a permanent president.

The 167-page blueprint draws from ideas proposed by Gov. Rick Perry's TSU advisory committee, which offered a stinging assessment of the university in March. In following the committee's report, the new plan suggests a renewed focus on undergraduate education while making no mention of earlier research ambitions.

If the plan is approved, the state would provide nearly $40 million in supplemental funding over the next two years.

Focus on management
The roadmap focuses mainly on the university's management, recommending a series of tighter controls, including several continuous, scheduled reports and audits to the board. Regents, for example, would receive an annual plan to maximize the amount of financial aid available to students before setting tuition rates.
The goal is to provide more information in the decision-making process to the board, which came under heavy criticism for lax oversight amid the spending scandal that led to the firing of President Priscilla Slade in 2006.

Glenn Lewis, board chairman since May, said the regents' workload would increase, but their "primary responsibility is having an administrative team in place that we can trust and rely upon." A new TSU president could be hired as soon as January.

The reorganization plan calls for a balanced budget and an end to the use of special funding for ongoing operation costs. It also identifies nearly $140 million in possible one-time expenses over the next eight years, including the demolition of shuttered buildings and repayment of financial aid to the U.S. Department of Education, among other unpaid bills.

Shooting for success
On the academic side, TSU would use improved tests to assess the college readiness of applicants and strengthen advising and counseling programs to design "a plan for success" for each student. The university would advise students seeking job skills rather than a bachelor's degree to enroll elsewhere.

TSU, however, would not introduce entrance requirements, and doing so would be a fundamental change from its long-standing commitment to accept anyone who wants to pursue higher education, Lewis said.

"We're not concerned with your previous record, as long as you're committed from this point on," he said. "If you're committed, we can work with you."

Still, the university may ease out of the costly remedial education business, possibly transferring responsibility for improving basic math and English skills of its students to Houston Community College, according to the reorganization plan.

TSU estimates that roughly 70 percent of first-time freshmen arrive on campus without the skills needed to do university-level work. More than half do not make it to their sophomore year.

The university's enrollment plunged to its lowest point in five years with 9,544 students this fall. Although campus leaders are hopeful the numbers will stabilize next year, there is concern over a new state law that requires some students who do not complete specified high school coursework to attend a community college.

To reverse the enrollment decline, TSU must increase the number of transfer students from community colleges, said Gayla Thomas, vice president for enrollment management.

"The community college pipeline will be the wave of our future," she said.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Lincoln University to break ground on $40.5 million on science building

Lincoln University will hold a groundbreaking ceremony for construction of a new Science/General Classroom High Technology Building on November 17 at noon on the southeast section of the campus, site of the proposed structure.

The building will cost $40.5 million, including design, construction, furniture, fixture and equipment, and will house the biology, chemistry, physics and mathematics and computer science departments.

“We are excited about the construction of the building and what it means to our students,” President Ivory Nelson said. “It is in essence another step forward in our efforts toward achieving excellence.”

With its brick and glass exterior, the four-story building will feature six laboratories each for the chemistry and biology departments. Also of note are 100 and 60-seat lecture rooms on the first floor.

Construction of the building no doubt will enhance Lincoln University’s new academic initiatives, particularly its Center of Excellence in the Sciences. An outgrowth of that initiative would be the increase of minorities pursuing advanced degrees in the sciences, thereby increasing significantly the number of underrepresented researchers.

“The new building has many implications for the future of our students,” President Nelson said.

Monday, November 05, 2007

NCCU Law School named nation's best value

PreLaw Magazine has named the North Carolina Central School of Law as one of the nation's "best values" in law.

NCCU and law schools throughout the nation were judged on such criteria as tuition costs, bar passage rate and the employability of graduates. The NCCU School of Law was ranked # 1, edging out the University of Alabama School of Law (# 2) and Georgia State University College of Law (# 4).

Tuition at NCCU School of Law costs 2007-2008 academic year is less than $6,000 for residents and a little more than$8,700.

NCCU’s bar passage rate at 86 percent in 2006 compared with the overall state ratings of 71 percent. The faculty-to-student ratio at the law school is about one professor for every 21 students according to statistics gathered in January of this year.

“People like our graduates,” says Pierce. “The word is out and within nine months of graduation, about 88 percent of our young attorneys have jobs.”

Friday, October 26, 2007

Chemistry Dept at Hampton gets $1 million in grants

The Hampton University Department of Chemistry recently received four grants from three different government agencies. The grants, which total over $1 million, will help the department's continuous effort to support new programs, improve facilities and to advance the instruction that students attain from the program.

"Undergraduate research, mentoring and the preparation of students for graduate work are central to the department's activities and initiatives," said Dr. Isai Urasa, chairman of the HU chemistry department. "These grants will provide the department with new resources and opportunities that are needed to maintain the trend that has been established."

These grants were provided by the following agencies:

U.S. Department of Education, $420,111 - The three year grant will support forensics chemistry program. As more students become interested in forensic chemistry, the grant will help to cultivate the program. The grant will also aid in the establishment of a new forensic chemistry research laboratory.

The National Science Foundation, $308,000 - The grant, from the Major Research Instrumentation Program, will be used to acquire a 400 MHz nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer. The instrument will allow students to study molecular compounds, their structure and how they form. The extremely powerful and sophisticated instrument will provide enhanced data for students.

The National Science Foundation, $120,000 - This grant supports the creation of a computation and simulation laboratory. The lab, which will be completed in a few months, allows students to simulate situations and chemical reactions prior to performing experiments in the lab. The practice of computation and simulation are important tools; this preparation allows for a better-designed experiment.

The National Institutes of Health, $221,566 - This renewed grant, as a part of an on-going international research training program, will continue to fund opportunities for students and faculty to assist three universities in Kenya, Nigeria and Tanzania in Africa. The summer program consists of 10 to 15 students from different universities. The program which began at HU in 1995, allowed a total of 13 students to travel to Africa and embark on biomedical research this past summer. The 10-week study allows students to incorporate science with social and cultural experiences.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

UDC may return $18M in unspent funds

The troubled University of the District of Columbia is preparing to return up to $18 million in unused funds to the city.

Officials discovered the idle funds after reviewing their expenses for fiscal 2007, sources said. The university is raising students’ tuition by 40 percent in part because it claimed it was cash-strapped.

