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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tx. Southern gets off probation

Texas Southern University cleared a major hurdle in recruiting and fundraising last week when its accrediting body agreed to take the school off probation.

“It’s a big deal,” said President John Rudley, who took office in January 2008, one month after the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools placed TSU on probation for a series of financial and management missteps.

The impact is mainly symbolic: Parents who were reluctant to send their children to TSU because its accreditation was in doubt now can feel secure, Rudley said.

“The value of our degrees has been affirmed,” he said.

Belle Wheelan, president of the association’s commission on colleges, said her board voted to lift the probation Thursday morning, two days after Rudley and a team of TSU administrators presented evidence of their progress.

Rudley announced the news to his school’s board of regents soon after.

Gregory Maddox, interim dean of the TSU graduate school and a member of the administrative team that worked to end the probation, said he never thought the school actually would lose accreditation.

“But it certainly has been bad for morale,” he said. “Now we can go about the business of being a university. We’re not under the burden of having to constantly prove what we’re doing.”

The biggest step came earlier this year, when auditors were able to complete their tally of the school’s financial position. That took almost two years — the first firm hired for the job gave up because the financial records from previous years were in such a mess.

The financial problems and shoddy recordkeeping were highlighted when Rudley’s predecessor, Priscilla Slade, was accused of spending $500,000 in school money on herself. She is on probation.

Rudley said the school would have an annual outside audit for the next five years to ensure its finances remain clear.
“We don’t ever want to get in that position again,” he said.

Now, he said, TSU can go about the business of being “a normal university.”

That doesn’t mean no problems. The TSU library is inadequate for a school of its size and ambition, but the Legislature didn’t approve a request for $46 million in tuition revenue bonds to build and furnish a new one. Only the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston was authorized to issue tuition revenue bonds, used for university construction, during the session that ended this month.

That will be TSU’s top priority when the next session begins in 2011, Rudley said.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Paul Quinn loses its accreditation

Paul Quinn College has lost its accreditation because of financial and academic problems, officials announced yesterday – a devastating blow that jeopardizes the future of the tiny liberal arts college in southern Dallas.

Colleges need accreditation to award degrees and offer students federal financial aid. That seal of approval is also usually needed for student credits to transfer to other colleges.

It ultimately could force Paul Quinn's 440 students to find another school.

"They had made progress ... but they ran out of time before they could come into compliance on everything," said Belle Wheelan, president of the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

Paul Quinn, one of eight historically black colleges in Texas, was put on probation two years ago. It still fell short in three areas: financial resources, financial stability and institutional effectiveness – essentially a college's ability to teach students what they need to know.

"They didn't have enough money. They were in debt," Wheelan said.

President Michael Sorrell said he was disappointed by the decision.

"We're absolutely going to file an appeal," he said. "One of the issues folks need to understand is that we made a phenomenal amount of progress."

For instance, he said the college expects to have a surplus of more than $200,000 at the end of this fiscal year.

Paul Quinn had failed a federal test of financial responsibility, based on last fiscal year. Colleges in that situation face extra federal scrutiny and must post letters of credit so they can continue to receive and award federal student aid.

It's unusual for colleges to lose accreditation. Wheelan said the last time that happened with her agency was in 2007, with St. Andrews Presbyterian College in North Carolina, also because of financial problems. Later, however, a federal judge ordered the accrediting agency to reinstate the school's accreditation.

Sorrell is Paul Quinn's fifth college president since 2001. A businessman, lawyer and political consultant, Sorrell was widely considered the best shot at turning around the long-struggling school.

In two years, he has instituted a number of changes, including a business-casual dress code, tougher academic standards and more aggressive recruiting.

"He made great progress. He just didn't make enough progress," Wheelan said.

With classes in summer recess, the 130-acre campus was mostly vacant Thursday. A guard at the front gate denied access to anyone without an appointment.

William Baker, a sophomore education major, said he struggled with college in Muskegon, Mich., and followed two family members to Paul Quinn. He said the Dallas school has served him well.

"It's a school where you are identified by name, not just number. Anytime I needed anything they were there. It's very family-oriented. The president was always walking around, shaking hands, checking on students," he said. "He always had an open-door policy."

Sorrell said he did not want to speculate on what loss of accreditation means for faculty and students.

"I want to stop short of rendering opinions on things like that until we've exhausted the appeal process," he said.

Dallas ISD trustee Ron Price is a Paul Quinn graduate. He said he was disappointed that the campus lost accreditation, and he noted that it often leads to a college's closing.

"My heart goes out to those 400-plus students who put their time, energy and resources into the college," he said.

Baker, 21, last year's sophomore class president, said he will transfer if future classes won't count toward a degree.

