Howard University President H. Patrick Swygert says he will retire at the end of June 2008.
In a letter to the university community dated Friday, Swygert, 64, outlined goals for his final year in office and pointed to his accomplishments since taking the helm of the historically black school in 1995.
Swygert, who earned his undergraduate and law degrees from Howard, said the school has produced Fulbright and Rhodes scholars, recruited acclaimed faculty and upgraded the school's research facilities. He also noted that the latest fundraising program passed its goal of $250 million 10 months ahead of projections.
But some faculty are upset at the way he has run the university. Faculty leaders in March called for Swygert's firing, saying it was time to end "an intolerable condition of incompetence and dysfunction at the highest level."
Theodore Bremner, chairman of the faculty Senate, wrote to Howard's board of trustees last month on behalf of the senate's leadership council. He accused Swygert of allowing the school's financial problems to affect academic budgets, and he cited a recent National Science Foundation audit that criticized Howard's management of grant money.
The chairman of Howard's board of trustees, A. Barry Rand, released a statement praising Swygert's stewardship.
"He leaves behind a proud legacy of achievement including the most successful Capital Campaign of any African-American institution," Rand wrote.
There were lights, cameras, and a lot of action on the campus of South Carolina State Thursday, as the stage was being set for an unprecedented presidential debate.
"There was another debate at Morgan State College sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus, but this is the first to be sponsored by one of the parties on the campus of a Historically Black College or University," explained Andrew Hugine, president of South Carolina State University.
On Thursday, Hugine was a celebrity, telling national media outlets about the impact of the debate on the school and its 5,000 students. "You can feel the energy and feel the excitement on this campus," said Hugine. "Students are moving around, enjoying this, taking part in this. They're well-versed on the issues."
Demar Roberts, a junior majoring in political science, says he never expected to receive real-world experience during his college years. "Interviews, campaigns, meeting candidates, seeing a variety of people, it just gives you excitement," said Roberts. He says the event has motivated him to follow in the footsteps of alums like U.S. Congressman Jim Clyburn, who wielded his power as House Majority Whip to put his alma mater in the spotlight.
"I think this gives us an opportunity to launch a new beginning on this campus," explained Clyburn. "That's why I pressed so hard for it to come here. I have been on this campus many, many times. I have seen people look beaten and defeated. Today, they are uplifted."
Hugine thanked Clyburn and the Democratic Party for shining a positive light on the institution. "Individuals throughout this world will know there exists a South Carolina State University," he said. "The university could not afford that kind of positive exposure."
The reality series "College Hill" caused an uproar at its previous locations, but the Black Entertainment Television show provoked its greatest controversy to date at its most recent setting, the University of the Virgin Islands.
Alumni and parents sent e-mails and called the university. Radio shows aired discontent over the way the students portrayed themselves.
Members of the university's Board of Trustees expressed their outrage over the cast members' behavior and distanced themselves from the decision to allow the show to be filmed at UVI.
They advised President Laverne Ragster to apologize to both the university and Virgin Islands communities, which she did in full-page advertisements in the Virgin Islands Daily News and the St. Croix Avis.
Gov. Haley Barbour has signed a bill that will dissolve the Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium Commission and give control of the facility to the Department of Finance and Administration and Jackson State University.
Senate Bill 2745 abolishes the commission July 1, 2008.
The stadium is home to Jackson State University football games and high school state championships. The university’s $32 million request for a stadium on its west Jackson campus this year failed.
The new law reads: The Department of Finance and Administration shall grant 210 Jackson State University the right to hold any of its sports, 211 ceremonial and concert events at the Mississippi Veterans Memorial 212 Stadium without any rental payment, and shall allow the proper 213 signage designating the stadium as the home stadium of Jackson 214 State University. All profits realized by the Department of 215 Finance and Administration after paying all expenses and costs, 216 including management fees, from any event held on stadium property 217 shall be deposited to the credit of a special fund and authorized 218 for expenditure by the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of 219 Higher Learning exclusively for Jackson State University.
Three Texas Southern University regents are refusing to relinquish their posts in the face of Gov. Rick Perry's call for their resignations from the troubled school's governing board.
The Rev. Robert Childress, David Diaz and Belinda Griffin had not submitted their resignations as of Wednesday, five days after Perry recommended replacing the board with a conservator "to reinstate accountability" and "to correct mismanagement" at the historically black university.
