The state Attorney General’s office is asking members of Delaware State University’s Board of Trustees to provide sworn affidavits about a dinner some attended the night before the Jan. 11 regular board meeting. State officials are investigating the dinner in response to a complaint by government watchdog group Common Cause, which is accusing the Board of Trustees of violating Delaware’s Freedom of Information Act.
The letter dated Jan. 23 from deputy Attorney General W. Michael Tupman asks each member who attended the Jan. 10 gathering at the University and Whist Club in Wilmington to detail “how they came to be invited to the dinner, what they believed the purpose of the dinner was and any subjects discussed during the dinner.”
Tupman also asked which of their spouses attended or were invited to the gathering, who paid for the dinner and whether any members of the Board were reimbursed for time, travel or other expenses.
Trustees who were at the dinner said the Schwartz Center for the Arts was among the topics discussed that evening. The board voted 9-4 at the regular meeting the next day to spend $1.5 million for part ownership in the downtown Dover theater.
How many trustees attended the dinner, what their conversation was about or in what context the Schwartz Center was discussed is unclear. Trustees who weren’t at the dinner said such gatherings put the university on shaky ethical ground.
Common Cause filed the complaint based on a Jan. 18 News Journal story about the dinner.
DSU officials who were at the dinner couldn’t agree on how many trustees attended. Some trustees who weren’t there said they didn’t find out about the gathering until the next day. Trustees said a variety of issues, including the Schwartz Center, were discussed and that DSU President Allen L. Sessoms has planned similar gatherings in the past.
In Delaware, a public meeting is defined as any formal or informal gathering of a quorum of members of any public body for purposes of talking about or taking action on public business. DSU and the University of Delaware are exempt from much of the state’s Freedom of Information Act, but their boards of trustees are not.
Earlier this month, Common Cause member Robert Reeder sent a letter to the Attorney General’s office saying DSU trustees violated Freedom of Information laws at the dinner by conducting public business outside a public forum.
After investigating the matter and reviewing the information requested, the Attorney General’s office will make a written determination about whether a violation occurred.
Hollis Towns, managing editor of The Cincinnati Enquirer since 2004, has been named executive editor.
In his new capacity, Towns, 43, will oversee The Enquirer's transformation into a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week news and information provider, with an emphasis on encouraging growth of the company's online and print titles.
"My primary responsibility will be to ensure a strong Enquirer brand, no matter the method of delivery. I welcome the challenge and the opportunity," said Towns, who was managing editor of the Kalamazoo (Mich.) Gazette prior to his arrival in Cincinnati 2½ years ago.
Towns is a 1984 graduate of Ft. Valley State University.
When Henry Tisdale attended Claflin College, he was an honors math student with loads of potential and a few weaknesses.
He said when an English teacher pulled him aside to point out his weaknesses, it helped him become a better student, and he wants to extend that commitment to children while he's president of the state's oldest historically black college or university.
"I was a math major, but this woman followed me for four years. That's what it takes," Tisdale said.
Tisdale spoke in Greenville on recently about the school's nationally recognized retention and graduation rates and how 68 percent of its students graduate.
The school has been named by U.S. News & World Report as one of the best comprehensive colleges in the South for its America's Best Colleges 2007 edition.
"Beginning first with our recruitment program, we decide first on a profile of students that we believe that we can best serve," Tisdale said. "We include in that profile a mix of the best and the brightest, and we also consider our historical mission of access."
When students arrive on the Claflin University campus, they are admitted into the Freshman College, which serves as a school within a school.
Tisdale said the school looks to connect with parents as a way to help retain students.
"We have -- throughout the university -- outstanding teachers and faculty members who are excellent in the classroom and excellent in engaging students academically inside the classroom and outside the classroom," he said.
Tisdale said there are students at Claflin who have the academic profile to attend any school in the country, but they continue to choose the Orangeburg-based HBCU.
The university also makes room for those students who may struggle academically, but possess the potential to succeed.
That's why the school has hung its hat on bridge programs such as Upward Bound, Talent Search and Summer Enrichment Bridge.
The Summer Enrichment Bridge program could soon affect the Upstate as the university makes plans to target borderline students.
Greenville's 2005-2006 graduating class of 3,555 students lost more than 900 members from the time they entered high school four years ago.
A study by Education Week said the state's 2003 graduation rate was 53 percent -- the lowest in the nation.
