On the Brink of Disaster: How HBCUs Can Get Back on Track: Texas Southern University and Florida A&M University Are Rebounding from Some Serious Challenges While Some Other HBCUs Are Removed from Probationary Status
Bennett, Joy T., Ebony
IN MEDICAL TERMS, Florida A&M University (FAMU) has a financial cold, while Texas Southern University (TSU), recognized as the second-largest historically Black College in the country, is recovering from pneumonia.
FAMU was recently placed on a six-month probationary status for financial management issues, a situation its new president and financial officers vowed to correct with an "integrated action plan" to address concerns raised by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS).
During the probationary period, all of FAMU's academic programs remain intact, all the services offered by the University will continue and students will be eligible to apply for and receive federal financial aid, according to FAMU officials.
FAMU is the No. 1 producer of African-American teachers and has approximately 9,930 full-time students. "I want to assure you that the probationary status does not affect FAMU's current accreditation status," says Larry Robinson, FAMU's CEO. "The university remains fully accredited by SACS. We have six months to make progress."
Making financial progress is also the plan for historic Texas Southern University. To say that TSU has had an arduous year is like saying it's "kinda warm" in Texas in the summertime--a massive understatement.
From the ousting of its president last year for alleged financial improprieties to the state's Republican governor's radical call for conservatorship, since last summer the university has found itself constantly on the ropes, reeling from a barrage of punches.
Last year an internal audit indicated that former TSU President Priscilla D. Slade had improperly spent $647,949 in university money on personal expenses over seven years. Slade, who was fired by the board last year, has contested the audit's findings. At press time, she faced trial in August on two criminal charges of misspending university funds.
In May, TSU's former chief financial officer, Quintin Wiggins, was convicted of misusing nearly 5;300,000 to help Slade lavishly furnish and landscape her home. His attorney says he plans to appeal. These events led a panel to recommend that the TSU Board of Regents be replaced. The panel said the board's management failures led to a "disingenuous culture" at the university.
The university's interim president, Brigadier General J. Timothy Boddie Jr., told EBONY that the university is bouncing back from last year's tumultuous events and the school is open for business. Recently, Texas lawmakers approved a budget package for the university that included $13.6 million in supplemental funds--an additional $25 million would be allocated for academic programs, but it is contingent on approval of a reform plan.
While the state legislature rejected Texas Gov. Rick Perry's request for a state-appointed conservator, it did give the green light for the governor to fill all the vacancies on TSU's nine-member Board of Regents. The past Regents resigned under pressure.
"Texas Southern University has received appropriate funding from the Texas Legislature to address student needs. We have strengthened the university's administrative structure and are developing a plan to ensure our long-term stability," Boddie says. "Students and their parents should know that TSU is back on track and only getting stronger."
Founded in 1947, TSU has an enrollment of more than 11,000 students and offers more than 120 baccalaureate, master and doctoral degree programs in 10 schools and colleges. "TSU will not lose its independence on my watch!" says Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a fierce advocate for the school located on 130 acres in the heart of her 18th Congressional District. Jackson has been a tireless TSU supporter, passing legislative amendments to encourage federal agencies to work with HBCUs on access to grants and other benefits, and providing technical assistance to the schools so that they will not be overburdened while trying to pay federal debt. …