"I'm not going to resign because that would be an acknowledgment of doing something wrong," said Diaz, a Corpus Christi attorney appointed to the board by Perry in 2001 and reappointed four years later. "I haven't done anything wrong."
The standoff comes amid talks between the governor's office and the legislative Black Caucus about alternatives to the proposed conservatorship. Both sides emerged from a second day of closed-door discussions with no concrete plans.
Perry has said a financial czar could turn around TSU at a quicker pace than a board of regents. Under the plan, a conservator would be placed in charge of the university's spending, with the ability to fire any employee, hire new people and change the administrative structure.
Some lawmakers worry that the proposal would hurt enrollment and diminish the value of degrees earned at TSU.
What's more, the presence of a conservator could jeopardize TSU's accreditation, said Belle Wheelan, president of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the regional accrediting body for 780 colleges and universities in 11 Southern states.
Checks and balances
The accrediting body requires multi-member governing boards for colleges and universities. "It's a matter of checks and balances," Wheelan said. Without accreditation, the federal government would stop providing financial aid to students. Nearly two-thirds of TSU's 11,200 students receive Pell Grants, which are awarded to the poorest students, based on a formula assessing income and assets.
Raymund Paredes, the state's higher education commissioner, said TSU is at no more risk with a conservator than without because of the university's wide-ranging problems.
"TSU is vulnerable right now," Paredes said. "It's clear that the issues at the university have tripped a wire, and the accrediting agencies will be watching closely."
As an alternative to conservatorship, state Rep. Garnet Coleman, a Houston Democrat whose district includes the campus, has drafted a bill that would grant additional powers to an interim president. Those unspecified powers would be temporary, lasting only until a new board is acclimated.
"We're all in agreement about the fiscal concerns," Coleman said. "But we think the (governor's) method would do irreparable harm."
Perry's proposal follows a series a financial missteps and a spending scandal that led to criminal charges against former TSU President Priscilla Slade and three aides.
But his call for the regents to resign came as the board was making strong progress toward turning the university around, Diaz said. The board had fired Slade, reduced the work force amid a budget shortfall and proposed cuts in academic programs. "We've done a lot of good," he said. Childress and Griffin did not return messages. A fourth regent, Bill King, had not resigned but said he would not stand in the way of the governor's wishes.
"Clearly there is some need of dramatic, drastic action, but I kind of agree with the Black Caucus on conservatorship," King said. "We need to find a better solution."
Five vacancies on board
The regents, meanwhile, are planning to meet April 28 to discuss several issues, including whether to extend the contract of interim President J. Timothy Boddie Jr. The meeting had been scheduled for last Saturday, but the board could not get a quorum. The nine-member board has five vacancies. The terms of three regents expired in January, and attorney Harry Johnson Sr. and hospital administrator Earnest Gibson III recently resigned.
Coleman said he would not recommend that the remaining regents resign because "people should make the decision on their own time. But the time is near. It would be better if they resign so as not to harm the students."
The chair and vice chair of the Southern University Board of Supervisors stepped down from office temporarily.
Chairman Johnny Anderson, is also the governor’s assistant chief of staff, said he is doing so to remove the appearance of “improprieties” while the board considers the results of a report into sexual harassment allegations against Anderson.
“I feel strongly I don’t want to be accused of any improprieties,” Anderson said after the Saturday board meeting.
“As far as I’m concerned, I’ve been vindicated,” he said.
The board oversees Southern’s three campuses and a law school.
Anderson announced his decision shortly after a “break” when he was with most board members behind closed doors.
Vice Chairman Myron Lawson of Alexandria, who was not at the Saturday meeting, also stepped down temporarily. He said in a phone interview that he wants to avoid the appearance he is influencing other board members.
Lawson works closely with Anderson as vice chairman.
The change in leadership likely will last between one and three months, Lawson said. He and Anderson said the move is not permanent but is effective immediately.
Dale Atkins of New Orleans is the temporary chairwoman and John Joseph of Opelousas is now vice chairman.
Gov. Kathleen Blanco, in Novermber, ordered Baton Rouge lawyer Mark Falcon to investigate allegations leveled by multiple unnamed Southern employees.
