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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Hampton J-School recommended for reaccrediation

A site team of the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications (ACEJMC) has recommended full re-accreditation for Hampton University’s Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications, Hampton officials recently annouced.

“This decision to re-accreditate our program reinforces our determination to continue the excellence we have achieved in a very short period of time,” said Tony Brown, dean of the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications.

In May 2006, the Accrediting Council granted the School provisional re-accreditation and said the University was out of compliance on two of the nine standards, governance and research. The School contested the ruling and on July 25, 2006, the Appeals Board ruled that HU should be fully accredited. On Sept. 1, 2006, the ACEJMC Council accepted the recommendation of the Appeals Board that the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications continue its full accreditation for the 2006-07 academic year.

The final decision on the site team’s recommendation will be announced in May by the ACEJMC Council.

Fisk not only school faced with selling art

Taking millions of dollars from its endowment to pay bills may have put Fisk University in the unenviable position of needing to sell part of its prestigious Stieglitz artwork collection.

In the past year, a handful of small colleges around the country have found themselves contemplating a similar step.

Rockford College in Illinois put part of its art collection up for sale last fall to help pay down debt from outstanding loans and bills. At the same time, Thomas Jefferson University announced it was selling off a popular painting that has historical ties to the college's home city of Philadelphia.

And a year ago, Hartwick College in New York weighed a similar choice but ultimately decided against selling art — which would have raised money for a restricted endowment. The school concluded the sale would not raise enough to justify losing the pieces.

The issue is of enough concern that when the national group that oversees campus art collections holds its annual conference this spring, top agenda items will be "Ownership of Collections" and "Collections at Risk; Threats to the Collection and Museum."

"It's certainly not a coincidence that we're going to be tackling this topic in May," said Lisa Tremper Hanover, president of the Association of College and University Museums and Galleries.

"I don't want to call it a trend, but we have seen a sudden influx of situations similar to the one at Fisk. The biggest questions we have include 'Are the works being used in the manner donors intended? Are they being used to educate? If not, are the schools better off divesting themselves of the entire collection, instead of two or three pieces?' "

Rockford and Fisk are roughly the same size, with enrollments of 800 to 900 undergraduate students. Rockford has been about $10 million in debt for more than a decade and has a very small endowment to work with, said John McNamara, the college's vice president for college development.

"I wouldn't say we are in the same situation as Fisk because I'm not aware of their situation — but we face a lot of debt and really had to figure out a way to pay it down," he said. "We talked to faculty about it first, and also talked to alumni. What we found was that the art really wasn't being used as learning tools, and very few pieces were actually on display."

Rockford decided in September to sell nearly 70 percent of its collection. The initial sale brought in $1.1 million. It was conducted by Leslie Hindman Auction House of Chicago and included works by Danish painter Soren Emil Carlsen and an etching by Spanish artist Francisco de Goya.

"We've been pleased with the process and the results," McNamara said, noting that pieces of the collection are still being sold. "I think for us, being open and honest about what we were doing has made things better."

Other collection highlights include Egyptian and Roman antiquities, Ando Hiroshige woodblock prints and a collection of African and Oceanic art.

In Philadelphia, Thomas Jefferson University announced in November that it was selling an 1875 masterpiece, Thomas Eakins' The Gross Clinic, for $68 million. Soon, a partnership from within the city stepped in to match the sale price and keep the painting in Philadelphia.

The university plans to use the money to improve programs and the campus infrastructure, Thomas Jefferson officials said.

In October, Hartwick College, a small liberal arts college in New York, announced it was negotiating with the state to sell more than 800 acres of land and part of a fine-arts collection at its Yager Museum. Revenues from the collection, which included paintings and prints from the Louis van Ess collection, were to be used as endowments. School officials changed their mind soon after, following protest from the local art community.

Fisk's prestigious Stieglitz Collection has been in storage at the Frist Center for the Visual Arts since November 2005. The university's Carl Van Vechten Gallery, home of the collection, is undergoing improvements designed to help secure the artworks against theft, fire and water damage.

Fisk wants to sell Georgia O'Keeffe's 1927 painting Radiator Building — Night, New York and Marsden Hartley's 1913 Painting No. 3 from the Alfred Stieglitz Collection donated to the school by O'Keeffe in 1949.

In a proposed deal, the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum would withdraw its legal challenge to prevent the sale of the two paintings and buy the O'Keeffe work for $7 million.

Under an arrangement established by the Tennessee attorney general, Fisk was given 30 days to explore alternatives that would allow the school to raise sorely needed money while keeping the paintings with the rest of the collection. Fisk ended fiscal year 2005, the most recent year for which figures are available, $3.5 million in the red.

Last summer, President Hazel O'Leary admitted the university had withdrawn money from its endowment to make ends meet and began listing artwork as part of the endowment. In July, Fisk officials said the endowment was now valued at roughly $15.2 million; of that, $7.7 million is in the form of artwork. Taking out cash and substituting artwork meant a further loss of investment income, and O'Leary said operating funds had to be used to cover scholarships that would have been funded by the endowment's earnings.

O'Leary did not return phone calls for this story.

But Ken West, Fisk's spokesman, said the university is looking at other options.

"But we haven't stopped our regular campaigning for alumni contributions," West said. "It's not like we're looking at selling the art as our only means of funding. We continue to move forward with our regular programs."

Monday, February 26, 2007

Fisk's financial struggles go back 30 years

In May 1983, six months before Walter Leonard announced his resignation as the president of Fisk University, he told the board of trustees: "The situation is critical."

Actually, it had been for a while. When Leonard took the job in 1977, Fisk's endowment had dropped to $3.1 million, from $14.6 million in 1968.

According to news reports at the time, Fisk had been using the endowment to pay bills.

Years later, things hadn't changed much. In the early 1980s, the Nashville Gas Co. turned off the campus's heat because it had an unpaid balance of $170,000. A group of community members, led by John Seigenthaler, chairman emeritus of The Tennessean, put together an emergency fund drive — it included standing on street corners asking for coins and cash.

"Everybody was trying to figure out a way to help," Brooks Parker, a Nashville businessman who was involved in the effort, said last week. "There's just always been a struggle at that school, and we were thinking about the students."

Federal 990 statements indicate that Fisk had more revenue than expenses in fiscal years 2002 and 2003, with excesses of $1.8 million and $1.3 million in those years, respectively. But the school ended fiscal 2004 with a $796,000 deficit, according to its 990 statement. Fiscal 2005 — the last year for which 990 information is available — Fisk ended with a deficit of $3.5 million.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

LeMoyne financial dilemma worsens

LeMoyne-Owen College needs nearly $3 million by the end of June to continue operations.

While the school has been financially beleaguered for years, the crisis this time is so extreme that some in the community worry the city's only historically black school will close.

LeMoyne-Owen board chairman Robert Lipscomb admitted Thursday that the situation is dire, but declined to go into specifics.

"If people don't step forward to fund it, (the school's time) is very short," said Lipscomb, a LeMoyne-Owen graduate as well as the chief financial officer for the city of Memphis.

Calls to numerous other board members as well as to interim school president Johnnie Watson were not returned.

