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Bethune-Cookman president says school facing an ‘existential threat’

Financial and accreditation issues stir blame game and protests this week

11:47 AMBethune-Cookman University is in the news this week, for all the wrong reasons: student protests, accusations of financial mismanagement, rumors of firings and loss of accreditation, and dysfunction on the board of trustees.

All of this stems from what interim president Hubert Grimes calls “an existential threat,” which he has vowed to corrrect to get the university back into good standing. The crux of the problems stems from a bad deal involving the construction of a dormitory that is expected to cost the school millions more than it should.

Students protested on campus Monday and Tuesday, seeking answers and a voice in the decisions that will affect their futures.

“Our problems reflect the culmination of years of inadequate accountability, suspect governance and, quite frankly, inexcusable management decisions,” said Grimes, interim president since July 2017. He replaced controversial president Edison Jackson, who stepped down in July 2017, about a year before his contract was set to expire.

Jackson left the school after a Daytona Beach News-Journal investigation found the university was vastly overpaying for a new dorm, which was originally estimated at $72.1 million and now will cost $306 million over 40 years.

The controversy about the dorm comes up this week as the university’s accrediting organization, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), plans a visit Thursday and Friday. SACS placed the university on probation earlier this year because of issues ranging from financial instability to inflated enrollment numbers.

If Bethune-Cookman loses accreditation, students won’t be eligible for federal grants or loans. Students have said on social media and elsewhere that if the situation doesn’t get resolved, they will be forced to leave.

Grimes asked for patience amd vowed transparency as the school tries to regain stability: “There is little to be gained by detailing the unfortunate and potentially fatal financial decisions made related to our dorm transaction.”

But Grimes declined Tuesday to discuss a forensic audit that had been provided to members of the media, saying the report “speaks for itself.” The report, written by someone who described himself as a former special agent for the IRS, largely focused on a scholarship that has been paid for by the university since 2013.

Adding to the controversies was Bethune-Cookman National Alumni Association president Robert Delancy, who on Monday pushed to have Michelle Carter-Scott, the board of trustees chairwoman, dismissed and the board restructured.

He said at a news conference that Carter-Scott was partly responsible for the university’s dormitory crisis and she failed to follow through on an obligation to provide $640,000 in scholarships to Bethune-Cookman students through the foundation.

NCCU lineman Nick Leverett surprised with 2018 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team trophy

Leverett is the only HBCU student-athlete to receive the award this season

11:40 AMNick Leverett just thought he was going to practice on Oct. 10. But upon arrival, the North Carolina Central University offensive lineman was awarded the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team trophy for his commitment to service in his community.

During team huddle, representatives from the university’s athletics department and Allstate walked onto the practice field to award him. Leverett is the only student-athlete from a historically black college or university (HBCU) to receive the honor this season.

“In the last three years, I’ve watched Nick grow into one of the finest young men that I know,” NCCU football head coach Granville Eastman said in a statement on the school’s website. “Nick is not only a model student-athlete, but he is also a model citizen. He is one of the best and the brightest that we have to offer.”

According to a press release, Leverett is heavily involved in the campus community, his hometown and surrounding areas. During his time at NCCU, the Concord, North Carolina, native has collected donations and food to feed those in need for Thanksgiving, spoken to local students about building character, participated in domestic violence awareness activities and rounded up mentees to feed the homeless around Durham. On multiple occasions, Leverett has volunteered at Habitat for Humanity, helping to build homes for those less fortunate.

Leverett graduated in three years with his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice in July and is now pursuing his master’s degree in public administration. He is a member of Omega Psi Phi fraternity.

For more than 25 years, the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team has honored the college football players whose charitable involvement and community service contributions stand out among the more than 50,000 student-athletes participating in the sport.

Leverett, NCCU’s team captain and a two-time All-Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference offensive lineman, is one of 22 college football players from across the country to be named to the 2018 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team and is the only student agent from an HBCU chosen. Of the 169 nominees, 11 players from the Football Bowl Subdivision and 11 players from the Football Championship Subdivision, Divisions II and III and the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics were selected for the 22-player team.

The student-athletes nominated for this honor were chosen because, according to the Allstate team, “they display a commitment to enriching the lives of others while contributing to the greater good of their communities.”

Leverett and the 2018 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team members will be invited to New Orleans to participate in a community project before the 2019 Allstate Sugar Bowl in January. They will also receive honors during the halftime show to air on ESPN.