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Friday, March 30, 2007

Alcorn Board prefers Ross

The Mississippi State College Board, the governoring board which oversees Alcorn State University, has named George Rosss as its "preferred candidate" to lead the college. Ross, 55, currently serves as vice president for finance and administrative services and treasurer at Central Michigan University.

The College Board will make the final decision after campuses inteverview with Alcorn stakeholders runs its course.

Ross is vying to succeed the late Clinton Bristow Jr., who died of a heart attack on the Lorman campus in August.

"My interest is academic excellence. Whether it is at an historically black university or white institution, it is about improving lives," Ross said by telephone after teaching a business class on the 27,000-student Central Michigan campus in Mount Pleasant.

Ross, who had visited the Lorman campus before, said he wants to "improve upon what they are doing right already" but didn't offer specifics.

Ross, who left Mississippi just before grade school for Washington, D.C., where his father landed a job working on bridges, is a certified public accountant with experience working at two historically black institutions: Clark Atlanta University and Tuskegee University in Alabama.

"He is quite personable and takes time to attend campus events," CMU student body president Dan Nowiski said Tuesday.

Alcorn State student body president Larry Edward Duncan of Hattiesburg served on a campus advisory committee that met with Ross and describes him "very, very energetic. He's a very charismatic person."

At Central Michigan, Ross grappled with $30 million in budget cuts in two years because of a downturn in the auto industry and troubles for the Michigan economy.

In the Alcorn State search, 14 percent of the candidates were sitting presidents.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Morehouse Searches for a Leader and a Way to Keep Making Gains

At an unspeakably early hour for college students on a Sunday, several dozen young men recently boarded buses here, dressed so elegantly they appeared to be engaged in silent sartorial combat. One even wore an ascot.

“Gentleman,” the dean would remind them, “remove your hats, please.”

Morehouse, the only all-male historically black college in the country, has long possessed an aura of impeccability and privilege. Founded to serve newly freed slaves, it has educated generations of the black elite, counting among its graduates Maynard Jackson, the first black mayor of Atlanta; David Satcher, a former surgeon general; the film director Spike Lee; and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

But if its place in history is secure, Morehouse’s future has often, in the past decade, seemed precarious. And it will reach a milestone this spring, when Walter E. Massey, who became president in 1995, retires. Dr. Massey has been credited with helping the college rebound from hard times. As Morehouse searches for a replacement, many students and faculty members say the stakes are high if the college is to consolidate its gains.

When Dr. Massey took over, applications were declining because the country’s top colleges had stepped up their pursuit of qualified black men. The historic campus in the heart of Atlanta was aging. The endowment, at $118 million, is still relatively tiny; Swarthmore, a smaller institution, has more than $1 billion.

This year, applications are expected to reach 3,100, up from fewer than 2,700 last year. Four new buildings have been completed, and the ground will soon be broken for a fifth, a performing arts center.

Last year, the college took custody of the papers of Dr. King, bought with $32 million raised by Atlanta’s mayor, Shirley Franklin. And the college completed its largest fund-raising effort to date, a capital campaign taking in $120 million.

Not all the news has been good. In August, Morehouse dropped in an annual ranking by Black Enterprise magazine, from the top institution for African-Americans to No. 45. Dr. Massey said this was because the magazine placed more weight on graduation rates and used data from a Morehouse class that had a particularly low one.

The college has since introduced a scholarship for upperclassmen, to help increase the graduation rate, now at 61 percent. It has also received a $500,000 grant to recruit Hispanic students.

Over the summer, four former students were charged with murdering a current student in what prosecutors say was a robbery attempt. In September, students from Spelman, Morehouse’s sister school, marched on campus in protest after rumors of multiple rapes, which later proved unfounded, by Morehouse students. The result was soul-searching throughout the campus.

“The guys just felt, you know, that the world was collapsing,” Dr. Massey said. “I tried to put it in perspective” by explaining that the timing of the episodes was coincidental.

This year, Morehouse began requiring interviews for applicants, a move that some students on campus viewed as a response to the murder indictments, but that the administration says was done to match the practices of other exclusive colleges.

Naturally the college wants a new leader who will continue to raise its profile. But alumni and students, some of whom fret over the inroads of hip-hop and gangsta cultures on campus, have also wondered whether the choice of someone like the Rev. Calvin O. Butts III, pastor of Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, would signal a renewed emphasis on moral leadership. Mr. Butts, who is also president of SUNY College at Old Westbury, is one of the many influential black pastors still minted at Morehouse.

Other frequently mentioned candidates include Michael L. Lomax, president of the United Negro College Fund; Robert Franklin Jr., a professor at the Candler School of Theology at Emory; and John S. Wilson, a faculty member and former executive dean at George Washington University’s Virginia campus. All are, like Dr. Massey, “Morehouse men,” or graduates of the college.

Dr. Massey, a physicist who directed the National Science Foundation under President George H. W. Bush, left the post of provost of the University of California system to return to Morehouse because, he said, he thought he could have a greater impact at a small institution. He said his goal was to push Morehouse into the ranks of the country’s top liberal arts colleges. But one of his first jobs on arrival was raising money.

“We really had not had, in 20 or 30 years, a capital campaign,” he said. “There was no focused and concerted effort to generate funds and support. But the name Morehouse always resonated positively, even though people didn’t know too much about it. Some people didn’t even know it was all-male.”

Playing on, and against, the much-discussed plight of young black men, Dr. Massey tapped celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, who has given $11 million during Dr. Massey’s tenure, and Ray Charles, who gave $2 million to the capital campaign. Other contributors include David Geffen, who gave $500,000.

Dr. Massey persuaded corporations like Bank of America, Motorola and American Express to think of their contributions as substantial investments rather than token support. All three became major givers. “We’re not a charity. We’re not a poor small struggling school in the South that’s going to fail if you don’t give it money,” Dr. Massey said, recounting his sales pitch. “I also make the case that not all black men are in danger of falling off a cliff.”

A sign that the college was meeting its academic goals came in 2003, Dr. Massey said, when a study by The Wall Street Journal ranked Morehouse 29th on a list of the top 50 feeder schools for the country’s most prestigious graduate programs, ahead of Emory, Brandeis, Reed and Washington University in St. Louis.

Still, Dr. Massey points out that despite its prestige, Morehouse is poor. Its endowment breaks down to $42,000 per student, compared with $360,000 per student at nearby Emory and more than $1 million per student at the wealthiest institutions.

Emory recently announced larger tuition grants for lower-middle-class students, thus creating even stiffer competition for Morehouse, which cannot afford such policies. Morehouse’s graduation rate is relatively low in part because upperclassmen simply run out of money, said Sterling H. Hudson III, the dean of admissions and records.

For prospective students, a big selling point of the college is the “Morehouse mystique,” which holds that its graduates are recognizable by their bearing (the saying goes, “You can tell a Morehouse man, but you can’t tell him much”).