University spokesman J. Michael Andrews said officials were still reviewing the fiscal 2007 budget.

“We’re not finished yet,” he said. “But it looks, preliminarily, like there may be some underspending.”

The university was chartered in 1974 as D.C.’s only public college. It was designed to give poor and working-class students a shot at a top-flight education, but it has struggled for decades with mismanagement. Almost 25 provosts have come and gone since it opened.

The latest disclosure comes at the same time that federal and city authorities opened criminal investigations into the university’s spending. The D.C. and U.S. Department of Education inspectors general have been told millions in federal and local grants were lavished on no-bid contracts to cronies of top school officials, and millions more were wasted on programs that didn’t deliver promised results, sources said.

In June, the university’s board of trustees fired President William L. Pollard, but it left his command staff in place.

Last month, members of the university Senate sent blistering letters to acting university President Stanley Jackson and Mayor Adrian Fenty, demanding the replacement of Provost Wilhelmina Reuben-Cooke and a top-to-bottom review of the university’s finances and academics.

The Sept. 27 letter to Fenty asks him to fix what the faculty calls a “debilitating state of affairs” that is “an impediment to the well-being of the University.”

Both Jackson and Reuben-Cooke couldn’t be reached for comment.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Ex-Tx Southern pres. could be tried again in March

Ousted TSU President Priscilla Slade's attorney said today he's not sure he'll be able to represent her again if prosecutors insist on retrying his client on financial mismanagement charges.

Defense attorney Mike DeGeurin said he remains hopeful that prosecutors will dismiss charges alleging Slade spent more than $500,000 of Texas Southern University's money on personal expenses.

"This case should not be retried," DeGeurin said. "I hope that when the dust settles, reason will prevail and there will be no need for another trial."

Prosecutors said they would not consider dismissing the charges.

"There's no chance that will happen," Assistant District Attorney Donna Goode said.

State District Judge Brock Thomas said he was considering setting the retrial for March 24, but DeGuerin said he could not yet commit to a second trial because of obligations to other clients.

Thomas scheduled a Nov. 9 hearing to give DeGeurin time to decide.

DeGeurin represented Slade in the two-month trial that ended a week ago in a mistrial after the jurors said they were hopelessly deadlocked at 6 to 6.

If convicted, Slade faces a punishment ranging from probation to life in prison for the first degree felony.

DeGeurin has maintained that no crime was committed, that Slade was using university money to enhance TSU's image in the community and to court donors. The state's largest historically black university has long suffered financial hardship, testimony showed.

Jurors deliberated almost a week before being dismissed. The jury's foreman said the jurors who voted not guilty wanted to know more about how the checks and balances in the process were circumvented before convicting.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Spelman gets $10 million gift from Lehman Bros.

Lehman Bros. Holdings Inc. yesterday announced it is making a $10 million donation — the largest in the firm's 157-year history — to Spelman College.

The donation to the historically black, all-female Atlanta college — which also is the single-largest corporate donation Spelman has received — will create the Lehman Bros. Center for Global Finance and Economic Development at the school.

In addition to the development of an interdisciplinary program that will ultimately become a major, Lehman's gift will be used to hire new faculty, establish scholarships and create a Chinese-language instruction program, said Beverly Daniel Tatum, Spelman's president.

"For me, this is yet another step in identifying a place where black women have been underrepresented and creating new opportunities," Tatum said in an interview Tuesday. She noted that in the past the school addressed gaps in nursing, sciences and mathematics that needed a pipeline of black women.

New York-based Lehman Bros., an investment banking powerhouse that reported total assets of $605.9 billion at the end of the second quarter and more than 28,300 employees worldwide, said it's making a statement that corporations can help drive change.

"It's because there are so many elements that have contributed to why there is underrepresentation in the financial services industry among women of African descent and other segments of the population that we created a partnership," Scott J. Freidheim, Lehman's co-chief administrative officer, said in an interview.

"We think it is a wonderful opportunity to create a corporate-academic partnership that helps in one of the most important issues that the country faces today."

As part of the agreement, Spelman students will be paired with mentors from Lehman and be tapped for international and domestic internships.

The center, which will be housed in Spelman's Milligan Building, is expected to launch next fall as an interdisciplinary curriculum, school officials said. The goal is to spin it out as a stand-alone major by 2013. The Chinese-language program was included because of the center's global focus, officials said.

"This is not just about any one of the elements that we're going to accomplish together," Freidheim said. "This is about creating a model that will hopefully serve as a wonderful example of how to make a difference."

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

J-State lifts band suspension

Following protests and public outcry from students and alumni, Jackson State University officials have lifted a suspension on the university's band, the Sonic Boom of the South.

Dr. Velvelyn Foster, vice president of academic affairs and student life for the university indefinitely suspended the 280-member band on Oct. 10 following allegations of "mental hazing" from some parents and students who were not band members.

In a press release on the university's Web site, Foster stated that the university's investigation "revealed some instances of overzealous student band leaders and some members."

"Some students were required to do sit-ups and crunches if they did not perform their musical parts or marching routines correctly," Foster said. "We also found that some members of the band might have felt pressure because of the high expectations of excellence required of band members."

According to university officials, the band has been placed on probation for one year, but will perform at the Oct. 13 football game in Baton Rouge, La. against Southern University. Any further infractions during the probationary term will result in an automatic suspension. Foster also stated that band members might have to attend student decorum and anti-hazing seminars.

Anthony Hales, 23, a 2007 graduate of Jackson State University, said the university has a history of acting before investigating. "I could understand if they had solid proof or witnesses, but to go off of hearsay is down-right wrong," he said. "JSU has a history of acting before they investigate. If you look at the case a few years back involving the alleged rape by the basketball team, JSU suspended and arrested a group of young men all because of a frivolous story and later had to reinstate them."

Although this was the first time in the band's 65-year history that it had been suspended, the university made national headlines in 1991 when football coach C.W. Gordon took strong action by suspending four athletes and expelling two others from the team for alleged hazing. The Eta Eta chapter of Kappa Kappa Psi National Band Fraternity was suspended in 1992 when a member of the fraternity was accused of hazing freshman band members. The organization was suspended for seven years, but is now reinstated.