To curb those numbers, Claflin's programs look to nurture students who may be failing in middle and high school by helping to improve their math and science skills as well as prepare them to take the SATs.
"If a student needs support, we have tutorial, counseling and mentoring services," Tisdale said. "Throughout the campus, we have doors open for the students to have access to whatever they need."
Rep. James Clyburn becomes only the second African-American to become the majority whip, the No. 3 leadership post in the House.
Clyburn, 66, will be responsible for counting votes and moving the Democrats’ legislation through the House. In an interview on C-SPAN, he said his leadership style will differ from that of former Republican Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas, whose tough, take-no-prisoners approach earned him the nickname “the Hammer.”
“I will work very closely with our other leaders — the speaker and the leader — as well as our chief deputy whips to try and develop consensus in our caucus and use a velvet glove rather than a hammer,” Clyburn said.
State Sen. John Matthews, a Democrat from Bowman in Orangeburg County, said he has been friends with Clyburn since they attended South Carolina State University in the 1960s.
“He has demonstrated an ability to bring people together,” Matthews said. “That’s what America needs.”
As Democrats retook control of the House and Senate after more than a decade out of power, they moved immediately to pass lobbying and ethics reforms in the House and to establish their top 10 legislative goals in the Senate.
Howard University President H. Patrick Swygert highlighted extensive plans for campus improvements and denied rumors that he would be leaving his position in the immediate future.
Rumors of an impending departure by Swygert, who has been president since 1994, have been circulating since the spring. For his part, Swygert said he is not surprised by the gossip.
“When you’ve been president any length of time, folks are always going to look at you like ‘he’s been here more than most and how long is he going to be here,’” Swygert said.
Although Swygert cautioned that “we’re all going to have to leave [the University] eventually,” he said students need not worry about his departure. He said Howard is a great place and that it is a joy to be president of his alma mater.
In the meantime, Swygert said he hopes to move forward on several major construction projects this semester. There are plans to begin work on a new male residence hall behind the Fine Arts Building. The dorm is expected to house 300 male students and would be a replacement for Drew Hall. Swygert said administrators understand the urgency of replacing Drew Hall, which has been open since the 1960s.
In addition to the new male dorm, Swygert said plans should be finalized this semester for the construction of a new building for the John H. Johnson School of Communications.
Another large project that is in the works is a proposed science center, apartment building and parking garage that will be built where the parking lot on Georgia Avenue is currently located, directly in front of the Howard Center. The construction site will extend through the parking lot to the corner of Georgia Avenue and V Street. Swygert said that once these plans are approved by the Board of Trustees, the buildings currently on the site will be demolished and a tower will be built containing 300 apartments, 500 parking spaces and ground level retail businesses, including a grocery store.
After the tower is built, then construction will begin on a science center that will house the College of Engineering, Architecture and Computer Sciences. The science center will be comprised of the School of Engineering and Computer Sciences, as well as the School of Architecture and Design.
Swygert said it is not clear yet what will happen to the Howard H. Mackey and Lewis K. Downing buildings, where the schools are now located.
“I’m just excited about finally breaking ground for the facility,” Swygert said. He said if all goes well, work would begin on the project before the end of the school year.
Building projects are not the only goals on Swygert’s agenda for this semester. Administrators plan to start a program called the Black Male Student Initiative to address the issue of the disproportionate representation African-American men on college and university campuses. The program will take a two-pronged approach to the issue focusing both on research and implementing practical measures to increase the number of African-American men attending college.
“I intend to organize a group of students, faculty and administrators to really think through what research is telling us and then on the application side, what can Howard do,” Swygert said.
Undergraduate Trustee Jabari Smith, who will be working with Swygert and the Vice Provost of Student Affairs Franklin Chambers on this initiative, is very excited about the program.
“I think this Black Male Initiative is so important because it’s really going to engage students in an issue that is so prevalent,” Smith said. He added that although it is specifically focused on African-American men, the program is really about stepping up to the plate to deal with the disparities in education in the African-American community.
As the university enters its 140th year, the administration will also be celebrating the completion of Campaign for Howard, a fund-raising drive started on March 9, 2002 to raise $250 million. Swygert said he hopes he will be able to announce that the university has reached its goal, which he said would make Campaign for Howard the most successful capital campaign at any HBCU ever.