In interviews, students brim with ambition and loyalty. “I have a lot of classmates who want to someday be the president of the college,” said Marcus Edwards, the departing student body president.

That pride means that when Morehouse hits a rough patch, as it did when the former students were charged, morale plummets. As part of the soul-searching, Dr. Massey said he reviewed the records of the four men, but found no red flags.

But he did find a way to buck up the student body. “I said, ‘The more prominent Morehouse becomes, the more anything that happens here is going to be newsworthy.’ ”

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

White staff finds HBCUs welcoming

A recent study suggests that white staff members at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) have positive experiences working in the blackdominated cultures of these campuses.

This finding, based on a survey of white student affairs professionals working at HBCUs, runs contrary to prior research on social integration in work environments. In previous studies, people who are different from their coworkers reported feeling uncomfortable in work settings.

In addition, while research links social integration to positive work experiences and high levels of job satisfaction, it also finds that heterogeneous workgroups have lower levels of social integration.

"This study comes to a different conclusion," said study co-author Jerlando F.L. Jackson, professor of higher and post secondary at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "It indicates that in a black-dominated culture, Whites have little or no trouble socially integrating."

A Pilot Study of the Workplace Experiences for White Student Affairs Professionals at Historically Black Colleges and Universities is co-authored by Jackson and Brandon D. Daniels, a research associate and doctoral student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It appears in NASAP Journal, Vol. 8, No. 1.

Several other significant findings about white student affairs professionals at HBCUs came out of this study. According to the study:

They had positive, productive relationships with African American counterparts.
Most had established personal relationships with African American coworkers.
They depicted HBCUs as great institutions in which to work and felt that working at an HBCU helped their careers.
They strongly asserted that their race did not matter at their respective institutions.
They were able to establish a broad network and support system both inside and outside of their respective universities.
They reported seeing at least two other white staff members each day.
"This study points us toward several key areas for further study that could enlighten personnel policy and practice at both HBCUs and predominantly white institutions," said Jackson, who is also a faculty affiliate at the Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Postsecondary Education (WISCAPE).

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Julianne Malveau named president of Bennett

Julianne Malveaux has been named president of Bennett College, the school announced today at a news conference.

Malveaux, an economist, author and commentator, will succeed Johnnetta Cole, who announced in 2006 that she plans to step down at the end of this academic year. Malveaux will begin her appointment June 1.

Malveaux appears regularly on CNN and BET. She has also hosted talk radio programs in Washington, San Francisco and New York. As a writer and syndicated columnist, her work appears regularly in USA Today, Diverse Issues in Higher Education, Ms. Magazine, Essence and the Progressive.

Malveaux serves on the boards of the Economic Policy Institute, Women Building for the Future - Future PAC, The Recreation Wish List Committee of Washington and the Liberian Education Trust.

A native San Franciscan, Malveaux received her bachelor's and master's degrees in economics from Boston College, and a Ph.D in economics from MIT.

"This institution has played a pivotal role in civil rights history, and Bennett Belles are women who have thoroughly inspired me," Malveaux said in remarks prepared before the news conference. "I have been blessed to develop a national platform as an activist and advocate for economic justice, access to education and the rights of African American women, and it is from this platform that I am delighted to begin my time as Bennett College president."

The college announced in February that it had whittled a pool of 71 candidates down to three unnamed finalists.

Bennett College for Women was founded in 1873 as a coeducational institution and in 1926 was reorganized as a college for women.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Morehouse to focus on character and retention through admissions process

The road from Boston to Morehouse College inevitably goes through Sean Daughtry.

The 1993 graduate of the nation’s only all-male, historically Black college is president of the Atlanta school’s alumni chapter in Boston, and informally interviews boys hoping to become Morehouse Men.

“If you live in Boston and your son wants to go to Morehouse, I’m going to hear from him,” says Daughtry, a chemist.

The science of determining who is Morehouse material goes beyond a student’s resume, Daughtry says. While some cases are obvious, others need a closer look.

“Not every person who is intelligent is necessarily a person of integrity, character and good moral judgment,” he says. “And there are certain things that you look for in a young man who might not have the most stellar resume, but still has the desire.”

Morehouse is expanding its admissions process to include interviews of all serious candidates. The school says it won’t make a decision on anyone until the prospective student has had a conversation — either in person or over the phone — with a school official or an alumnus who has been through recruitment training.

The changes come after several recent high-profile crimes involving Morehouse students. Though administrators deny any tie between the bad publicity and increased scrutiny of potential students, they acknowledge the interviews are an attempt at getting more to the core of each candidate’s character.

“What we’re looking for is some sense of whether or not the kinds of traditions and philosophical, ethical and moral beliefs we have here are compatible with the student who is looking at Morehouse, and making sure he understands the real expectations we have of students on our campus,” says Terrance Dixon, the college’s associate dean of admissions and recruitment.

Morehouse has traditionally interviewed some candidates — typically those touring the campus or competing for merit-based scholarships — but not all. Last year, the school received more than 2,600 applications and offered admission to about 1,800 students. About 860 accepted.

Dixon expects the new interview requirement to improve student retention, which is currently at about 60 percent.

“We’re talking about whether or not the student feels comfortable in our environment,” he says. “We’d hate to have a student come here and be miserable.”

Some of the crimes involving Morehouse students can’t be ignored. In 2002, one student’s skull was fractured when another attacked him with a baseball bat because he thought the victim was gay. Last summer, the body of 23-year-old student Carlnell James Walker Jr. was found in the trunk of his car after police say four former students broke into his home and bound, gagged, beat and stabbed him — looking for a $3,000 insurance settlement check that Walker was expected to receive.

Daughtry says he was concerned by the incidents, but doesn’t blame the school.

“The times being what they are, you’re going to have some instances where the larger society is going to be reflected in what you see on campus,” he says. “When an institution like Morehouse has a history and a tradition of … bringing up the character of young men who are expected to be leaders in their community and in their chosen field, there’s no place for criminal or nefarious activity in that paradigm.”

Concern over behavior or disciplinary problems is not unique to Morehouse, since many colleges are paying more attention to discipline as a factor in admission, says David Hawkins, director of public policy for the National Association for College Admission Counseling. And Hawkins says it is common for schools to interview candidates, but not many require it for admission. Those that do tend to be elite.

“The competition for seats at those colleges is so keen, and the number of applications is so high that those colleges are paying that much closer attention to who they let in,” Hawkins says.

And with many high school seniors sending out multiple applications to increase their chances for acceptance, interviewing students can give administrators a better idea of a student’s commitment to their institution. Morehouse’s acceptance rate of 48 percent last year is on par with the national average.

“It’s tough to determine who’s serious,” Hawkins says.

However, Morehouse’s student body vice president, Tony C. Anderson, is worried his school’s new interview policy could hurt the chances of free-spirited, independent-minded candidates of being accepted over those potential students who show up wearing a business suit, no facial hair and are more inclined to conform.