Jackson State University has a strict no-tolerance policy in place regarding hazing, which includes suspension and expulsion for parties found guilty. Hazing is a crime in the state of Mississippi and is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000. If an injury results, the punishment is increased to a fine of $2,000 and/or imprisonment for up to six months.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Mistrail declared in case of Ex-TxSo President

The jury ended up split 6 to 6, but stood united Friday and said they cried and prayed while deliberating the fate of ousted TSU President Priscilla Slade before declaring they were hopelessly deadlocked — resulting in a mistrial.

"They just didn't get to the heart of the case," foreman Charles Schweppe said of the prosecution's case, which accused the former Texas Southern University leader of using school money for her personal benefit.

State District Judge Brock Thomas declared a mistrial in the eight-week trial after jurors for the fourth time in three days informed him they were deadlocked.

Prosecutors say they plan to retry Slade. Defense attorneys preferred an acquittal, but said the hung jury was a blessing.

Slade, 56, was charged with misapplication of fiduciary property of more than $200,000. Prosecutors said she spent more than $500,000 of TSU money on a lavish lifestyle.

During the trial, jurors heard testimony about some of the purchases, including tens of thousands in furniture, $40,000 in fine china, crystal stemware and silverware settings for 25, and $100,000 in bar tabs over six years at Scott Gertner's Skybar and Grille.

After staring at each other across the room for almost two months, Slade and the jurors met face to face on the courthouse steps afterward and wished each other well.

"Good luck to you," Schweppe said.

"God bless you," Slade said.

Schweppe later agreed with defense attorney Mike DeGeurin's assertion that TSU needs someone like Priscilla Slade.

"She did a lot of good things for the university; unfortunately, she did some bad. They need someone like her so they can get the right things done," Schweppe said.

Facing a bank of television cameras, Slade thanked DeGeurin and her supporters.

"We knew from the beginning that the truth would set us free," Slade said. "I am just grateful that God truly answers prayers."

DeGeurin spoke glowingly of the jurors and his client while backhanding prosecutors.

"Every expenditure that they were criticizing — sometimes, often sarcastically — was an investment in Texas Southern University," DeGeurin said. "Dr. Slade's dream for Texas Southern University was working. Everything that she did was consistent with that dream. It was working."

He said he had hoped for a total not-guilty verdict, but that he talked to jurors and six were convinced of his client's innocence.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Jurors deadlocked in ex-Tx Southern president's trial

Jurors said Thursday they remain deadlocked in the Houston trial of Texas Southern University's former president accused of misspending school funds to decorate her homes.

Jurors are in their third full day of deliberations in the trial of Priscilla Slade. A day earlier, jurors said they were deadlocked but state District Judge Brock Thomas told them to continue.

Thomas says he will ask the jury to continue deliberating.

Prosecutors say Slade misspent more than half a million dollars of TSU funds. Her attorneys say all her purchases were legitimate. If convicted, she faces up to life in prison

For back ground see: ex TSU pres. want's trial moved

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Morehouse president wants to develop socially conscious "Renaissance Men"

In unveiling his vision for the country's only historically black, all-male college, newly confirmed president Robert Franklin said it's time to take our people to the next level by producing brothers of character who will graduate and make a difference.

Franklin said he wants the 2,800 young, black men under his stewardship to understand that they carry with them "the hopes and prayers of a lot of people." In the next few months, students are supposed to read King's sermon, "Three Dimensions of a Complete Life," "Letter from Birmingham Jail" and "Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?"

The 1975 alum also wants to "begin a conversation about a culture of dignity and decorum" that includes encouraging respect for women and a proposed dress code. "We want Morehouse Men to look the part, act the part, talk the talk, and walk the walk," Franklin said. He is also placing a priority on strengthening the school's relationship with the surrounding community, which sits in the shadow of downtown Atlanta and is black and economically depressed.

Franklin's most recent book, "Crisis in the Village: Restoring Hope in African American Communities," published this year, calls on the black church and historically black colleges to play a role in improving such communities. "We will be exporting this message to the surrounding community," Franklin said, adding that he has invited young men who live near campus to visit Morehouse. "We want to make being smart cool again." He hopes to continue successful fundraising efforts at Morehouse. Last year, the school capped a $119 million capital campaign boosted by the acquisition of the Martin Luther King Jr. Papers, which are owned by the college.

Being a Morehouse grad, I am totally feeling what the brother is trying to do and applaud him big time for stepping up to the plate and assuming this responsiblity. We'll be watching and keeping you updated on what's jumping off in Atlanta

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Hazing allegations silence J-State's Sonic Boom

Jackson State University has canceled an upcoming performance by its marching band, Sonic Boom of the South, while the school investigates reports of hazing.

School officials said today that the alleged hazing was mental and was reported by people outside the band.

It is said to have happened to two or three band members. The schools is looking at five alleged perpetrators.

"We take hazing allegations very seriously," said Velvelyn Foster, vice president of academic affairs and student life. "Therefore, we have decided to hold performances."

University officials have informed bandleaders that the 220-member Sonic Boom will not perform at the Oct. 13 football game in Baton Rouge, La., against Southern University.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

SC State researcher awarded NSF grant

A associate professor at SC State University, and her research team have recently been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant of $320,000 to study the use of gold nanoparticles in biomedical applications. Gold nanoparticles are brightly colored, making them easy to locate and monitor, and have the ability to adhere to many different types of molecules. The team will utilize the attributes of gold nanoparticles to investigate the possibility of adhesion to other molecules that are known to separate large groups of proteins, a potential cause of Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. Rahina Mahtab, and her team, will involve minority women in the research, promoting the hands-on approach to training in the use of modern spectroscopic equipment. According to Dr. Catherine Murphy, a University of South Carolina professor and a collaborator in this research, “The team of professors on this project are all women, and we are all very interested in keeping women scientists in the professional pipeline by mentoring them at an early stage.”

Drs. Mahtab and Murphy have worked together on past research projects, receiving a seed grant as part of the SC EPSCoR/IDeA Collaborative Research Program.

Monday, October 08, 2007

BET's College Hill heads to Atlanta

BET’s “College Hill,” that network’s equivalent to the highgly successful MTV “Real World” reality show has started filming its fifth season in Atlanta. It helps the city has a major African-American presence, is the hub for hip hop and has several respected historically black colleges. BET is also shooting its upcoming hip-hop awards at the Atlanta Civic Center and the Keyshia Cole reality show in that city.