The Board of Trustees has also asked Swygert to complete a third Strategic Framework for Action. Strategic Framework for Action plans are agendas that set goals for the university in the areas of academics, teaching and research, fund-raising and community service. Accomplishments under the Strategic Framework for Action I and II include the construction of the iLab, Health Sciences Library and the creation of the Middle School of Mathematics and Science. Swygert said he will create a committee made up of various members of the Howard community to begin developing the Strategic Framework for Action III.
Jennifer Owens, president of the Howard University Student Association, said one issue she believes needs to be addressed in this new plan is the state of Howard’s athletic department. Owens also said that with the success of the prior Strategic Framework for Actions, she has full faith that Swygert will be able to carry out this new plan.
Smith said he would like this third agenda to focus on bettering academic programs at Howard and attracting and retaining quality professors.
With the completion of Campaign for Howard and other improvements planned for the future, Smith said he is very pleased with the direction the university is taking and encourages other students to be pleased also. Though students attending Howard now may not witness many of the changes, he said these improvements are important to Howard’s legacy.
Smith said, “We did not make a four year investment, but a lifetime investment.”
The Gramblinite, the student-run campus newspaper at Grambling State University, has apparently been suspended from publication until the administration is assured there is greater "quality assurance" of the product. A Jan. 17 memorandum from Provost Robert Dixon to The Gramblinite publication director Wanda Peters states that the newspaper is "suspended for the remainder of the month of January."
However, Gramblinite student editor Darryl Smith said that in a Monday meeting with Dixon he was told that the newspaper was not suspended, but the provost didn't want any additional editions published until there was better control of the product's quality.
"We are putting out an issue this week," said Smith. "We owe the students. It would be a breach of contract with them if we did not put out an issue. If (the administration) doesn't like that, there's nothing they can really do about it." Smith added that the news of the suspension will run in this week's edition of The Gramblinite.
"We were nice and didn't run it in last week's edition so we could sit down with (Dixon) face-to-face," Smith said. "We're going to report it this week."
According to the memo, the action was taken after what Dixon said was a poor performance by The Gramblinite in the fall semester.
After more than a year at the helm of North Carolina Central University's business school as interim dean, Bijoy Sahoo has been appointed to the position on a permanent basis.
NCCU officials named Sahoo to the post following a confirmation by the board of governors of the University of North Carolina System.
Sahoo has served as interim dean of the NCCU School of Business since January 2006. He succeeded Benjamin Newhouse, who was replaced after the business school lost its accreditation in 2005.
Sahoo had been working as assistant vice chancellor for strategic planning and continuous improvement in the Division of Academic Affairs. He said in a written statement that an early task is to fill positions left vacant by retired faculty members or about to become vacant due to those about to retire.
Sahoo also indicated the school will move to expand its facilities under his leadership. He joined the NCCU faculty in September 2004.
The Samuel I. Newhouse Foundation, working through the United Negro College Fund's campaign to help Katrina-stricken colleges, has pledged $600,000 that will help create as many as 12 endowed professorships at Xavier University.
The gift will be presented in $100,000 annual installments. Xavier President Norman Francis said Friday he hopes to split each year's gift and create two $100,000 professorships by getting $20,000 from private sources and asking the state Board of Regents for $80,000 more. Another option for the money, he said, would be to create a $1 million professorship with the Newhouse grant and $400,000 in matching money from the regents.
"The beauty of this is that it provides the leveraging opportunity that will double the investment," Francis said.
Endowed professorships are assets for recruiting and retaining faculty members and rewarding outstanding achievements, he said. They also give faculty members money to do the things they would like to do to enhance their work, including research and travel, Francis said.
"Faculty like to be appreciated," said Gene D'Amour, Xavier's senior vice president for resource development. "When you give a faculty member an endowed professorship, you're showing that the university appreciates him."
These positions could be important lures because Xavier needs to hire more professors to keep up with what is expected to be a growing student body, D'Amour said.
Francis said he has not decided which departments will get these positions.
Alabama State University's former "sweatbox" is serving up a different kind of heat -- from the kitchen.
After more than a year of renovations, the Fred Shuttlesworth Dining Hall is open.
The new campus cafeteria was converted from the C.J. Dunn Arena, where students played intramural sports. Students nicknamed the gym the "sweatbox" because it was always hot in the building.
"It's a beautiful multipurpose facility," said ASU spokeswoman Janel Bell-Haynes. "The students really enjoy it."
The $7 million dining hall, named for the famed civil rights activist and ASU alumnus, seats 1,200 people and is equipped with flat-screen TVs and has wireless Internet capabilities. In addition to students, the public can eat breakfast, lunch and dinner at the cafeteria.
