Universities, Students Show Support for Morris Brown College

Universities, Students Show Support for Morris Brown College

ATLANTA

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools has received approximately 60 letters asking its board members to give Morris Brown College more time to fix its problems, says the association’s executive director, Dr. James T. Rogers.

SACS revoked Morris Brown’s accreditation two months ago because of financial problems, its lack of compliance with federal regulations for student financial aid and a failure to maintain audits and other documents (see Black Issues, Jan. 16).

Rogers says while the committee considers the Atlanta-based historically Black college’s situation unfortunate, the letters won’t be part of what board members review when they meet in the spring to reconsider Morris Brown’s accreditation.

When the appeals committee meets, the only issue that will be before board members is whether SACS officials acted unfairly or in a capricious manner in making its initial decision.

“No additional information or statements will be admissible for consideration by the appeals committee,” Rogers says. “We’re very concerned about this situation. But the fact of the matter is, the issues (Morris Brown is) dealing with right now should have been called to the attention of the community and those that care years ago when something could have been done to resolve them.”

A letter campaign, launched last month by the president and students of Howard University, is an effort to support Morris Brown officials and students.

“We’re working on making this a nationwide effort to preserve HBCUs,” says Howard University senior, Olu Burrell, who is spearheading the effort. The pre-written letters are posted on Howard University’s Web site on a page entitled, “Save Morris Brown College.”

As of Jan. 23, the Web page had received 17,656 hits and the letter itself had received more than 2,554 hits, according to a Howard University spokeswoman. The school is asking people to click on the site, print and mail the letter to all 77 SACS members.

Burrell says he has contacted the NAACP as well as the national headquarters of some Black fraternities and sororities. He also is asking student leaders at both HBCU and non-HBCU campuses to flood SACS with the letters. Howard University President H. Patrick Swygert wrote a letter to SACS expressing his concern that the loss of accreditation would force Morris Brown to close. The Council of Deans at Howard, of which Swygert is a member, wrote a similar letter to Rogers.

Eighteen SACS board members will be randomly selected and are expected to meet in March to decide Morris Brown’s fate.

“We don’t know who the 18 will be, so we’re sending letters to all of them,” Burrell says. “We’re targeting anybody who cares about it. We’re just trying to garner enough support as possible because time is definitely of the essence.”

While alumni, church and civic leaders scramble to help raise capital for the financially strapped college, Alabama State University in Montgomery, also is reaching out, waiving application deadlines which allowed eligible Morris Brown students to transfer to ASU.

Danielle Kennedy-Lamar, director of recruitment for Alabama State, says they accepted several students who met admission requirements. Two students were awarded scholarships that covered full and partial tuition, and 12 more students are in the pipeline to transfer to ASU this summer, she says.

A sister institution in a bordering state, ASU might have been a second choice for many Morris Brown students, Kennedy-Lamar says. These students were on a path to getting their degrees and they don’t want to disrupt that path, she says.

“We’re doing everything we can to accommodate these students who are trying to transfer,” Kennedy-Lamar adds. “It is a sister institution, so we feel sorry for the school but we also feel sorry for the students who are just trying to find a means to an end. We understand that there is pain on both ends.”

In addition to the letters flowing into Rogers’ office, students also were expected to plan a demonstration of support in Atlanta on Feb. 9, during the NBA All-Star Basketball Game. If all goes as planned, Burrell says students, athletes and activists will wear wristbands and carry banners outside Philips Arena where the game will be held.

Rogers says he wishes Morris Brown’s board of directors started earlier to convey the type of urgency they are now displaying.

As for mail that has been filling his office for the last two to three weeks, Rogers says SACS staff is responding to each letter individually.

“While I am aware of the sensitivities surrounding Morris Brown,” Rogers adds, “I am not in a position to reverse the decision.”

No date has been set for Morris Brown’s appeals hearing. But SACS officials say it will take place after seniors graduate March 15.

For more information on Howard
University’s letter campaign, visit .

— By Tracie Powell



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