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Crisis at B-CU, Florida's Largest HBCU: Part I

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Compiled by the Florida Courier Staff –

The surprising termination of Bethune-Cookman University (B-CU) Head Basketball Coach Clifford Reed – after the most successful basketball season at the school in 30 years – is the latest of a series of personnel decisions by B-CU President Trudie Kibbe Reed that has the school lurching from management of one crisis to another.

Here’s what’s happened at B-CU in just the last month:

— After terminating seven instructors in 2009, the Reed administration was placed on the American Association of University Professors’ (AAUP) list of “censured administrations,” which means that conditions for academic freedom and tenure are unsatisfactory at a college or university. B-CU is now one of only 47 institutions nationwide on the censure list.

The AAUP found that “in many instances critical to academic freedom and tenure, the university had no published procedures, and where it did, the (Reed) administration often failed to follow them, producing a chilling effect on academic freedom.” Notably, Reed’s administration had been previously censured by AAUP under similar circumstances in 2004, when she was president of Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Ark. There, she fired an instructor for insubordination.

B-CU responded dismissively to the AAUP report.

"This (AAUP) report, which concerns the termination of seven faculty members by B-CU in 2009, contains many errors and false assertions and presents a one-sided view of the manner in which the university handled the matters in question,” said Pamela G. Browne, the school’s general counsel, in a statement.

The university released its own report written by civil rights attorney David Honig that justified the terminations and cited support for its decision by the Rev. Al Sharpton, the National Council of Negro Women and Adora Obi Nweze, president of the Florida State Conference of NAACP Branches.

— Four of the former B-CU professors of the seven Reed fired – Russell Mootry, Trebor Negron, Smart Uhakheme and John Ukawuilulu – filed a lawsuit rebutting allegations that they were having sexual relations off-campus with female students for years. Mootry had taught at the school for some 30 years. Their lawsuit alleges that Reed and the university defamed them, breached their employment contract and tenure provisions, and wrongfully terminated them. They also claim that Reed and the school fired them in retaliation for making her aware of violations of law that were happening under her watch, including alleged embezzlement, theft, and vendor kickbacks.

B-CU was just served with the lawsuit last week and has yet to respond. In its response to AAUP, the university claims that the professors were threats to student safety and were terminated legally and accordingly.

— Last week, B-CU lost the best baseball coach in school history and its entire coaching staff to another historically Black college or university (HBCU). Mervyl Melendez resigned to go Alabama State University – and took his championship staff with him.

Melendez was 379-320 in 12 seasons as head coach and led the B-CU Wildcats to 11 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) titles and NCAA tournament appearances, including six straight regional games.

He also played for the Wildcats. He is the school’s all-time leader in doubles and batting average. Melendez made the first HBCU All-American Team in 1996. He was an All-MEAC and All-MEAC Tournament selection in 1995 and 1996. His parting from B-CU was more amicable than the others.

"Mervyl is pound-for-pound one of the best coaches I have ever been around," said B-CU Director of Athletics Lynn W. Thompson in a statement, "but he is a far greater husband, father, and teacher than that. It has truly been an honor to watch him bloom into a legend, and I wish him well in his search for life's next challenge. We truly hate to see him leave the campus, but he can never leave our family."

Melendez said Alabama State made “an offer I couldn’t refuse,” including a commitment to make financial resources available to improve its baseball program. Alabama State also has a new baseball facility.

— The Alvin Wyatt lawsuit continues and is in the fact-finding phase. The school fired former head football coach Alvin “Shine’’ Wyatt, Sr. at the end of the 2009 season immediately after B-CU lost badly to archrival Florida A&M University (FAMU) at the Florida Classic in Orlando.

Soon thereafter, Wyatt filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against B-CU. Court records indicate that Wyatt has asked the trial court to set a date for a jury trial. He also has moved aggressively to have Reed and B-CU’s top leadership answer questions under oath before a court reporter, a procedure known as a “deposition.” Court records also show that on May 25, B-CU submitted an offer to Wyatt to settle the case.

Wyatt, a Jacksonville native, played for the Wildcats from 1966 to 1969, where he was an all-conference and All-American player. He has the school career records in interceptions (34) and a 100-yard kickoff return. His five interceptions in a single game is still a school record.

After earning his degree from the former Bethune-Cookman College in 1970, he was drafted by the NFL’s Oakland Raiders in 1970. He spent four years in pro football before returning to B-CC in 1975 as an assistant coach under former Miami Dolphin Larry Little.