"But I'm going to continue to believe I'll come back here in September," he said. "Even though we are struggling, I believe it will turn around."

The college's loss of accreditation appears to have nothing to do with quality of the school's academic programs.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

VUU gets major scholarship gift

The Richmond Community Hospital Foundation is giving Virginia Union University $1.3 million for a new scholarship and internship program.

Dr. Frank Royal, the hospital foundation board's chairman, described the donation as a "transfer of love, commitment and a little money" during a ceremonial check presentation at the school yesterday.

Virginia Union acting President Claude G. Perkins said the gift is the largest ever to the school from an African-American organization.

"Many students like Dr. Royal and others have gone and made significant contributions in our city and throughout this land," Perkins said. "We hope to use these funds to continue that legacy. As you know we are facing difficult economic times. Many of our students, their parents have lost their jobs. Many of our students are overextended with student loans."

Virginia Union, in the North Side of Richmond, is a private, historically black university founded in 1865.

The school, in a new partnership with Bon Secours Richmond Health System, will create an internship program for students, possibly in health-care management and the sciences, said Dougal Hewitt, senior vice president for mission services at Bon Secours and a member of the Richmond Community Hospital Foundation board. To qualify, students must be residents of the Greater Richmond area for at least a year.

Hewitt said the internships could include training opportunities at Bon Secours Richmond hospitals -- St. Mary's, St. Francis, Memorial Regional and Richmond Community. Richmond Community became part of the Bon Secours system in the mid-1990s. The hospital foundation was created with proceeds from that sale.

Richmond Community Hospital is in the East End but was previously in a building on the Virginia Union campus. That building now sits empty and boarded up.

Royal, a physician who has practiced more than four decades, described walking into the building for the first time years ago.

"It was the first time in my life I had ever been in the front door of a hospital," Royal said. Racist attitudes relegated African-Americans to enter through back doors. Black doctors could practice only at certain hospitals.

"The first hospital I practiced in was Richmond Community. . . . The last hospital I practiced in was Richmond Community," Royal said.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

AAMU selects Hugine as new leader

Andrew Hugine, Jr., former president of South Carolina State University, will become the 11th president of Alabama A&M University.

The seasoned administrator successfully fielded board questions pertaining to his leadership philosophy, politics in higher education, athletics and several other concerns prior to the Board of Trustee’s shift to executive session following an already six-hour meeting.

In order to deal with AAMU challenges and traditions, Hugine said he would practice shared governance by pulling together the school’s stakeholders “to conduct a critical review of where the University is strategically.” He also expressed confidence that AAMU will soundly deal with the issues that led to its placement on probation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).

“We must have priorities,” he said. “We cannot be everything to everybody.”

While at SCSU, Hugine made huge gains in enrollment, fundraising, and construction. Many SCSU supporters believe he was fired in retaliation for fighting back against micromanaging Board of Trustees members.

The AAMU community rallied behind Hugine despite rampant rumors that an influential trustee wanted Lawrence Davenport. During an interview, Davenport told AAMU’s search committee that he was willing to sign a lifetime contract with AAMU. But shortly after that statement, he took a job as head (principal) of a Rhode Island charter school.

Faculty members circulated a petition against Davenport’s candidacy and openly expressed their anger to the media.

Monday, June 15, 2009

AAMU to interview presidential finalist Thursday

With four new members appointed last week by Gov. Bob Riley, the Alabama A&M University Board of Trustees has scheduled a meeting Thursday to attempt to re-interview three finalists for the university's presidency. A selection may come as soon as Friday.

The 11-member board hasn't been able to get a quorum together since January because of a standoff over the presidential picks, Dr. Lawrence Davenport of Florida; Dr. Rodney Smith of Virginia and Dr. Andrew Hugine Jr. of South Carolina.

Several trustees have boycotted subsequent meetings because some believe the process was designed to favor Davenport, who narrowly lost to Dr. Robert Jennings in 2005. Jennings was ousted in March 2008.

Riley appointed the four new trustees last week after two years of fighting to get his previous four picks.

While many have praised the new trustee picks, who can serve until the Senate Confirmations Committee takes up the appointments next year, the president of the faculty Senate has said that one new trustee---Odysseus M. Lanier--- brings a bias toward Davenport to the presidential search process.

Lanier was co-chair of the search committee that recommended the three finalists, and Cady says Lanier told faculty leaders at a meeting with the governor's legal adviser this year that Davenport was most qualified, should have been hired in 2005 instead of Dr. Robert Jennings, and should be president now.

Lanier declined to comment last week about whether he supports Davenport for the job, saying he would reserve comment until he begins serving on the board.

