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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

NCCU puts brakes on growth to reassess its needs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Abandoning its role?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 27, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'Serious allegations'

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 23, 2007

SCSU tries to house largest freshman class

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 20, 2007

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

By Marc Silver
US News & World Report

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

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

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

So you're satisfied with your education?

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

How did Florida A&M treat its students?

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

Was your college experience too segregated?

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

Any other skills you picked up at college?

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

Thursday, August 16, 2007

FAMU fires basketball coach

Florida A&M University announced Tuesday the release of coach Mike Gillespie, Sr. from his duties as head men’s basketball coach effective November 2.

Gillespie, who has been on paid administrative leave since May, when he was arrested for misdemeanor stalking, will remain on paid leave through November 2.

University President Dr. James Ammons said in a statement Tuesday that “this employment action is in the best interest of the Men’s Basketball Program and the University.”

Athletic Director Nelson Townsend added on Tuesday that “there will not be an interim head coach appointed, rather that a committee will be formed to begin a search for a replacement, whom we hope to name early in the fall.”

Gillespie compiled a 90-94 career mark at Florida A&M from 2001-02 to 2006-07, winning a pair of Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Tournament titles in 2004 and 2007.

The Rattlers won the 2007 MEAC Tournament crown this past March, finishing the season 21-14 overall, after finishing second in the regular season race.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Ex-CAU President expected to be named Interim Chancellor at UMass

The University of Massachusetts’ Board of Trustees is expected to name Thomas W. Cole Jr., a former president of Clark Atlanta University, as interim chancellor of the system’s flagship campus, in Amherst, The Boston Globe reported this afternoon.

The board is scheduled to vote on the temporary replacement for John V. Lombardi on Wednesday afternoon. Mr. Lombardi, who will become president of the Louisiana State University system on September 1, was allegedly pushed out of the Amherst post as part of a controversial systemwide leadership shuffle. The reorganization led to a no-confidence vote in the system’s president, Jack M. Wilson, and the trustees by faculty members on the Amherst campus this past spring.

Mr. Cole retired as president of Clark Atlanta, a historically black, four-year liberal-arts college, in 2002, and was president of Great Schools Atlanta, a local education fund, from 2004 to 2006. The names of several other former university chiefs had been floated as possible replacements for Mr. Lombardi, including Evan S. Dobelle, president of the New England Board of Higher Education and a former president of the University of Hawaii.

The trustees also are expected to name a search committee to fill the chancellor’s slot, but Mr. Cole will not be a candidate for the permanent post.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Record enrollment at Clark Atlanta causes housing shortage

Record enrollment has Clark Atlanta University scrambling to find housing for some of its incoming freshmen after nearly 400 more than anticipated showed up for orientation.

More than 11,000 prospective freshman and transfer students applied, a 26 percent increase from the previous year. About 5,500 were admitted, representing another significant increase. As many as 1,400 confirmed their attendance for 2007-2008.

About 1,200 freshman arrived beginning Wednesday รข€” a few hundred more than the school has space for on campus and more than typically commit to attending the historically black school, according to Darrin Rankin, vice president for enrollment services and student affairs.

The total number includes more than 500 who arrived without room assignments because they didn't notify the school they were planning to attend or because they hadn't yet demonstrated they had the financial resources to pay for housing, Rankin said.

Also, four dormitories are closed for renovations expected to be completed within the next year, further limiting available housing slots.

School officials had hopes of housing the overflow students in dorm spots it has at the nearby Interdenominational Theological Center, MetroPointe Lofts in Midtown, and other off-campus locations by the end of the day Thursday, Rankin said.

CAU also has eased rules that require freshmen and sophomores to stay on campus in an effort to create additional openings and provide students more options.

Fewer than 300 were on the waiting list as of Thursday afternoon.

Long lines at check-in and news that housing wasn't immediately available to some left students and their parents frustrated.

Jessica Scruggs and her mother Stella arrived in Atlanta Wednesday from their home in Washington. By Thursday afternoon, Jessica, still wearing her white new student T-shirt, withdrew and now plans to attend Delaware State instead.

"They're taking in too many students," Jessica Scruggs said. "They can't accommodate them, which is bad."