The 2008 show will follow the lives of four male and four female college students who are sharing a local house. BET has already shot at a local hair salon and Young Jeezy’s birthday party. College Hill Season Five is set to tape through November and air in the spring of 2008.

“College Hill” has been one of BET’s most successful original series to date. The fourth season typically drew 1.3 million to 1.5 million viewers a week earlier this year, with the finale surpassing 1.8 million.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

NCCU urged to aim higher

N.C. Central University's new chancellor asked a lot of his constituents.

He wants students to amp up their academic expectations considerably. He wants faculty and staff to call people back when they leave a message.

And everyone should pick up litter, lest they become too accustomed to living and working on a sloppy campus.

These were among the demands Charlie Nelms laid out for the NCCU community during his first universitywide address; they come from his initial observations after two months as the institution's new leader.

In a 25-minute address, Nelms said he wants NCCU to become the top liberal arts college in the Southeast -- a lofty goal for an institution struggling to retain students. Nelms' arrival has coincided with a new push by the UNC system to improve retention and graduation rates at the state's public universities. Nelms told students Friday that he expects all students who enroll to graduate.

"Unless you have graduation as your destination, you shouldn't be here," Nelms said. "We're deceiving ourselves if we settle for less than that."

UNC system campuses measure graduation rates over six-year spans. At NCCU, just 49.3 percent of students who enrolled in 2000 graduated within six years; the system average was 59.3 percent.

U.S. News & World Report released its first ranking of the nation's top historically black colleges this week. NCCU placed 16th out of 70, in a three-way tie with Bennett College and Elizabeth City State University.

Nelms spent a good deal of time Friday talking about customer service -- the very basic answering of phones and returning of messages that students expect but don't always get. Everyone on campus, he said, needs a "new attitude" in terms of service and courtesy.

"If you get a call from a student, return the call to the student," he said, eliciting one of the largest rounds of applause all morning.

To that end, all NCCU employees -- starting with administrators -- will undergo service training provided by the university's human resources department, Nelms announced.

Nelms also has apparently been frustrated by litter on campus. He challenged everyone who lives or works on campus to adopt the block around their dorm or place of work, a commitment to help clean things up.

"We won't leave newspapers on the floors of our classroom just because you didn't put it there," he said. "Appearance does matter."

That particular lesson may take time to sink in. As the McLendon-McDougald Gymnasium emptied after Nelms' address, attendees left plenty of convocation programs -- and a few soda bottles and the like -- scattered on chairs or on the ground.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Enrollment up at Albany State

Preliminary indications suggest that Albany State University’s fall semester enrollment this fall could be the school’s largest to date. ASU’s fall population reached 4,019, officials stated, a 2 percent increase over the fall 2006 count of 3,927 and a 20 percent increase over 1997 enrollment.

An official figure won’t be available until late October.

The population increase didn’t occur on its own; that is, Albany State put systematic effort into it.

“We focused in and targeted our market group,” Valencia Price, vice president of enrollment management and student affairs, said Friday afternoon during a brief phone interview from Tennessee, where she was traveling.

Though in her administrative role for just two months, Price, previously a consultant, developed the school’s new strategic, enrollment-growth plan.

“We determined in which direction our market should run and solely focused on that group ... (primarily) first-generation students and the nontraditional students,” which she said includes second-career students.

Since the arrival of ASU President Everette Freeman, the university has initiated a series of Memorandums of Understanding with technical and two-year colleges as a means of smoothing out the transfer process and facilitating enrollment growth at ASU.

Freeman didn’t leave student recruitment to others, but also participated in that process by getting out there himself.

“I think that’s Dr. Freeman being Dr. Freeman,” Price said, “and I think that’s him understanding the process.”

The plan stretches for about three years, she said, and will naturally require tweaking here and there.

The next objective is targeting students residing along Georgia’s border states, she said.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Coppin's new leader want to transform University

Reginald S. Avery, chief academic officer of the University Coppin State University the 107-year-old West Baltimore institution, officials announced Tuesday.

Upon the annoucement he vowed to transform the struggling public college into a "first-choice" campus with high academic standards and improved graduation rates.

"In the next three years we should have increased our graduation rate to 50 percent" -- or more than double the current rate, Avery said in a telephone interview from his Spartanburg office, where he has been executive vice chancellor since 2003. "That's ambitious in a short period of time, but that's my goal." The South Carolina native succeeds Stanley F. Battle, who left Coppin this summer after four years to head up North Carolina A&T State University.

Avery inherits a 4,000-student inner city campus invigorated in recent years by an infusion of state funds, but one still struggling to raise student performance and overcome a generation of neglect by the state.

Coppin's student retention and graduation rates -- considered the chief measures of an institution's educational success -- have long been the lowest of Maryland's 13 public campuses, and rates have decreased in recent years.

Twenty-one percent of Coppin students who entered as freshmen in 2000 had received a degree by 2006, according to university system statistics. That compares with a six-year graduation rate of 64 percent in the state system.

Coppin also has the lowest retention and graduation rates among the state's four historically black colleges -- which as a group lag behind Maryland's majority- white institutions.

Leaders at historically black schools have said such comparisons are unfair because their campuses tend to have more first-generation college students and those coming from low-performing urban high schools.

But Avery said he would "like to see us go beyond" the mission of educating primarily students who would not be admitted elsewhere. "I'd like us to be attentive to students who may not be able to go somewhere else, but also strengthen our academic profile to where other students" choose to attend Coppin.

The college's academic struggles come at a time of major state investment in Coppin's infrastructure, turning the North Avenue campus into a construction site.

In the last ten years, the state has spent more than $210 million on capital improvements there, and has pledged an additional $203 million more in the next five years -- or about 20 percent of the state's projected capital budgets for the 13 institutions in the University System of Maryland.

Avery, 60, credits part of the increased success to better student-advising services and "University 101" courses for freshmen with remedial needs. Similar to introductory courses commonly offered at community colleges, University 101 teaches time-management, study habits and financial management skills, as well as basic reading and math.

He said he would like to introduce such a program at Coppin, but would also consider decreas ing the number of students requiring serious remediation. One of his first priorities, he said, would be to conduct a thorough analysis of Coppin's admission systems, and perhaps recommend that some students who would today be admitted be instead referred to a community college.

