Troubled HBCUs: FAMU President Resigns; VUU Receives Warning

Virginia Union UniversityNew Journal and Guide Staff Report
(Compiled from news and press reports)  

    Within the past month, several historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) have received warnings from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, (SACS) and the president of Florida A& M University has resigned.
    James Ammons resigned on July 11 after receiving a no-confidence vote from the FAMU board in November, following the hazing death of band member Robert Champions, whose parents added the university’s name to a wrongful death lawsuit the same day Ammons resigned. The lawsuit claims FAMU officials didn’t take enough action to stop hazing. An interim president has been named.
    “I have decided to resign from my position as president in order to initiate my retirement on Oct. 11, 2012,” he said in his July 11 resignation letter. Ammons will continue as a tenured professor.
    As Ammons steps down, several HBCUs are struggling to reverse accreditation sanctions. Virginia Union University in Richmond and Grambling State University in Louisiana, received recent warnings from SACS. While less severe than probation, a warning is a serious sanction that can lead to loss of accreditation, the commission states on its Web site. Saint Paul’s College in Virginia recently lost its accreditation.

 James Ammon    VUU was placed on warning June 28, the same week SACS voted to remove the accreditation of Saint Paul’s in Lawrenceville.
    VUU could face additional sanctions when the board meets again in December if it fails to show it has dramatically improved its financial resources. The school also is not complying with regulations that govern the federal Higher Education Opportunity Act, SACS noted.
    Saint Paul’s College, founded in 1888, had been on probation for two years, largely as a result of its financial problems and the accreditors’ questions about whether it had adequate resources for student and administrative support and about the faculty’s academic qualifications.
    Saint Paul’s recently announced that acting president Eddie N. Moore Jr. will return home to Texas for a long- delayed medical procedure. Claud Flythe, a 35-year veteran at Virginia State University, has been named interim president.
    Moore said he would file an appeal, after SACS announced its decision in June. “To say we are disappointed is a terrible under-statement,” Moore said in a June 21 press release. “To have raised nearly $5 million in six months despite the challenges before us, and effected a managerial and strategic turn-around putting the college on a trajectory for a solid future was a team effort which resulted in a monumental achievement. If we can do this in half a year – imagine what we could do if allowed to continue reaffirmed.”
    St. Paul’s also announced that Richmond attorney Ashley L. Taylor will advise trustees on the future of the college. Taylor is a former deputy attorney general for Virginia. Saint Paul’s came up about $300,000 short of the $5 million it hoped to raise to prove its financial stability.
    Grambling University has six months to solve its financial problems. But news reports and releases show that state budget cuts may have helped to jumpstart this latest chain of events at Grambling. In 2009, state lawmakers proposed cutting $5.5 million in state funding to Grambling.
    Regarding its recent six-month probation Grambling University President  Frank G. Pogue said in a news release, “The university has ... been placed on warning for six months as a result of concerns related to the following: Comprehensive Standard 3.10.3 (Control of Finances) and Comprehensive Standard 3.11.1 (Control of Physical Resources) of the Principles of Accreditation.”
    In December 2004, Grambling won back its accreditation after being placed on probation in 2001. The problem was the school’s financial record-keeping system. But the record-keeping problem started in 1998, when records were lost while the university converted to a new computer system. Grambling President Steve Favors resigned from his post under pressure in January of 2001. Grambling’s lost records were restored, and the school was able to get its first clean audit in nearly five years.
    Still, Grambling has survived five significant budget cuts in the last few years. Estimates place the cuts at about $17.8 million, or 56 percent, over the last three years. Grambling officials said, “The university cannot stave off excruciating budget cuts without help,” in a news release.
    Around the time Grambling was threatened with state budget cuts in 2009, two other HBCUs went to court to resolve accreditation challenges. For example, Hampton University in Virginia filed suit to restore the reputation of what school officials call “a proven” pharmacy program,” in a news release.
    In a March 9, 2009 press release, Hampton University stated, “Hampton University has filed suit in federal court against the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) following the University’s Doctor of Pharmacy program placement in a probationary status.”  
    Hampton filed suit in U.S. District Court for the eastern district of Virginia to have the probation status rescinded, and to stop any adverse action for two years.
That same year, in 2009, Xavier University of Louisiana and the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) amicably resolved a suit Xavier filed to lift the probation imposed on Xavier’s College of Pharmacy.
    According to a story in The Times-Picayune, Xavier refuted the council’s findings, arguing the information regarding pharmacy faculty was based on outdated reports and inaccurate forms submitted by a new employee.
    The situation was summed up in a March 11, 2009 story in Diverse Issues in Higher Education. “As one historically black university resolves litigation with the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education, another, Hampton University, ignites a similar suit against the same agency to restore the reputation of what school officials call a proven pharmacy program.”
    Both schools are fully accredited.

Last modified on Thursday, 19 July 2012 10:32

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