Wyatt was later named defensive coordinator and helped the Wildcats win the MEAC title in 1984. In 1988, Wyatt's defense helped B-CC gain a share of the MEAC title with FAMU and Delaware State.

He became B-CC's ninth head coach in 1996, won a MEAC title in 2002, and in 2008 became the school’s all-time winningest coach, passing the legendary Rudolph “Bunky” Matthews.

Wyatt also was a girls basketball coach for 18 years, compiling a 260-200 record and winning two MEAC titles.

School successes
During Reed’s tenure, B-CU has had major and minor successes.

Bethune-Cookman College became a university in 2007 and was reaccredited in 2010, which means it meets all university academic and operational standards. New campus facilities are being built.

Students in science, math and engineering recently won first place in robotics in a regional competition. The university was approved to institute a new master’s degree in integrated environmental science. It has successfully applied for modest grants – $50,000 from Home Depot for campus improvements, $64,000 to partner with the local health department to push healthy lifestyles.

But still, on-campus and courtroom drama continues.

No Hollywood ending
Coach Reed and his son, star point guard C.J. Reed, had been lauded nationwide for leading the Wildcats to their first winning season since joining Division I in 1980-81. B-CU went 21-13 overall and 13-3 in the MEAC, winning the regular season crown.

The Wildcats made their first-ever postseason appearance with a trip to the National Invitational Tournament, losing to Virginia Tech in the opening round. Reed was MEAC Coach and National Association of Black Coaches, Coach of the Year for Region 15. C.J. was named MEAC Player of the Year, HBCU Player of the Year and HBCU First Team All-American.

It all came crashing down Monday when B-CU announced in a 51-word press release that after an internal administrative review, Coach Reed would not return, his contract would not be renewed, and his employment was terminated effective immediately.

Why the termination?
The reason depends on whom you ask. The university says it’s because Coach Reed refused to cooperate with a criminal investigation surrounding a rape allegation against his players – with his son as the prime suspect. Coach Reed’s defenders say that as a father, he was required to help his son avail himself of his constitutional right to retain legal counsel when the son became the focus of the criminal investigation.

The salacious facts as listed in a Daytona Beach Police Department (DBPD) report are not in dispute.

A B-CU female athlete accused C.J. Reed of getting her drunk and either raping her himself or allowing four other unknown males to rape her, and taking her to a B-CU men’s locker room where an unknown male washed her off.

The allegation against C.J. Reed was made more than a month after the alleged incident and was prompted when the young woman’s coach saw a passion mark – a “hickey” – on her neck. She started crying and told her coach that she had been raped some 30 days before, according to the police report.

When DBPD investigators pressed her after she made her original police report, the young woman admitted that she had had a months-long consensual sexual relationship with C.J. as well as with one of his teammates, and that she was also having sex with her hometown boyfriend when she returned to South Florida. C.J. and his teammate each knew they were having sex with the young woman.

The young woman asked police to terminate their investigation and no criminal charges were ever filed.

No comment
When asked about the termination, Coach Reed told the Florida Courier, “I have no comment. I was terminated. I thank God for the support that I had and the school for the opportunity.”

The coach added, “It’s time to move on. God will bless me. My life doesn’t stop. I will continue to work hard and be a man of character and discipline. I put mine up against anyone that I have worked for or with.”

Player and coach
Like Wyatt, Coach Reed has deep roots at Bethune-Cookman.

A junior college transfer, Clifford Reed played two seasons for the Wildcats (1990-1991), averaging 21 points per game for his career. He led the Wildcats in scoring in both seasons and made a single-game school record eight three-point field goals and is 17th on the school’s career scoring list. He earned his bachelor’s degree in physical education in 1991.

Reed spent 14 seasons coaching the Wildcats. He was an assistant coach before taking over with 11 games remaining in the 2000-2001 season, going 6-5. In nine-plus seasons as head coach, Reed went 125-166, including three straight winning seasons dating back to 2008-2009.

His son, C.J, is now sixth on the school’s all-time career scoring list.

B-CU responses limited
When contacted by the Florida Courier, B-CU President Reed said, "I'm on vacation and I'm away and out of operation right now and I really ask you to help me and respect my vacation. I am really out of commission for doing university business right now. I won't be back until the 20th.

“Just to let you know, I've had some upper respiratory problems, came here and got another infection and so I'm just on bed rest. You can call Meredith Rodriguez; she will be glad to help you or my vice president Hiram Powell. Just call my office and ask them to transfer you to Dr. Powell or Meredith. Meredith is our P.R. person."