The school faced a smaller crisis last year, when it was forced to raise $1 million by June.

The news also comes in the wake of the resignation of board member Cary Booker, a former LeMoyne staff member and current associate dean and director of the Academic Foundations Center at Rutgers University.

Booker was one of eight new board members brought in last September to try to repair the problems at the school, which has a student population of about 650.

Less than six months later, though, Booker is gone, citing in part the school's financial woes.

"I have also watched with alarm the growing depth of the financial chasm that we must leap to save LeMoyne-Owen College and I am concerned that our present course is not sufficient to affect the college's rescue," Booker wrote in his resignation letter dated Feb 8. "I hope that my conclusions about the outcome of our current course are proved incorrect."

Booker could not be reached for comment.

According to the school's projections, LeMoyne-Owen needs almost $2.9 million to pay its bills through June 30. That figure includes enough money to meet payroll as well as pay other assorted bills.

According to the school's projections, which could change, LeMoyne-Owen has enough money to pay bills through March.

But in April, the school projects a negative cash flow of more than $200,000. In May, that grows by another $1 million, then totals $2.9 million by the end of June.

In addition, the school remains more than $6 million in debt. That debt was the primary reason the school had its probationary status extended for another year by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools last December.

SACS first placed LeMoyne-Owen on probation in 2005, following two years of "warning status."

Lipscomb has what he calls a seven-point plan in place to try to save the school. The plan includes restructuring the board, reviewing and restructuring academic programs and increasing the emphasis on marketing and alumni affairs.

"We've got to get the school enough capital to operate. We've just got to. Every year we're in the same situation," he said. "It is the most important time in the school's history."

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Bethune university a college no more

Bethune-Cookman has a new name.

The historically black Daytona Beach college, which added its first graduate program in the fall, is now Bethune-Cookman University.

The change reflects the school's broader educational offerings, said Stephen Schafer, vice president for institutional advancement.

"It's an opportunity for the institution to achieve a new academic status," Schafer said. "Now, we have a master's level."

Trustees approved the name change at a board meeting in October, but university President Trudie Kibbe Reed didn't announce it until Wednesday. The trustees plan to make a formal announcement at their March meeting.

The name change will be phased in over two years. The school song, however, will remain the same.

The moniker "university" reflects an expansion under Reed, who was named president in 2004, that includes new programs and buildings, said Anne McCulloch, dean of the School of Graduate and Professional Studies.

"Becoming a university is in line with the vision of the new president," McCulloch said.

School leaders have been considering the name switch since August 2004, when they began planning a graduate program with a $50,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The only graduate degree now offered is a master of science in "transformative leadership." The program is primarily an online course of study designed for working adults. The aim is to "equip leaders and their organizations to explore the values of diversity, community engagement and ethics." About 20 students are enrolled.

The work includes conventional business and communications courses with an emphasis on ethics and learning theory, McCulloch said.

"A transformational leader is one who not only manages the organization but who takes it to a new level," McCulloch said.

Bethune-Cookman, which has about 3,000 students, was founded by Mary McLeod Bethune in 1904 as Daytona Educational and Industrial Training School for Negro Girls. It became a high school and then a junior college before the state approved it as a four-year college in 1941.

NCCU names dorm for Ben Ruffin

The renaming of an N.C. Central University residence hall for Ben Ruffin, a former chairman of the UNC Board of Governors, is a good first step, Vernon Jordan, the presidential adviser and corporate attorney, said Tuesday.

But to truly honor Ruffin's long legacy as a civil rights activist and supporter of higher education, the community needs to push forward with his vision for public service, said Jordan, a friend of Ruffin's and the featured speaker at an afternoon tribute to the NCCU alumnus who died of a heart attack in December.

"There is a leadership void to be filled," Jordan said. "The question is, who will answer? Who will answer: Here am I. Send me!"

After the 50-minute tribute, more than 200 attendees marched across Fayetteville Street to see the New Baynes Residence Hall renamed for Ruffin, a Durham native who, friends and colleagues said, never forgot his roots.

His widow, Avon Ruffin, echoed Jordan's sentiments.

"I hope that Ben's name on this building will be a constant reminder of his work in this community," she said. "And I hope it will be a reminder of the work still to be done."

The Ruffin family lives near Winston-Salem now. Ruffin was 64 when he died Dec. 7, and his death was surprising. A health nut, he had just finished jogging when his heart gave way. He was known as someone who ate well -- picking at salads during business lunches -- and looked for places to work out while on the road.

His life's work cut a wide swath. He was, at various times, a civil rights activist, an adviser to Gov. Jim Hunt, an executive with R.J. Reynolds, and a member of the UNC system's Board of Governors.

In 1998 he became that board's first black chairman, winning a close and contentious vote and then spending four years insisting that all views -- including those of students -- were heard during board discussions.

It is perhaps fitting that the residence hall now bearing his name was built with funds secured through the 2000 higher education bond campaign, a massive university system effort that secured $2.5 billion for the 16-campus system. As chairman, Ruffin was a key and active player in that campaign and put particular emphasis on the needs of his alma mater and the state's other historically black institutions.

"This dormitory will stand as a reminder to many, especially the students, of the contributions he made to this university," said Bill Bell, Durham's mayor.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Rebuilding N.O. colleges to take years

Experts suggest that the damaged caused to Dillard University, Southern University at New Orleans and Xavier University by floodwaters after Hurricane Katrina could take years to repair.

"Rebuilding is a very high priority list, but (restoration) is going to take some time," said Jerry Jones, one of the state officials heading the educational facilty rebuilding effort.

The pace of repairs has differed from campus to campus. Although SUNO students are still in trailers because work on their Pontchartrain Park campus didn't start until the day after Christmas, Dillard is lively once again with students are strolling beneath its stately oaks.

Seventeen months after floodwaters overwhelmed SUNO, steps have been taken to start the process that will rid its buildings of mold.

Contracts have been let to install temporary chillers in these structures, Chancellor Victor Ukpolo said. They will stop the mold until the buildings can be remediated, probably starting by May.

This good news came as SUNO students and faculty members started their third semester in a trailer tract called the North Campus, which is about a half-mile north of the Pontchartrain Park site and hard by the Lake Pontchartrain levee. It followed months of struggling with state and federal bureaucracies to begin the work that eventually will get SUNO moved back.

At one point, the pace was so frustratingly slow that Ukpolo said, "We're beating our heads against a wall."

Ukpolo's office, in a wide trailer labeled "Chancellor," is at the southeast corner of the compound, surrounded by a high fence, where the streets forming impromptu blocks for the 445-trailer community have academic-sounding names such as History Street and Economics Street.

"It's a concern, going through another hurricane season with those trailers," SUNO spokesman Harold Clark Jr. said.

But that situation may exist for some time to come because the process of restoring SUNO and the process is at the mercy of state and federal bureaucracies, Jerry Jones said.

"There are many, many steps we have to go through before we can . . . begin the rebuilding effort," she said.

Ukpolo said the reoccupation of the Pontchartrain Park campus should begin in May, with most of the work done by the fall of 2008. Even mold remediation, generally an early step in bringing a building back, had to be put on hold because SUNO's power plant, which houses the air-conditioning system, was a victim of the flood.