"I think the food has stepped up to the plate and everything is fresh," said Joy Smith, a junior. "It's much more comfortable."
Food service director Ron Stringer said that the new dinning hall is primarily self-service, unlike the previous set-up where employees served students food. Students can see pizzas coming out of the oven every five minutes and onion rings cooking in the deep fryer. They also have their choice of fresh-made deli sandwiches and stir-fry.
"The first thing that strikes you is the ambiance," Stringer said. "We are now able to cook items at the point of service as opposed to cooking in advance for meals."
The dining hall is part of a long-term building project under way at ASU to construct and renovate buildings to attract new students and accommodate growth. Construction on the new cafeteria began in May 2005 and was completed this month.
Before the new dining hub opened, students could eat at one of two cafeterias in the John Garrick Hardy University Center, which is being torn down and transformed into a $16 million student center that will include a food court. Only one cafeteria served breakfast, but both provided lunch and dinner. Students were not allowed to enter the dining halls unless meals were being served.
At the new facility, students can socialize between classes and purchase snacks between meals. The center is open from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
It's more than just a place to grab a bite before class, said Student Government Association President Victor Revill.
"We plan to use the dining hall now to host several activities for students on campus," Revill, said adding the SGA is planning to host a Super Bowl party in February. "It's a nice place to be and it's starting to become the new hangout on campus," he said.
Sophomore Farron Carson agreed.
"It makes you want to come and eat," Carson said. "In the old cafeteria, you wanted to skip a meal.
Grambling State has officially named Rod Broadway as its new football coach, two hours after www.thenewsstar.com broke the story. He led North Carolina Central team to the 2006 Sheridan Black College National championship last season, and back-to-back league titles for the first time since the 1953-54 seasons.
“We are elated that Rod Broadway has agreed to take the leadership reigns of the Grambling State University football program,” Mathieu said in the release. “He’s a proven winner as a head coach and has had the opportunity to work with and learn from some of the most respected coaches on the Division I level over the past two decades. We’re looking forward to him having a very successful tenure as the head coach of Grambling State University.”
Broadway replaces Melvin Spears, who was released Dec. 18 after three years as coach. He was part of a quartet of finalists that included Detroit Lions assistant Charles "Kippy" Brown, Alabama A&M coach Anthony Jones and Grambling volunteer assistant Albert Lewis. Prior to his tenure at NCCU, Broadway served as an assistant at North Carolina (2001-02), Florida (1995-00), Duke (1981-94) and East Carolina (1979-80). While at Florida, he was part of head coach Steve Spurrier's 1996 national championship staff.
Tiny Central State University is hoping students from other colleges will breathe new life into Ohio's only public historically black school.
With enrollment at 1,800, university officials say their previous goal of growing to 3,000 students by 2010 is too modest. The school in Wilberforce, about 200 miles southwest of Cleveland, has come up with a plan to more than triple enrollment with help from community colleges and some four-year institutions.
The state will be asked to pump $33 million into the school over the next few years, an amount that would be paid back eventually with tuition from the increased enrollment, supporters of the plan said.
Central State President John Garland envisions community colleges, like Cuyahoga Community College, acting as feeder schools by encouraging their graduates to transfer to Central State for a bachelor's degree. In addition, a high school student rejected by Ohio State University might be pointed toward Central State.
By ramping up the number of transfer students and taking students who don't make the cut at other state schools, Garland hopes to pump up Central State's enrollment to 6,000.
Growth is critical to the financial future of the school, which currently gets a state supplement of $11 million a year. Enrollment dropped dramatically in the mid-1990s when a financial crisis necessitated a state bailout.
On Wednesday, the Ohio Board of Regents will consider changing its state budget request to invest in the expansion.
The plan would give Central State about $10 million over the next three years, on top of the state supplement, to modernize buildings and add more majors and staff. In return, Garland promises the university will grow out of its need for a state supplement and contribute more college graduates to the state.
Central State also wants the state to pay $23 million to build a student center.
Garrison Walters, interim chancellor for the Board of Regents, said the plan has been well received by other two-and four-year institutions around the state. Ohio State and the University of Cincinnati have already offered ways to collaborate, Walters said.
The proposed changes come just after the state legislature approved a new core curriculum for high school students that offers up three state universities - Central State, Shawnee State and Youngstown State - as the only options for students who don't complete the tougher requirements.
