Regents Reprimand Tennessee State University President Over Mishandled Student Honors Program
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The state Board of Regents reprimanded the president of Tennessee State University earlier this month and stripped control of a student honors program from him after revelations the program has been mishandled.
The university first landed in trouble when state officials discovered the school collected $1.6 million more than it should have under the program.
The university received funding that should have gone to other schools because it reported financial information differently than other participating universities, says Rich Rhoda, executive director of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.
“Once we get a firm figure, we will start conversations with the Department of Finance and Administration and Comptroller’s Office to determine the best way of resolving that,” Rhoda says.
Later, a federal judge overseeing the university’s efforts to admit more White students as part of a long-running desegregation agreement said he was upset to learn that most students admitted under the honors program were African American.
U.S. District Judge Thomas A. Wiseman called that “disturbing.”
But Dr. James A. Hefner, the historically Black university’s president, says the honors program is designed to foster desegregation. Getting better students at the school will enhance its reputation, and make it more attractive to Whites, he contends.
The program, which began in 1994, was intended to be for an exclusive group of about 35 students, says Charles Smith, chancellor of the state Board of Regents. Tennessee State admitted more than 594 students under the program this year.
A 1994 regents’ memo suggests that only stellar students such as National Merit Scholars and semifinalists be selected. However, the board did not enact firm entrance requirements or set limits on the number of students who could be admitted.
Tennessee State recruited scores of students from throughout the country and set the entrance requirement at a minimum 3.0 high school grade-point average and a 21 on the ACT college entrance exam. More than half the students who take the ACT test nationwide score 21 or higher.
The regents formally reprimanded Hefner for ignoring an order to stop mishandling the program by allowing too many out-of-state students to enroll at in-state tuition prices. Smith had directed Hefner last fall to discontinue the tuition breaks.
Alabama A&M President Cleared of Some Ethics Allegations, Other Accusations Still Under Investigation
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Some ethics allegations against the president of Alabama A&M University and his wife are unfounded but state investigators continue to probe other claims — including payments made to the president’s wife for work allegedly never done.
“Some of these allegations have proven to be unfounded,” Richard Allen, the state’s chief deputy attorney general said in a prepared statement released earlier this month. “Some allegations are still under review by this and other investigative agencies.”
The Alabama Ethics Commission sent the case against Dr. John T. Gibson, the historically Black university’s president, and his wife, Voncile, to the state Attorney General’s office after an internal audit revealed irregular payments to Voncile Gibson.
The audit found she was paid $33,500 from 1994 to 1996 for conducting computer literacy labs for ROTC students that allegedly never took place. Auditor Gene Myracle also sent a report to U.S. Army officials stating that Voncile Gibson received $55,000 more in federal grants to the school’s ROTC cadet program than she should have.
The staff judge advocate at the ROTC Cadet Command at Fort Monroe, Va., has had the case under review, but there has been no comment on its status.
Gibson, who became president of Alabama A&M in July 1996, has been accused of signing off on documents asking for the extra pay for his wife when he was the university’s vice president of business and finance.
“As we’ve said all along and continue to maintain,” Gibson says, “when all of the facts are presented, we believe we will be exonerated.”
Trustees Fire Tribal College President
CASS LAKE, Minn. — Larry Aitken, the president of tiny Leech Lake Tribal College since it opened here nine years ago, was ousted earlier this month by tribal officials who serve as the college’s trustees.
Leech Lake Tribal Council Chairman Eli Hunt says that trustees appointed John Morrow as interim president because tribal officials and Aitken have “major philosophical differences regarding the direction of the college.”
Trustees are upset that the college has not received accreditation from the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, which has made it difficult for the college’s 155 students to receive financial aid or transfer their credits to other schools.
The college has been accredited as a vocational school, but Hunt says tribal officials want a higher certification. “We’re not satisfied that sufficient efforts were made to achieve accreditation,” he says.
University of Georgia Spends $500,000 to Defend Admissions Policy
ATHENS, Ga. — The University of Georgia has spent more than $500,000 to defend its admissions policy against legal challenges from applicants who contend they were shut out because of their gender or race, federal court records reveal.
That figure is bound to be pushed higher because last month three women filed yet another lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Savannah alleging the university illegally gives preferences to African American and male applicants.
“There has been a significant amount of time spent by the president, the staff, the Attorney General’s staff,” says Tom Landrum, executive assistant to the president. “There has been a lot of time and money invested. A lot of money, a lot of lawyers.”
Dr. Michael Adams, the university’s president, announced the state’s flagship school no longer would give males a slight admissions advantage over females, who make up 60 percent of this year’s freshman class (see Black Issues, Sept. 19).
African American students, who represent just 6 percent of the student body but 28 percent of the state’s population, receive a slight advantage under the university’s current admissions policies.
Last month, the university admitted a woman who had filed a suit saying her application was rejected because she’s a White female. Officials say they feared an injunction in that case could have kept them from admitting the entire freshman class.
The state should consider the cost of defending against the lawsuits plus the time that the state Attorney General and university’s staffs have spent on the legal challenges in deciding whether to alter the admissions policy, Adams says.
“The legal landscape is certainly shifting and we are trying to find some solid ground,” says university spokesman Tom Jackson. “Here you have a university that not so many years ago was under orders to diversify.”