A native of Greenville, S.C., Avery held various administrative and faculty positions throughout the South, including Kentucky State University, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Benedict College in South Carolina and the University of Tennessee.

He has a Ph.D. from Brandeis University in New York and a bachelor's in sociology from North Carolina A&T. His research focused on the intersection of political science, economics and sociology -- with an emphasis on African-American families. His dissertation dealt with the effects of Boston's school desegregation on black families.

Avery's starting salary is $222,000 a year, plus about $47,000 for housing and car allowances, officials said. That's roughly what Battle was earning.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Mississippi black colleges may have been sold a bill of goods

Five years after a landmark college desegregation settlement was approved by a federal judge, only a fraction of a $35 million private endowment for the Mississippi's three historically black universities has been raised.

Getting control of the endowment requires the schools to maintain a nonblack enrollment of more than 10 percent for three years. So far, only Alcorn State University has met that benchmark.

No fundraising campaign has been planned, and state College Board members can't say when one will begin.

"It's going to be very difficult," said Ronald Mason Jr., president of Jackson State University. "Even though (the agreement) says (the College Board members) are supposed to make a good faith effort, it's really not clear what that is and they are very busy people.

"Candidly, I don't know of a lot of foundations or private donors who would be interested in providing resources to help fund the settlement of a lawsuit, which is really what this is," Mason said.

The private endowment and another $70 million public endowment are part of a $503 million settlement stemming from a 1975 lawsuit filed by the late Jake Ayers Sr. The money funds new programs and buildings at Alcorn, Jackson State and Mississippi Valley State universities. U.S. District Court Judge Neal Biggers Jr. approved the settlement in 2002. However, some opponents appealed. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal in 2004.

The endowment fundraising is the responsibility of the board, and university presidents have said they will help.

University of Mississippi Chancellor Robert Khayat secured the first and only $1 million donation from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It's unlikely Khayat will be involved directly in securing additional money for the project, given that his school will announce another fundraiser next month.

"Obviously, we would expect the College Board to live up to the agreement. I am (surprised). If only $1 million of the $35 million has been raised, it's obvious the board has not made it a priority," said 2nd District U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, a lead plaintiff in the case.

Predominantly white schools raising the money won't get the benefit of any of it. If black colleges raised the money, they'd get only a percentage of it. Mississippi Valley State and Alcorn State get 28.3 percent each. Jackson State gets 43.4 percent.

On the other hand, if the schools raised money for their own endowments, they'd fully control it.

Raising money has become commonplace in higher education. Sometimes fundraising efforts are announced complete with brochures and catchy slogans. Other requests for money are made quietly. Donations, large and small, are constantly flowing into university accounts.

"We're in the middle of a $50 million campaign for Jackson State, so if I'm raising any money on my own, I'm raising it for the Jackson State campaign," Mason said.

Jackson State has a nonblack population of 7 percent this year, so the earliest it could qualify to get access to the private endowment is the 2011 academic year.

If a new donor willing to donate to the fund were identified, Mason said he'd be the first to hop on a plane and make the pitch. Also willing to help are Roy Hudson, Valley's interim president, and Alcorn's interim president Malvin Williams, who said, "I can't give up my individual campus fundraiser."

Monday, September 24, 2007

BCU investigates missing money

Police are looking into allegations of financial impropriety by a former employee of Bethune-Cookman University, according to a report.

According to the Daytona Beach police report, university President Trudie Kibbe Reed said unauthorized money was being disbursed from a work-aid program sometime between July 1, 2006, and Aug. 31, 2007.

University departments hire students under the program, according to the B-CU Web site.

University officials also are investigating, and the amount taken is unknown, the police report states.

A school news release says "one department budget exceeded allotted funds which then led to an investigation by the university." At least one employee did not follow policy and has been fired, according to the release.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Hampton to offer certifcate in homeland security

In response to a rapidly growing need for expertise in homeland security and threat management, Alion Science and Technology announced Monday that it is partnering with Hampton University to offer an online certificate program in homeland security.

The first course, Homeland Security Fundamentals, will begin October 22.

Teresa Walker, assistant provost for technology at Hampton University, said in a statement that the six-week program will provide a detailed foundation in domestic and international terrorism issues and threats as well as examine the strengths and weaknesses of America's terrorist enemies.

The program will also introduce students to domestic and international terrorism issues and threats with an update on the current threat activity.

"The educational thrust is focused on real world events and solutions. This can give students a greater understanding of the issues, and will provide a foundation for career growth," Walker said in a statement.

McLean-based Alion Science and Technology is an employee-owned technology solutions company delivering technical expertise and operational support to the Department of Defense, civilian government agencies and commercial customers.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

HBCU Presidents give Ed Secretary an ear full

This year's annual conference of the nation's historically black colleges and universities appeared to be well timed for Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, coming just as President Bush prepared to sign into law the largest increase in federal student aid since the GI Bill. But while Ms. Spellings basked in the praise of several of the college presidents in attendance, many made clear that the Pell Grant increase approved by Congress this month was not nearly enough for their struggling colleges and students, and that they expected her to do more.

"While we applaud the increase in the Pell Grant to $5,400," Melvin N. Johnson, president of Tennessee State University, told Ms. Spellings, "I want to make sure that we truly understand the plight that our students that are attending our institutions really have."

Hundreds of academically qualified students are "purged" from historically black universities because of financial need each year, and many of those who do complete their studies face burdensome levels of loans, Mr. Johnson said.

Some presidents drew specific connections to the war in Iraq, telling the secretary that the Bush administration was spending money overseas that could be spent on colleges to help improve the American economy, and warning that even returning soldiers were not being given enough money to attend college.

The $450-billion spent so far on the war "would support 22 million scholarships at our institutions," said Joe A. Lee, president of Alabama State University.

Michael L. Lomax, president and chief executive of the United Negro College Fund, said that even if Ms. Spellings cannot force change within the administration, she could do more personally to help students understand their college-financing options. He said the continuing state and federal investigations into the student-loan industry had helped highlight abuses, but had not helped students understand what they can do to protect themselves in the face of aggressive lender tactics.

"The country hasn't learned from the mortgage-lending crisis," Mr. Lomax said. "I guess we're just going to wait until we have to learn from the education-lending crisis, when even more Americans are forced to default on loans that they never should have taken out on terms that are inappropriate."