On April 13, Falcon reported no findings of guilt or innocence, but ended the inquiry saying he had been “thwarted” by Southern University System President Ralph Slaughter and the board.
Atkins called for a special board meeting Saturday to continue the discussion about the report that started Friday.
Atkins declined comment about what actions the board could take Saturday.
Slaughter declined comment when asked if his job status could be affected, adding that he will wait until the board meets again.
Anderson argued the report recognizes the falsity of the allegations against him.
When asked about Slaughter’s future, Anderson referenced the board’s four hours of closed executive sessions to deliberate.
“They (board members) met with the president; they did not meet with me,” Anderson said.
Falcon’s report targets Slaughter’s actions.
“His (Slaughter’s) refusal to answer my questions cannot be justified,” Falcon said in the report. “More importantly, his defiance of the directives of Southern University’s Board of Supervisors is unconscionable.”
The board failed to address Slaughter’s “apparent insubordination,” the report states.
Slaughter has said he turned over all his documentation to a federal grand jury investigating the matter and he admitted withholding some information because he wanted to protect the privacy of the alleged harassment victims.
The board met in closed session for more than four hours total Friday and Saturday to discuss Falcon’s report without Anderson present.
After the Southern personnel committee finished its closed executive session Saturday morning, Atkins called for a “break” before the full board meeting began.
At that time, board members left together and joined Anderson behind closed doors. With a majority of board members together in private, they represented a quorum — an apparent violation of state open meetings law.
A reporter with The Advocate pointed out the quorum and requested an open meeting. Board attorney Winston DeCuir alerted the board there could not be a majority of the board together behind closed doors.
Several board members then left. They returned to the meeting later and other board members left.
Then another group of members joined the meeting while others left. The number of members involved in the meeting at any one time always was less than the majority regulated in the open meetings law.
Shortly after the more-than-30-minute “break” and the full board meeting began, Anderson announced he would step down as chairman.
An Albany State University Biology major has been chosen to receive the Merck Undergraduate Science Research Scholarship Award. Rosa Maudie-Monet Wright, a junior from Thomasville, will receive a $25,000 scholarship and two summer internship stipends totaling $10,000.
Wright, who is scheduled to graduate from ASU in May 2008, plans to attend medical school or pursue a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences. She credits Dr. Louise Wrensford, professor of Chemistry, with the foresight in encouraging her to apply for the Merck scholarship. “I can honestly say that without her persistence, I would not have applied,” Wright said. “From the time she told me about the scholarship until all of my paperwork had been submitted, Dr. Wrensford constantly reminded me to submit my application in a timely manner.”
The Merck Undergraduate Science Research Scholarship program seeks to increase the number of African Americans in biomedical science education and research. Wright said she is hopeful that the scholarship begins “many good things” for the research component of the Natural Sciences Department at ASU. As a result of an ASU student winning the scholarship, the department is now eligible to receive a $10,000 grant from Merck to support its research programs.
Expressing gratitude for her scholarship, Wright thanked God and her family for her achievements. “Without both of these, I would not be where I am today,” she said. “I thank the ASU faculty and staff for inspiring, motivating and molding me into the strong, determined person that I am. I especially thank Dr. (Louise) Wrensford for always pushing me to do my best and making me realize that great things do not come at small costs. I also thank Dr. Edward Lyons (professor of Biology), for being my mentor and a bridge builder for me in my path to success.”
The governor proposed a state takeover of beleaguered Texas Southern University and called for the resignations of the regents at the historically Black school.
Gov. Rick Perry’s advisory panel recommended last month that TSU revamp its nine-member board, focus on a new mission and be under strict oversight by the state auditor. But Perry thought the recommendations did not go far enough, his spokeswoman said Friday.
“It’s more than just having a clean slate,” Krista Moody said. “We need to make changes to the way the university operates.”
A report by TSU’s interim chief financial officer outlined overspending, missing purchase orders and poor financial projections at the school. It highlighted flooded basements in several buildings and said the athletic program was $2 million over budget.
Perry said the school would function more efficiently with a conservator, essentially a one-person board. The governor has already put the state’s juvenile prison system under conservatorship after allegations of sexual and physical abuse of inmates.
Top lawmakers would have to authorize the move before Perry could appoint a conservator.