"We could have gone in and done mold remediation," Jones said, "but until you have humidity control, plan on doing it every other day. . . . With our humidity, mold will re-form immediately. Therefore, it made no sense to do mold remediation."

Hence the portable chillers.

The first structure scheduled for restoration is the building that houses a gymnasium and a computer room, as well as space for meetings and classes.

"It was the least-damaged building," Ukpolo said. "We're going to try to put in as many university activities as possible."

Work was delayed by a squabble over cost. The Federal Emergency Management Agency originally estimated that restoring that building to its pre-storm level would cost about $500,000, Ukpolo said, but when the project was put out for bids, the lowest was $3.3 million, more than six times that amount.

The state Education Department provided a $1.9 million grant, which gave the university $2.4 million for the job.

But that still wasn't enough to meet the lowest bid, Ukpolo said, so the process had to start anew.

In such situations, FEMA can "adapt to whatever the new situation is" and do another assessment, agency spokesman Ronnie Simpson said.

Eventually, work was started, Ukpolo said, but as a result of that experience, "FEMA now expects architects to provide a realistic estimate."

The cafeteria will be renovated, Ukpolo said, but the power plant was too damaged to make reconstruction feasible.

Restoring SUNO won't be speedy.

The level of activity at Dillard's Gentilly campus surprised Dianna Green, a senior biology major who is the reigning Miss Dillard.

"I expected construction, but everywhere you looked, there were trucks," she said. "You'd be sitting in class and hearing somebody drilling over your head."

Although most Dillard buildings are in use again, work is under way on Rosenwald Hall, which houses administrative offices, and the library, which has been gutted and is scheduled to reopen for the fall semester, Dillard spokeswoman Karen Celestan said.

Because Rosenwald Hall is still a work in progress, President Marvalene Hughes' office is on Poydras Street, but she drives to campus daily for lunch with students.

n addition to restoring buildings, Dillard is making improvements. For instance, the library will add 6,000 square feet on two new floors to add high-tech information-storage equipment, Hughes said, and a new science and nursing building with up-to-date labs will rise.

Because insurance will not pay for everything, Hughes has been busy raising money across the country. So far, her barnstorming has brought in about $40 million, which, she said, is about $100 million shy of her goal.

Dillard also is using the activity to bolster its status as a major force in its part of the city to encourage people to come back .

"We can be more involved and engaged beyond our walls so we are aiding the community in recovery," Hughes said. "I see Dillard as the anchor of this neighborhood, which makes it even more important that we return to campus. Once people begin to see life out here, people will come back."

Ron Mason boldly moving Jackson State forward

In recent years, construction cranes have loomed over the bustling campus of Jackson State University. The historically Black school of more than 8,000 students is undergoing a building boom, evident by recently constructed buildings that have blended with historic structures. Located at the southern end of the city, the Jackson State campus stands out as one of the few vibrant areas in this economically struggling section of Mississippi’s majority-Black capital city.

“I feel like now we are as close to being a major university as we’ve ever been,” says Dr. Hillard Lackey, Jackson State’s national alumni president and an adjunct professor of history and geography. “We’ve come from being a college in the corner to being an active participant in world affairs.”

As a youngster growing up in Jackson, Andrell Harris believed fervently that he would leave his hometown to attend college. Now a junior at Jackson State, he says he grew interested in the school as a teenager after he encountered people affiliated with its outreach programs. It also helped that his mother is a Jackson State alumna, and that the finance major had started a local vending machine business while he was in high school.

“I realized that Jackson State had a lot to offer me. And now I can’t imagine having gone anywhere else for college,” he says.

A sense of pride is palpable among those who count themselves in the Jackson State community. In addition to taking pride in new buildings, such as the $22 million engineering building and the $24.5 million student union that are currently under construction, the school has gained a national reputation for scientific research in chemistry and environmental science. It has also become a national leader in community-based health disparities research with regard to HIV/AIDs and heart disease.

Founded in 1877, Jackson State has emerged as one of Mississippi’s leading research institutions as well as one of the top HBCUs in the country for research. Its $56 million sponsored research portfolio in the 2005-2006 academic year put the school second only to Howard University among HBCUs. In 2002, Jackson State was named a “comprehensive university” in a desegregation settlement plan, putting it on par with the University of Mississippi, Mississippi State University and the University of Southern Mississippi. And last year, the school earned the Carnegie classification ranking of a “high research activity” university.

Of the state’s eight public universities, three are historically Black.

“I’m very impressed with the progress at [Jackson State] over the past five years. When you go on the campus, you can see the changes to the physical plant. And the overall quality in the academic programs has been consistent,” says Dr. James T. Minor, an assistant professor of higher education at Michigan State University and a graduate of Jackson State.

An expert on HBCUs, Minor says his alma mater has grown into a comprehensive university despite being underfunded by both state and federal governments. For decades, Mississippi has operated under federal scrutiny as it sought to resolve the landmark higher education desegregation case. In 1975, Mississippi resident Jake Ayers Sr., and several other Black plaintiffs, including U.S. Congressman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., charged in a lawsuit, Ayers v. State of Mississipi, that the state had long neglected its historically Black schools. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in 1992. In 2004, Mississippi reached a $503 million settlement that includes funding improvements at the three historically Black universities.

Although some of the settlement funding has benefited Jackson State, Minor says much of the school’s recent progress is the result of sound planning and solid performance. “In many ways, it’s due to good leadership,” he says.

Jackson State President Ronald Mason Jr., an attorney and a former general counsel at Tulane University, gets considerable credit for the accomplishments the university has experienced in the past seven years. Appointed in 2000, he has helped secure millions of dollars in investments, which launched the current construction boom. So far, he has overseen the construction of a new business school building, a liberal arts building and several athletic facilities. He has also expanded the school’s role in the community, becoming more involved in local economic development and public school reform. There has also been a dramatic increase in research by Jackson State’s science and public health faculty during Mason’s presidency.

He credits prior administrations with providing a solid foundation on which to build new initiatives. “There were more things going on here with the potential to build on than I realized before I actually started working here,” Mason says. “Federal agency relationships were as good as I had ever seen. There was a caring, hands-on approach of the faculty. The graduates were out getting jobs in places that I wasn’t aware of, so we had a lot to build on.”
Rendering of the new engineering building and the newly opened Walter Payton Recreation and Wellness Center.

Jackson State veterans single out Dr. John A. Peoples, the school’s president from 1967 to 1984, for putting the school on a path that took it from a teachers college to a comprehensive university. Lackey, a native of the Mississippi Delta, says HBCUs offered a lifeline for individuals like himself, who were desperate to escape a life of tenant farming on cotton plantations.

“When I came here, we were trying to survive, period. Jackson State was trying to educate Black folks primarily as teachers,” Lackey says of his student days in the early 1960s.

That would change with the Peoples presidency. A Jackson State graduate, Peoples had earned a doctorate in mathematics from the University of Chicago and later rose through Jackson State’s administrative ranks to become its president.

“Peoples decided that the school ought to become a first-class institution,” Lackey says.