The representative answering the phone at Powell’s office said he is out of the country. Athletic Director Thompson did not return the Florida Courier’s phone calls or voicemail messages.

Rodriguez said that the Clifford Reed incident is an internal personnel matter and is under investigation and that therefore the university cannot comment at this time.

Next week: B-CU and due process.

Florida Courier reporters Andreas Butler, Ashley Thomas, James Harper and Jenise Morgan all contributed to this report.

Public Ambivalent About Osama bin Laden Death

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By Eric Mayes, Special to the NNPA from The Philadelphia Tribune –

Officials with the local chapter of the Council on American Muslim Relations greeted the news of Osama bin Laden’s death with a relief shared by most Americans.

We’re proud of President Obama and of our Armed Forces for bringing justice to the world,” said Meoin Khawaja, executive director of the local group. “He’s attacked people all over the world.”

Bin Laden’s role — and that of all radical Muslims — in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks cast a shadow over all Muslims, Khawaja said.

“I’ll never forget that day 10 years ago when my country was attacked,” Khawaja said. “I’ll also never forget that my religion and that of over one billion people was tarnished in such a manner that Osama bin Laden became one of the most recognized Muslims in the world. Now, I’m confident that my fellow Americans know that Islam isn’t and never was bin Laden or his ideology, but like all religions is a path to peace and love.”

Spontaneous celebrations were reported in New York City and Washington D.C. The Phillies game was interrupted when the crowd broke into chants of “U.S.A.” and “Bye Bye Bin Laden” after news of his death in a U.S. raid was reported.

Individually, Philadelphians had varied reactions.

“Next they should go after Bush,” said William Payton. “You let his family out of the United States.”

Payton refused to be swept up in the euphoria reported across the nation.

“Show me some proof that he’s dead,” Payton said. “He might be; he might not be. I want to see some proof.”

Photos of a blood spattered Bin Laden were flashed across the globe in Monday morning’s papers. Reports from both CBS and ABC news said they were composite photos and that the White House had withheld real photos because of their gruesome nature.

“You can put anything in the paper,” said Payton.

Officials in Washington said they had DNA samples to prove that the al Qaida leader was in fact dead.

Others took officials at their word.

“Mr. Obama made a promise and he kept it,” said a woman who asked to be identified only by the initials D.E., adding that she was relieved by the news. “Now they will go after the rest of them and they will stop killing people.”

Like Payton, she suggested that bin Laden was not caught during the Bush administration because of personal or financial concerns.

“Why didn’t Bush get him a long time ago?” she asked rhetorically. “They were friends.”

Several Muslims declined to discuss the death.

“I don’t get into politics,” said a young man wearing a taqiyah and shalwar kameez, as he stood near the Clothes Pin across from City Hall with a woman in a full burqa. He declined to give his name.

Another man agreed.

“I’ll let God handle this,” the man said. He too refused to give his name. “He [bin Laden] never did anything to me.”

Others were glad that the terror leader was dead.

“I’m at peace,” said O. James. “Hopefully, all this comes to an end. I hope it brings peace.” Officials with the Department of Homeland Security and city police were on heightened alert following the news.

James said was concerned about the possibility of retaliation.

“You still have his followers out there,” she said.

Khawaja remained optimistic.

“It’s the long-term beginning of the end,” he said. “I really hope and feel that this is the beginning of the next 10 years, and that the next 10 years will be a winding down of terrorism.”

Contact staff writer Eric Mayes at (215) 893-5742 or emayes@phillytrib.com.

Racist Letter Addressed to Black Students at Pennsylvania School

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By Christian Morrow, Special to the NNPA from the New Pittsburgh Courier –

“Maybe if you niggers wernt (sic) in this school, west a (sic) might actually be a perfect school. So do us a favor and get the f… out you motherf… niggers!”

That is just part of a letter eight African-American students found on their seats—personally addressed—when they arrived for their first-period classes at West Allegheny High School in Imperial, April 15.

“It was a total surprise to me. I wasn’t so much scared as shocked,” said sophomore Lewis Walls. “I never expected anything like this to happen.”

Calls to the district for comment were not returned by New Pittsburgh Courier deadline.

Walls’ mother, Sheila Johns, contacted the Courier about the incident 10 days later, after growing frustrated with the lack of action by the school district.

“They’re saying it’s an isolated incident and they’re investigating, but they don’t know who did it,” she said. “Some parents think it could have been an adult because some of the spelling mistakes seem intentional, but we don’t know. A lot of us came out here to get away from the craziness in the city and to get a better education for our kids—and now we get this.”