Conservatorships are generally in place for a year, Moody said, after which the state would evaluate the university’s progress.
TSU interim president J. Timothy Boddie Jr. said he was caught off guard by the announcement, but understood the advantages a conservatorship.
“Ideally, the conservator will be able to get the job done and get us back on our feet quicker,” he said. “It’s a matter of expediting the process.”
A university spokeswoman said the board members were not available for comment. TSU Regent Bill King told KHOU-TV: “It’s probably an unfortunate but necessary step at this time.”
A lawsuit accusing Benedict College president David Swinton of trying to force professors to change students’ grades to keep them eligible for state and federal tuition assistance is scheduled to be heard in court Monday.
Former professor Milwood Motley says in his lawsuit that he was fired when he refused to give students grades they had not earned.
Motley is seeking unspecified damages in the lawsuit against Benedict and Swinton, saying the actions and statements of Swinton amounted to defamation that has damaged his career and his family life.
Benedict has filed a motion for a summary judgment that the college has done nothing wrong and the lawsuit should be dismissed without a trial. Eleventh Circuit Judge William P. Keesley of Lexington is presiding over the case.
The judge said he was called in as the trial judge because every available judge in Richland County had a conflict of interest in the case.
In a hearing Friday afternoon on the motion, Keesley said he still had much reading to do before deciding.
“I have no idea what I’m going to do,” Keesley told attorneys for the two sides Friday. The hearing involved only the judge and the attorneys; neither Motley nor Swinton were present.
But despite his disclaimer, Keesley grilled Motley’s attorney, Victoria Eslinger, about the strength of their case.
Eslinger told the judge that Swinton had told the Benedict faculty repeatedly that the purpose of his new grading policy — the Success Equals Effort, or SEE, policy — was to ensure that poorly performing students remained eligible for state and federal student assistance.
“Where is the evidence he intended to defraud the federal or state government, to defraud the students?” Keesley asked. “What’s the difference between this and an institution that grades pass-fail?
“Your client never talked about the federal government (in his pretrial deposition),” Keesley said. “He talked about academic fraud. I can see that.”
Benedict was represented by attorney Steve Morrison, who is also a member of the Benedict Board of Trustees. Morrison argued that Motley had discretion to define student effort, just like every other professor.
“Dr. Motley refused to define it,” Morrison said.
Motley’s lawsuit, in a complaint filed in 5th Circuit Court in Columbia three years ago, states that “Defendant Swinton well knew that requiring Plaintiff Motley to enforce the SEE (Success Equals Effort) policy would affect Life Scholarship eligibility and told Plaintiff that it would be ‘good’ if students received all A’s and B’s.”
The Life Scholarship is provided to South Carolina residents pursuing undergraduate degrees at colleges in South Carolina. State law requires that a Life scholar maintain a B average to continue receiving the award.
Morrison argued Friday that colleges have broad latitude in designing grading policies. The judge seemed sympathetic to that argument, frequently noting that Benedict is a private college.
Motley states in his lawsuit that during his employment at Benedict, he received “excellent evaluations and raises.”
According to Benedict’s “Code of Academic Responsibility,” academic dishonesty is defined as “any conduct designed to gain unfair advantage in obtaining a grade through representing one’s academic performance as something other than what it is ...”
The lawsuit states that near the end of the fall semester in 2001, Swinton unveiled his new grading policy, Success Equals Effort. (It was initially referred to by its acronym SEE, but because it quickly became associated with a C grade, Swinton began referring to the program as SE-Squared.)
The SEE policy required professors to base 60 percent of their grade in freshman-level classes upon “effort” and 40 percent upon “knowledge.” For sophomores, the split would be 50-50 between effort and knowledge.
Numerous faculty took issue with the policy, but only a few actively resisted it.
Motley believed the SEE policy violated his rights of academic freedom and forced him to falsely report the achievement of his students under the guidelines of the Life Scholarship program.
““The SEE policy is academically dishonest in that it generates ‘grade inflation’ and does not reflect a student’s knowledge of the course content,” Motley states in his lawsuit. On Feb. 26, 2004, Motley states he was asked to change the grades of students with D’s and F’s and those classified as WA, a grade that indicates a student withdrew from the class.
He refused to change the grades on the basis of student effort, which he said he could not objectively measure.