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Howard falls 8 spots in latest US News rankings

Howard University tumbled 8 spots spots in the latest rating by U.S. News & World Report. In its annual ranking of American universities Howard is ranked 96th among the nation's "national universities". A year ago Howard was ranked 88th in this category.

Howard remains the only predominately black university in the category and out ranked such well known universities as Oklahoma, Florida State, Oregon, and U of South Carolina.

Only 262 educational institutions in the country qualified as "national universities", which the magazine defined as schools which draw students from across the nation and offer a wide range of undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Ex-Tx Southern pres. billed school for $100,000 bar tab

Former TSU President Priscilla Slade racked up a $100,000 bar tab at Scott Gertner's Skybar and Grille during her tenure and stuck Texas Southern University with the bill, prosecutors said Wednesday.

TSU routinely paid for $100 bottles of wine for Slade and drinks for her friends and staff, despite a prohibition at that time on state monies being spent on alcohol, Assistant District Attorney Donna Goode said.

Slade's former executive assistant, Erica Vallier, said that the rules for purchasing have since changed, but at the time, Slade told her not to worry about the prohibition. She said her boss drank bottles of Far Niente with her friends and staff at expensive bars, such as the Four Seasons bar and the Skybar.

Slade led the historically black university from 1999 to 2005, after being pressed into service from her post as the dean of the business school.

Slade is on trial on charges of misapplication of fiduciary property of more than $200,000, accused of spending school money on personal expenses. If convicted, she faces a punishment ranging from probation to life in prison.

Friday, September 14, 2007

ECSU enrollment tops 3,000 a year early

For the first time in its 116-year history, Elizabeth City State University has topped the 3,000 mark in student enrollment.

The Rev. Henry B. Pickett, chairman of the ECSU Board of Trustees student affairs committee, announced at Tuesday's board meeting that 3,025 students are currently enrolled for the fall semester.

That number is higher than both last fall's enrollment of 2,667 students and an earlier fall 2007 projection of 2,838 students. It also meets a goal set by former university chancellor Mickey L. Burnim, who sought to have 3,000 students enrolled by 2008.

Burnim's goal was in fact in response to a challenge by Molly Broad, the former president of the University of North Carolina System, to raise enrollment to the 3,000 mark by next year.

Not content with reaching that goal, however, Burnim's successor, current Chancellor Willie Gilchrist has called for the university to reach the 4,000 mark.

"We can't rest on our laurels," he told trustees during Tuesday's meeting. "We still need to work."

Graduate enrollment up too

The university has also more than doubled its goal for graduate student enrollment. ECSU has 118 students enrolled in graduate programs this semester. University officials had set a minimum goal of 55 graduate students.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Rappers preach financial responsibility at NCA&T

Thousands of fans flocked to N.C. A&T on Saturday to see Jim Jones, Lil' Mo and other hip-hop stars trade lines on money, cars and — FICO scores?

So went the most recent stop of the "Get Your Money Right" tour, a two-hour gathering that brought rap stars, TV personalities and financial experts together for a talk on personal finance.

The overriding themes: Work hard, believe in yourself, watch out for those credit cards and think about your future before you buy pricey stuff.

"You don't need a lot of toys to impress people," said Russell Simmons, co-chairman of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, which ran the event.

Simmons knows a thing or two about making money. He sold his stake in Def Jam Records for a reported $100 million in 1999 and is the chairman and CEO of Rush Communications, an entertainment, fashion and marketing conglomerate.

He brought along hip-hop stars to share their experiences and advice with young people who often leave college with loads of credit-card and student-loan debt. They got lessons on FICO, a type of credit score, and the advantages of buying a home.

The artists also talked about taking responsibility with money, getting rid of debt and saving now to spend later.

"Everybody wants to make it rain, but they never have something saved up for a rainy day," said Lil' Mo, a singer and songwriter.

The stars also acknowledged that, like the audience, they like expensive things.

Jones, a rapper and businessman, told the laughing crowd, "I buy the hottest cars that come out."

Folks with more modest incomes should probably just buy something that gets them to and from work, he advised.

Singer Anthony Hamilton sheepishly admitted that he'd already been to the mall Saturday, returning with "sparkly Nikes that I purchased — on sale!"

"Them shoes you see in the windows are not as important as that light bill you've got to pay next month," Rocsi, co-host of the Black Entertainment Television show "106 & Park," told the women in the audience.

Hip-hop has been criticized for glorifying sex, violence and expensive cars and jewelry, and the audience expressed some of those concerns during a question-and-answer session. But Simmons said demand drives what the industry produces and mentioned several stars who give back through charitable foundations.

"They're good examples of what you can do when you put your head down and go to work," he said.

That didn't convince Jessica Turley, an A&T junior who called some of the comments hypocritical. The industry could put out more wholesome images if it chose to, she suggested.

"If they really wanted us to see it, they'd push for it to be seen," she said.

But Raquel Durham, an A&T sophomore, called the session "very empowering."

"These are people that we look up to," she said, "that we see on TV every day."

Friday, September 07, 2007

NCCU grad plans to donate $1M to college

N.C. Central University has received a $1 million planned gift from 1977 graduate George Hamilton and his wife, Jill.

Hamilton is president and general manager of Dow Coatings, a Dow Chemical subsidiary in Michigan. The George R. Hamilton Endowment Fund will offer support in equal measure to the operations and scholarships of the NCCU School of Business and Department of Athletics.

"This is an important gift as I believe it signals increasing confidence and enthusiasm about the future of N.C. Central University. I am immensely grateful for George Hamilton's generosity and commitment to our goal of providing greater opportunity and support for student success," said NCCU Chancellor Charlie Nelms.

Hamilton said he felt compelled to give back to the institution that nurtured him and provided him the tools and life lessons needed to make it to the top. "My experience at NCCU was a key enabler of my success," he said.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

New engingeering program at UMES off to a great start

Maurice Lanier fell in love with science in elementary school when he saw a robot that moved when people snapped their fingers.

Now the 25-year-old from Oxon Hill is studying to be an electrical engineer, and because of state approval this year of an engineering program at the University of Maryland at Eastern Shore, Mr. Lanier will be able to finish school at his home campus.

