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Friday, December 28, 2007

Texas Southern researchers link mold to neuropsychological illness

Researchers at Texas Southern University say contamination of the indoor environment by toxigenic molds is directly related to adverse health effects.
Mold releases spores into the air to reproduce. These spores grow readily in damp environments and are easily inhaled.

According the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “ Molds can trigger asthma episodes in sensitive individuals with asthma. People with asthma should avoid contact with or exposure to molds.” However, mold exposure is not limited to affecting only asthmatics.

TSU researchers examined twelve female office workers who presented with symptoms of neuropsychological illnesses with mold as the suspected cause.

The subjects complained of weakness and numbness in their legs, dizziness, loss of memory, light-headedness, vertigo, fatigue, getting lost in familiar territory, and confused thoughts. All the subjects showed abnormal antibodies to Alternaria tenuis, Pullularia pullulans, and Epicoccum nigru, each a form of mold.

The TSU researchers concluded that chronic exposures to toxigenic molds appears to lead to neuropsychological manifestations.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Finalist for Texas Southern president expected to be named soon

The search for Texas Southern University's next president is drawing to a close, although the selection could not come soon enough for some state lawmakers.

The university's governing board is expected to receive a recommendation from an advisory search committee at a specially called meeting — more than 18 months after the firing of former President Priscilla Slade.

Although the regents could act immediately upon the recommendation, it's likely that they will wait before making a decision because not all of them will attend the meeting, said Glenn Lewis, the board's chairman.

The short list of candidates, according to people familiar with the search process, includes interim University of Houston President John Rudley; the city of Houston's chief administrative officer, Anthony Hall; and Ivory Nelson, a former Texas A&M University System administrator who now leads Lincoln University in Pennsylvania.

It's unclear how many candidates the committee will recommend to the board.

Lewis declined to comment on the candidates but previously praised Rudley, who served as TSU's chief financial officer and internal auditor during the 1980s. He said the board needs to make a decision soon but cannot afford to make the wrong one.

"It needed to be done yesterday," Lewis said.

The board is under pressure to move quickly to the fill the position, which has been vacant since the firing of Slade in June 2006 amid a spending scandal.

TSU is at risk of losing accreditation if campus leaders do not rectify a series of financial and management issues within a year. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools placed the state's largest historically black university on probation last week because of the school's poor financial picture.

"I would hope that a decision be made and a new president on campus by the beginning of next semester," said state Rep. Garnet Coleman, a Houston Democrat whose district includes the 9,500-student campus. "If not, it's a big problem."

The spring semester begins next month.

The university had suspended the search this year after Gov. Rick Perry decided to replace the entire nine-member governing board. The search resumed in September after Lewis added three regents to the advisory committee, which includes alumni, faculty and community members and students.

The committee, headed by Gerald Smith, chairman and CEO of Houston investment firm Smith, Graham & Co., had narrowed the field of candidates to 18 names in November but accepted applications and nominations through last Friday.

Rudley will be the interim president at the University of Houston until Renu Khator, formerly the second in command at the University of South Florida, takes over the reins next month. Rudley is expected to return to his role of vice president for administration and finance.

Hall, a TSU-trained attorney who oversees the day-to-day operations of the city, is a former City Council member and state representative. He also recently served with Lewis on Perry's blue-ribbon committee on the future of the university.

Nelson, a noted chemist, served one year as acting president of Prairie View A&M University and six years in the top job at the Alamo Community College District in San Antonio. He has been president of the historically black Lincoln since 1999.

After the finalist are named, state law requires the regents to wait 21 days before voting on the appointment.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

SC State plans to have new president by July

South Carolina State University trustees are working toward having a new president by July 2008, the board chairman said Wednesday.

The S.C. State Board of Trustees met by telephone to develop a framework for hiring a new president and to select a firm to help in the search.