Clean, as in 10,000 times cleaner than a hospital operating room, smells like, well, not much of anything.
The air in the cluster of "clean rooms" at Norfolk State University's new research building is filtered so finely that the only thing you smell is the latex gloves visitors must wear.
The rooms are the technological centerpiece of the $35 million Marie V. McDemmond Center for Applied Research, dedicated on Friday. The clean room facilities are the largest of their type at a Virginia university, Norfolk State officials said.
They explained that the smallest particles of dust, flakes of skin, oil from a finger, even moisture from talking could wreck the delicate work envisioned for them.
That work will include nanotechnology, or creating materials molecule by molecule, so that desired properties can be engineered in. For example, Frances Williams, an assistant professor of engineering, is working on a microscopic sensor that detects toxic gases.
"A lab or facilities like these will open doors for Norfolk State University," Williams said.
Norfolk State officials expect t he laboratories, classrooms and offices of the six-story brick building diagonally across Brambleton and Park avenues from the main campus to be fully occupied this fall. That's two years later than originally planned, due to funding shortages and construction delays. It's envisioned as the first phase of a 25-acre research and technology park with public and private tenants, called the RISE Campus. RISE is short for Research and Innovations to Support Empowerment.
To date, less than seven acres have been bought by NSU. Work toward soliciting more partners is just beginning after a period of planning, Norfolk State Rector Jack Ezzell Jr. said Friday.
"I welcome you to the future of Norfolk State University," he later told about 300 people attending Friday's ribbon-cutting.
The McDemmond Center is named for the past university president who championed the project. McDemmond, who served from 1997 until her 2005 resignation due to illness, said she hoped the facility will spur more minorities into technology careers, and "assist NSU to become a science and technological powerhouse."
Three Hampton University students have developed an innovative online television network. The purpose of EMQTV.com is to provide an informative and entertaining network for black college students. E-Mackqulent, LLC (EMQ), the parent company of EMQTV.com, is co-owned and operated by Antonio Hawthorne, senior media management major from Piscataway, N.J.; Erin Z. Young, senior public relations major and marketing minor from Wilmington, Del.; and SGA president Darrian Mack, junior broadcast journalism major and marketing minor from Randallstown, Md.
EMQ is currently a new media multimedia organization that produces EMQTV, a broadband television network highlighting the black college experience.
“We are a cable channel that exists on the Internet,” said Young.
The network site, http://www.emqtv.com, launched in late January. Hawthorne, Mack, and Young met during the 2004-2005 academic year to develop the idea of their “immaculate” organization and chose that name for their company with a unique spelling combining all of their names.
The idea was “definitely divine intervention,” said Young. Young said the group realized that “all media companies are developing broadband media arms” and that EMQTV is the “perfect thing” to reach their target audience.
The students developed a business plan and decided to incorporate in Delaware as a Limited Liability Company (LLC). Then in summer 2006 the group began to create their site.
EMQTV.com contains five components: EMQ News, Submit Your Video viral video, The College Yard social network, music, and EMQ on Campus broadband television programs. The EMQ site is ad supported and features market specific advertising. The site is geared toward black college students and alumni ages 18-35. The group is excited that their market is growing because more black students are attending college than ever before.
Young said that the site is not strictly for Historically Black College and University (HBCU) students because “the black college experience is shared no matter where you are.”
The group has focused on creating a socially conscious site by displaying positive images and encouraging alumni giving.
E-Mackqulent, LLC is not stopping with EMQTV. They have future goals of providing business consultation, establishing a “brick and mortar” cable site, and to spread their brand among all media.
Rudy Hubbard wasn't sure when, exactly, the conversation took place.
But he'll never forget it did.
It was the last time he spoke with Eddie Robinson, the legendary Grambling State football coach who died Tuesday after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease.
"I had been out of coaching for a few years, and he was trying to talk me back into it _ which was typical of him," Hubbard said from his home in Tallahassee, Fla. "One of the reasons he loved coaching so much was because of the impact he could have on a young man's life. That's why he wanted me to go back to it.
"But as convinced as I was that I needed to leave it alone, he was just as convinced that I needed to get back in."
The two men never would speak again. And Hubbard, who led Florida A&M to the Black College National Championship in 1977 and the inaugural NCAA Division I-AA national championship in 1978 before being fired in 1985 after back-to-back losing seasons, never returned to coaching.