Garland said the "Speed to Scale" plan is not in response to the core curriculum but that the two "dovetail."
The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International recently announced that Delaware State University School of Management has earned international accreditation, the highest standard of achievement for business schools around the world. DSU now is among the 27 percent of the business schools in the United States, and among 16 historically black colleges and universities that have attained this top accreditation.
Roughly one of every four undergraduate students who enrolled at N.C. A&T in the fall is on academic probation or suspension this semester, the status given to students who are failing or not making adequate progress toward graduation.
Administrators attribute the high numbers — and the 400 percent increase from fall 2005 to fall 2006 — to a renewed and strict compliance of university policies.
"We were making sure we’re adhering to our policies," said Janice Brewington, A&T’s interim provost. "That number caught some students who may not have been in the mix before ... that we had not picked up or had overlooked or had not been consistent in relationship to applying the policies."
Lee Young, A&T’s director of admissions, said the designation may not mean a student is failing academically.
"If you had been here perhaps with a 3.5 GPA but you were five to six hours under where you needed to be, you may have not been touched before as a probation," he said.
"Now I’m touching you as a probation because I want to get you on point, that even though you are proceeding toward graduation, you’re not doing so as quickly as perhaps you should," Young said.
Yet administrators admit the numbers are a source of concern and have created internal committees to dissect data and alter policies as necessary.
"We know that we’re a good institution," Brewington said. "Do we need to be better? Yes, we need to be better. Are we going to be better? Yes, we’re going to be better.
"We owe it to the students, we owe it to this university and we owe it to this community and this state."
Both Brewington and interim Chancellor Lloyd "Vic" Hackley assumed their current roles in May. It’s not clear why the policies were not strictly followed before the current academic year.
Administrators are working to pinpoint other variables — such as family or financial problems or admissions criteria — that affect the number of students on probation or suspension, Brewington said.
For instance, the school’s average SAT score for new freshmen decreased 60 points in the decade from 1995 to 2005, dropping to 893 from 953. Half of A&T’s top 10 in-state feeder schools have been on a list of low-performing high schools.
"You have to ... take all of that into consideration. That’s what we’re assessing," Brewington said. "If you only look at one portion of the data and don’t look at it as a whole, then you will make decisions that may not be valid decisions."
Examining the numbers
The school created an internal committee in the fall to examine admissions policies, suspension and probation, she said. Other groups are studying retention and graduation rates and the university’s Center for Student Success. Findings are expected later in the spring.
The percentage of students on academic probation — given when students fail to pass a certain number of semester hours and meet a required grade-point average — increased 376 percent, from 374 students in fall 2005 to 1,779 students in fall 2006. Students on probation have one semester to improve, or they will be suspended from the university for a semester.
The percentage of students on academic suspension increased 467 percent in fall 2006 as compared with fall 2005, from 138 students to 783 students.
The number of students on suspension decreased this semester, down 45 percent from 783 students in the fall to 430 students. Young attributed the improvement to students taking the steps necessary to improve their status.
However, the number of students on probation increased 27 percent for the spring semester, from 1,779 students in the fall to 2,264 students. Young attributed that to the increased scrutiny administrators are giving students’ progress.
How A&T compares
The number of undergraduates on academic probation or suspension at A&T in the fall — 2,562 students for a university with an enrollment of 9,687 undergraduates — was significantly higher than other public universities in the Triad and another historically black institution of comparable size.
* Of the 10,902 undergraduate students enrolled at UNCG last spring, only 5.5 percent were put on academic probation and 2.7 percent on academic suspension, a total of 894 students.
* Winston-Salem State University, which had a student population of nearly 6,000 in the fall, had 144 students on academic probation and 371 on suspension, about 8 percent of the population.
* Florida A&M University, a historically black institution in Tallahassee, Fla., with a student body of more than 12,000, had about 6 percent of its students on academic alert in fall 2005, the most recent data available. At that time, 402 students were on probation and 325 on suspension, said Michael James, the university's registrar.
In the UNC system, the standards for academic suspension and probation vary from school to school, said Kemal Atkins, the system’s director for academic and student affairs.
Because of that, the system doesn’t evaluate schools based on the number of students on probation or suspension, he said, instead focusing on the number of students who earn D’s and F’s or who withdraw from classes.
Nothing from A&T’s data on those measures in the past year reviewed stood out, Atkins said.
Yet the high percentage of A&T students on academic probation or suspension "would be a cause for alarm," he said.