The late 1960s and early ’70s were an uncertain and turbulent time for Mississippians. The successes of the civil rights movement were transitioning into anxiety over the country’s involvement in the Vietnam War. But under People’s leadership, Jackson State would begin its transformation into one of Mississippi’s most competitive higher education institutions. But the transition wouldn’t be quick, easy or painless. In 1970, local police shot and killed a Jackson State student and a 17-year-old city resident during a campus protest, provoking outrage from Americans nationwide.

According to Lackey, the city’s then majority-White population had little or no love for the presence of Jackson State and was not inclined to support efforts to expand or enhance the school. Despite the opposition, Peoples found ways to improve the school by prevailing upon the faculty and administration to seek non-state-based funding and support. He also pushed faculty members to earn their doctorates.

“At the time when I went back to Jackson State in 1967, there may have been five people out of a faculty of more than 100 that had Ph.D.s,” Lackey says.

Granted the urban university status in 1979, Jackson State has sought involvement in urban planning, community health outreach, local economic development initiatives and local school reform, which are functions urban campuses often tackle.

“Peoples wanted Jackson State to have a role in Jackson similar to what the University of Alabama-Birmingham and the University of Memphis were doing in their cities,” Lackey explains.

Dr. Arthur James Hicks, the director of the National Science Foundation’s Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation, says that the 1960s to the 1990s proved a pivotal era for HBCUs that held ambitions of developing into research-oriented,comprehensive universities. A number of Black college leaders, allied with Congressional Black Caucus members, successfully lobbied the federal government to make significant research and capacity-building dollars available to HBCUs.

Hicks says Jackson State and several other public HBCUs, including Florida A&M, North Carolina A&T and Tennessee State universities, have been among the most aggressive at utilizing federal dollars to develop graduate programs. They are also leading the charge in sponsoring research, particularly in the science, technology, engineering and math fields. Some private HBCUs, most notably Clark Atlanta, Hampton, Howard and Tuskegee universities, have also been active in developing their science and technology research portfolios, he says.

“Visionary leaders working with smart administrators and project managers, and productive and talented faculty have made selected HBCU campuses into competitive research institutions,” Hicks says.

By the time Mason arrived on campus, Jackson State had established doctoral programs in a number of disciplines. In 1982, the university graduated its first doctorates, Ed.D. recipients specializing in early childhood education. Jackson State’s first doctorate in educational administration and supervision came in 1994, according to Dr. Dorris Robinson-Gardner, dean of the graduate studies division. In the 1990s, Jackson State introduced doctoral programs in public administration, urban and regional planning, social work, business administration, clinical psychology, environmental science and chemistry. More recent doctoral programs, developed mostly during Mason’s presidency, have been in urban education leadership and public health.

“We developed these programs in keeping with our mission as an urban university. And there was clearly a state need for them,” Robinson-Gardner says.

With growth in graduate programs occurring, the push by Jackson State faculty to seek sponsored research and infrastructure-building grants also increased. Dr. William McHenry, a former National Science Foundation administrator who now runs Jackson State’s Mississippi e-Center facility and business incubator, recalls how university administrators worked diligently in the early ’90s to organize the school’s science research programs. McHenry and other NSF program officers provided advice to help the school’s faculty maximize their use of NSF funds.

“They listened to us and got their research programs aligned for accountability and to be outcome-oriented,” he says.

Dr. Felix A. Okojie, the vice president for research development and federal relations at Jackson State, says the graduate program development and other groundwork of the ’90s reaped impressive growth in research. Between 2001 and 2006, annual sponsored research jumped from $14 million to $56 million, according to Okojie. Nearly $20 million of the 2005-2006 funding went to researchers in the College of Science, Engineering and Technology.

“We’ve gone from being able to support five postdoctoral scholars at the college to 30 over the past five years due to the increase in research activity,” Okojie says.

Other generators of significant research dollars have included the College of Public Service, which houses the School of Public Health; the Jackson Heart Study project; the university’s Mississippi Urban Research Center; and several other university research centers.

As Jackson State officials anticipate how the school’s share of the Ayers settlement will help guide future growth, they remain cautious. For his part, however, Mason candidly proclaims that one of his goals is for Jackson State to become the most recognized and most competitive HBCU in the United States. He refers to it as being “America’s public HBCU.”

“We really are uniquely situated. If you’re going to build America’s public HBCU, why not build it in the capital city of the Blackest state in the country?” he asks.

For now, that means developing a new strategic plan to succeed the one Mason and a 17-member national panel crafted not long after he landed at Jackson State. The previous panel “spent about a year putting together a plan called the Millennium Agenda for Jackson State,” he says.

“Most of which you see around here that’s happened over the last five to six years has all been in accordance with that plan. We had five strategies and that was broken down into 19 programs and something like 200 action steps,” Mason says. “Now it’s time to do another strategic plan on which we’re about to get started.

This next piece is going to be more internal and focused on academics primarily.”

Officials say they are optimistic that Jackson State’s growth, which includes new and renovated dormitories now under construction as well as a relatively new engineering program, will help grow overall undergraduate enrollment. Dr. Robert W. Whalin, the university’s associate dean for engineering, says it looks promising that the engineering program will receive accreditation later this year. The new 90,000 square-foot engineering building is scheduled for completion in spring of 2008, according to Whalin.

“I expect that once we get our program accredited and we finish the new building, we’ll see considerably higher demand for engineering,” he says, noting that the school currently enrolls more than 500 students.

To take advantage of certain Ayers settlement funds, Jackson State must maintain 10 percent non-Black enrollment for at least three consecutive years. Achieving that goal will make the university eligible to receive 43.4 percent of the interest proceeds from a $70 million publicly funded endowment and a $35 million privately funded endowment. According to the Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning, Jackson State’s non-Black enrollment for the 2005-2006 academic year was 7.1 percent.

Of the three HBCUs receiving funds through the Ayers settlement — Jackson State, Alcorn State University and Mississippi Valley State University — only Alcorn State has met the 10 percent threshold.

In the meantime, Jackson State officials have plunged ahead with a major fundraising drive for the first time since the 1980s.

The Campaign for Jackson State, expected to be formally announced this year, is critical to improving student chances for success at the university, Mason says. The $50-million campaign, the largest in Jackson State’s history, is focused on student financial assistance, faculty and staff development. The silent phase of the campaign, which began in summer 2004, has raised approximately $16 million in gifts and pledges. The campaign will end in 2010.

“The gap between financial aid and the cost of attendance is why we’re doing a fund-raiser now,” he says. “When we run out of money, we just can’t serve that last 300 or 400 students that we would like to serve. What we have to do is get the money to serve the students.”

Monday, February 19, 2007

Ex-Ala. State employee faces charges

The former director of Alabama State University's Brewton branch and her husband were charged Friday with using materials and labor paid for by ASU to improve a home and a business they owned.

The director's husband, investigators said, also took state prisoners paid to work at the school and subcontracted them out for a fee to other area residents.

Margaret A. Bradley, also known as Margaret Breland-Bradley, surrendered to authorities along with her husband, Charles Bradley Jr., on Friday afternoon, entering the Escambia County Sheriff's Office without a word.