“What about the free expression of a student?” Anderson asks. “College is a very fragile period in a person’s development. It’s about testing the boundaries of who you are.”

Daughtry says he won’t let stereotypes prejudice his screening.

“Some concerns are simply generational,” Daughtry says, noting that young men wearing earrings raised eyebrows when he was an undergraduate. “But that does not speak to what’s in their hearts, what’s in their character, their level of integrity.”

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Fisk offered $20 Million for O'Keeffe painting

Fisk University confirmed Sunday it received one or more offers "at or in excess of $20 million" for Georgia O'Keeffe's Radiator Building painting.

However, none of the offers met undisclosed requirements negotiated between the university and the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum. State Attorney General Bob Cooper had given Fisk 30 days to find an alternative way to raise money that would keep the painting and one other in Nashville.

The 30-day deadline passed at 5 p.m. Sunday.
At that point, Fisk spokesman Ken West read a statement announcing that Fisk "has not received alternative sources of funding which would allow Fisk to retain the Radiator Building or Marsden Hartley's 1913 Painting No. 3.
"However, Fisk has received unsolicited interest to purchase the Radiator Building, which would result in the painting's leaving Fisk."

West said that there was "at least one" offer for the Radiator Building and that it was "at or in excess of $20 million."

Fisk is seeking to sell both paintings — part of the Alfred Stieglitz Collection donated to the school by O'Keeffe in 1949 — to help restore its endowment and pull itself out of financial crisis.

The Radiator Building painting was donated along with 101 other artworks from the estate of her husband, photographer Alfred Stieglitz, who owned several New York City galleries. Stieglitz is credited with playing a large role in exposing Americans to emerging aesthetic trends in the early 20th century, and O'Keeffe's Radiator Building is considered to be a star in his collection.

Between the years 2000 and 2004, Fisk was forced to pull nearly $8 million from its endowments in order to meet operational costs. Fisk President Hazel O'Leary earlier this month laid out a plan that would take money from the sale of the two paintings and put $8 million back into the endowment. O'Leary also plans to begin a capital campaign to raise another $8 million, hoping to use the restoration of the endowment as a way of building momentum.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Troubled TSU won't get a conservator

A blue-ribbon committee will recommend changes in the financially troubled Texas Southern University's governance but stop short of calling for a state-appointed conservator, according to those familiar with the panel's deliberations.

The committee, which is due to submit a final report today, will advise Gov. Rick Perry to remove some members of TSU's governing board. Alumni, students and lawmakers have criticized the nine regents for lax oversight when the historically black university is in danger of defaulting on its obligations.

One regent, Houston attorney Harry Johnson, has already offered to resign.

"I thought it was time to give the governor the option of moving in another direction," he said Wednesday. "TSU is going to be OK with or without Harry Johnson on the job."

The recommendations of the committee, appointed by the governor in January, are nonbinding. Former state Rep. Glenn Lewis, of Fort Worth, chairs the panel that includes state NAACP President Gary Bledsoe and Larry Faulkner, the former University of Texas at Austin president who heads the Houston Endowment.

Perry created the advisory panel less than two weeks after ordering the regents to start making "tough decisions" to fix TSU's financial problems or resign.
"I can understand why they would recommend that," said state Rep. Garnet Coleman, a Houston Democrat whose district includes the 11,000-student campus. "You can't make changes to the institution without making changes at the top."

The committee will not recommend which regents should leave before the end of their six-year terms. Under state law, Perry makes appointments to the board, pending Senate confirmation. The terms of three regents expired in January, and the governor has yet to announce replacements.

The regents need to keep closer watch over TSU's operations, the advisory committee thinks, because it is a stand-alone institution without the additional oversight layer provided by a university system, according to a person knowledgeable about the committee's deliberations.

The sources insisted on anonymity because committee members have been pledged to secrecy until the report is officially issued.

Belinda Griffin, the Board of Regents' newly appointed chairwoman, said she could not comment on the recommendation. "I haven't seen it," she said. "I don't know the context or framework."

But Griffin acknowledged during a state Senate Finance Committee hearing last month that the board needs help in key areas, such as accounting.

"We could clearly strengthen the board," Griffin said in response to a question from state Sen. Royce West, a Dallas Democrat.

Campus leaders have faced increasingly hostile questions from lawmakers while seeking an emergency appropriation of $16.5 million. Problems include flooded basements in several buildings and inadequate fees or occupancy rates to pay the debt service for new dormitories, parking lots and a shuttle system.

The regents also have been under fire for a high-profile spending scandal that led to the firing of university President Priscilla Slade last year. Her replacement has not been named.
For weeks, the advisory panel has debated placing a conservator in charge of the university's spending, with the ability to fire any employee, hire new people and change the administrative structure.

Coleman and state Sen. Rodney Ellis, a Houston Democrat who also represents TSU, have so far firmly rejected the conservator idea. Other lawmakers, including West and Steve Ogden, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, think that might be the only way to fix the university's problems.

Raymund Paredes, the state's higher education commissioner, said state leaders still might decide TSU needs outside financial help.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Florida Memorial to formally install new President

Karl S. Wright, who became head of Florida Memorial University last year on the retirement of Albert E. Smith, will be formally installed on Friday as the 11th president of the historically black college.

Wright will also give the keynote address at the Miami Gardens-based university's 128th annual Founders' Day Convocation.

A Florida Memorial statement said Wright will likely outline goals for his administration, including continuing to increase the ethnic and cultural diversity of the student body, attracting top-tier professors and administrators and building strong relationships with the business and civic community.

''Our university is a one-of-a-kind resource that provides young men and women access to high-quality academics while promoting cultural diversity, global awareness and the principles and values of responsible citizenship -- all within the context and tradition of a historically black university,'' Wright said in the statement.

Wright previously served as the school's executive vice president and provost. The statement said he was instrumental in increasing student enrollment, upgrading faculty credentials and overseeing the graduate-degree accreditation process.

''From the day he set foot on campus, Dr. Wright has been a tireless advocate for success -- and was instrumental in Florida Memorial's historic passage from college to university,'' Charles George, chairman of the FMU board of trustees, said in the statement.

Before joining FMU, Wright served as dean of the School of Business at South Carolina State for seven years. He also served as assistant professor of Commodity Marketing and Economics at North Carolina A&T State.

He earned a Ph.D. in economics at Mississippi State and holds bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Maryland at College Park. His academic interests include economic modeling and statistical forecasting.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Rivers completes noteworthy first year as FVSU president

John Simmons, a 1969 graduate of Fort Valley State University, recalls the action that made the biggest impact on alumni when Larry E. Rivers first arrived as president.

Rivers and his wife contributed $100,000 to a challenge fund, enticing other alums to donate as well. The fund now stands at $1.2 million - toward a $3 million goal - for programs to create future teachers and scientists.