Questions have arisen about Davenport, who recently left his job as head of a prestigious charter school in Providence, R.I., a job he accepted two days before interviewing for the Alabama A&M job.

The Providence newspaper described Davenport's tenure as "contentious." It wouldn't be the first time Davenport has left a school in controversy.

Before he came to Providence, Davenport was a vice president and fundraiser for Florida Atlantic University.

He left with a severance package of nearly $600,000 that prompted a state audit and opposition from the Florida Legislature.

The Providence school's leaders said they examined Davenport's tenure in Florida and found no wrongdoing.

According to his resume, Davenport has had seven jobs since 2000, counting the Providence position.

Thursday's meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. in the Clyde Foster Multipurpose Room in the School of Business on the A&M campus.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

AAMU faculty opposes prez hopeful

Alabama A&M University’s faculty senate has a clear message to the institution’s presidential search committee: candidate Lawrence Davenport does not have what it takes to lead.

Davenport told AAMU’s search committee that he was willing to sign a lifetime contract with AAMU. But shortly after that statement, he took a job in Rhode Island as head of a charter school.

That move sparked anger from many AAMU supporters. One alumnus said: “Where I come from, we call this two-timing. It's a classic player move: Tell one institution what it wants to hear while you're getting what you want from another.”

Last week, news reports confirmed that Davenport resigned his Rhode Island job to “give his full attention to securing the presidency of Alabama A&M University.” However, there are rampant accounts that he was "embattled" after serving only four months and his employers pushed him out.

AAMU faculty senators are now circulating a petition asking that Davenport’s name be stricken from consideration.

“We did not care for Davenport because of the way he handled himself here with the interview and then taking the job in Rhode Island, and so it was sort of an ethical issue for us then,” said Faculty Senate President Barbara Cady.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

A&T to pay two chancellors salaries for six months

The University of North Carolina Board of Governors voted recently to allow A&T Chancellor Stanley F. Battle to go on “research leave” from July 1 to Dec. 31. Battle has resigned from his position, effective June 30, citing “personal and family reasons. Battle who came to A&T from Coppin State had only served as A&T chancellor for less than two years.

While on leave, he would continue to receive his chancellor’s salary of $273,156 a year, a decision that has caused considerable controversy.

Battle would then return to A&T in January as a full-time tenured faculty member in the Department of Sociology and Social Work, where he would teach, receiving an appropriate salary for that position.

The announcement comes as A&T is cutting 66 positions. With the recent appoint of Harold Martin as the new A&T chancellor, the university would be forced to pay two chancellors' salaries for six months.

You may also be interested in:Battle resigns abruptly and Martin to take over at A&T

Friday, June 05, 2009

Shaw selects Yancy as interim president

Shaw University named former Johnson C. Smith University President Dorothy Cowser Yancy as interim president this morning, making her the first female to head the historically black school in its 144 year history.

Yancy, who was also Johnson C. Smith's first female president, headed the Charlotte-based historically black school from 1994 until June 2008, according to the school's Web site. According to a Shaw University news release, she raised $145 million in fundraising campaigns for Johnson C. Smith and increased its endowment from $14 million to $53 million.

Yancy replaces Clarence Newsome, who took a one-year leave of absence in mid-May amid rising about Shaw's ballooning debt, decaying dormitories, the payment of everyday expenses on credit and a graduation rate that hovers around 36 percent.

Conditions at the private school so disturbed alumni that in March, the Greensboro chapter stopped donating or raising money for their alma mater. This stance stayed in place until mid May, when Shaw announced Newsome would leave his post with a paid, one-year sabbatical. At that time, the agency that accredited Shaw in 2002 said it will demand a plan for paying down the debt once a new president replaces Newsome.

"He lost his credibility with the students, the faculty and staff and the alumni," said Robert Caple, chairman of the Greensboro alumni group. "We knew something had to happen."

Shaw's board of trustees chairman Willie Gary praised Yancy's leadership abilities and her track record at Johnson C. Smith.

"As they used to say when I was growing up, she brought them from the projects to the pros," Gary said.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Siemens makes large in-kind gift to Howard

Howard University will get a series of software grants valued at $150 million from Siemens PLM Software, a division of the Siemens Industry Automation Division.

It is the largest chunk of grants the D.C. university has received and they will help strengthen the school's engineering curriculum.

The Plano, Texas-based provider of product lifecycle management (PLM) software and services made the grant announcement in conjunction with the Business Software Alliance CEO Forum in D.C.

The grants, aimed to help educate future PLM engineers and technologists, are for engineering software and student and instructor training and specialized certification programs.

Siemens PLM Software provides PLM technology to more than a million students each year at nearly 10,200 global institutions.