Not everybody encountered problems. Thaki Ismael of New Jersey said his daughter, Atiyah, learned of her room assignment before arriving. Said Ismael: "We had absolutely no issues."

Rankin admits the process hasn't been as trouble-free as CAU, student and parents would like, but the school hopes to do better.

"We recognize we've got issues with our process. We're trying to work those things out," said Rankin.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Donors rescue LeMoyne from vat of red ink

For LeMoyne-Owen College officials, the future is a little less bleak today.
Interim president Johnnie Watson said Thursday that the financially beleaguered school has received more than $4 million in pledges and contributions. College officials also hope for another $3 million combined from Shelby County and the state, pending legislative approval.

This means that, despite dire predictions over the school's future in recent months, LeMoyne-Owen will hold its first day of classes Aug. 20.

"There was never any question in my mind as to whether LeMoyne-Owen College would be open this year or not. ..." Watson said. "I've lived in this community over 60 years, and the community has been very responsive when needed. The greater Memphis community has responded."

That response comes as the school has suffered financial disarray for years. In the last decade, the college's debt has more than doubled -- from nearly $5.3 million in 1997 to nearly $9.75 million in 2005 -- while its enrollment dropped by more than 40 percent, to 589 this school year.

That led the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the area's accrediting body, to place LeMoyne-Owen on probation for the last two years. SACS officials will visit the campus in September before announcing a decision on that probationary status at their annual December meeting, being held in New Orleans.

School leaders believe the donations are enough to return LeMoyne-Owen to solid financial footing.

"I think (SACS) will respond positively ... It is assured that we will get (that pledged money)," LeMoyne chief financial officer Jim Dugger said. "There's a lot more work to do, and we're going to keep on pushing. (But) it makes the journey a lot more pleasant."

Added Watson: "I feel very confident that we have addressed the concerns SACS had, and I anxiously await the meeting."

While more than $4 million has been pledged to the school, only about $1.5 million is in hand now, Dugger said. The rest is expected to be paid over the next few years.

According to Dugger, the pledges come from:

The city of Memphis, which has pledged $3 million over three years. The first $1 million was delivered June 29.

The United Negro College Fund, which advanced the school next year's contribution of $292,659.

Cummins Inc., which has paid $200,000 of a $500,000, three-year pledge.

Radio host Tom Joyner, who gave $200,000.

The United Church of Christ, which has paid $200,000 of a pledged $600,000 over three years.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Four Delaware State students slain in Newark

Four people have been killed in Newark since last night, including three young people shot execution-style in a school playground, and a man in an unrelated slaying this morning.

Terrance Aeriel's sister, 19-year-old Natasha Aeriel, also was shot. She was listed in fair condition today at University Hospital, hospital spokesman Rogers Ramsey said.

Newark police and the Essex County Prosecutor's Office are investigating the circumstances surrounding the homicides, according to Newark Detective Todd McClendon.

All four people in the schoolyard killings were shot in the head at close range, prosecutor's office spokesman Paul Loriquet said. He said the three victims who died were lined up against a back wall of the school and shot.

The victims all are Newark residents, Loriquet said, and three had Delaware State University identification cards.

A separate shooting at 8:30 a.m. on Smith Street left one man dead, in what the prosecutor's office is calling a retalitatory shooting for an attempt on two people's lives earlier this morning in the same area.

The killings brought the number of homicides in the city this year to 60, compared with 63 for the same time last year, McClendon said

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Former student files $1.2M lawsuit against AAMU

A former student at Alabama A&M University, the historically black educational institution in Normal, has filed a $1.2 million lawsuit against the university because of injuries she sustained in a fire on campus. According to the lawsuit, Renada Lee, a student from St. Louis, and her roommate in Terry Hall on the A&M campus were forced to jump from their fourth-floor window to escape a fire that had started in the hallway outside their dormitory room. Lee broke her back and ankle from the fall.

Lee claims that the university failed to maintain the building’s fire alarm system and was negligent in enforcing fire codes. The university maintains that the fire alarm system functioned as designed.

Monday, August 06, 2007

FVSU expecting boost in enrollment

All indicators show that the student population at Fort Valley State University should increase significantly this semester.
"We're expecting a large new student arrival," said Donovan Coley, interim director of admissions.

