Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Edward Waters Seniors Get Accredited Degrees; Reminders of School's Accreditation Fight Ring out Loudly from Graduation Podium

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Edward Waters Seniors Get Accredited Degrees; Reminders of School's Accreditation Fight Ring out Loudly from Graduation Podium

Article excerpt

Byline: BETH KORMANIK

Edward Waters College students who proudly accepted their degrees at a commencement ceremony Saturday were reminded over and over that those degrees are accredited.

That's no small thing to members of the senior class such as Juan West, who wondered if the school would rebound from a plagiarism scandal that cost its accreditation and left the 139-year-old college's future uncertain.

"This whole year was a struggle. At times, I was like, I didn't know if I wanted to go back to school," West said. "I thought about transferring, but as a senior it would be like starting over."

West was accepted as a transfer student at the University of North Florida, but after talking it over with his family, he decided to stay at Edward Waters.

On Saturday, he received his degree in biology and has plans to teach and apply to veterinary school.

His advice for Edward Waters underclassmen: "Keep focused, and you can do the same thing."

But the school's future is in the hands of a federal court.

Edward Waters is suing the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, which revoked its accreditation after school officials copied parts a key accreditation document from two other colleges. Edward Waters administrators were found to be without integrity or competence to run the school.

A federal judge allowed Edward Waters to regain its accreditation while it undergoes court-ordered mediation with the Southern Association.

At the morning baccalaureate service, African Methodist Episcopal Bishop McKinley Young compared the school's struggle to the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

"We've not always gotten justice from the mainstream, and we have had to resort to the judicial system," said Young, who is chairman of the Edward Waters Board of Trustees. "Edward Waters took the bold, big step to do this so you could have this [graduation] day."

The legal battle so far has cost Edward Waters $276,000, Young said, and he told the students "the struggle is not over. …

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