Alcorn State Begins to Benefit From Ayers Settlement

LORMAN, Miss.

A new $12-million dining hall soon will be under construction at Alcorn State University in Lorman.

“It will be built right across the street from the library and will be the centerpiece of the new Alcorn,” said ASU President Dr. Clinton Bristow Jr.

Now and in the near future, numerous construction projects will be under way on campus, including new buildings and improvements to existing ones.

“There are three capital programs on campus this year, totaling about $20 million, and all are Ayers projects,” Bristow said.

Jake Ayers filed a lawsuit in 1975 against the state’s colleges and universities saying the three Black colleges had received less funding than the mostly White institutions.

The first payment from the Ayers fund went to Alcorn in recent weeks, as it has met the 10 percent diversity standard required under the settlement. Jackson State University and Mississippi Valley State University have not met that requirement.

Ayers funds are now guaranteed, almost $28 million over the next 20 years,” Bristow said. “That’s endowment money that gives us financial strength and leverage to plan how to improve our academic programs.”

In addition to the dining hall, a new biotechnology facility will be constructed. Furthermore, the school of business will undergo a major redesign. “Those three capital projects are Ayers projects,” Bristow said.

Another major addition to campus, funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is an ecology and research center.

“And, for our friends in historic preservation in Natchez, we have secured money to renovate three historic structures on the campus,” he said.

The old police station will be renovated to become an honors college. The former president’s house will become the alumni and faculty club. And the dormitory known as Dorm 3 will become a multicultural center.

“Two of these are under way. The other will be rebid,” Bristow said. “And we’re pleased that Johnny Waycaster of Natchez will be the architect on the multicultural center.”

Another improvement on campus will be construction of a two-mile bicycle path circling the campus.

“All of this is very significant for us,” Bristow said.

At the Natchez campus, professors, staff and students have moved into the long-awaited new business building, which houses the MBA program.

An open house and ribbon cutting planned for early fall was postponed until spring 2006 because of disruptions in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

The university executive committee is working on a strategic plan based on the projected payout from Ayers funds, Bristow said.

Alcorn received the maximum level in its most recent review, receiving a 10-year reaffirmation of accreditation, as did the nursing school in Natchez at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

“Alcorn has done extremely well,” he said.

—Associated Press



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