According to a six-count indictment, Margaret Bradley violated state ethics laws by using state inmates assigned to the Alabama State University Southern Normal Campus in Brewton to build a gazebo at her residence and by using bricks illegally taken from the school.

According to the indictments announced Friday, more of the school's bricks were used to build The Barber Shop Mall, owned by the former educator and her husband in East Brewton.

Investigators said the couple also installed cabinets at their business and used other building materials there that belonged to the university. They also used inmate labor to do various other odd jobs at their residence, according to investigators. Further, the indictment states, Margaret Bradley had landscaping performed at her home that she billed to the school.

Charles Bradley was charged with three counts of theft, accusing him of taking the bricks and accepting money to subcontract inmates to work for other people. He also stands accused of taking cabinets and other building materials from the school.

Attempts to reach the Bradleys on Friday were unsuccessful, but Escambia County Sheriff Grover Smith said the couple appeared "devastated" by the charges. He added that they claimed the charges were politically motivated.

Hugh Evans, general counsel for the Alabama Ethics Commission, said the probe by the state agency began months ago when a Brewton-area resident called to complain about the Bradleys.

"We investigated the case and referred our findings to the Ethics Commission in December," Evans said Friday. "It was the commission's finding that Margaret Bradley used Alabama State University" resources and property illegally.

Evans said his office referred the case to Escambia County District Attorney Steve Billy's office, and aided in presenting the case to the grand jury in late January into early February.

Calls to Alabama State University for comment were not returned Friday.

Margaret Bradley was placed on administrative leave in May 2006 as Alabama State probed what a spokeswoman called the director's alleged lack of adherence to guidelines for university policies, standards and finances.

Her contract to serve as director was not renewed at the end of the year.

Alabama State University's main campus is in Montgomery. The predominantly black institution was founded in 1867 and has a universitywide enrollment of 5,269 students.

Margaret Bradley's contract with the state university came a few years after a turbulent 21-month term as Escambia County superintendent of education. Bradley was not only the first woman, but the first black person to serve as the county's schools superintendent.

The Escambia County Board of Education voted not to renew her contract in 2000 after questions arose regarding expenditures such as a $100,000 computer software program.

Bradley filed a federal lawsuit against the county school system claiming gender and racial discrimination, but the case was dismissed in 2003.

Bradley served as an educator and administrator in New York City schools before moving to Brewton, her hometown, about nine years ago. Since she moved back to the area, Bradley has served on several local and regional civic organization boards, drawing praise for her efforts from colleagues.

News releases just before she was suspended from her post at Alabama State detail a $100,000 grant for the Brewton ASU facility from the Alabama State Department of Education for a Principals' Center in School Reform. Bradley was in charge of running the center, which offered a leadership training course one Saturday a month from February through July.

The course was open to 25 principals and 25 aspiring principals, according to the news release, and quoted Bradley as saying the administrators needed to be taught "academic and fiscal accountability" to be successful.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Presidential Candidate Barack Obama to visit Claflin U.

Sen. Barack Obama's campaign for President will be visiting Claflin University Saturday at 11 a.m. Obama is scheduled to speak at Claflin University's Tullis Arena in the Jonas T. Kennedy Health and Physical Education Center. The event is free and open to the public.

Claflin University President Dr. Henry Tisdale called Obama's visit "a significant and wonderful opportunity for our students to observe, first-hand, the political process unfolding on a national level."

"We are honored that Sen. Obama chose us as the location for the citizens of this area to hear his political platform as presidential candidates explain their political agenda to the voters of South Carolina and as we head toward these early and very important primaries," Tisdale said.

Obama's traveling press secretary, Dan Pfeiffer, said "We are seeing a lot of interest in Sen. Obama's events in South Carolina."

"This is his first visit to South Carolina as a presidential candidate, and he is excited to talk with the people of South Carolina about how we can change our politics and meet the challenges facing the country," he said.

It will be Obama's second visit to Orangeburg. He also spoke at Claflin in October 2004 when he was running for the U.S. Senate.

Political observers expect Orangeburg to garner the attention of Democratic candidates over the next year. It is a heavily Democratic county in a state slated to hold the first-in-the-South Democratic presidential primary.

The Democrats plan to hold their first presidential debate on April 26, 2007 at the Martin Luther King Jr. Auditorium on the South Carolina State University campus.

The Orangeburg event is Obama's second scheduled for the state this weekend.

On Friday, Obama is scheduled to speak at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center. Later Saturday, Obama is scheduled to speak in Richmond, Va.

Obama, 45, is the youngest candidate in the Democrats' 2008 primary field dominated by front-runner Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

In his presidential bid announcement made last weekend, the first-term U.S. senator sought to distinguish himself as a staunch opponent of the Iraq War and a White House hopeful whose lack of political experience is an asset.

During his announcement, Obama talked about reshaping the economy for the digital age, investing in education, protecting employee benefits, insuring those who do not have health care, ending poverty, weaning America from foreign oil and fighting terrorism while rebuilding global alliances.

Obama graduated from Columbia University with a degree in political science and a specialty in international relations. He worked as a community organizer in some of Chicago's toughest neighborhoods, helping church groups create job-training programs, reform area schools and improve city services.

He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School and was the first African American president of the Harvard Law Review. After law school, Obama organized one of the largest voter registration drives in Chicago history to help Bill Clinton get elected president, and worked as a civil rights lawyer on voting rights and employment discrimination cases in federal and state courts.

Obama's elective career began 10 years ago in the Illinois legislature. He lost a bid for a U.S. House seat, then won the Senate seat in 2004.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

$438,285 in questionable costs found at Bishop State

A special report by the state Department of Examiners of Public Accounts shows dubious practices and spending at Bishop State Community College in Mobile including more than $400,000 in questioned costs.

The report, which was mailed to two-year college officials this week, is to be released Friday. It was obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press.

Examiners covered Oct. 1, 2002 to Sept. 30, 2006 in the report and label $438,285.95 as questioned costs, including $293,496.02 in federal financial assistance.

Among the findings was $67,632.50 for 35 athletic scholarships that were given to 24 students who appeared ineligible to receive them and $279,353.36 for scholarships and waivers for 48 students who didn't meet financial aid requirements.

Several records were not available for examiners, including student roll books and instructor grade books, attendance vouchers used to verify enrollment, athletic travel vouchers and dependent applications used for approval of tuition waivers.

According to a report, a financial aid manager ordered the destruction of all federal financial aid files for the 2002-2003 award year in February 2006, and some 2003-2004 award year files were inadvertently destroyed.

Bishop State President Rep. Yvonne Kennedy said in a statement Wednesday that "corrective actions have already begun to take place with most of the financial aid problems listed in the audit."

She said employees who were alleged to have participated in criminal activity have been suspended or have terminations pending in keeping with the Fair Dismissal Act.

Three of the nine members on the Alabama board of education have called for Kennedy's firing or resignation. Kennedy, D-Mobile, has served as president since 1981.

Officials began reviewing allegations last year that two employees arranged aid for ineligible recipients, including a 67-year-old disabled grandmother who was enrolled in sports classes three months before her death.