The trustees approved creating an 11-member presidential search committee including three trustees, two elected officials, one faculty member, one staff member, one student, one member from the Board of Visitors, one member of the national alumni association and one member from the local corporate community.

The trustees expect to name the members of the committee by the end of the year, board Chairman Maurice Washington said.

He said search committee members will have to possess a knowledge of S.C. State, a commitment to S.C. State's greater good, credibility, clout, a willingness to devote time and an ability to maintain confidentiality. He also said the board wants to ensure the committee is diverse.

"Selecting a CEO is the board of trustees' most important task," Washington said before going into a two-hour executive session with the board.

Last week, the board voted not to renew President Dr. Andrew Hugine's contract, which was due to expire in June. He was placed on administrative leave, with his last day scheduled to be Jan. 4. Dr. Leonard McIntyre was appointed interim president.

The board on Wednesday also approved the selection of Academic Search, Inc. to assist the university in the nationwide search for its next president. Washington said the firm was an attractive pick because it works exclusively with higher education institutions and has a previous working relationship with S.C. State.

"They are familiar with many of our needs. They should be able to move quickly through the process and help meet our dates," Washington said.

Academic Search is based out of Washington, D.C. and has served more than 800 clients during its three decades of existence, according to the firm's Web site.

Washington said that Senior Vice President of Finance John Smalls will negotiate the terms of S.C. State's arrangement with Academic Search before the end of the year.

A press release announcing Wednesday's meeting said a contractual matter concerning the 2008 football season would also be discussed in executive session. However, trustees did not mention the issue after coming out of executive session. Athletics Director Charlene Johnson was present at the meeting.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Ft. Valley makes cuts to grow amid challenges, changes

The long list of academic programs shutting down at Fort Valley State University may seem like a death sentence for the, but it's actually part of the school's plans for a revival.

Fort Valley has emerged from a $2.5 million budget deficit by shuttering 12 programs and revamping the remaining offerings.

The university is boosting its once plummeting enrollment by hundreds with an expansive recruitment program, posh new apartment-style dorms and promises of a bright future.

"Some folks told me they had put Fort Valley on life support, that it was on its way to withering up," said President Larry E. Rivers, a Fort Valley State graduate who took charge 18 months ago. "It's a new day in the valley."

Fort Valley, like many other public historically black colleges, is still recovering from the deep imprint racial politics left on the nation's higher education system, said Michael Lomax, president of the United Negro College Fund and former chairman of the Fulton County Commission.

After years of living in the shadow of their majority white counterparts, historically black institutions are working aggressively to draw students, he said.

"What integration did ... was it gave our students an opportunity to be selective," said Dwayne Ashley, president and CEO of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, which provides support for public historically black colleges.

Two years ago, Fort Valley was an aging campus that still hadn't completely recovered from the segregation-era decades when Georgia gave more support to majority white colleges than it did its three public historically black institutions - Fort Valley, Savannah State University and Albany State University.

Fort Valley's enrollment had declined for nearly a decade. It hit 2,100 in the fall of 2006 after the state suspended accreditation for the university's teacher education program, sending 300 students in search somewhere else to get a degree.

For eight consecutive years, the university had received a low rating from the state on audits of financial records, in part because the financial aid department liberally bestowed tuition waivers, helping swell the deficit.

Donations were stagnant.

After Rivers took the helm in March 2006 he went on a speaking tour, expanded the recruitment program and sent his students to high school across the state to talk about their institution.

The university began airing monthly TV shows on a local station to talk about programs and projects on campus.

Donations increased. The university's endowment grew $2 million, to $5.5 million.

Rivers eliminated the campus' deficit by closing low enrollment programs, including programs in physics and office administration, and by laying off 15 employees and not filling vacancies left by retirements. He closed most of the university's teacher education degree programs and is opening new ones to regain accreditation.

The university - which began as a trade school for blacks - is focusing on its teacher education, health science and agriculture programs, said Daniel Wims, vice president for academic affairs.

