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Crisis at Bethune-Cookman University, Part 4

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The Florida Courier investigates the turmoil at Florida’s largest private HBCU. This week – Eight instructors fired; eight lawsuits filed against the school. A common theme: Lack of due process.

By The Florida Courier Staff –

(NNPA) A Florida Courier search of federal and state courts in which Bethune-Cookman University (B-CU) has been sued reveals that at least eight lawsuits have been filed in less than two years against the school – and personally against B-CU President Trudie Kibbe Reed – by instructors or former high-level employees.

The Florida Courier also has learned that B-CU has been put on notice that two additional lawsuits are forthcoming – one by a female student who said she was raped on the college campus, but refused to press charges; and one by former B-CU Head Basketball Coach Clifford Reed, who was fired for allegedly refusing to cooperate with the school’s investigation into those same rape allegations levied against Reed’s son C.J. – a star on the men’s team – and C.J.’s B-CU teammates.

Various reasons, same theme

The plaintiffs filing the lawsuits were terminated for various justifiable reasons, at least from the school’s perspective – for criminal activity, for having sex with students, for abandoning the job, for poor performance, for falsifying academic credentials.

But the eight current lawsuits have common themes – that the individuals filing the lawsuit were all terminated from B-CU improperly, either in violation of the school’s own procedure, their employment contracts – or both.

Consistent with report

As the Florida Courier has reported for the last three weeks, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), a non-profit group that represents the interests of college and university instructors around America, harshly criticized President Reed after she terminated seven B-CU instructors in 2009.

In October 2010, AAUP issued an extensive report that resulted in B-CU being listed as one of 49 institutions nationwide where conditions for academic freedom and tenure are considered to be "unsatisfactory." The report concluded that B-CU denied terminated instructors "virtually all aspects of academic due process" – a charge that virtually all of the lawsuits make.

Five of the seven instructors mentioned in that report sued the school – and Reed personally.

What and where

Two lawsuits were filed in federal court and allege violations of federal law, including the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family Leave Medical Act.

Six were filed in the state circuit court in the Daytona Beach-Volusia County area and allege violations of state law, including the Florida Whistleblower’s Act.

As to the "whistleblower" allegations, Reed is accused of firing instructors who allegedly "blew the whistle" on illegal acts they witnessed on campus: students with guns, sexual harassment, unsafe environmental conditions, embezzlement of funds and grants, campus theft, "ghost’’ workers, and unauthorized sale of school property – among other things.

Reputations destroyed?

The fact that five of the lawsuits were filed personally against Reed means that she may be personally liable for payment of money damages to the former instructors who filed the actions – if they win. Six of the eight lawsuits claim that as a result of how they were terminated, B-CU, Reed, or both destroyed their academic reputations to the point where they can no longer find work as teachers.

Last week, in a written statement, Reed seems to give little credence to the due process argument, saying "...our priority is to protect the welfare and safety of our students," especially with regard to protecting students against sexual harassment by teachers.

In the lawsuits the school has formally answered, the plaintiffs’ allegations have all been denied.

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

Kappa Alpha Psi Converge on Indiana to Celebrate 100 Years of Achievement

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Danny J. Bakewell, Jr., Special to the NNPA from the Los Angeles Sentinel –

The Noble Men of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Incorporated celebrated their 80th Grand Chapter Meeting and the 100th year of their founding by going home to the founding place of the Fraternity (Indiana University). More than 20,000 members of Kappa Alpha Psi spent a week in Indianapolis, Indiana fellowshipping, paying tribute to the 10 Great Founders of the Fraternity and re-uniting with other members of the fraternity some they had not seen since their college days and others they had just met for the first time.

"This is a conclave like no other, this is a celebration of the achievements of our fraternity, its individual members and the brotherhood that we have all shared in Kappa" noted Fresno City Councilmember, Oliver Baines who was there representing the Fresno Alumni Chapter of the fraternity.

The week started off with 4th of July festivities for the members coming in to participate in the 80th Grand Chapter meeting and continued throughout the week with such notable events as an all star comedy show lead by famed members of the fraternity Cedric The Entertainer and Nephew Tommie of the Steve Harvey Show. It also featured a concert by Grammy award winning songstress Toni Braxton, who noted during her show "She Loved a Kappa Man."