School board member Stephanie Bell of Montgomery supports removing Kennedy from office and said the new report is the latest in a long line of audits that showed problems at the school.

"I think it confirms what we already knew and it just presents a picture of a situation that is completely out of control and has a lack of leadership," she said Wednesday. "There are problems with nearly a half-million dollars and it runs the gamut from academics to athletics. The president is responsible for every single area that is mentioned."

Also listed in the new report is a women's basketball scholarship that was given to a 54-year-old woman that the coach said he did not know. Two women received scholarships to play men's baseball, but no records indicated they were on the team.

Reports of grade changes and passing grades given to students who did not attend classes were also documented.

Interim two-year Chancellor Thomas Corts sent a team from his office to investigate problems in the school's financial aid office in August. Several students and employees, including the women's basketball coach a secretary and a teacher, have been arrested in a student aid theft scheme since then.

Kennedy has said she began looking into problems in May but went on medical leave in June for open-heart surgery. She has refused to resign, saying the investigation is not completed.

Two-year system spokesman Andre Taylor said he had not yet seen the report Wednesday and could not comment. He said Corts will not be at the board's meeting next week and had not prepared anything for members to consider "as to any action that can or will be taken at that meeting regarding Dr. Kennedy."

"The last time we talked there was no indication that he will be proposing any action at that time," Taylor said.

Kennedy said Wednesday that a consultant, Financial Aid Services, Inc., will continue operating the school's aid program "until all of the problems have been corrected" and the college is "continuing to explore ways to minimize and/or remove all questioned costs."

The two-year system released a report in September that detailed "grade fraud" and "virtually nonexistent" supervision of the Bishop State financial aid system. The U.S. Department of Education has placed the college on "heightened cash monitoring" and demanded the return of $150,000 in aid money, which the school has agreed to.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

HIV positive prostitute offers services at Cheyney U.

For the last few days it's been hard for Cheyney students to focus on calculus or Garcia Marquez, given the incessant buzz about an HIV-positive prostitute and her consorts on campus - and worse - the media attention its attracted.

On Thursday, Sakinah Kenyell Floyd, 35, of Upper Darby was charged with offering her services as a prostitute in two of Cheyney's dormitories.

Floyd, who is not a student at the university, had allegedly been seen running around nude on the sixth floor of Truth Hall, a Cheyney dormitory. According to the police report, two men interviewed had paid the woman $20 for oral sex. She told police she had sex with 10.

Floyd said she was HIV positive and was carrying prescription medication used to treat the virus.

As of yesterday, she was being held at the George W. Hill Correctional Facility on $30,000 bail, said Joseph Brielmann, spokesman for the Delaware County District Attorney's Office. "We are asking anybody in the public who has had contact with this woman to seek medical assistance and to assess their situation," Brielmann said.

Floyd's preliminary hearing will be on Thursday.

Rumors about how the prostitute got into the dorms, who the students are who had sex with her and whether or not they were using protection have been flying.

Several women said they had heard that the students were Cheyney football players.

But Darryl Wilkins, 17, who identified himself as a member of the team, said the reports were false.

Since it can take six weeks or more for the HIV antibodies to appear, said Rob Roy MacGregor, an infectious disease expert at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, students who do not test positive but had contact with the woman should take the prophylactic, then get retested.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Former Grambling coach sues over firing

Former Grambling State head football coach Melvin Spears wants the rest of his money.

Spears, fired two months ago after a 3-8 campaign at GSU, had signed a five-year contract that ran through the 2009 season.

A new lawsuit, filed in Baton Rouge against the university by attorney Wade Shows, claims that 2005 agreement stipuates that Spears is due the balance of his contract if his termination was for anything other than cause.
Spears has consistently claimed that he was never given a reason for being let go.

Reached just moments after he was fired on Dec. 18, Spears said he was given no explanation for his firing -- only that it was "an at-will termination." The lawsuit says a subsequent letter confirming Spears' firing also did not include a reason.

Spears was to receive $156,000 annually through '09, according to Shows' court filings.

Grambling athletics director Troy Mathieu, who had yet not seen the lawsuit, said: "We have no comment at this time."

Spears first came to Grambling as offensive coordinator for former coach Doug Williams, serving from 1998-2003. He then went 6-5 over an injury-plagued interim season, after Williams departed for an NFL job.

The return of record-smashing quarterback Bruce Eugene helped Spears to an 11-1 run and the Southwestern Athletic Championship in 2005. Eugene's subsequent graduation, however, sent Spears' team to another losing record.

Grambling had only been held to three or fewer wins on a trio of occasions in the past 50 seasons.

Spears final campaign was also marked by the opening of an NCAA investigation in January 2006 and then a second internal probe into the drug testing of selected members of the football team that November.

The NCAA investigation, apparently focusing on the use of ineligible transfers, continues.

Grambling announced the results of the drug-testing probe on Thursday, saying the results were invalid. The school has since instituted new measures for testing student-athletes.

The day that Spears was fired, school president Horace Judson issued a prepared statement that said: "It is time to change the direction of Grambling's football program. ... This was a difficult decision, but I believe it is in the best interests of the university and the football program."

Benedict reverses skid with $1 million surplus

Benedict College, halfway through its financial year, has a $1 million surplus, reversing a three-year trend in which the college lost $8.9 million.

“They are doing an admirable job of living within their means,” said interim chief financial officer Leonard Williams.

Benedict’s trustees hired Williams to manage the college’s finances at the insistence of the college’s bankers, who are negotiating with the college to refinance its debt.

In the financial year that ended June 30, the college posted a $4.7 million loss, Benedict’s external auditor said. The college spent $52.7 million; its revenues were $48 million.

Despite the $4.7 million loss, Benedict officials said the college made progress in adjusting to fewer students and lower revenues.

A major challenge for the college will be to find revenue-producing uses for its new $13.6 million stadium, said Williams, a financial consultant with Atlanta-based Tatum LLC.

Trustee Steve Morrison said challenges remain for the college, which has struggled with more than $100 million in debt and other liabilities.

For the past three months, the Columbia lawyer has worked on a special board committee to negotiate the refinancing package. He said an agreement is at least six weeks away.

“This process has not gone as fast as some of us would have liked, but it is going in a positive direction,” Morrison told the board Friday.

Benedict’s external auditing firm, Cherry Bekaert & Holland, reported to the trustees that Benedict has seen some of its assets shrink for two consecutive years, by $5 million last year and by $4 million a year earlier.

Auditor Jim Ratchford described that trend as “troubling.” “You can’t sustain that,” he told the board’s finance committee.

Williams said he does not expect any further erosion.

In a statement issued with the auditors’ report, Benedict officials said that if certain one-time, non-cash expenses required by accounting rules are taken out of the report, the college would have had a $1.2 million surplus last year.

Swinton said paying off a bond issue triggered a $1 million charge; some assets were devalued by $3.5 million; and the conversion of a loan program to grants caused a $1.6 million increase in tuition and fees.

One major factor in Benedict’s declining revenue is the increase in tuition discounts.

In the year ended June 30, discounts from the “sticker price” of $12,956 per year per student totaled $8.2 million compared with $4.3 million in discounts a year earlier.

