Alumni group stepping up the pressure on B-CU

PHOTOS BY DUANE C. FERNANDEZ SR./HARDNOTTSPHOTOGRAPHY.COM A crowd of mostly Bethune-Cookman alumni listens to speakers.

BY ANDREAS BUTLER
DAYTONA TIMES

The Concerned Constituents Committee of Bethune-Cookman University laid out a plan to address B-CU’s finances and reform its leadership during a Feb. 3 meeting at Stewart-Memorial United Methodist Church.

The meeting came days after it was learned that B-CU is being sued for at least $1 million by South Florida developer Heron Development Group LTD for backing out of a student housing development called MLK Lofts scheduled to be built on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

More money issues
That revelation came as the committee was still reeling over the news that B-CU is set to lose money after an on-campus dorm project ballooned from $72 million to $85 million. Around $300 million could be lost during the tenure of a 30-year lease.

A complete audit of the school’s finances is being sought by the committee. Specific dates cited are from 2012 to 2017, which is during the presidency of Dr. Edison Jackson.

Immediate resignations
Anyone on a Board of Trustee committee from 2014 to 2017 is being asked to resign immediately, which includes Interim President Hubert Grimes who was previously B-CU’s legal counsel and Michelle Carter-Scott, the board’s new executive committee chair.

The committee also is calling for an outside firm or organization to assist in the process and wants to see a president hired with a strong fund-raising. The president should be in place by spring 2019, the committee added.
“B-CU will not die but will survive. We want to bring these things directly to the BOT (Board of Trustees) and get answers,’’ said Dr. Shelia Flemming-Hunter, co-chair of the committee which was formed last year.

“We want to hit social media and do petitions as well. Not just alumni but friends and anyone who have the heart and care of our institution to help us in what we are doing,”

Presidential concerns
Co-chair Sumner Hutch-eson also urged attendees to bombard the Board of Trustees with letters and emails.

“A university president should have great fundraising abilities. The school hasn’t had a capital campaign since the 1980s and ’90’s,” Hucheson stated.

The university is suing Jackson and current Virginia Union President as well as former Vice President for Institutional Advancement Dr. Hakim Lewis for illicit and fraudulent conduct.

According to Board of Trustees minutes, Jackson overstated school enrollment numbers.

No board response
National Alumni Association President Jennifer Loper-Adams did not respond to the Daytona Times’ request for comment by its Wednesday night deadline. However, Carter-Scott plans to respond to questions in an upcoming issue.

According to the committee, neither the Board of Trustees nor the administration had responded to the committee’s demands.

‘No answers’
Norma Lewis attended Bethune-Cookman. So did her eight children.

“I attended but earned my degree in nursing at St. Petersburg College – B-CC (Bethune-Cookman College) didn’t offer it then. My kids also attended Cookman with four earning their degrees there.

“I like what the CCC/B-CU is doing. The school needs help and to be more responsive. The NAA should also be responsive. These things were requested back in October and there are still no answers, but more problems are arising, “she remarked.

“There needs to be an audit. The NAA should be working with the CCC/B-CU. If answers can be provided, then help can be given to alleviate the problems.’’

‘On the same page’
Alum Janice Wright Walton also liked the way the committee is tackling the school’s issues.

“We’re all on the same page. I’m concerned about B-CU, which has always been a part of my life. The school has been there for all who wanted to make a better life for themselves and others,” Walton said.

“The current problems need to be addressed so that we can move forward. Whoever is in charge needs to get back to the dream, life and legacy of Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune,” she added. “We must do what’s right. We need to get back to bettering future generations. The school’s legacy is for all people.”

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