To this day, he has no regrets _ especially after seeing the way Robinson, as beloved a figure as college football has known, was shoved into retirement in 1997.
In his 57 years at Grambling, Robinson's teams won 408 games, 17 Southwest Athletic Conference titles and nine Black College National Championships, and he sent more than 200 players to the NFL.
But when Grambling struggled in the mid-'90s, the face of black college football was told to retire.
"He was forced out," said Hubbard, who became Woody Hayes' first black assistant at Ohio State in 1968 before taking the Florida A&M job in 1974. "Can you believe that? After all he did for Grambling? After all he did for black college football? He meant too much to all of us to go out the way he did. To most people, Coach Robinson WAS black college football.
"But when you're as successful as he was, you raise everyone's expectations. And Coach Robinson got that program to a point where that's all people expected. What they don't realize is that he raised the bar on very limited funding."
Not only did the predominantly black colleges operate with smaller athletic budgets, but, after the South was desegregated in the 1960s, they were forced to compete against the major universities for the best black players.
Black schools still could get top-shelf talent - even into the early 1980s - but it was getting more difficult every year.
"My last few years at Florida A&M, I could see the change," said Hubbard, who will turn 61 later this month. "Even in the late '70s, I was able to get my share of really good players. That team in '78 was loaded. We could've played with a lot of Division I-A teams. We beat Miami in '79. But after that, things started getting tougher. You could see the talent waning.
"From a financial standpoint, we just couldn't keep up. The rich got richer, the poor got worse. Eventually, we were down to getting what was left. Even kids whose parents went to black colleges were choosing the big schools. Now, the black schools don't have a chance."
The Rattlers brought in about $1 million in TV revenues during their championship run in 1978, Hubbard said, but that money was lost to Title IX, which, adopted in 1979, created athletic opportunities for thousands of young women but crippled the football programs at many black colleges.
So the decline of black college football already had begun when Hubbard, only 39 at the time, was fired for not winning as much in the 1980s, despite putting together a 30-5 run from 1977-79.
He had seen enough to see there was no reason to go back.
"As far as black college football goes, the heyday was over," said Hubbard, who now works for a financial services firm. "You think back to what it was, then see what it is now. ... It doesn't even look the look the same. It's gone."
And, now, so is Robinson.
But Hubbard won't forget him _ or their last conversation.
The Maryland Senate approved a bill last week that was intended to protect the state's historically black public colleges from having their white students drawn away by new programs at other colleges that duplicate their own.
The bill was drafted in response to a 2005 vote by the Maryland Higher Education Commission to let the University of Baltimore and Towson University jointly offer a new program — a master's degree in business administration — that had been strongly opposed by the historically black Morgan State University. Morgan State complained at the time that the commission was violating a federal desegregation agreement under which it had pledged to prevent the duplication of programs already offered by historically black colleges seeking to attract white students. So far, however, the U.S. Education Department's Office for Civil Rights has declined to intervene.
Lawmakers passed a measure last year allowing colleges to appeal commission decisions on duplicative programs to a state circuit court. The state's governor at the time, Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, vetoed the bill.
The bill that the State Senate passed last week requires the commission to make a decision on whether a program is duplicative if it is challenged as such by one of the state's four public historically black colleges: Bowie State University, Coppin State University, Morgan State University, and the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore. The measure also provides that the commission's decisions on the matter are subject to appeal to a state circuit court covering a jurisdiction of the state where none of the colleges involved in the dispute is located.
At the urging of State Sen. James Brochin, a Democrat from Baltimore County who had complained that Towson University was being unfairly singled out, the bill was amended with a provision allowing colleges to operate programs for at least four years after the commission has declared them duplicative and ordered them shut down.
The measure, which the Senate approved 27 to 19, had not been acted on by the state's House of Delegates as of last week.
The historically Black college of just under 5,000 students hopes to double its enrollment in upcoming months, diversify its largely Black student body and strengthen its image with new buildings, curriculum and staff.
The changes come as school attempts to become a destination for Southside Virginia and beyond.
“I believe in diversity. We’re not an isolated entity,” says Harold T. Green Jr., VSU’s rector, who acknowledged the school’s role in molding generations of Blacks.
The school has already taken several steps toward raising its profile as it approaches its 125th anniversary.