Bonita Pannell’s daughter Tyler also received a letter, but Pannell, whose children have been in the West Allegheny District for several years, said this incident is just the latest in a long progression.

“My son is 27 now, and things like this were going on when he was still here,” she said. “There have been incidents of nasty texts, calling people names in the cafeteria and the principal keeps saying they are isolated incidents. But, if there are this many, how isolated can it be?”

Pannell said some think it could be related to a fight between a White girl and a Black girl the day before, which resulted in both being suspended. However, the White girl received 10 days for instigating the fight, twice as much time as the Black student.

“The principal said they are looking at security tapes, but how long does that take,” she said. “So we’ve gotten together and sent a certified letter to the principal and superintendent asking for a May 2 meeting with all the parents, before we take this to the school board May 11.”

Don Elvoid’s two sons also had letters addressed to them. Both were so angered by the incident that the vice principal asked her to take them out of the school for the rest of the day.

“I’d heard it stemmed from the fight too, but that’s just rumors,” she said. “I tell my boys to deal in facts, but right now we don’t have any. So, when we meet with the principal, we’re going to ask for some changes. Kids shouldn’t have to put up with this. Now that we’ve sent the letter, I expect a different tone.”

Walls agreed, he said one student in his class let loose a verbal assault laced racial epithets on another Black student in the cafeteria about a month earlier.

“He’d have been the obvious suspect for the letter, but it couldn’t have been him—he was suspended at the time,” Walls said. “I mean, two years ago, I was at a Catholic school that was racially balanced so I’ve never experienced anything like this before. I’d like it to stop. I don’t think I should have to go through this again, neither should anyone else.”

 

Brazile Urges Blacks to Support Obama, Protect Gains

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By Cash Michaels, Special to the NNPA from The Wilmington Journal –

The interim chairman of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) says the nation, and specifically the African-American community, has to stick with President Barack Obama and the Democrats during these tough times to “keep the country safe and secure.”

But, in an exclusive taped interview Tuesday with the weekly radio program “Make it Happen” on Power 750 WAUG-AM/Power 750.com, top Washington insider and CNN/ABC commentator Donna Brazile also admitted that there have been times during the past two years when she didn’t necessarily agree with some of the president’s policies.

“Look, I haven’t always been pleased with the president of the United States,” the renowned Democratic Party strategist and interim DNC chair said. “I’ve had times when I’ve had to differ with the president. Whether it’s been the housing policies or the firing of [former USDA official] Shirley Sherrod, or just recently, giving the Republicans the opportunity [during the recent 2011 budget negotiations] to write their own narrowly-based social agenda on the [Washington] D.C. budget where I live, I’m not always in the cheerleading section.”

“Sometimes I’m on the sidelines, sometimes I like to be right there on the field getting a little dirty with the rest of them. But, the bottom-line is I’m proud to be a Democrat, I’m proud to be an American, [but] more importantly I’m proud to say that Barack Obama is my choice for president in 2012,” Brazile said.

It’s the kind of frank, pull-no-punches talk that Brazile, 51, is known. The first African-American ever to run a major political party’s bid for president when she took the reins of then Vice President Al Gore’s 2000 campaign, the Louisiana native has earned the title of Washington powerbroker, serving as DNC vice chair; managing her own D.C. consulting firm, hitting the talk and keynoter’s circuit at colleges and universities across the nation; and now chairing the Democratic National Committee until Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, is officially voted in, which is expected to happen shortly.

But right now, Brazile’s passion is supporting the president, and making sure that both he and the Democrats are successful in 2012.

“The country is still in the throes of a very critical economic downturn,” Brazile told WAUG-AM. “While we’ve seen 13 months of promising job growth, President Obama is committed to see that every American who is looking for a job will be able to find work in his/her hometown.”

Balancing spending cuts with “revenue attractions” in the midst of a slow economic recovery has to be a “balanced approach to getting our fiscal house in order,” Brazile maintains, countering the popular Republican mantra that America as “a spending problem, not a revenue problem.”

The poor and middle-class have definitely been hurt during the recovery, so government must do all it can to make them whole, as much as possible, Brazile says, particularly through job growth.

Brazile says the president “is committed to make sure that the federal government lives within its means,” and will make well thought-out cuts to the budget where needed.