Simmons, a retired Bibb County sheriff's deputy, is president of the Macon-Bibb County chapter of the Fort Valley State University Alumni. He said Rivers set the direction for his leadership of the school with his staggering personal donation.

"He gave us our marching orders and we're trying to follow," said Simmons, who is also a retired Air Force major.

Rivers and those who work closely on his team make no bones about it: The university president is a man of action and expects others to get with the program.

"It was not about what the university can do for me," Rivers said in an interview in his office as his first-year anniversary approached this past Wednesday. "It was about what I can do for the university."

When Rivers grabbed the reins of one of Georgia's three public, historically black universities, he immediately faced myriad challenges, including a teacher education program stuck on probation, several years of declining student enrollment and millions of dollars in debt to the Board of Regents.

Rivers had not been made aware of just how big a hole his alma mater was in when he took the job. But even if he had been given the full, grim picture, he says, his course of action would have been the same.

"I probably would've thought twice, given the challenges that I didn't know about," Rivers admitted. Yet, he said, "I probably still would have taken the position because Fort Valley is my alma mater."

Rivers went about tackling the obstacles like a man with a deadline.

Some progress has come quickly, but challenges remain.


The new administration no doubt breathed a huge sigh of relief when the Georgia Professional Standards Commission approved teacher education programs in middle grades education and agricultural education last fall.

The College of Education at Fort Valley State has suffered since being placed on probation in 2004, when the standards commission reprimanded the school for not meeting state requirements.

On another bright note, freshman enrollment at Fort Valley State increased from 688 students to 867 students in the fall. For the spring semester this year, 2,204 students enrolled, compared to 2,000 who enrolled in spring 2006.

Rivers in his first year also has overseen a building program that featured groundbreaking on a $44 million student residential village designed to accommodate 941 students and attract even more students to the university.

The university has secured $1.1 million from the National Park Service and the state Board of Regents for renovation of Huntington Hall.

And if all these weighty matters weren't enough to keep him busy, Rivers also managed to deliver on a longstanding school promise to erect a morale-boosting wildcat statue on campus.

The 10-foot-long, 3,000-pound bronze mascot stands guard near the student center, brandishing claws and baring teeth at all who would challenge the Wildcat's mastery of his domain.

The sculpture cost $35,000 to create, plus an additional $4,600 for crating, shipping and installation. The funds for the statue had been raised by the Fort Valley State University Foundation in the mid-1990s, but previous administrations had not managed to translate plans into something concrete - or bronze.

Canter Brown Jr., special assistant and counsel Rivers brought with him from Florida A&M University, said when the money originally was raised, the monument they had in mind cost a lot more. Through the years, inertia set in and plans for the monument were placed on the backburner.

When Rivers arrived, he saw the potential to boost morale and came up with a monument that would be less costly, but effective.

His push paid off. Ever since the massive beast was installed during homecoming weekend last October, students and alumni have clamored to have their picture taken with the Fort Valley State Wildcat.

With all Rivers' quick-term successes, obstacles still lie ahead for his school.

In the absence of accredited programs in its College of Education, Fort Valley State lost 400 students, Rivers says, resulting in a loss of $4 million - the full effects of which the university has not yet felt.

There's also that nagging $5.5 million debt the president inherited. For four academic years, the school ran over budget. Since no school in the university system is allowed to carry a deficit, the Board of Regents, which governs the University System of Georgia, covered the costs.

The Board of Regents has reduced the cost by $1.2 million. Yet a $4.3 million debt remains, and Rivers already has noted that the university may have to look at future personnel layoffs.

Rivers already has made substantial staff changes. Within two months of his arrival, 14 university employees either were fired or reassigned.

Making headlines was the ouster of head football coach John Morgan Jr., whose contract was not renewed, along with his four assistant coaches.

Rivers said the decision came after consulting with members of his administrative team.

"That was a hard decision that had to be made," Rivers said, adding that the move allowed the school to attract assistant coaches who also could recruit and teach when not on the field.

Most recently, the university split its Office of Recruitment and Admissions in an effort to enhance enrollment.


The impact of Rivers in his inaugural year as president is felt and noticed beyond the gates of the university and Georgia's academic establishment. Rivers energetically has promoted a concept he calls the "communiversity," where the university and local governments and community leaders work together for the mutual benefit of all.

"By offering to help other parts of the community, they will embrace us," Rivers said.

Joy Moten-Thomas, the university's housing specialist, said an immediate focus of the communiversity effort was to improve Fort Valley State's neighborhood.

The university partnered with the city of Fort Valley and Peach County on the State University Drive Corridor project, which calls for the beautification of the campus' immediate surroundings.

In September, the city government and the university announced plans to create an improvement zone around State University Drive. The area also includes State University Boulevard and Carver Drive.

An initial sign of improvement to come was the installation of a 32-foot monument, replicating the university's Founders Hall with a clock tower. The structure was placed in the middle of State University Drive.

The project was completed through in-kind contributions from the city government and from private donations.

Moten-Thomas said plans call for additional streetlights and a median to be installed in the center of State University Drive by October of this year.

Rivers said the improvement zone is vital to the university's grand plan to increase enrollment.

"When we improve the surroundings, it increases the likelihood parents will send their children," Rivers said.

Likewise, Rivers has reached out to the business community. Fort Valley State served as host for a business after-hours function in which business leaders in six neighboring counties participated. The Peach County Chamber of Commerce sponsored the event.

Gene Sheets, president of the chamber, said Rivers truly believes in being a part of the community. Rivers already has been more visible and participated in more business activities than previous presidents, said Sheets, who has been chamber executive director for about five years.

"He knows that if the university and the community work together, it will make a difference in the overall economy," Sheets said.

When Rivers can't attend a function, his wife, Betty, also a Fort Valley State graduate, fills in. The "first lady" of FVSU serves on the board of directors for the chamber of commerce, for example.

Peach County Commission Chairman James Khoury counts the president's wife as one of Rivers' greatest assets as an ambassador for the university.

Khoury said the president's vision for the university has been embraced by everybody across the board.

"He certainly brings an air of enthusiasm and his enthusiasm is contagious," Khoury said.

Since taking office, Rivers has spoken to more than 300 educational, civic and religious groups with very few free weekends.

And he expects more of the same as he moves forward with his vision for his beloved university. His plans include improving the university's public relations efforts as well as the admissions and enrollment departments. He would like to see the criminal justice program expanded into a distinct school.

Quick to acknowledge the faculty and staff's critical role in the school's success, Rivers said one major goal is for the enrollment and morale to increase after his time at the university is past.

"That's the true mark of an effective leader," Rivers said.

Simmons is proud of the changes he has seen on campus since Rivers has declared that "It's a new day in the Valley."

"I just wish he had arrived years ago," Simmons said.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Ft. Valley plans Rivers Inauguration

The inauguration of Dr. Larry E. Rivers, the university’s eighth president, is March 22 and 23. The inaugural celebration will begin at 8:30 a.m. Thursday, March 22, with a prayer service and reception in the C.W. Pettigrew Farm and Community Center on the FVSU campus. To commemorate the concept of “communiversity,” 20 pastors representing churches throughout Middle Georgia and FVSU’s Baptist Student Union Gospel Choir will celebrate the occasion.