Erskine Bowles, the president of the UNC system, has made improving graduation and retention rates a priority throughout the system.
"There already is a cause for concern across the system because we realize we need to improve the number of our students retained year to year and who graduate, for the economy of the state and for the students themselves," Atkins said.
According to data from the system, only 22.7 percent of freshmen entering A&T in 1999 graduated in four years, and 39.5 percent graduated in six years.
Throughout the UNC system, 34.9 percent of the freshme n entering that year graduated in four years, and 59.1 percent graduated in six years.
All data reported is for students entering college for the first time and on a full-time basis.
This academic year, every university in the system must submit a plan to the UNC General Administration detailing how it plans to improve the rates. The system will work with a consultant to evaluate whether the plans and goals are realistic, Atkins said.
Former Texas Southern University President Priscilla Slade and three of her aides — all accused of improperly spending university money — will be tried separately, a judge ordered Tuesday.
Although prosecutors allege that Slade is at the center of the controversy, she is scheduled to be the third person tried with a scheduled date of Aug. 10. Slade is charged with two counts of misapplication of fiduciary property.
Prosecutor Donna Goode tried to get Slade on the docket first. She said Slade's indictment is the most encompassing. "As goes Slade, so go them all," Goode told state District Judge Brock Thomas during the pretrial hearing.
The charges against Slade, Quintin Wiggins, Bruce Wilson and Fredrick Holts stem from her alleged use of university money for personal expenses while she was president.
Because the judge wanted to begin a trial in February, lawyers on both sides flipped through their calendars and then agreed Holts would go first.
Slade's attorney Mike DeGeurin said he didn't care about the order of the trials.
"I would have gone first," DeGeurin said. "It's all right with us to go first as long we got a separate trial and there was time to prepare."
Slade was fired in June after attorneys hired by the university 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.
If convicted, she faces a sentence ranging from probation to life in prison.
The first presidential candidates' debate of the 2008 campaign will air live on MSNBC on Thursday, April 26 from the campus of S.C. State University, the S.C. Democratic Party announced Monday.
The 7 p.m. debate will be preceded by a live edition of "Hardball with Chris Matthews," which will broadcast from the historically black university in Orangeburg. U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., the newly installed House majority whip, is a graduate of the university.
"What better way to celebrate South Carolina and our second-in-the-nation first-in-the South Presidential Primary than with the first Presidential debate at the alma mater of our own Jim Clyburn, Majority Whip of the US House of Representatives," said South Carolina State Democratic Party Chair Joe Erwin. "Having worked closely with the top-notch NBC News team in 2004 for the Presidential primary and debate, we know just what kinds of results they can produce when it comes to viewership, voter education and voter participation. Democratic candidates can rest assured that their campaign messages will be heard by millions of South Carolina voters and NBC viewers across the country."
"I fully expect that the leading Democrats who are considering a run for the Presidency, will not miss this opportunity to travel to Orangeburg and meet the terrific students, faculty and staff of South Carolina State University for this historic occasion," said House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn.
New Intramural Center, Expanded Stadium, new Apartments on Tap Southern University freshman Damian Walker looks forward to the day he can walk out of his on-campus apartment on his way to a football game at the expanded A.W. Mumford Stadium. Maybe he will even stop to shoot some hoops at the Intramural Sports Complex.
A bevy of long-planned Southern facilities projects, with the centerpiece being the stadium expansion, are finally set to begin this month starting with construction of four apartment buildings in the northwestern corner of the campus.
“It’s about time,” said Walker of Mobile, Ala., who is eager to move out of Jones Hall freshman male dormitory. “They’re finally putting all that money to use.”
The plan is to impress campus visitors with modern facilities, said Ernie Hughes, executive director for the Southern University System Foundation, which is leading the financing.
“The whole key is to change the physical infrastructure of how people view this campus,” Hughes said.
Improving the quality of life for students and fans plays a big part in the recruitment of top students and athletes, he said.
“I’m excited; I’m motivated,” Hughes added.
“This is a whole facelift of the university,” agreed Johnny Anderson, chairman of the Southern University System Board of Supervisors.
Southern University System President Ralph Slaughter, who took office in March, calls this the university’s biggest project in many years.
“It’s a long time coming,” Slaughter said, noting that $60 million in funding was put “in the bank” in December.
Indeed, raising funds and then Hurricane Katrina caused significant delays and a revamping of the project that eliminated some improvements for Southern’s New Orleans and Shreveport campuses.