University of Wisconsin Opens African Languages Resource Center
MADISON, Wis. — Fueled by a desire to popularize and professionalize the teaching of African languages to the level of French or German, the University of Wisconsin-Madison has started a resource center devoted to the languages’ instruction.
The National African Languages Resource Center, established through a $900,000 federal grant, opened this month as a place to train language teachers, develop curricula and distribute instructional materials.
“The field of language acquisition in French and German has really been developed, so it’s now prestigious for people to say, ‘I teach French’ or ‘I teach German,'” says Antonia Schleicher, the center’s director.
“Whereas with African languages, if you go to an African language professor they will say either they teach linguistics or African literature. It’s very rare for a faculty member in African languages to say, ‘I teach Swahili’ or ‘I teach Hausa.'”
Schleicher, also president of the African Language Teachers Association, hopes the center will encourage students of African languages to become instructors. Most teachers of African languages at American universities are native speakers, she says.
Schleicher herself teaches her native language, Yoruba, here at Madison. Yoruba is one of four African languages regularly offered at the university, which has long been recognized as a center for African studies. Its department of African languages and literature was founded in the early 1960s.
Mississippi’s HBCUs Could Get More Money to Resolve Deseg Case
JACKSON, Miss. — Higher education leaders here have asked state lawmakers for another $7.2 million for the state’s three historically Black colleges — funding some say is crucial to resolving a 24-year-old desegregation case.
The state is spending $4.8 million this year on programs and scholarships at Alcorn State, Jackson State and Mississippi Valley State universities as part of the Ayers higher education desegregation case.
“It’s important in terms of reaching a settlement that we continue to make this good faith effort,” says Tom Layzell, the state’s higher education commissioner. “It’s important to be able to show progress.”
Benedict College Study to Examine Urban Sprawl’s Effects on Black Residents
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Benedict College is conducting a study of how growth and urban sprawl affects the African American community here in Richland County in a variety of social contexts, college officials say.
The study, coordinated by Benedict’s vice president for community development, Sheila Ards, will examine 10 different areas in which urban growth heavily affects the county’s African American residents.
Areas of study include housing, health, schools, environmental justice, families, economic development and racial polarization. College officials say a pocket that has one of the state’s highest concentrations of Black property owners is of particular concern.
Richland County Council member Kit Smith requested the study.
“An example of what I’m interested in is the apparent two-sided coin for African Americans involved in urban growth,” she says. “While some areas want growth and development, in places that get it, some residents can’t afford to stay there.”
No money is forthcoming for the Benedict study, but Smith says she hopes grant money can be obtained from the Turner Foundation, which helped pay for a similar study in Atlanta.
Former Track Star Catches Bank Robber
RALEIGH, N.C. — Authorities here say that a Raleigh bank robber’s getaway failed when he was run down by a customer who happened to be a former college track star and martial arts expert.
Greg Coats, 38, chased down the suspected robber and marched him with a bag full of money still in hand back to the Centura branch after a holdup earlier this month, authorities say.
Police charged Barry Scott Kay, 40, of Henderson with armed robbery. Kay had implied he had a weapon when he demanded cash from a teller, police say.
Coats was an All-American in track and field in the 1980s at historically Black St. Augustine’s College, where he majored in criminal justice. Coats says the potentially risky collar was just another day at work.
A vice president of Poindexter & Associates, a Raleigh bail bond and private investigation firm, Coats also is a bail enforcement agent and an ex-Marine with a black belt in martial arts.
Coats says he was cashing a check when the robber dashed from the bank and the teller began screaming that she had been robbed. Grabbing his handgun and handcuffs from his car, Coats pursued the robber to a neighboring parking lot.
The robber was getting into his car when Coats pulled out his gun and closed in. “I made him get out, grabbed him by the neck, slammed him to the ground and walked him back to the bank,” Coats says.
Lawyer Cries ‘Foul’ Over Prosecution of University of Wisconsin Coach’s Son in Animal Cruelty Case
MADISON, Wis. — Chad Alvarez, the 23-year-old son of University of Wisconsin football coach Barry Alvarez, is being singled out for prosecution on animal rights charges because of his father’s fame, his lawyer contends.
Chad Alvarez faces a fine of up to $10,000 and two years in jail for stealing a fraternity brother’s parrot and roasting the bird in a microwave oven. His lawyer, Stephen Hurley, is asking that the charges be dismissed.
Hurley contends that other people here convicted of torturing dogs, shooting birds and killing cats have been treated more leniently. “The only explicable difference between the handling of the accused’s case and these other individuals is the accused’s status as the son of a prominent individual,” Hurley says.
But Judy Schwaemle, the deputy district attorney here for Dane County, says Hurley’s assertions are far-fetched. “The alleged facts of the case speak for themselves,” she says.
From Rap Star to College Student
ATLANTA — Former rapper Mase shocked the hip hop world earlier this year when he gave up rap in search of a higher calling. Now, the 20-year-old gospel artist is seeking a higher education.
Mase, a star in producer Sean “Puffy” Combs’ Bad Boy musical clique whose real name is Mason Betha, enrolled at Clark Atlanta University this semester, where he is majoring in business. He visited the school three months ago before enrolling.
“He fits right in and acts just like any other student,” says spokeswoman Getchel Caldwell. “He’s not signing autographs. He’s very serious about his education.”
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