Swinton told trustees the tuition discount program was part of the college’s recruitment effort .

He said the college has “stabilized” after several years of declining enrollment. Last fall, 2,532 students enrolled, Swinton said, and he expects final enrollment for the spring to be about 2,310.

He would like to see average enrollment grow to about 2,600 in the next few years.

“We’re fine financially at about 2,300, but we like to have a little cushion,” Swinton said.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Former A&T leader defends his record

Former N.C. A&T Chancellor James Renick on Tuesday defended his tenure at the university, which is under scrutiny for financial irregularities, poor internal controls and other problems that leaders say stem from previous administrations.

"I am extremely proud of the accomplishments of the faculty, staff and students at North Carolina A&T State University while I was chancellor," Renick said in a statement issued through a spokesman at the American Council on Education in Washington, where he works.

"During that time, state officials annually conducted a rigorous series of financial audits of the institution," said Renick, who left A&T in May after almost seven years at the helm. "Those audits, which remain part of the public record, found no serious financial irregularities."

Renick, through the spokesman, declined a request for an interview with the News & Record.

At interim Chancellor Lloyd Hackley’s request, top officials and audit teams from the UNC system began investigating problems at A&T in late December.

Chancellor-elect Stanley Battle, set to begin work July 1, said he’s been briefed every step of the way and is confident the investigation is being handled professionally.

"Without a doubt, the leadership is trying to make sure that when I do arrive, the institution will be as stable as possible, and we’ll just proceed from there," he said.

"My excitement about coming has not diminished one iota. In fact, I’m more excited than ever."

The internal examination began around the time police arrested Rodney Harrigan, a former vice chancellor charged with embezzlement. Harrigan no longer works for the university.

Thus far, auditors haven’t found similar allegations connected with other top A&T officials, Hackley said Monday.

According to a review of state financial audits dating to 2002, two audits uncovered "significant deficiencies" in internal controls that would hurt the university’s ability to track and report financial data. The auditor’s office did not find any "material weaknesses," meaning a control is so flawed it wouldn’t likely catch errors or fraud.

Administrators said the inquiry primarily is aimed at finding the most efficient ways to operate the university.

"By far, the majority of work we’re doing there is to look at improvements in processes rather than to find allegations and make charges," said Jeff Davies, the chief of staff at UNC General Administration.

In the business and finance office, for example, staff members are evaluating whether the checks and balances in place provide proper oversight for federal grants, said Willie T. Ellis Jr., A&T’s vice chancellor for business and finance.

Ellis said the review was a precautionary measure, based on the volume of federal dollars that come to the university. A&T, the third-leading grant recipient in the UNC system, will handle roughly $30 million in federal grants this year, he said.

Many officials said the audits will ultimately make A&T a better and stronger institution.

"We’re taking this very seriously," Ellis said. "Everyone is just trying to add value to the university."

This isn’t the first time auditors have been called in to scour A&T’s books and policies. In 1980, the state auditor’s office found inadequate bookkeeping, a sizable number of unpaid bills and improperly transferred money at the university.

Henry Bridges, state auditor during that investigation, called A&T’s records "essentially unauditable," according to news reports from the time.

Honeywell-Nobel Laureate Lecture Series Launched at Howard

The Honeywell - Nobel Laureate Lecture Series, the centerpiece of a global science education initiative designed to connect students across the globe with Nobel Prize winners in Chemistry and Physics, was launched at Howard University recently with a lecture to 250 undergraduate and graduate students by Dr. Ivar Giaever, recipient of the 1973 Nobel Prize in Physics. Howard University is one of 11 universities worldwide and only one of six in the United States selected for this initiative which connects university students with recipients of the world’s most prestigious award, the Nobel Prize.

In addition to Dr. Giaever’s interactive lecture highlighting the history of the Nobel Prize and a discussion on his views of scientific inquiry and discovery, the Nobel Laureate also interacted with middle school, undergraduate and graduate students. Students had the unique opportunity over the two-day period to glean from the accomplished scientist as they continue to experience the wonders of science and explore career possibilities in the sciences. Honeywell’s relationship with Howard University also includes scholarships, internships and job opportunities for graduates.

A multi-year effort, the Honeywell – Nobel Initiative combines on-campus events, interactive web content and broadcast programming to link one generation of leading scientists with the development of the next. The initiative will reach students at prestigious universities across the globe, including the Czech Republic, China, India and the United States.

“We are tremendously excited to partner with Honeywell in this initiative and to be able to access the numerous opportunities available to our students, faculty, staff, and neighboring community as a result,” said Howard University President H. Patrick Swygert.

Swygert said further that the need for more minority scholars in science and mathematics has been a longstanding challenge and one of the biggest reasons behind the University’s decision to establish a middle school on its campus. The collaboration with Honeywell on the Honeywell – Nobel Laureate Lecture Series furthers that mission by exposing area middle school students to the wonders of science, mathematics and technology through direct contact with one of the brightest minds of our time and is a significant step in the right direction.

“I am certainly very pleased that Howard is able to participate in this way and I know that all of this bodes well for the future,” he added.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Tavis Smiley to host SoBU at Hampton

A year after offering a blueprint for rebuilding black America, author Tavis Smiley will bring the Rev. Jesse Jackson and other black thinkers to Virginia this month to discuss putting the plan for economic, political and educational revival into action.

The State of the Black Union, scheduled Feb. 9-10 at historically black Hampton University, will include the Rev. Al Sharpton, Princeton professor Cornel West and L. Douglas Wilder, the nation's first elected black governor, among other panelists.

The eight-year-old forum is modeled after the annual presidential address, drawing national leaders to discuss black America's most pressing issues and strategize on solutions.

"People are looking for some sort of messianic figure to crack the clouds and deliver us," said Smiley, who hosts black-geared shows on PBS and Public Radio International. "Everyday people are going to have to do the best they can."

This year's forum coincides with Jamestown 2007, 18 months of events commemorating the 400th anniversary of the nation's first permanent English settlement.

Included are celebrations of the contributions blacks and other minorities made to sustaining early colonists. Smiley said it's fitting that, near the site of where black slaves first arrived, modern blacks gather to chart a course for the future.

"Black people are concerned," said Smiley, who called Jamestown's 400th anniversary an ideal time to reverse community ills. "If we are ever going to get busy, now is the time."

Nearly 400 years after African slaves first arrived on Virginia's shores in 1619, modern blacks face decaying marriages, an obesity epidemic and skyrocketing incarceration rates.

In Virginia, racial tension lingers: A proposal to offer a state apology for black enslavement recently prompted one white lawmaker to suggest blacks "should get over" the institution.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Spike Lee funds sports journalism program at Morehouse

A $721,000 donation from Morehouse College trustree Shelton "Spike" Lee will bankroll a new Journalism and Sports Program at the college.

Lee, a 1979 Morehouse graduate donated the money to jump-start the sports journalism program housed in the college's English Department . The first classes are now under way, with 20 students already enrolled. It is believed to be the first sports journalism program of its scope and size at any historically black institution of higher learning.

Lee said the idea for the program grew out of talks between him and his close friend, the late Ralph Wiley, an author and former senior writer for Sports Illustrated.

