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Monday, January 17, 2011

Faculty gives SC State President vote of no confidence

For the second time in nearly six months, South Carolina State University president George Cooper is under fire again, this time from the faculty senate has given Cooper and his administration a vote of “no confidence.”

The group voted 19-3 with one abstention at a meeting last Thursday. Faculty Senate members are elected by their respective departments.

The Faculty Senate outlined what it thinks are Cooper’s shortcomings. They include his failure to:
• Provide and implement a compelling vision for the university
• Adhere to shared governance by refusing to communicate with the elected representatives of the faculty
• Uphold policy and properly oversee the financial status, including the cash flow, of the university, as found by the outside financial consulting firm Elliott Davis

The document also states that Cooper has “ignored public scrutiny regarding the university’s financial status and has provided no answers or embarrassing answers to the public, particularly regarding the James E. Clyburn Transportation Center.”

Attorney Donald Gist, who said he is Cooper’s personal attorney and does not represent the university, said, “Dr. Cooper takes the position that the Faculty Senate does not reflect the full faculty at South Carolina State University.”

Jonathan Pinson, chairman of the university’s Board of Trustees, in a prepared statement Friday said, “The majority of the Board of Trustees’ members do not feel that the action is representative of the entire faculty and supports the president and his administration. Thus, the majority of the Board of Trustees’ members continue to express confidence in the president and his administration.”

This is not the first time the university’s Faculty Senate weighed in on Cooper’s leadership. The university’s board in June voted not to renew Cooper’s contract, effectively firing him. The Faculty Senate released a position statement supporting the board’s actions.

Then two weeks after letting Cooper go, the terms of two board members expired, and two new members took their places. The newly configured board rehired Cooper.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Southern abandons tougher admission standards

Southern University has abandoned, indefinitely, its plan to toughen student admission requirements, Southern System President Ronald Mason Jr. said.

Partly citing “financial reasons,” Mason touched on the issue after a discussion about a new Baton Rouge Area Chamber research paper, titled “Toward a Renaissance at Southern University A&M College.”

The recently released report suggested toughening Southern’s GPA and ACT entrance standards among other recommendations.

Last year, Southern had planned to increase the minimum GPA standard from a 2.0 to a 2.5 — on a 4.0 scale — and to phase in the minimum ACT test score from a 20 to a 22 by 2012. But after facing opposition from the Faculty Senate and others, the decision was made to delay implementation until 2011.

Now, Mason, who became president last summer, said the toughened standards are being indefinitely delayed.

Mason said the focus is on doing a better job of retaining and graduating students under the current admission standards.

Tougher standards typically cause a temporary dip in student enrollment, which is why Mason cited financial concerns from the potential loss of tuition dollars at a time of state budget cuts to colleges and Southern’s problems with already declining student enrollment levels.

Southern’s enrollment has dropped from nearly 9,500 students in 2000 to about 7,300 this past fall.

Southern Chancellor Kofi Lomotey said, there is a “Catch 22” in terms of improving performance at a time of continuing college budget cuts.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Lincoln U. (PA) president announces retirement

Ivory V. Nelson, who as president led Lincoln University out of debt and spearheaded a building boom that is transforming the nation's oldest historically black college, will retire in June.

Nelson, 76, guided Lincoln during a critical time in its history, when university officials decided to relinquish majority control of the Barnes Foundation board of directors, leading to the art collection's controversial move from the college to Philadelphia. The decision was seen by some as the catalyst behind the release of millions of dollars in state funds to the school.

Nelson joined Lincoln in 1999 after serving in leadership posts at Texas A&M University, Prairie View A&M University, and Central Washington State University. When he arrived at Lincoln, the infrastructure and many buildings were rundown, and the school was $15 million in debt.

In January 2000, the school's main electrical line had ruptured, so, with no power on campus, he had to send the 1,500 students home for three weeks. "We couldn't educate them, feed them, take care of them," Nelson said. "Our infrastructure had failed and we couldn't deliver."

During his presidency, Nelson has dealt with a faculty strike, controversies over a fitness course required for some students, and anti-Israel statements made by a tenured professor.

Since 2005, the school has built a $22 million residence hall, a new cultural center equipped with an art gallery, computer labs, and a 1,049-seat auditorium; a $40 million science and technology center (which will be renamed in Nelson's honor); and a newly renovated student union and library.

Due for completion in 2012 are a wellness center and athletic complex, capping off a $325 million campus makeover.

The school's enrollment, also, has grown from 2,000 in the 1999-2000 school year to 2,361.

A search committee has been formed to look for a new president.