Brothers from all over the world converged on Indianapolis to celebrate this noted occasion, Gil Brown, Vice Polemarch of the Western Province of Kappa, which represents all of the Western United States and Japan said of the 100th year anniversary of the fraternity: "The 80th Grand Chapter Meeting was a life changer. Walking on the campus of Indiana University one could visualize what it was like for our Founders, the 10 visionaries that formed an organization as relevant now as it was 100 years ago. "

The Grand Chapter meeting was not all fun and games, the brothers of Kappa also came to handle much of the business of the fraternity. Outgoing Grand Polemarch Dewayne M. Murray recapped his four years of overseeing the fraternity's operations by noting a number of the fraternity's accomplishments including raising more than $1 Million Dollars for St. Jude's Hospital, which focuses on providing free medical treatment for children. During Murray's tenure as Polemarch, it was also noted that Kappa had raised tens of thousands of dollars for Haiti relief victims, and hundreds of thousands of dollars for Piney Woods School, a boarding school adopted by Kappa Alpha Psi, which has a remarkably high rate of sending their students (predominantly African American Males) on to four year colleges and universities throughout the nation. It was also noted that Kappa Alpha Psi through its members played a major role in the campaign and operations of getting President Barack Obama and other key political figures throughout the nation elected during the past several years.

Grand Polemarch Dewayne Murray's administration lead a variety of community initiatives which under his administration has been called "One Kappa." The Murray administration also celebrated that this 30th administration of the fraternity has guided the fraternity into an outstanding financial position where during the meeting Kappa Alpha Psi Grand Keeper of Records & Exchequer Alfred "Al" White ceremonially burned the fraternities last note (line of credit) and celebrated that the fraternity was now moving into the next 100 years 100% debt free and in a very strong financial position. I was certainly noted and received by thunderous applause that this is an incredible accomplishment during these very challenging economic times.

After celebrating and honoring the past four years - and two terms - of now Past Grand Polemarch Dewayne M. Murray, the fraternity elected unanimously its 32nd Grand Polemarch William Randy Bates, Jr., Esq. who will now serve as the leader, and spokesman of the fraternity as it moves into its next century.

In his address to the members upon assuming this leadership post Polemarch Bates stated, "When a person ascends to a high office like the Grand Polemarch, he is compelled to reflect on the lives of those who were instrumental in their achievements. My humility takes me swiftly to that place, where a few people whose shoulders I have stood on, must be recognized."

To the members of the fraternity he charged, "My Brothers, we are on the Sesquicentennial train, filled with memories of a people who survived the middle passage, and the brutal aftermath of oppression; it's filled by elders and brothers continuing to implement our founder's vision; and the greatest anticipation that boys yet unborn, will hear the clarion call of Kappa, bidding them to meet us somewhere along the track in years to come, where they will crave to sit at the Kappa table.

I pray that God will sustain us throughout our journey, and that peace and love will abound, as we continue to walk by faith. Let us know for sure, that "the steps of a good man, are ordered by the Lord, obey His teachings and our journey will be safe and abounding with abundance."

California Brothers of the fraternity were well represented at this 80th Grand Chapter Meeting, Brothers from Los Angeles, Pasadena, Long Beach, Inglewood- South Bay, Anaheim-Irvine, Berkeley, Fresno, San Diego, Ventura, Vallejo-Fairfield and Monterey Alumni Chapters were all in attendance. Undergraduate members of the fraternity were equally represented by chapter members from USC, Loyola Marymount, Berkeley, Fresno State, UCLA, UCI, CSUMB, Occidental College and CSULB just to name a few.

James Batiste, Polemarch of Los Angeles Alumni Chapter when asked about his journey back to the home of Kappa stated, "The Los Angeles Alumni contingency of Kappa Alpha Psi was represented by over 80 members at this Centennial Celebration. The opportunity to reenact, reflect, and to return to where the Ten Founders started, all brought about a sense of gratitude and inspiration to all of us for their efforts. The experience truly touched every member present, from those who have been in the Fraternity for over 50 years, to those who have been in the Fraternity for only five Months. It was an experience which will never be forgotten, an experience which will inspire a vigorous reclamation effort, and one which will require all Kappa's to become vibrant community servants and contributors in Los Angeles and throughout our nation."

Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity was founded in 1911 at Indiana University (It should be noted that Indiana is home to the Ku Klux Klan) during a time when Black Men found life on a white campus like Indiana University very difficult. The men who founded Kappa Alpha Psi were: Elder Watson Diggs, Dr. Byron K. Armstrong, Dr. Ezra Dee Alexander, Atty. Henry Tourner Asher, Dr. Marcus Peter Blakemore, Paul Waymond Caine, Dr. Guy Levis Grant, Edward Giles Irvin, John Milton Lee and George Wesley Edmonds.

Will Black Unemployment Rates Affect Obama Re-Election Bid?

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Special to the NNPA from the AFRO-American newspapers –

Recent U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) statistics show that Blacks are still the group hardest hit by the economic recession—showing a 16.2 percent unemployment rate in June. According to Politic365.com, it is unclear how Blacks will vote in 2012 and if Black joblessness will affect President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.

Out of 14.1 million unemployed people, Hispanics are the second hardest hit with an 11.6 percent rate. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, said that if Whites had the highest unemployment percentages, Congress would be outraged.

“Can you imagine a situation with any other group of workers… if 34 percent of white women were out there looking for work and couldn’t find it?” he said. “You would see congressional hearings and community gatherings. There would be rallies and protest marches. There is no way that this would be allowed to stand.”