Too often, Lee declared, black athletes are portrayed in the media as "one-dimensional, selfish, immature and poor citizens" because of the lack of African American media representation. "Too long we have been on the field, but not in charge of generating the images of our athletes," Lee said. The solution, he said, is to "train black sports journalists who would willing to interact with athletes and describe them as people."

Athletes want journalists to be fair," said Reggie Roberts, vice president of football communications for the Atlanta Falcons, another panelist. "With 72 percent of players in the NFL being black, we need more black journalists."

The program, is open to English majors at Morehouse and students at nearby Spelman College, Clark Atlanta University and Morris Brown College, will offer two tracks. The first, will concentrate on lectures, panel discussions, mentoring and internships to nurture the students professionally. The second, will focus on course work. The initial courses offered will include one on news-writing and another on the history of sports. The news-writing course is intended to offer the students a solid foundation in journalistic writing.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

NCCU family sad, but understand Ammons' move

Many students and faculty members at N.C. Central University say they are sad at the prospect of losing Chancellor James Ammons but understand he is returning to his personal and professional home after taking NCCU into a new era.

"Without a doubt, he has taken the university to another level," said history professor Freddie Parker, a faculty member for 30 years and chairman of the faculty senate. "I think the university is much better off because of his time here."

On Thursday, trustees at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee voted 7-6 to offer Ammons the job as the school's 10th president. The trustees will ratify the vote March 8 before the recommendation is officially sent to the board of governors for approval.

At a press conference Friday at NCCU, Ammons expressed excitement at the thought of returning to his alma mater and the school where he spent 18 years of his career before coming to NCCU in 2001.

He said he owes NCCU a debt for preparing him for the presidency at FAMU.

"It would not be possible to go on to A&M without the experiences I've had here at NCCU," Ammons said. "This will always be a special place for me and my family."

While details of Ammons' contract with FAMU remain under negotiation, he said he hopes to finish out the semester at NCCU.

"It is my desire to graduate the spring class of '07," Ammons said.

Stakesha St. Clair, a senior business administration major from Maryland, said she will be sad to see Ammons go but understands his desire to return home.

"It's his alma mater," she said. "To go back home is what you want to do when you get to a certain point in your career."

Parker said the key to the next chancellor's tenure will be to continue the track Ammons laid.

"It's about continuing what he's done," he said. "If we can continue it, we'll do well. I hope whoever replaces him will not allow us to retreat or go back."

Brandon Chapman, a freshman theater performance major from Connecticut, said Ammons' work as chancellor was a big part of what drew him to the school.

Chapman pointed to Ammons' emphasis on community leadership as a trait that struck home with him.

While everyone seems to agree that Ammons' replacement has big shoes to fill, Ammons said he knows the decision will be in good hands.

"I have all the confidence in the world that the board of trustees will identify another leader to come forward to continue that momentum," he said.

While Ammons expressed excitement about returning to FAMU, he also stressed that he has a job to finish at NCCU, and the details of his contract with the Florida university are far from final.

Once FAMU makes him a formal offer, he said, he will confer with his wife and son to make a final decision.

When Ammons came to NCCU in 2001, he brought with him several members of his leadership team from FAMU. He said it is too early to consider whether any of those staffers will return to Florida with him.

As news spread on campus of Ammons' departure, many students said they appreciated the chancellor's commitment to campus life and hoped a replacement will have similar qualities.

Charles Futrell, a senior and NCCU football player, said he appreciated Ammons' support of the football team.

"He came out to every practice," Futrell said.

Ammons also would routinely give a pep talk to the team before games, Futrell said.

Ammons also was a big fan of the NCCU band, the Marching Sound Machine. He would take hot chocolate to musicians and gave a speech to the group before they left for the Honda Battle of the Bands in Atlanta, NCCU junior Kevin Williams said.

"I hope we get another chancellor that loves the band as much as he does," said Williams, a percussionist in the band.

In addition to supporting students, Ammons helped NCCU grow since being appointed president there in 2001.

The university's enrollment has increased by almost 50 percent, more National Achievement Scholars have been recruited, and more than $121 million has been invested in campus expansions and renovations. Ammons also helped advance plans for a biomanufacturing research institute.

Shaun Simmons, an NCCU junior, said he hopes the new chancellor will help the university grow as much as Ammons has.

An ideal chancellor, he said, would be an ambitious "go-getter" who cares about students and the surrounding community. Ammons, he said, has those qualities.

"It's big shoes to fill," Simmons acknowledged.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Fight over Clark Atlanta engineering program heads to high court

The engineering faculty and students at Clark Atlanta University are headed to the Georgia Supreme Court to argue for saving the engineering program, which is slated to close next year.

Oral arguments in the case are set for March 13.

A group of engineering faculty and students sued the school in October 2005, alleging Clark Atlanta's president and board of trustees wrongly closed the department without first seeking wider input.

In January 2005, a Fulton County Superior Court judge threw out the case, saying that the historically black private institution acted within its rights when its board of directors chose to close the engineering program in 2003.

Judge Alice Bonner said in her order that the students "will not face irreparable harm" because Clark Atlanta has agreed to give those currently enrolled time to complete their studies before the department's scheduled May 2008 closing.

Clark Atlanta officials have argued that the financially troubled school needs to concentrate on other areas of study. The engineering program began in 1994 and offers students majors in mechanical, chemical, electrical and civil engineering.

It is the only such program at a historically black college in Georgia, and one of only 14 at black colleges nationwide.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Spelman scholarship to honor Coretta Scott King

When Bernice King graduated from Spelman College in 1985, she vowed to establish a scholarship at her alma mater one day.

She kept her promise by announcing the Be A King scholarship honoring her late mother, Coretta Scott King.

Her mother died a year ago today of cancer and a heart attack, she said.

"I never imagined it would happen when my mother was not here," said King, the youngest child of Coretta Scott and Martin Luther King Jr. "But God has a mysterious way of moving."

The endowed scholarship honors her mother's contributions to humanity, human rights and non-violent social change, she said.

The endowment now totals $189,000, with gifts of $100,000 from Bernice King's personal funds, $75,000 from Home Depot and $14,000 from New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, where she is an elder. King said she hopes to help the endowment grow to $5 million.

The scholarship targets rising seniors and freshmen majoring in areas that interested Coretta Scott King and will be phased in over the next few years.

The first year, two rising seniors will get partial scholarships of $7,500 each for 2007-2008. The next year, scholarships, renewable annually, will go to two freshmen and partial ones to two seniors.

"I want them to have the freedom I had to study, focus and develop the great heritage that is inside them," said King, who will help select recipients.

President Beverly Daniel Tatum said Bernice King's generosity continues the legacy of Spelman women promoting positive change in the world.

And the college, Tatum said, couldn't be more grateful. Most of Spelman's more than 2,100 students receive financial aid to attend the private historically black institution founded in 1881.

"We appreciate her willingness to step forward to support the financial needs of her Spelman sisters," Tatum said. "It's an example that we hope other Spelman women will follow. I'm sure Mrs. Coretta Scott King is very proud of her daughter's commitment."