A change in the system’s presidency did not help either, nor did a controversial 2005 shakeup of the Southern University System Foundation that led to Hughes taking over.
Student tuition and fees were increased in recent years to pay for these projects, and football ticket price went up. All of this made those paying extra money more eager to see construction get under way.
Now, housing construction begins this month, followed by the tearing down of the remaining dilapidated Magnolia Triangle dormitories next month to make way for the Intramural Sports Complex, Hughes said.
Then, the north end zone enclosure of A.W. Mumford begins in March, Hughes said.
“The beauty of it” is so much is about to happen almost at once, Hughes said, because everything is included in a single bond project, which was easier to approve than several smaller ones, he said.
Ambling University Development Group of Valdosta, Ga., has already started preparation work for the apartment-style dormitories, Hughes said, and the four dormitories will be occupied in the spring of 2008. The four buildings will contain 600 beds in one-, two- or four-bedroom apartments. The dormitories will have 300 new parking spaces.
“It’s very significant,” Anderson said of the first apartment-style residences for Southern. “It has a direct correlation with recruitment. We have to have quality dormitories.”
The $23.6 million apartments will be built just north of another nearly completed dormitory, which is the final facility built from the now-defunct consent decree desegregation settlement.
The nearly completed dormitory is now named Ulysses S. Jones Hall after a former Southern administrator, as approved Saturday by the Board of Supervisors. It is in the same architectural style as S.V. Totty Hall and Camille Shade Hall.
But the project that has most people excited is the $14.5 million stadium expansion and new football complex.
“We’re going to redo the whole stadium in a sense,” Hughes said.
Not only will the east and west sides be renovated but the north end zone is to be enclosed by the construction of 3,500 seats, including 500 suite seats. The suites are roughly modeled after the new ones in LSU’s Tiger Stadium, Hughes said.
The north end zone — set for completion before the 2008 season — also will have ticket booths, concessions areas and a Hall of Champions display. The football complex in the north end zone will have coaches offices, weight rooms, lockers, film-study rooms and additional locker rooms for men’s and women’s track teams.
“Southern will probably have one of the best structures in the conference … in the division, really,” Hughes said. “For a black school, that’s almost unheard of.”
Also, at Lee-Hines Field, home of the Southern baseball team, a new field house will be built beyond left field to house locker rooms for players and umpires, coaches offices and a meeting room.
Finally, the Intramural Sports Complex will fulfill students’ recreational needs, Hughes said, by offering basketball courts, volleyball, racquetball, indoor swimming, a food court and plenty of locker rooms and showers.
“The intramural center we’ve been talking about for 10 years finally coming to reality is amazing,” Anderson said.
Lemoyne-Owen College got another reprieve this month when the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools decided to extend the South Memphis school's probation for another year.
Yet, as LeMoyne-Owen board chairman Robert Lipscomb acknowledges, it's hardly an occasion for popping champagne corks.
The SACS decision means that LeMoyne-Owen hasn't lost its status as an accredited school. Losing accreditation would mean LeMoyne-Owen would no longer be eligible to receive federal funds, a potentially devastating blow for an institution that's already reeling financially.
In fact, it's the college's financial problems that got it into trouble with SACS in the first place. Because expenses have piled up faster than revenues needed to cover them, LeMoyne-Owen's debt has snowballed to $7 million, says Lipscomb.
Lipscomb and the board seem to understand what's needed to dig the college out of its current predicament: A vision for the future inspiring enough and reassuring enough to attract new donors and students.
And Lipscomb hopes the board will bring that vision into focus by the end of next month. Then work can move forward on refining a curriculum and marketing plan which reflect that vision.
"We can't spend two years talking about vision," he said in a meeting with The Commercial Appeal editorial board this week. "We don't have time for that."
No, they don't. Without stabilizing its finances, LeMoyne-Owen has little hope of improving its standing, academically or otherwise. And it's going to be increasingly more difficult to find donors and students willing to invest money if the college doesn't show signs of righting itself.
That said, the situation is far from hopeless. Lipscomb said the new vision will focus on carving out a niche for LeMoyne-Owen in the marketplace of higher learning institutions. "You've got to change your product to keep up with the market," Lipscomb said.
One point of emphasis is likely to be increased focus on attracting African-American males, who Lipscomb says are outnumbered by females among the current student body.
Lipscomb said there will also be more of an outreach to other ethnic groups, particularly the community's fast-growing Hispanic population, even as LeMoyne-Owen maintains its status as a historically black college.