At 7 p.m. Thursday, March 22, the Inaugural Concert will feature the Boys’ Choir of Tallahassee in a free public performance in the Pettigrew Center. Since the choir’s inception in 1995, its members have appeared on “Oprah” and as opening acts for Natalie Cole and Albertina Walker. The choir has also performed concerts in Rome, Florence, Venice and Milan, Italy.

The official installation ceremony will take place at 11 a.m. Friday, March 23, in the Health and Physical Education Complex on the FVSU campus.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Former SCSU VP sues school

The former chief fund-raiser for South Carolina State University says the university retaliated against her, and stuck her in a make-work job, because she tried to expose wrongdoing.

Former Vice President for Institutional Advancement Mechelle English has sued the university, saying officials failed to act when she questioned the handling of a $200,000 check, the hiring of a lobbyist and the lease of vehicles for coaches.

University attorney Edwin Givens said S.C. State “has not taken any unlawful action against the plaintiff. It is the position of South Carolina State University that this lawsuit is without merit.

“South Carolina State University will file its formal response at the appropriate time; however, at this time the university has no further comment.”

University spokeswoman Erica Prioleau said President Andrew Hugine would have no comment beyond the university’s statement.

SCSU Board Chairman Maurice Washington says the university follows high ethical standards and the lawsuit is merely an attempt to tarnish its image.

“We’re running an institution that’s driven by integrity and we will continue to focus on what is required to continue to move the university forward. When you’re focused on what’s in the best interests of the university, things like this would be minor distractions,” he said.

English stepped into the position in January 2004, coming to S.C. State from the Trident Urban League Inc. in Charleston. As the university’s vice president of institutional advancement, she was in charge of fund-raising, alumni relations, development, news and communications, WSSB radio station and the SCSU Foundation.

She sued the university on March 1, saying she is entitled to actual and punitive damages, plus reinstatement to her job if it’s practical.

She says her problems began over a $200,000 payment a vendor made to S.C. State. She alleges that Hugine asked that the check be supplied directly to him, rather than the SCSU Finance Office, and that he held onto the check for nine months. She says he did not endorse or negotiate the check, but she still questions its handling.

In her complaint filed in the Orangeburg County Courthouse, English says she “became involved in this situation after defendant Hugine repeatedly directed her to open a bank account on behalf of the SCSU Advancement Foundation.” She says Hugine shouldn’t have been involved with the foundation because his salary supplement came from the funds, and he should have maintained his distance to avoid any conflict of interest.

She claims she told Washington about the incident, but because he and the board did not take “appropriate steps,” they created a sense Hugine was exempt from accountability.

Of that incident, Washington said, “I have no comment on that other than these allegations obviously will be given the opportunity to play themselves out in a court of law. The truth is something we will all look forward to at the end of the day.”

But he added, “Her rationale the president allegedly did something wrong is exactly that – alleged.”

English also claims that Hugine in 2006 “deliberately concealed a relationship with a lobbyist to prevent the SCSU Board of Trustees and the general public from becoming aware of this affiliation which, upon information and belief, was established to influence the outcome of an April 2006 trustee race.”

While English’s lawsuit does not name the lobbyist, the Associated Press reported in January that in 2006, Hugine hired Jerome Heyward for $12,500 from an account Hugine controls. While a contract called for Heyward to do lobbying work, he and Hugine said he did no lobbying. Lobbyists must be registered with the state, but Heyward was not listed as a lobbyist for S.C. State.

Heyward was involved in a scuffle with lobbyist Ray Corley last year, which Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter said was over a board of trustees election. Cobb-Hunter said she was shoved into a wall and injured during the incident.

English says Washington knew about the lobbyist and did nothing.

Washington says the State Ethics Commission looked at the issue and found no reason to sanction the university. Herb Hayden, director of the Ethics Commission, did not return a call Monday.

English also claims that Hugine and Washington retaliated against her because she told them it was inappropriate for the university to lease automobiles for S.C. State coaches. The foundation entered into a three-year lease on behalf of the athletic department in December 2005, she says.

“Leasing private vehicles for the coaches for their own business and personal use represented a violation of Internal Revenue regulations because the value of the vehicles represents supplemental income to the employees and is taxable,” English says in her complaint.

English said she gave Hugine a legal opinion from a private attorney arguing against the leasing of vehicles for coaches, plus learned other university foundations were not taking the approach SCSU did. She says SCSU attorney Givens provided an opinion that was favorable to the university and contradicted the private attorney.

English said she then submitted a summary of the reasons behind the foundation’s proposal not to lease the vehicles and, on Oct. 24, Hugine ordered her to raise $50,000 by Dec. 31 to cover the cost of providing vehicles to the staff. If she did not raise the money, Hugine “would subject her to disciplinary action based on ’insubordination,’” she said.

“On Oct. 30, 2006, the plaintiff was relieved of her duties as vice president for institutional advancement and transferred to the Athletics Department in a make-work position. Thereafter, the term of her contract which had eight months remaining, was reduced to four months,” she claims in her complaint against SCSU.

Washington said the issue surrounding the cars “is a matter of interpretation. That’s a legal issue.” He received a copy of the complaint Saturday, and “I read it and I had no trouble whatsoever sleeping at night.”

“You have a situation here where a president has exercised in a very appropriate way his authority with an at-will employee,” Washington said.

The lawsuit does not bring Hugine’s character and integrity under any scrutiny whatsoever, and “the board will continue to support him as president of S.C. State.”

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Howard reaches $250M fundraising ahead of schedule

On March 9, 2002, Campaign for Howard was launched in an effort to raise $250 million in five years to provide resources needed to strengthen the university’s faculty, offer students adequate financial assistance and prepare them for a new technological era. Meeting its goal 10 months earlier than scheduled, the Campaign for Howard is now complete.

Pleased that the goal was reached in such a timely manner, President H. Patrick Swygert offered his appreciation to the thousands of participating alumni, friends and supporters that helped in meeting the goal of the Campaign.

According to a press release Swygert said, “the foundation of the Campaign’s success was [Howard’s] sustained focus on the strategic areas and initiatives set forth in Strategic Framework for Action I and II (SFA I and SFA II).”

SFA I and SFA II were adopted by the Board of Trustees in 1996 and 2001 to help Howard in becoming, “a global leader in higher education while maintaining fidelity to our core values, most especially our historical and contemporary mandate to be the situs for generation of the research, inquiry and knowledge that is responsive to the issues affecting the African-American community and the African Diaspora,” Swygert said.

The allocation of the monies for Campaign for Howard is broken down on the Campaign Web site, giving $100 million to the strengthening of academic programs and $150 million for new facilities for learning and research.

