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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Jackson State President backs HBCU merger

Jackson State President Ronald Mason is officially on board the campaign to merge Alcorn State and Mississippi Valley State with the university he leads. His only major request is that the Mississippi Legislature give the merged institution’s administration a one-time appropriation of $10M to help with the transition.

The Godfather of Soul, James Brown, sang about this type of deal when he once said: “Sold me out for chicken change.”

Mason calls for the new merged institution to be named Jacob State University in honor of H.P. Jacobs, JSU’s founder. The campuses of the state’s public HBCUs would become three constituent colleges, each with a specific focus. “Jackson College” would be the exploratory learning site. “Mississippi Valley College” would concentrate on service-learning. “Alcorn College” would be a center for remedial education.

According to Mason’s plan, Jacob State would have 13,000 undergraduates, 2,000 graduate students, and would become the nation’s top producer of black teachers and pre-professionals.

Mason failed to explain how Jacob State would accomplish those goals with a much smaller overall budget than the collective amount that currently goes to the three individual universities. Gov. Haley Barbour, who originally proposed the merger, estimated that it would save $35M over several years.

The whole concept of the merger is designed to give less money to Mississippi’s HBCUs. The merger isn’t being proposed to build up the HBCUs into a stronger state.

Numerous black legislators and HBCU supporters in Mississippi have rightly denounced the ridiculous Jacob State scam and should continue to do so. They should also call for Mason to be replaced with someone who actually gives a damn about treating HBCUs fairly.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Morgan partially blocks UMUC online program

Last week, 25 new students began training at University of Maryland University College to become community-college administrators.

But none of them live in Maryland. In fact, the university has been barred from offering this online doctoral degree to state residents.

The situation stems from a turf struggle between UMUC and Morgan State University, a historically black institution in Bal timore that objected to the UMUC effort because it would duplicate a similar program that Morgan State offers as a blend of face-to-face and online course work.

The dispute raises unprecedented questions for distance education. Could it stunt online learning's growth in Maryland? And could the Maryland decision lead to similar squabbles elsewhere?

Some context: In the 1992 college-desegregation case United States v. Fordice, the U.S. Supreme Court said states should make an effort to prevent predominantly white institutions from setting up programs that compete with public black colleges. Another Maryland public institution competing with Morgan's program would violate the Fordice decision, says Marybeth Gasman, an expert on black colleges at the University of Pennsylvania.

Morgan State is one of the few black colleges that offers a doctoral program for higher-education administrators. James E. Lyons Sr., Maryland's secretary of higher education, says he decided to restrict the University of Maryland University College degree to protect a unique program, not to assault online education.

"I've had people say to me, 'Well, how in the world could you make a decision that denies a school the opportunity to serve its own state population?'" he says. "But they're not looking at it in the historical context. This is a very profound higher-ed desegregation issue."

Online education appears to be a new arena for this fight. Mr. Lyons concedes that the conflict may carry national implications "to the extent that program duplication has historically been viewed as something that takes place between schools in close proximity," not as competition with online programs. Similar situations could emerge in states like Mississippi or Texas, Ms. Gasman says.

That prospect worries some distance-education leaders, who see the online medium as a means of reaching an audience not served by classroom-based learning.

Other experts say such worries are unfounded, because the UMUC-Morgan State dust-up is unique. For one thing, a close parallel could arise only in states dealing with the vestiges of segregation. For another, few other states have public institutions with the online firepower of UMUC, a university where most of the more than 90,000 students take at least one course online each year.

"This is more about historical institutional issues in Maryland, with roots in real or perceived racism at the core," says Janet K. Poley, president of the American Distance Education Consortium. It is "very unlikely to be duplicated elsewhere."

Within Maryland, however, Chancellor William E. Kirwan, of the University System of Maryland, worries that the precedent may prevent the state from responding adequately to its need for work-force-related degrees, if future online programs could be considered duplicative. Northeastern Maryland has no four-year college, he says, yet a planned military-base restructuring will drive thousands of people to move there. The state needs online classes to help serve them.

Mr. Kirwan and the system's Board of Regents have asked the Maryland Higher Education Commission to reconsider its decision and permit UMUC to offer the doctoral degree to Maryland residents. He is awaiting their response.

For now, budding community-college leaders in Maryland who can't study at UMUC, or spend some time physically at Morgan State, are out of luck. But the virtual classroom doors may soon open. Earl S. Richardson, president of Morgan State, says his institution hopes to have a fully online version of its program available by the fall.

via the chronicle

Sunday, January 17, 2010

James Cheek former president of Howard & Shaw Universities passes

James E. Cheek, who served as Howard University's president for 20 years and oversaw major expansions at the school, has died. He was 77.

University spokesman Ron Harris said Cheek died January 8 at a hospital in Greensboro, N.C. Cheek died after a long illness, said Tanya Wiley, spokeswoman for Shaw University where Cheek earlier served as president.

