Locals weigh in on university’s future
BY ANDREAS BUTLER
Bethune-Cookman University remains in jeopardy of closing its doors.
Recent media reports released details from an audit on the school’s finances which depict a bleak future for the historically Black university located in the heart of Daytona’s African-American community.
Moore Stephens Lovelace, an Orlando-based independent certified public accounting firm, conducted a financial audit which covered June 2017 to June 2018.
According to the document, B-CU is facing insurmountable debt. It also holds a junk bond status credit rating, is facing several multi-million-dollar lawsuits, and remains on probation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).
Interim President Hugh Grimes has implemented pay cuts, furloughs and layoffs and is trying to raise $7.5 million to keep the school open beyond June 30, 2020.
‘Shame’ if it happens
Local civic leaders, residents, and current students are concerned about B-CU’s future and the effect its closing would have on the local community.
“B-CU has an immense economic impact on this community. Those they do business with and the employees that live and shop here will lose. We as a city, county and state should be ashamed if happens.
“The work of Dr. Bethune helped introduce Daytona Beach to the world. Her influence is why her image will be placed in Statutory Hall in Washington, D.C. Everyone should be knocking on the door asking to help. Her reach in society goes far beyond the university,” responded Daytona Beach Zone 6 City Commissioner Paula Reed.
Quanita May, Daytona Beach Zone 3 city commissioner, echoed, “B-CU is a huge economic driver which supports many families by providing employment. The students support the local community. They consume, rent, buy and shop and support many local restaurants.
“Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune helped the community so much by opening the school here which attracted businesses, professionals and students from everywhere. If the school leaves, it would be bad historically, financially and emotionally.”
Most agree a closure would be devastating to the local economy.
“Like most citizens, I am very concerned. A closure or thought of closing this great university has a profound effect on the community. Bethune-Cookman has a great economic impact on the area as well as a spiritual and cultural impact.
“When the students and faculty shop in the Midtown area, it provides revenue. Our Midtown plans need to be improved to capitalize on this revenue by providing greater Wildcat shops for them to purchase goods and services. The avenue is not very welcoming for students to feel safe or spend money and it desperately needs to be brought up to date,” commented Pierre Louis, Midtown Redevelopment Board chair.
“It would be great if every student that ever attended donated a certain amount of money to save the school,” Louis added.
Local businesses would feel the sting from B-CU disappearing.
Jason Swiley, owner of Banana Boat Café Jamaican Kitchen on Mary McLeod Bethune Boulevard told the Times, “Let me give it to you straight. If the school shuts down, I lose 90 percent of my business which is from its students, faculty, staff, facility workers, etc. I don’t have 12 months to run a business; I have eight. I don’t know why I don’t get much local business, but I am close to the school. It’s been that way for three years.”
Alumni and students are concerned, too. The situation also touches their pride of their beloved alma matter.
“B-CU provides economic stability and development locally. The school employs thousands of people locally. The school provides higher education opportunities for locals too, which leads to better economic futures. As an alumnus, it’s a part of us. We took the oath of, “Enter to learn and depart to serve.’ Nobody wants to see their alma matter fail,” commented Tony Servance.
‘I can transfer’
B-CU freshman business administration major Jayla Brown is from Tampa.
She said, “I feel it would be a letdown to the local Black community and the world. It wouldn’t hurt me too much. I can transfer; I’m thinking about transferring. It would affect students’ pride in the school, its legacy and the legacy of Dr. Bethune.”
‘Losing vs. stealing’
Even those who currently make their living at B-CU have concerns.
A person employed through the school who wished not to be identified said, “We hope that the school bounces back. We are concerned about its future, as well as our jobs and our economic futures. There’s a difference between losing money and stealing money. It’s an uncertain situation to be in.”