The school received 3,393 new student applications for the fall semester, which is a 62 percent increase over the nearly 2,000 applications received last fall.

The $44 million housing complex called Wildcat Commons, which will house 950 students, is filled to capacity and the school's pre-existing dorms are overflowing.

Students begin moving in today and classes begin Aug. 13.

The likely surge in new students would bolster a trend that began with last fall's increased enrollment. The university increased its freshman enrollment from 688 in fall 2005 to 867 in fall 2006. The fall 2005 freshman enrollment was the lowest the school has seen in the past 10 years.

Since then, the school has rebounded in its efforts to entice area students.

In March 2006, an energetic Larry E. Rivers arrived on campus as the school's new president. Rivers, along with his staff and faculty, has placed a heavy emphasis on recruitment of new students.

Practically everybody at FVSU from the leadership on down to the students has recruited heavily for the university, Coley said.

An aggressive marketing campaign where the school has promoted its brand and image was also cited as a contributing factor to the larger number of student applicants.

Coley says the school is also focusing on improving its customer service. For the next two weeks, the Office of Admissions, Financial Aid and Recruitment will be open from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday to accommodate incoming students.

"We're making it convenient," Coley said, adding the school is still admitting new students for the fall semester.

Terrance Smith, vice president for student affairs, said the university is preparing itself for the influx of students. The university has implemented an enrollment contingency task force designed to ensure measures are in place to accommodate the expected surge in campus population.

Measures include opening additional class sections, employing more personnel, relocating offices to allow for space and expanding the food service area.

Plans also call for adding 350 to 400 units to the Wildcat Commons housing complex.

"We took a holistic and comprehensive approach to ensure that we're positioning ourselves to provide optimal customer service to our great students," Smith said.

Another focus is on retaining the new students who are entering FVSU, he added.

Smith cited the first-year experience center as an example. Housed in the Lottie Lyons Student Center, the center is a collaborative effort between the departments of student affairs and academic affairs.

First-year students will have access to professionals from various segments of the university. Mentoring, seminars and workshops, guest speakers and other programs and services will be available as the students transition to college life.

"We're looking to be the light of the path for many students," Coley said

Thursday, August 02, 2007

NCCU welcomes new chancellor

N.C. Central University Chancellor Charlie Nelms is started work yesterday. Nelms was welcomed to campus with a ceremony in which he was handed the keys to his office amidst enthusiastic rounds of applause.

In part of a short speech, Nelms addressed students directly: "I'm here because of you. No matter how many dollars we raise, no matter how many buildings we construct, if the students don't succeed, we fail."

Nelms was most recently a vice president with the Indiana University system.

A longtime administrator who has lead two mid-sized Midwestern universities, Nelms has said he expects a busy first few weeks at the Durham campus. Nelms will need to fill several vacant administrative positions in his first few months on the job.

But first, he said will meet with university administrators, trustees, deans and student leaders, as well representatives of other area colleges and universities. Those meetings will start today.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Tx Southern regents want new interim leader

Texas Southern University regents are making plans to replace interim President J. Timothy Boddie Jr. — possibly with the chairman of its governing board — before classes resume next month, officials familiar with the matter said Friday.

The expected departure of Boddie, a retired U.S. Air Force brigadier general, would mark the third shake-up in campus leadership since the board's predecessors fired President Priscilla Slade amid a spending scandal 14 months ago.

The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Glenn Lewis, the board's chairman since May and a former state representative from Fort Worth, is the leading candidate to replace Boddie. He would likely serve up to one year while the regents search for a permanent president.

When asked about the possible scenario, Lewis would not confirm or deny it. "There is not a whole lot I can say," he said. "The board has to act."

The idea of a second interim president troubled some lawmakers and community leaders, but others said the time had come for a change. Boddie could not be reached for comment.

Boddie has earned high marks for helping to persuade lawmakers to provide enough emergency money for the university to pay its bills and make repairs to aging and poorly constructed buildings.

"General Boddie restored some credibility, but we need a different set of skills now," Regent Gary Bledsoe said. "We need to give the new (permanent) president every chance to excel, and so we have to do some heavy lifting first."

Last week, the regents hired a second interim chief financial officer, replacing former U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development CFO Carin Barth with Billy Owens, who sorted out the money mess at Grambling State University.