Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

If Edward Waters Closes, the Big Loser Is Jacksonville

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

If Edward Waters Closes, the Big Loser Is Jacksonville

Article excerpt

Byline: Ronald L. Littlepage, Times-Union columnist

If you haven't driven along Kings Road during the last several years, traveling west past the main U.S. post office, it would be worth taking the trip.

The community along Kings Road is rebounding from hard times and much of the credit goes to the resurgence of Edward Waters College, the historically black school founded in 1866 to educate newly freed slaves.

The Edward Waters campus has more than doubled in size. Old run-down buildings have been renovated into nice dorms. Other parts of the campus have been spruced up. A new multi-purpose building is under construction.

Proving the adage that a rising tide floats all boats, the neighborhood surrounding the campus is improving as well.

The person pointed to most often as the driving force behind the positive changes is the college's president, Jimmy Jenkins.

Under Jenkins, the school has gone from being deep in debt and having only 300 students to being financially sound and having a student body of 1,300.

Now all of it may be blown because of a colossal blunder.

The Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools voted to strip Edward Waters of its accreditation last weekend because part of the work the school had submitted for re-accreditation had been plagiarized.

Losing its accreditation would more than likely kill Edward Waters. Enrollment would likely plummet because students would no longer be eligible for federal financial aid and a degree from a non-accredited school would be worth little.

All of the good work of the past several years would be undone.

School officials were surprised by the severity of the punishment and that surprise may be at the core of the problem.

When The Times-Union first reported on the plagiarism last October, school officials, including Jenkins, acted as if it wasn't that big of a deal.

That continued to be the casewhen officials blamed the growing scandal on one administrator who was new to the school and who compiled the report in question.

Instead, Jenkins should have been crying to anyone who would listen, "My God, my God, how did this happen? …

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