But Republicans, per their plan to drastically cut the federal budget through Medicare/Medicaid, education, affordable housing, and other vital programs, while simultaneously giving millionaires and billionaires generous tax cuts, threaten the government’s social safety net where it’s needed the most. The trend is already being seen in local and state governments across the nation, and Brazile says Americans must take note, and then take action.

Brazile also urges communities to support President Obama’s insistence on “winning the future” through investing more in education, and for individuals to improve their own educational opportunities to better prepare themselves for upcoming challenges and opportunities.

“If you’re living on the margins; if you’re living without the means to dip into your savings account, then the recession we’ve just experienced will have a devastating impact on communities of color,” Brazile says, maintaining that communities should not be “pitted against each other” in times of great struggle.

Racial Tension Taints Views on Health Reform

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By Charlene Muhammad, Special to the NNPA from The Final Call –

According to findings by a national policy institute for race and economic justice, racial tensions in America undergird the debate over national health reform.

In a study titled, “The Role of Race in the Healthcare Debate,” researchers with the Greenlining Institute reported that Blacks, Latinos, and other people of color are more likely than Whites to support the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. In addition, the act is more likely to be opposed by Whites who are racially biased or show “racial resentment.”

“Racial resentment is a modern form of racism that developed in the post-civil rights era ... Negative attitudes towards Blacks can manifest themselves in an individual's political attitudes,” said Dr. Daniel Byrd, research director for the Greenlining Institute.

In analyzing data from the 2008- 2009 American National Election Survey, conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan and Stanford University, Byrd, Carla Saporta and Rosa Martinez, Greenlining Health Program managers, accounted for variables like age, gender, education, income, political ideology, and whether or not those surveyed had health insurance. People harboring racial resentment argue Blacks lag behind in society because they don't work hard enough, not because of discrimination, Dr. Byrd told The Final Call.

This study is related to work by other researchers who argued since the president is Black, Americans were more sensitive to race and President Obama's association with issues and policies made debates and opinions more racialized, Dr. Byrd said.

The 2008-2009 American National Election Survey found 38.4 percent of Whites supported the healthcare law, compared to 78.6 percent of Blacks, 52.6 percent of Latinos and 43.6 of people from other racial groups.

During the summer of 2010, 44.3 percent of Americans favored the health care legislation compared to 35.8 percent who opposed it.

Its findings and Greenlining's report come at a time when non-Whites generally endure a greater likelihood of being without health insurance and suffer from racial health disparities in the U.S.

According to statistics highlighted in the “The Role of Race in the Healthcare Debate,” Blacks and Latinos are less likely to have a regular doctor when compared to Whites; American Indian/Alaska Native adults are more likely than Whites to be diagnosed with diabetes; while Black women are 10 percent less likely than White women to be diagnosed with breast cancer but are 36 percent more likely than White women to die from the disease.

On March 24, 2010, a day after President Barack Obama signed the health reform legislation, Minister Louis Farrakhan commented on the bitter controversy surrounding passage of the act. He described it as a “Pyrrhic victory.”

“I called it a Pyrrhic victory, because even though Mr. Obama won one of the greatest things of his young presidency, something that America has been desirous of for many, many decades, yet, at the same time of the victory, there's a splitting of the country,” Farrakhan said during an interview on the Cliff Kelly Show on 1690 AM-WVON.

“It was a victory in one sense, but great loss in another because you have 13 or 14 states desiring to repeal this law, and you have the vitriol, and the manifestation of hatred—because President Obama is viewed and is being demonized as a Socialist, and even as a Hitler,” Farrakhan said.

In a videotaped message posted on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website, Secretary Kathleen Sebelius highlighted the act's progress a year later. Many revisions have yet to go into effect, but the changes have already granted Americans new protections, greater freedoms, and lower costs, she said.

“Thanks to a Patient's Bill of Rights, insurers are prohibited from turning away children because of their pre-existing health conditions and families in new plans have access to free, recommended preventive care. Beneficiaries with Medicare now have the freedom to get preventive care screenings like mammograms and colonoscopies for free,” Secretary Sebelius continued.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, other benefits that have taken effect are 50 percent discounts on brand-name drugs for seniors on Medicare and tax credits for small businesses that provide insurance to employees.

Still, data says racial resentment, even among America's younger generation, is at the forefront of the movement to defund the health care bill, Byrd said. People born into political systems develop their political attitudes in childhood and those predispositions become lasting, he noted.

“The things that are going on now, efforts to defund the healthcare bill, will disproportionately effect communities of color ... Are they going to stop its implementation? We'll have to see how this shapes up and what happens next,” Byrd said.

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