"It was the best news I'd ever gotten," Mr. Lanier, a junior, said of the state Higher Education Commission's approval of the engineering program for the university. Before, Maryland Eastern Shore students studying engineering completed their bachelor's degrees at the University of Maryland at College Park.

The program was approved at a time when alarms have been raised nationally about the scarcity of black engineers. Only about a dozen historically black colleges have engineering programs that are independent of formerly whites-only schools, and historically black Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta closed its engineering school last year.

"This is going to help us meet the emerging markets," said Ayodele Alade, dean of the university's School of Business and Technology, which includes the new engineering program. The lack of a four-year engineering program on the Eastern Shore, he said, "has impeded the level of progress in this region.

The program will also give the university more prestige, said Charles Williams, vice president for academic affairs.

"It's going to be fantastic for this university," he said, standing outside the program's new flight simulator, where aviation and engineering students learn about the mechanics of flight.

Not everyone is excited about the program, though. The state already has one of the nation's largest engineering schools at a historically black college, Morgan State University in Baltimore. Worried that another engineering program in the state would sap resources, Morgan State opposed the creation of a full program at the University of Maryland at Eastern Shore.

"If they put a program there and don't adequately fund that program, that is a concern," said Eugene M. DeLoatch, dean of the School of Engineering at Morgan State, which also offers masters' and doctoral degrees in engineering.

Mr. DeLoatch said he worries Morgan State and Maryland Eastern Shore may both be fighting for the same state dollars, "so we're all going to have mediocre engineers."

"We've got to adequately invest in our educational systems," Mr. DeLoatch said. "If that program opens up with inadequate funding, it's not going to have the effect we'd like it to have. These programs are not inexpensive to run, so I just think we should keep an eye on what it costs to run these programs."

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

NCCU puts brakes on growth to reassess its needs

After six years of unrivaled enrollment growth, N.C. Central University's infrastructure is feeling the effects.
On a campus where enrollment has increased 50 percent in the last seven years, there aren't enough beds for all those heads, or enough staff members in several departments that serve student needs, officials say.

So NCCU, the fastest-growing UNC system campus since 2000, is now tapping the brakes. University leaders aim to enroll no more than 8,533 students this fall, the same number as a year ago, said Provost Beverly Washington Jones.

"We need to make sure our infrastructure is in place," Jones said. "It's going to be important that we look at this growth phenomenon."

NCCU officials plan to use the 2007-08 school year to reassess staffing, technology and housing issues.

NCCU's housing stock is pinched; there are 2,900 total dorm spaces on campus, and two old residence halls that, taken together, hold about 800 students, are not being used. Those halls, Chidley and Latham, are both in disrepair, their futures uncertain, said Frances Graham, NCCU's vice chancellor for student affairs.

NCCU's pause for reassessment comes as the public university system does the same thing. NCCU was one of seven UNC-system campus designated in 2000 as "focused growth" institutions. They were told to put greater emphasis on recruitment in order to increase enrollment. Seven years later, the university system is pausing as well to reflect on the enrollment boom and to re-think its growth process through an initiative dubbed "UNC Tomorrow."

"As we admit more students, we have to help more students be successful," said Alan Mabe, the UNC system's vice president for academic planning and university-school programs.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

White out!: Del State president looks to shed HBCU label

At Delaware State University, the vision of President Dr. Allen L. Sessoms and the board of trustees is clear.

“The game is to grow,” Dr. Sessoms said. “Grow dramatically.

“We are going to push ourselves out there with the finest kind of facilities we can afford because if we don’t, we can’t grow. And if we can’t grow, we’re dead.”

Dr. Sessoms’ vision and the changes it has brought about have caused some concern in the past four years among certain members of the DSU alumni, NAACP, state politicians and faculty.

The vision for growth includes a 10-year plan of nearly tripling student enrollment to 10,000, competitive athletics at the Division I level, new athletic arenas, annual research grants in the range of $100 million to $150 million, and additional doctoral and master’s degree programs.

The goal is to make DSU the school of choice in the state.

“We expect to launch this university in a major way.” said Dr. Sessoms, who is beginning his fifth year as DSU’s president.

Abandoning its role?

While many cannot fault most of the goals, the fear is they will come at the expense of the university’s tradition of being a harbor for disenfranchised students.

DSU was founded in 1891 as the State College for Colored Students and has a 116-year tradition of educating the state’s black population.

Historically black colleges and universities, of which DSU is one, are institutions established before 1964 for the purpose of educating black students. Today, some have only 10 to 20 percent black population.

Dr. Sessoms said DSU will always be a historically black college, but if things don’t change, the university will be left far behind in today’s competitive market.

“So what we have decided to do is become a very different kind of institution,” he said.

“We are going to be an institution for everyone in the state.

“We are not going to be a school that caters to a certain kind of people, just African-Americans, we are going to be catering to everyone, period.

“And we are going to go for the high-achieving students and we are going to go for the students from money backgrounds.”

The school’s first two doctoral programs have been established and more are in the works.

Research grants have grown from $8 million to $34 million and the university’s endowment has more than doubled in the past two years, he said.

In 2006 the board approved a 10-year, $296.4 million master plan for improving the campus.

The first order of business is for $48 million to be spent for a student union center, wellness center and a strength and conditioning facility.

He also said if plans are not finalized in the next month for a Dover civic center where DSU would play its basketball games, the university will build a facility on its own.

Dr. Sessoms’ plan to grow has also touched the areas of administration.

Mr. Miller said the firing of black employees and the recent tendency of hiring white administrators and vice presidents has raised some red flags among the alumni.

Dr. Sessoms said he is simply hiring the best people for the job the university can afford and is not purposely trying to diversify the administration.

“I don’t care what color they are,” he said. “If they can’t do their job they’re fired and if they can do their job then we embrace them.”

Mr. Miller said that raises concerns that while the new administrators may be perfectly capable, they might also not know the culture of DSU.

“If I’m going to go teach in a school in India, yes, I might know the mathematics, but if I don’t know the culture I’m going to have a tough time.” he said.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Audit finds fraud at NC A&T; $1 million misspent

A state audit released this week documents more than $1 million in fraud, mismanagement of federal grants and misuse of money at N.C. A&T State University in Greensboro, including $380,000 in vending receipts that were diverted to a spending account of former Chancellor James Renick.
By UNC system policy, the vending money was supposed to be spent on scholarships, student financial aid, campus debt and student activities. Instead, it was spent on commissions for artwork, travel by Renick's wife, alumni events and a $150,000 annuity for an unnamed faculty member, the audit said.