Which all sounds encouraging. And it's a promising sign that the LeMoyne-Owen board has sought the help of Beverly Robertson, who's done a terrific job developing and marketing the National Civil Rights Museum.
However, the college will need to do more than identify new demographic groups and sub-groups. It must also offer the kind of education students from those groups will need to succeed in the workplace.
Other steps toward overhauling LeMoyne-Owen are also underway: The board is being streamlined and Lipscomb hopes a new president can be found sometime around the middle of next year.
LeMoyne-Owen is important not only to the neighborhood that surrounds it, but to Greater Memphis as well. For that reason, Lipscomb and the college's other backers need all the support they can get in the new year.
Dr. William Lindsey, vice president of Academic Affairs, said officials are taking the steps to transform the college into a university. Currently, officials are awaiting accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges, he said. "Possibly after February, the B-CC sign in front of Faith Hall will read Bethune-Cookman University," Dr. Lindsey said.
Lindsey said the move to university status has nothing to do with the number of students enrolled in the college. Which plans to enroll 4,000 students by 2011. The college's Master of Science Degree in Transformative Leadership, which began this August, is the main source behind the change to university, Lindsey said. In February, the Southern Associate of College's will come to Cookman to do a review of the Masters Degree program, Lindsey said. At that time, the college must have met certain standards of education within the Masters program, he said.
Once the college passes the review and the program becomes officially accredited, Cookman will move into a different category within the accreditation council that will give the college with the ability to become a university, said Lindsey.
The college plans to, soon, begin offering additional graduate programs. Among those in consideration are the Divergent Learning Program for Teachers, Environmental Science and the African Diaspora.
Coppin State University is planning an ambitious $400 million effort to revitalize its West Baltimore campus, an attempt to make up for a longstanding lack of state funding for the historically black institution.
The first piece of the university's plan -- a new $52 million health and human services building -- is under construction and scheduled to open in fall 2008. Planning for a new physical education complex centered around a 4,100-seat sports arena is already under way.
Future plans call for numerous other projects including a a new science and technology building, a performing arts center and a student center.
Coppin President Stanley F. Battle, who is leaving next summer to lead North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University, said an influx of state support is long overdue for the campus, which had 4,100 enrolled students this fall.
The institution, he said, was "woefully underfunded" before he arrived in 2003 from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
"I was really appalled at what I saw when I got here," Battle said.
A group formed by state higher education officials concluded in 2001 that the institution, founded in 1900 as a one-room school for black teachers, had "severely deficient" classroom and office space and antiquated water, sewer and electrical systems. That study recommended $300 million in upgrades over 10 years.
In an effort to fix those problems, Battle said he has worked to build support among lawmakers and University System of Maryland regents to provide more funding.
That effort has been successful. Last year, lawmakers and Gov. Robert Ehrlich provided more than $21 million in money for building projects and improvements to utility and security systems.
With construction under way on a new 160,000-square-foot health and human services building, Battle said, "Every time I look at it I just say, 'Hallelujah.' "
Another major project in the works is a new physical education complex being built in partnership with the Maryland Stadium Authority. The authority has not finalized the project's costs, but it is expected to total more than $100 million and projected to open in fall 2009.
Demolition of several commercial buildings on the site is scheduled to start next summer, said Eric Johnson, project director with the Maryland Stadium Authority.
The complex will include an eight-lane, 75-yard pool, three gyms, a 400-meter track, eight tennis courts and a softball field.
"We'll be able to attract even stronger competition [and] attract better athletes," Battle said. "It's a recognition of where this institution is going."
The state has provided funding for the health sciences building and has the athletic complex in its capital budget plans.
But Battle said funding for future projects -- such as an $80 million science and technology center -- is far from certain. The university is planning to ask for $15 million in next year's capital budget to buy properties needed for that building, Battle said. "I don't know if we're going to get that," he said.
During Battle's administration, Coppin took on the title of university, a change from Coppin State College. It also launched a $15 million fundraising drive in fall 2005. Battle was named chancellor of North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University in Greensboro, N.C., effective next July.
The state university system's chancellor, William E. "Brit" Kirwan, said Battle was an effective advocate for bringing more funding to Coppin State.
Kirwan, who is in the process of setting up a search committee to look for a new president, said the infusion of dollars into the campus will make it easier to find a new president.
"We're going to attract a strong pool of candidates," Kirwan said.