Undergraduate Trustee Jabari Smith said there will be a formal announcement concerning the result of Campaign for Howard at this Saturday’s Charter Day Gala Dinner.

“I feel that the university and the Howard community should be extremely proud for completing this endeavor,” Smith said. “It has set us apart from our other university counterparts.”

Dana Morgan, a 2005 graduate, was a freshman when Campaign for Howard was first launched in 2002. Morgan says she remembers the slogan behind the Campaign and feels that Howard has carried that motto through.

“I am truly excited at what we have raised and I think it’s quite impressive that we are able to raise that amount of money and even better to raise it earlier than expected,” Morgan said. “It is definitely a positive look on Howard and helps us in showing our dedication to ‘Leadership for America and the Global Community.’”

In addition to alumni, friends and supporters of the Campaign, Swygert sends personal appreciation to the initiators of the Campaign, James E. Cheek, Ph.D., 13th president of Howard and Roger Estep, Ph.D., former vice president for University advancement.

“[The university] thanks all who have contributed to the success of the Campaign for Howard: our trustees, faculty, students, staff, alumni, friends and corporate supporters,” he added.

Smith acknowledged all that helped the Campaign reach its goal, agreeing that it was a collective effort of everyone in the Howard community.

“Everyone has been a contributor to its success,” Smith said. “This has given the university not only an opportunity to say we did, but also the confidence to move forward with other campaigns in the future.”

Monday, March 12, 2007

Howard U. Pres. comes under fire

The head of the faculty senate called for the ouster of Howard University President H. Patrick Swygert, saying that the school is in a state of crisis and that it's time to end "an intolerable condition of incompetence and dysfunction at the highest level."

In a letter to the board of trustees this week that was obtained by The Washington Post, Theodore Bremner, chairman of the senate, complained on behalf of the leadership council that Swygert has jeopardized the financial health of Howard and left academic programs in disarray. The letter cited a recent National Science Foundation (NSF) audit that criticized Howard's management of grant money; the private university's largest source of revenue is the federal government.

The letter ended with a recommendation to begin the search for a new president immediately. The faculty senate, which represents more than 1,000 full-time professors, has often had a contentious relationship with the administration, with some complaints about insufficient funding. The letter carries symbolic weight but no authority; the board has ultimate say on the president's fate.

Swygert, who led the university's Charter Day ceremonies yesterday and has been president of one of the country's most prestigious historically black universities since 1995, said he has seen the letter. "I think it clearly demonstrates how democratic and how open the university is and how free the faculty is to express opinions."

He said he is not going to resign.

Addison Barry Rand, the chairman of the board, said that the members take all complaints seriously but that "we don't really know enough" about why the letter was sent. He said that Swygert suggested a dialogue with faculty leaders, and that one is being scheduled. "Then we will understand what is behind this," said Rand, who yesterday attended the ceremonies marking the university's founding 140 years ago.

At a reception tonight, the university will honor alumni, including D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty, and celebrate a successful fundraising campaign. Earlier this week, school officials announced that they had met their $250 million goal nearly a year early.

In a March 6 meeting, the council of the faculty senate voted 16 to 2, with one abstention, to send a letter of concern to the board. Two professors noted that the council barely got a quorum to vote on the issue; there are about 50 members.

The letter lists concerns, including frustration with "a culture of administrative indifference and disregard" for the faculty senate's role -- a complaint at many universities. It states that the president failed to keep financial problems at the university hospital from spilling over into academic budgets. Academic programs are in disarray, the letter states, with substandard equipment and facilities. "The president has failed in many instances to implement funded programs when such funds have been awarded . . . has failed to provide effective administration of research grants . . . has failed to identify alternative financial sources given that the federal appropriation has remained flat."

Both Rand and Swygert pointed to the successful fundraising campaign to counter that last complaint; the fundraising goal was exceeded by $10 million.

Several other trustees declined to comment yesterday.

But some faculty members and others described the school as deeply troubled. "The place is in a state of chaos," Bremner said. "It's just managed crisis right now. So many things are not working."

He said, "Things are falling apart -- fairly rapidly."

In the past few years, there have been protests by students at the lack of leadership at the Divinity School, worries about the nursing and pharmacy programs, questions from accrediting agencies and intense debate over hospital plans. A proposal by the city and Howard to jointly build a $400 million medical center collapsed after two years of planning. Public scrutiny of the project, which Swygert pushed with university trustees, raised serious questions about the health of Howard's existing hospital and its university oversight.

An NSF audit found concerns with the way the university administered and tracked federal research grant money, including documenting the millions of dollars in projects with other universities and in subcontracts. "I think they showed clear evidence of not having the internal controls required," Tim Cross, the deputy inspector general for the NSF, said yesterday. "On the other hand, they showed the proper attention and took the steps to correct that."

It has been a tumultuous couple of years for Washington universities, as the presidents of two major schools stepped down under pressure.

At American University in 2005, the full faculty senate voiced outrage after an audit questioned hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of spending by President Benjamin Ladner. Last fall at Gallaudet University, the faculty senate passed resolutions expressing lack of confidence in both the incoming president, Jane K. Fernandes, and outgoing president I. King Jordan. The appointments of Ladner and Fernandes were terminated by their boards, and both schools now have interim presidents.

During his tenure, Swygert has undertaken a strategic reorganization of the university and moved to participate in neighborhood redevelopment, partnering with the Fannie Mae Foundation to develop part of the surrounding LeDroit Park neighborhood. Two libraries, high-tech computing labs and wireless technology were added to the campus.

Rochelle Ford, a professor, said that although she agreed with the letter that "improvements" were needed at the University, replacing Swygert was not the most practical solution. "There has to be some continuity. In the cost-benefit analysis, he has done a lot of good."

Sunday, March 11, 2007

SC State undergoing $126 million campus make over

With $126 million of new or renovated facilities in progress, the Orangeburg campus “will look very different in 24 months,” said John Smalls, the university’s vice president who oversees facilities.

Some of the improvements are:

• Five substandard residential halls have been closed. With new dormitories in place, three substandard buildings will be torn down, and two others will be renovated for offices.

• Construction of a $25 million computer science and engineering building will begin this year.

• A $20 million renovation of the science building will begin.

• Lowman Hall, one of the most historic buildings on campus, will undergo a $7.5 million renovation.

• And the first phase of construction will begin on the $26 million Clyburn Transportation Center.

Noting that facilities are a top-tier issue for students selecting a college, Smalls said, “We will have an enhanced campus and first-class academic buildings.”

President Andrew Hugine said the university is preparing to put its best face forward to the national media that will converge on his campus for the Democratic presidential debate April 26.

Recently introducing a “new state of mind” campaign, with a new logo, new Web site, and a goal of a “multicultural future,” board chairman Maurice Washington said the new facilities and a sharper focus on marketing the state-assisted institution will “better position the University for recognition, for planned growth, and for new revenues.”