Renick, who stepped down last year, is now a senior vice president at the American Council on Education in Washington. He could not be reached for comment Friday. A building under construction on campus was originally to bear Renick's name, but a university spokeswoman said it would be named the School of Education Building instead.

The audit caps months of investigation at the university, where several employees have been fired and charged with criminal offenses. More charges could be forthcoming. A spokesman for the auditor's office said Friday the report had been forwarded to federal prosecutors, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the State Bureau of Investigation and the Guilford County District Attorney's Office. Copies also went to Gov. Mike Easley and the state Attorney General's Office.

Among the findings of the state audit and internal university reviews:

* $500,000 in questionable expenses in the university's HBCU Future Engineering Faculty Fellowship Program, funded by the federal Office of Naval Research. A program manager made improper payments, including more than $66,000 in stipends in one year to her husband, who was in the program. The highest yearly stipend had previously been $23,000. The manager spent 41 nights in hotels during 2005-06 at the program's expense, at an average cost of $328 a night. The manager also hired her daughter and paid for her travel to conferences in Jamaica, California, Nevada and Pennsylvania. The manager and her husband ran up a $369 restaurant and room service tab during a two-day symposium.

* $101,000 in misuse of funds by an administrative assistant in the Natural Resources and Environmental Design Department.

* $87,000 in misappropriated funds by a former vice chancellor for information technology and telecommunications. Rebates from computer purchases were channeled into a discretionary account, and the money was spent on lunches, dinners, holiday parties, tickets to athletic events and a beach cottage rental.

* $380,000 in inappropriate transfers of Pepsi vending receipts to the former chancellor's discretionary fund. The audit concluded that 87 percent of the purchases it examined were for "unallowable purposes." The largest expense was for a $150,000 annuity for a faculty member -- nonsalary compensation that apparently had not been approved through campus policy or by the board of trustees.

'Serious allegations'

"These are serious allegations," said Chris Mears, director of public affairs for the Office of the State Auditor. "Any time you have fraud allegations, it rises to another level."

The audit triggers a 90-day warning period for the campus, which could lose budget flexibility powers if UNC system leaders aren't satisfied with progress at the university.

A new chancellor, Stanley Battle, arrived July 1 at N.C. A&T from Coppin State University in Maryland. Battle was out of town Friday and could not be reached for comment.

Mark Kiel, vice chancellor for development and university relations, said much of the audit's information came from work ordered by former Interim Chancellor Vic Hackley, who began to uncover problems last year and asked UNC President Erskine Bowles for help.

Bowles then sent in what he termed "SWAT teams" of auditors and administrators to comb through A&T's books. Jeff Davies, Bowles' chief of staff, said Friday the university had been working for months to straighten things out.
"My sense is that Chancellor Battle is very much on top of the issues there," Davies said, adding that Battle had begun to hire new administrators. "He feels very good about the leadership team in place on the campus. I think this is all about leadership."

Thursday, August 23, 2007

SCSU tries to house largest freshman class

Davia Goodmon was one of several outraged parents in the vice president of student services’ office at South Carolina State University Friday. She had paid her daughter’s tuition and was set to leave her, but there was no housing.

SC State is grappling with a 35 percent increase in freshman enrollment this fall semester, and a larger than expected demand for campus housing by returning upper-classmen.

"The actual occupancy rates for residence life will be available on Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2007, after 7 p.m. Unclaimed rooms become available to students on the waiting list on that date," SCSU stated. "The university continues to assist students who have met their financial obligation by the deadline and seek campus housing."

Six traditional residence halls and three apartment-style complexes are available for students to reside in this upcoming semester. The apartment-style complexes include the Andrew Hugine Suites, a $42 million 755-bed facility completed in 2006, and University Village Apartments, which the S.C. State Real Estate Foundation purchased in mid-2007.

The university is able to offer a total of 2,300 beds to new and returning students this semester. S.C. State’s total student population exceeds 4,600.

"They said this is the biggest freshman class, well they shouldn’t accept so many freshmen," Goodmon said. "He’s in one of the cheapest dorms on campus, but are they safe? ... I’m a mother of three. This is my first one going to college and I don’t get to see him go to college. I’m not going. This is ridiculous. Once he gets there, with so many kids, will there be enough books, enough food for everybody? When we get down there, will the rooms be there? The kids are going into a situation where they don’t know where to go, what to do, who to talk to -- it’s complete chaos. But they got my money."

Monday, August 20, 2007

Detroit's mayor tells what made Florida A&M special

By Marc Silver
US News & World Report

The mayor of Detroit is not only a mover and a shaker but a Rattler, too—a graduate of Florida A&M, one of the nation's 103 historically black colleges and universities. Kwame Kilpatrick played high school football in Detroit in the late 1980s and was courted by Bowling Green and Michigan State, but after visiting Florida A&M he says he "felt an embracing I hadn't felt before." He majored in political science, taught middle school for three years, attended law school, and was elected mayor in 2001 at age 31. U.S. News asked him about his college experience.

Let's be blunt: There's a perception that historically black schools aren't the equal of other universities.

That's one of the biggest misconceptions. It's funny to me that [some] African-Americans and whites believe if they go to Howard, it's not as good as Georgetown and they're not going to get the job. When you look at executives at companies around the world, a lot of the African-Americans went to historically black schools. They may have [earned a master's or doctorate] through Harvard or Wharton, but the schools where they started gave them the confidence to achieve a Harvard or Wharton education.

So you're satisfied with your education?

It was second to none. When I went to law school at Michigan State, I thanked God every day for the experience I had at Florida A&M: It was educational and nurturing; there was a willingness to allow you to make mistakes but not to fail.

How did Florida A&M treat its students?

The mission was clear: Mommy and Daddy are gone, and you have an obligation to prepare yourself to lead. The president, Frederick Humphries, and the faculty spoke about what we had to give back. That kept us focused in the midst of hanging out and having a good time.

Was your college experience too segregated?

You're never really segregated. You're in Tallahassee. Four blocks away is Florida State, 40,000 students of all ethnicities.

Any other skills you picked up at college?

I played football in 100-degree weather, 98 percent humidity. I learned to persevere.