The question remains whether unemployment rates will affect the Black presidential vote. According to Politic365, Black voting patterns will remain the same.

“…African Americans have remained loyal to the Democrat party, whether they’re economically prosperous or impoverished,” the article stated.

David Bositis, a senior researcher at the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, agreed. He said Blacks understand Obama is struggling to get initiatives, such as health care reform, implemented because of the Congress divide.

“He’s not God. There’s a limit to what he can do while Republicans are in control,” Bositis said. “I doubt it’s going to have much effect on the election.”

But a New York Times, writer and statistician Nate Silver called the prediction of another Black vote sweep by Obama “quite fuzzy.”

In an article titled, “On the Maddeningly Inexact Relationship Between Unemployment and Re-Election” published June 2 in the Times, he wrote: “Historically, the relationship between the unemployment rate and a president’s performance on Election Day is complicated and tenuous.”

Silver’s analysis of presidential election results and unemployment rates show a correlation between voting and job rates.

“Unemployment increased by 1.9 percentage points over the course of Richard M. Nixon’s first term, but he won re-election easily,” he wrote. “The unemployment rate fell to 3.9 percent from 5.3 percent, meanwhile, in Bill Clinton’s second term—but his vice president, Al Gore, could not beat Mr. Bush in the Electoral College.”

“…historically, the correlation between the unemployment rate and a president’s electoral performance has been essentially zero,” he said.

He also mentioned that presidents Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush senior faced high unemployment rates when they lost their re-elections.

In the DOL report, unemployment rates have increased from March to June, with 545,000 being added to the jobless pool. At 9.2 percent, men had the highest unemployment rate over women, who were at an 8.1 percent rate.

Black Farmers Still Face Political Hurdles to Discrimination Settlement

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Special to the NNPA from the AFRO-American newspapers –

Despite a discrimination settlement and congressional and presidential approval for payment to cover past injustice, Black farmers in the United States are still struggling to get money and respect from government officials.

The latest attack is coming from Republican presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and her tea party cohorts who last week blasted the settlement recently saying that it reeks of fraud and that the money should go to flood victims on the Missouri River instead.

“When money is diverted to inefficient projects like the Pigford Project where there’s proof positive of fraud, we can’t afford $2 billion in potentially fraudulent claims when that money can be used to benefit the people along the Mississippi River and the Missouri River,” Bachmann, said July 18 in report by MSNBC.

Iowa Rep. Steve King (R) agreed with Bachmann saying “That’s $2.3 billion; a large percentage of that paid out in fraudulent claims. Now we have them opening up a similar one for women farmers and Hispanic farmers. That’s another $1.3 billion. I’d like to apply that money to people that are under water right now.”

It’s not the first accusation of fraud in this case. At a February forum in Washington, D.C., a blogger criticized National Black Farmers Association President John Boyd for his advocacy.

“Not one damn dime has been paid out,” Boyd told the blogger, as reported by the AFRO. “And all of the sudden you’ve labeled 80 percent of these people fraudulent? Let them go through the process.”

It is the latest slap in the face to the farmers who’ve been struggling to get money owed to them from the original Pigford vs. Glickman case, which the U.S. Department of Agriculture was found to have discriminated against Black farmers from 1983 to 1997.

Many were late in filing applications for funds and that led to more court action resulting in a court mandate stating that claimants who’ve not had their cases heard can seek relief or damages of up to $250,000.

Both chambers of Congress passed legislation to pay the farmers and President Obama signed the order in late 2010.

That final hurdle is a ruling by federal Judge Paul Friedman who signed an order granting preliminary approval of the settlement agreement on May 13. He is set to issue a ruling Sept. 1 on whether the settlement should go forward.

Notorious Apartheid Enforcer Dies in South Africa

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By Fungai Maboreke, Special to the NNPA from the Global Information Network –

Former apartheid-era defense minister Magnus Malan, who led the resistance to Black rule, died at his home on Nelson Mandela’s 93rd birthday. He was 81.

The notorious General Malan viewed domestic and foreign threats to South Africa as a "total onslaught" against the white-minority regime that could only be answered with a "total solution" that included bombing southern African countries that opposed apartheid.

Malan and his "securocrats" in the police and army sent troops in South Africa's townships to violently repress anti-government riots in the 1980s, leading to the declaration of a state of emergency in 1986.

He also launched bloody raids against African National Congress bases in neighboring countries, and joined with rebels in Angola to fight Cuban troops aligned with the government in Luanda.

In 1995, Malan and 19 other top military brass were charged with the murder of 13 people, seven of them children, in what was called the KwaMakhutha massacre in 1987, and the creation of hit squads.

After seven months, the court voted to acquit, finding the apartheid government had paid vigilantes of the Inkatha Freedom Party for the killings. No link to Malan was proved.

He leaves his wife of 49 years, three children and nine grandchildren.

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BVN National News Wire