Rivers had a 3,000 pound bronze statue of the university's mascot - a wildcat - placed in a commons area between academic buildings. The statue, students say, is the symbol of a new type of energy on campus.

"It seems like it's getting better every year," said Jasmine Wilson, 18, a freshman from Columbus, Ga., who said attending Fort Valley State is a tradition in her family.

To reach out to students, Rivers put his profile on online social networking sites Facebook and MySpace. Like many faculty and staff members at Fort Valley State, he makes sure students know they can e-mail or call him any time.

It's that nurturing and family-like atmosphere that minority students often cite as the reason they continue to choose historically black institutions like Fort Valley over majority white campuses.

"I went to other college campuses but I didn't get that home feeling like I did at Fort Valley," said freshman Darrell Lockhart Jr. "I was talking to my friends that went to other campuses. They feel alone. They say they don't know anybody."

Anticipating an enrollment spike this fall, the university opened a $44 million, 951-bed housing complex, financed by the private Fort Valley State University Foundation. Every room was reserved in the first two weeks they were available.

Fort Valley saw the largest enrollment increase of any public college in the state this fall with a 17 percent jump to 2,500 students. Rivers says he wants to see that number increase to 15,000 over time.

Another 500-bed housing building will open next fall, and the university has plans for a $20 million science building and a new stadium.

Rivers wants to expand the university's offerings beyond its traditional teacher education and agriculture-based programs. He's eyeing a nursing and pharmacy program and would like to expand the veterinary technician program - the only accredited one in the state.

Students say they can feel the evolution.

"When I first started attending here, people used paper and pen in class," said Shanoria Morgan, a junior at the university. "Now we sit in class with laptops. Now there's more pride in our school."
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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

SC State Trustees vote not to renew President's contract

Ending weeks of speculation and rumors, the South Carolina State University Board of Trustees voted to oust President Dr. Andrew Hugine, Jr. during a Tuesday afternoon telephone conference.

Acting on the motion of trustee Lumus Byrd, the board voted not to renew the contract of its ninth president, which expires in June 2008. The board also agreed to immediately place Hugine on administrative leave, with his last day scheduled to be Jan. 4, 2008.

Byrd said Hugine’s contract should not be renewed because of his performance evaluation and an academic review of the university conducted by the Education Commission of the States.

Hugine had been back by U. S. House Majority Whip James Clyburn who said, "Hugine is someone I hold in high regard. Even so, if I felt for a minute that he was not keeping faith with the institution, I would tell him so, but that is not the case."

Hugine did not comment following the vote.

Trustee Col. John Bowden said that he would tender his resignation on that same day if the board accepted Byrd’s motion. Board Vice Chairman Jonathan Pinson, Charles Williams and Bowden voted against the motion.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Claflin Choir invited to perform in China

Choir needs to raise $170,000 to go

The Claflin University Concert Choir has been invited to China as part of a choral tribute and prelude to the 2008 Summer Olympics that will be held in Beijing, China. In order for the choir to go, they must first raise $170,000 by Mach 2008. To date they've raise about $15,000.

About 40 members of the concert choir have an opportunity to take the 10-day June tour of China in what is being called a "Stunning Choral Tribute to the 2008 Beijing Olympics: Perform in Harmony with Olympic Spirit." The Olympic games begin Aug. 8, 2008 and run to Aug. 24.

The choral tour will run from June 8-18 and will include stops in Tian Anmen Square, the Great Wall of China and the ancient Warriors Museum, a collection of 8,100 larger-than-life terra-cotta Chinese figures of warriors and horses dating to the 3rd Century BC.

St. Aug students host holiday party for kids

Students at St. Augustine's College held a Christmas party for more than 140 children in the surrounding Southeast Raleigh neighborhoods Friday.

Children 13 and younger from the Southeast Raleigh YMCA, Boys and Girls Clubs and the Tuttle Day Care Center received toys donated by St. Aug's faculty and staff.