“It was recommended that S.C. State strive to become known as South Carolina’s international and multicultural university — based on its heritage as a black university — but destined to serve students, faculty and businesses from throughout the world,” Washington said.

S.C. State also has reopened the renovated I.P. Stanback Museum and Planetarium, built in 1980 and the only museum with a planetarium on a historically black campus. The planetarium can project 4,000 stars onto the 40-foot domed ceiling and can simulate the evening sky from any place, date and time. It is available to the public and to school groups.

As S.C. State has begun to address badly needed facilities upgrades, the university recognized a need to target prospective students and donors.

In March 2006, S.C. State mailed questionnaires to more than 300 business leaders statewide and to 2,200 households across South Carolina. The result, Washington said, was a list of recommendations presented to trustees last summer.

Historically black colleges and universities have struggled in recent years against increased competition for academically gifted African-American students who are heavily recruited by such institutions as USC, Clemson University, Duke University and Harvard University.

The historically black institutions have sought, with varying degrees of success, to fight back with different strategies.

“Since our founding in 1896, we have reinvented ourselves again and again to better educate our students and to improve our service to all the people of our state,” Hugine said.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Tuskegee Veterinary Symposium to Focus on World Health & Medicine

Using "One World, One Health, One Medicine" as its theme, the 42nd Annual Veterinary Medical Symposium is scheduled for March 21-24, at the University's Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center and School of Veterinary Medicine Complex.

The conference will touch scientific topics ranging from small and large animal medicine and surgery to veterinary public health and international veterinary medicine. Two wet laboratories are also being offered for participants, one in liver biopsy techniques and one in bandaging and suturing techniques. Limited seating is available for the wet labs, which will be repeated throughout the Symposium.

"As this year's Symposium theme reflects, we realize the importance of veterinary medicine from a global perspective," says Dr. Tsegaye Habtemariam, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine, Nursing and Allied Health. "Therefore, we want to be sure that both the veterinary medical interests as well human-health related interests are addressed. There truly should be something for everyone in attendance."

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Hiring of new Architecture Dean raises questions at SU

The recent appointment of Southern University's Dean of Architecture has raised questions in local media outlets.

Questions university officials are now ready to answer.

On Saturday, Feb. 24, the university announced the promotion of Lonnie Wilkinson to the Dean of the Architecture Department.

Local media outlets questioned Wilkinson's appointment because, unlike administrative hiring practices in the past, a background check was not performed on him.

According to system president Ralph Slaughter, the normal procedures for hiring university administration consists of a national or local search for the available position. Once the search has been completed, the SU Board of Supervisors develops a pool of potential applicants that meet the university's requirements and standards.

Slaughter said the university committee then makes three recommendations to the chancellor for approval. The hiring decision is then forwarded to the President for recommendation before returning to the university board for ratification.

"The architecture department has had four to five deans within the last four years," Slaughter said. "We are looking for stability."

Slaughter said the normal procedures for Wilkinson's promotion was waived because of an accreditation visit, instability with past deans of the department and because Wilkinson was appointed as acting dean of the department by the university committee and SUBR Chancellor Edward Jackson, who requested the background check be waived.

"Don't take me wrong about the national background search, I'm in favor for it," Slaughter said. "But I believe the national background search should only be used in extraordinary cases when (we) ask the board to document the basis for potential candidates to fulfill the job position within the university."

Due to a prior obligation, Jackson was not available for comment at press time, but officials stand behind his decision to waive the background check.

"Wilkinson has been doing the job as dean of the department before he was promoted," Slaughter said. "Chancellor Jackson made a great decision to appoint him as Dean of the Architecture Department."

Since being promoted, Wilkinson said he has not had any problems with his role as the department's official dean.

"It doesn't feel any different," Wilkinson said. "The work load is still the same, (and) it doesn't change the focus of the work."

On the department's recent accreditation, Wilkinson said, "I may be the person to credit for the rally and getting the job done but it was a joint effort."

"It was an effort of faculty, staff and students to get the architecture program reaffirmed," he said. "That is why we were successful."

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson & Monsanto Announces Partnership to benefit Alcorn and other 1890s University Students

Congressman Bennie Thompson, Alcorn State University and Monsanto Company announced a partnership that will include other 1890 institutions to provide more opportunities for students interested in pursuing professions in agriculture. The partnership will also provide greater access for black farmers to the latest technologies and best on-farm practices in cotton and vegetables.

Monsanto will initially work with Alcorn State University to establish cotton and vegetable demonstrations with local black farmers in order to narrow the gap in technology adoption among black farmers. The demonstration plots will also provide a component for university student research, bolstering opportunities for students interested in agriculture careers. The program will strive to establish similar partnerships with other 1890 universities including Tuskegee (AL) University, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, and Southern University and A&M College in Baton Rouge, LA.

“Alcorn State University has been selected as the lead institution for this project,” said Carl Casale, Monsanto Executive Vice President. “We are looking to ASU leadership to enlist broad support for this program so that black farmers and students can realize enhanced benefits and opportunities across several agricultural crops.”

In the fall of 2006, Casale and Congressman Thompson discussed possible improvements for enhancing agricultural opportunities for black farmers and students in the Mississippi Delta region. Monsanto, a global agricultural company, is a leading technology provider to cotton producers and cotton is a major crop in southern agriculture. Additionally, many of the 1890s institutions are involved in significant vegetable research, and Monsanto invests considerable resources annually in vegetables through its Seminis subsidiary. As a result of these conversations between Casale and Thompson, an idea emerged on ways to enhance technology adoption and career opportunities.

“This program will bring together the best and the brightest minds and work to keep that talent in the state of Mississippi,” said Congressman Thompson. “We’ve made a commitment to identify and help remove barriers to technology adoption and career opportunities for blacks in agriculture, but this project is just the first chapter in that endeavor. We’ll be depending on other key leaders to come to the table and discuss ways to break down these barriers.”

“The career component of this program will serve as an important vehicle to support building the broadest, deepest and most diverse talent pipeline possible for agriculture,” said Steve Mizell, Monsanto Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer. “We recently established a relationship with the Council of 1890 Presidents and Chancellors through which we’ve already identified a number of extremely talented candidates for Monsanto internships this summer. This new program will augment that process to introduce students to careers at Monsanto and in the agriculture industry.”

“This initiative by Monsanto and Congressman Thompson demonstrates a vested interest in the academics and the future of Mississippi,” said Dr. Dalton McAfee, Interim Dean School of Agriculture, Research, Extension and Applied Sciences, Alcorn State University. “This is one step in a process that will need further development, but it communicates Monsanto’s commitment and shows they take this issue seriously. I hope others in the industry will step up to the plate instead of just giving lip service.”

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

$2M mansion proposed for JSU presidential house

A proposed $2 million on-campus home for the Jackson State University president will be part residence, part showplace and part meeting space.

And at that price, the home will be the most expensive dwelling for any of Mississippi's university leaders.