Cheek presided over the historically black Howard University from 1968 to 1989. During that time, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, in 1983.

"Dr. Cheek's vision and passion for the university and his view of Howard as a national treasure led to bold action, which eventually resulted in a dramatic boost in our budget with increased federal support," current Howard University President Sidney Ribeau said in a statement.

During Cheek's tenure, the university's enrollment increased by 6,000 students, and its budget soared from $43 million to $417 million. The school founded the nation's first black-owned public television station, created WHUR radio, established a School of Business and built Howard University Hospital. Cheek also expanded Howard's divinity and law schools.

Cheek was born Dec. 4, 1932, in Roanoke Rapids, N.C. He served in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean War and went on to earn degrees in sociology, history and divinity from Shaw University in Raleigh, N.C., Colgate Rochester University in New York and a Ph.D. from Drew University in New Jersey.

Before coming to Washington, Cheek was president of Shaw University, named to that position at the age of 30. Previously, he was a professor of New Testament theology at Virginia Union University in Richmond, Va.

Cheek is survived by his wife, Celestine, two children and four grandchildren.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

A&T seeks Ph.D. in computational science & eng.

The UNC Board of Governors today will consider approving a new doctoral program at N.C. A&T that is unique in the state’s 16-campus system.

N.C. A&T wants to establish a doctoral program in computational science and engineering. Not only would it be the first of its kind in the state, university officials said, but only nine colleges in the country have a doctoral program in the field.

The planning committee discussed the matter Thursday, and the full Board of Governors will consider it Friday. The system’s general administration has recommended that the board approve the program.

Computational scientists and engineers are employed in fields that require modeling and simulation work, said Ajit Kelkar, director of A&T’s computational science and engineering program.

One area where they are employed is the automobile industry, which uses the scientists to make models and conduct performance simulations in the manufacturing of cars, Kelkar said.

The university started its master’s program in the spring of 2005. Since that time, Kelkar said, more than 40 students have enrolled in the program and 17 have received degrees. All are employed, he said.

The companies that have hired the students include General Motors, Ford and IBM.

“Once they get this master’s degree, they’re in really high demand,” he said.

The university has been planning its doctoral program for three years. Pending approval, Kelkar said, A&T will begin recruiting students this semester, and students would start in the fall.

Kelkar said he hopes to enroll six students in the initial class.

The university already has begun recruiting three new faculty members, he said.

The university also recently received a $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to purchase a high-performance computing system for the program, Kelkar said.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Meyers out as Norfolk State president

Carolyn Meyers, president of Norfolk State University, will resign effective June 30 to pursue other interests, Ed Hamm, rector of the school's Board of Visitors, said today.

Meyers, 63, has been president since 2006 and is in the fourth year of a five-year contract.

Hamm said the board might select an interim assistant to work with both the president and the board, "to help facilitate the continued growth of the university. The board will probably make that determination around March, the time of its next scheduled meeting.

Sources close to NSU's 13-member board said Meyers' future had been in question for the past four months.

In October, the board held a six-hour closed meeting to discuss Meyers' performance and internal audits. The next month, Meyers was named a finalist for the president's post at Morgan State University in Baltimore but did not get the job.

Admirers and critics alike describe Meyers, an engineer by training, as an intelligent scientist with disarming charm.

But the board has lost confidence in Meyers, say a number of people who did not want their names used because of their close ties to the university. They list what they consider too many instances of poor judgment and weak leadership.

Sources cite concerns that Meyers has allowed improper enrollment practices that could have jeopardized the school's accreditation. In addition, they say, she hasn't given Norfolk State the vitality and focus it needs to be an academic contender; and she became "too chummy" with some board members and their relatives -- inviting them to her home for card games, for example -- which blurred the line between employee and boss and diluted the governance the school needed.

Flags also have been raised by the faculty senate, whose last report to the board listed several issues with Meyers, including a lack of follow-through on plans and recommendations and stated that "there appears to be an absence of vision and fundraising among our leadership."

One of the board's most pressing concerns is an internal audit that was initiated after a staffer called the State Employee Fraud, Waste and Abuse Hotline program in March.

The worker alleged that the university was accepting students who did not meet the minimum requirements.

The investigation found that the school had a "significant number" of nonqualified applicants who were processed for admission or were accepted for enrollment the past three years. The audit did state that many of the students who were accepted did not enroll at the school; the report does not state how many.

Nonetheless, the audit found that some enrollment decisions were made without required documents or before official transcripts or SAT scores were received, even though the university did not have a policy that allowed for such conditional admissions. In addition, the office of admissions used guidelines that were more lenient than the policy adopted by the board in 2007.

The audit found that the school was not consistently following those guidelines, either.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, the governing body that accredits Norfolk State and other universities, and the NCAA require that all admission criteria be published and applied consistently.

Following the audit, the board last month revised its admissions policy and is expected to announce a new admissions director this week.