Over the past three years, officials have embarked on $87 million in new construction and renovations.
Academically, VSU has bolstered its liberal arts curriculum with computer science and nursing programs; a school of engineering is under construction.
VSU awarded its first doctorate this year in educational administration, and university officials want to start additional doctoral programs.
The university also wants to be more selective in the students it admits, while requiring faculty members to be accredited — the latter a requirement to continue receiving millions of dollars in state money provided through a civil-rights agreement.
School officials even want to change their address from Petersburg to the higher-profile Chesterfield County.
Officials say that will more accurately reflect the school’s physical location. And if a potential student or faculty member were to Google the area, the school would be connected with Chesterfield’s more favorable economic and demographic indicators.
That will be a boon both for the school and the county, according to Millard D. “Pete” Stith Jr., Chesterfield’s deputy administrator for community development and a former rector of VSU. The university sits in the Chesterfield village of Ettrick on a high bluff above the Appomattox River.
“Chesterfield believes that Virginia State is a crown jewel on its southern borders,” Stith says.
The university is playing catch up from decades of state underfunding during segregation.
Under the civil-rights agreement, the state has agreed to make up for the losses — but only if the school take steps that include becoming more diverse.
Oprah Winfrey has agreed to speak at Howard University's commencement, the school's president announced.
The prestigious historically black university is ''blessed'' to have the talk show host for the May 12 ceremonies, Howard President H. Patrick Swygert said Monday. Winfrey will receive an honorary doctor of humanities degree.
''When one thinks about the criteria for a great commencement speaker, there are a few things that come to mind: engaging, inspiring, charismatic and a champion of change,'' Swygert said. ''Our commencement speaker this year is certainly all that and much more."
Only 7 percent of Botswana's 1.6 million citizens have access to tertiary education. By the year 2016, Howard University and the Republic of Botswana plan to nearly triple that number increasing access to 20 percent. On March 29, 2007, Howard University President, H. Patrick Swygert and Mrs. Festina S. Bakwena, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Botswana signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to establish the Botswana International University of Science and Technology.
Howard University will provide technical assistance in the following areas: 1) development of a campus plan; 2) development of undergraduate and graduate curricula in science, technology, the social sciences, humanities, business and economics; and 3) recruitment, selection, hiring and development of an administration and a faculty for the institution, including the provision of graduate education, mainly at the Ph.D. level at Howard University for talented Botswana who are designated for future faculty positions.
"Howard University is celebrating its 140th year of preparing and producing leaders for America and the global community; we are extremely proud to be a part this partnership with the Republic of Botswana," said Howard University President H. Patrick Swygert. "We are committed to making the Botswana International University of Science and Technology a reality."
The Republic of Botswana's delegation during the signing ceremony expressed the urgency for capacity building and economic development in the Southern African nation.
"When there are no more diamonds we will have our people," said Bakwena. "It is important as a developing country for us to invest in our human resources and there is no better way to do that but through education."
Fisk University may be short on cash, but its rising graduation rates prove that success isn't always dependent on deep pockets. The school's graduation rate was 63 percent in 2004, according to figures from the National Center for Education Statistics, and it was still 63 percent in 2006. Among historically black colleges and universities, that puts Fisk in good company.
The center's report lauded Fisk and Tennessee State University for succeeding with large enrollments of low-income students, a classification based on Pell Grant awards, which is even more of an anomaly, national educators say.
"What we know about graduation rates is that the financial situation of the students has a huge impact," said Michael Lomax, president and chief executive officer of the United Negro College Fund.
As recently as 1993, Fisk's graduation rate was a dismal 25 percent. Tennessee State University, with a 2004 graduation rate of 44 percent, also landed on the NCES "success" list. TSU's graduation rate rose to 47 percent in 2006.
The new study found that all institutions defined as low-income-serving had a median graduation rate of 39 percent. About half of Fisk's undergraduate enrollment is classified as low-income students. At state schools like TSU, where the percentage of low-income students is closer to 60 percent, officials believe the graduation rates are actually higher than reported.
"Many low-income students often are working jobs and may take more than six years to earn a degree," said Ken Looney, TSU's associate vice president for academic affairs. "In those cases, the student does not fit into that six-year window and doesn't figure into the graduation rate."