Some say the price is steep and in sharp contrast to the low-income housing in much of the inner-city area near the Metro Parkway. But many still welcome its construction.

"It's always better when your leader is staying on campus," barber Oliver Adams, 71, said at his Adam's Corner shop near JSU. "This will be a nice addition to the area."

But JSU junior Rebecca Johnson, 21, a nail technician at the barbershop, isn't pleased with the timing. "That money shouldn't be dispersed until all the other things are done," said the Grand Rapids, Mich., native. "We need more parking spots before they build a house."

The push for a new residence for president Ronald Mason and place to welcome visitors and court donors comes as Jackson State begins a $50 million fund drive for scholarships and academic needs.

"It will be a good recruiting tool," Mason said during an interview last week about the proposed 8,000-square-foot residence featuring a public area downstairs and a four-bedroom living quarters upstairs.

JSU is likely to use state and private-sector dollars for the residence to be located behind the former president's home on College Park Drive, Mason said.

JSU received the state College Board's OK in December 2005 to spend $250,000 in funds from the Legislature for architects, engineers and others to get the project started.

Mason said he should know more about final costs and ways to finance the home within six months as other campus construction projects wind down. The $24 million student union will be finished in spring 2008.

An artist's rendering of the home now hangs in the school's administration building.

Plans to build a home for Mason's family and use it as a meeting place to entertain JSU visitors, alumni, donors, faculty, student leaders and others were put on hold last year.

Other campus building needs took priority, Mason said. On Saturday, noisy construction continued on a new JSU School of Engineering building across the street from the building that was formerly the presidential home.

The cost for JSU's new house could double the more than $1 million spent when Alcorn State University in 1999 built a residence for then-President Clinton Bristow Jr., who died last year.

Mason said rising post-Hurricane Katrina construction costs along with design changes are behind the price tag.

A state building official didn't dispute Mason's assessment.

"We discovered after the hurricane came through that our bid prices were up 25 to 30 percent," said architect Heyward Bell of the state Bureau of Building, Grounds and Real Property Management. It has leveled off the past six months, he said.

Bell, who helps oversee JSU projects, said costs can vary widely based on the type of materials used and amenities included.

Mason, his wife and their son, Kenan, a Murrah High student, would gain more space. A new home at JSU would more than double the size of their 3,500-square foot-home near Jackson Academy. Mason uses it primarily to entertain visitors after Tigers football games.

JSU purchased the home for $300,000 a few years ago. The home will be sold once another one is built, Mason said.

The on-campus home was last lived in by interim JSU President Bettye Ward Fletcher in 1999. The home was built in 1973 for $145,000. In recent years, the 6,632-square-foot "guest house" has been used as a JSU conference center.

Whether the new home is used to recruit faculty or host receptions for donors, Mason said the facility will be put to good use and could play a role in boosting the school's new $50 million fund drive.

Other administrators agree.

"I certainly think it would be a great venue for us to host events," said Evangeline Robinson, JSU's director of institutional advancement.

Without a presidential house on campus, JSU officials go to the TeleCom Center, the general-purpose Room in the student union and local hotels for such activities.

"It's time we upgrade," said senior Vertis Johnson, 22, of Utica. "We should be at the same level as all the other colleges. We definitely need it."

Jackson State freshman William Brewer, 18, of Saginaw, Mich., sees other advantages of having the president live closer. "He (Mason) would be around more and see more problems and stuff."

Brewer said a $2 million investment will pay off if JSU leaders raise millions more.

JSU isn't the only Mississippi school exploring housing upgrades.

Mississippi Valley State University officials say there's talk of a new presidential home within five years to replace an outdated and cramped residence constructed on the Itta Bena campus in 1951.

At the University of Southern Mississippi, leaders expect to renovate the presidential home built off the Hattiesburg campus in 1979. Improvements are expected later this year after a new president is named in April. Current president Shelby Thames is stepping down to return to teaching.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

ASU Forensic Science, Social Work programs earn accreditation

Albany State University's bachelor Forensic Science program, the only one of its kind in the Southeastern United States, has been accredited by the American Academy of Forensic Sciences for five years. Also, the College of Arts and Humanities has announced that the Baccalaureate Program in Social Work has been granted reaccreditation by the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE). The council’s Commission on Accreditation gave the program an eight-year approval rating, the highest that can be awarded.

President Everette J. Freeman described the news of the accreditations as part of ASU’s demonstrated ability to meet broadly accepted higher education standards of quality. “This fosters public confidence in our institution’s ability to fulfill its stated mission and goals, and enhances our institution’s credibility with its peers,” he said.

The Dean of the College of Sciences and Health Professions, Dr. Joyce Johnson, responding to the affirmation letter for from the Forensic Education Program Accreditation Commission, said, “It just validates the work that our faculty in the Forensic Science program are doing.”

The program is one of 12 across the nation to be granted full accreditation. “The thing that makes this especially heartening and gratifying is the fact that our program was accredited on its first application,” said Dr. Charles Ochie, Chair of the Department of Criminal Justice and Forensic Science. “We have forensic science resources like no other institution in the state. I am proud to say that we are a national leader in forensic education.”

Dr. Leroy Bynum, Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities, said he was very excited about the re-affirmation of the Social Works program, pointing to the program’s “outstanding” curriculum with goals linked to practical objectives, excellent use of the community as a learning laboratory, high quality faculty and staff and the students’ respect for diversity. “We could not be happier after being granted a full eight-year accreditation cycle,” he said.

The program was initially granted accreditation by the CSWE in February 2003, retroactive to the graduating class of 1999, according to Dr. Spearman, Director of the Social Work program. She said the reaffirmation is very meaningful because “it is the only accredited undergraduate social work program” in Southwest Georgia.

She said the program, with an enrollment of more than 150, has graduated an increasing number of students since its initial accreditation. Many of the BSW students from ASU go on to graduate school, usually for a Master’s in Social Work. She said that those students who seek employment with only the baccalaureate degree in social work are very successful in obtaining work in the field of human services.

“The BSW program at ASU provides a ‘hands-on’ education that prepares students for graduate school or immediate employment with diverse populations encountering a variety of social problems and challenges,” Dr. Spearman said. “The program works with the Department of Family and Children Services and other organizations through internships to help graduates more easily make the transition to the professional world.”

“The support from President Freeman, Dr. Ellis Sykes, Dr. Leroy Bynum, Dr. Laverne McLaughlin, the community partnerships and the faculty was indeed paramount during this reaffirmation process,” said Dr. Joshua Murfree, Jr., Chair of the Department of Psychology, Sociology and Social Work. “Now we will work towards establishing a Master’s of Social Work program in Rural Clinical Social Work by Fall 2008.”

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Wachovia gives SC State $250,000

Wachovia Corp. recently contributed $250,000 to South Carolina State University. The gift was SC State's largest single corporate gift . The gift brings Wachovia's total contributions to the school's scholarship fund to $350,000.