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President Jackson Responds to Alumni and Supporters

Dear B-CU Alumni and Supporters:
presjacksonI hope you are excited to return to your beloved Bethune-Cookman University to celebrate Homecoming 2015.  Over the last month, university staff and students have prepared extensively to ensure this year's homecoming is a wonderful experience.  From Friday's "Family Affair" to Saturday's Homecoming parade and football game to Sunday's "Check Out" Comedy Show, you are certain to have a memorable week experiencing the best of B-CU.  Without a doubt the Ol' B-C Spirit will prove Dr. Bethune's dream remains alive, well and working in the lives of our current students as they ascend to greatness. 
 
Over the last 60 days, various media outlets have circulated news that cast "shadows of doubt" on the administration's ability to effectively manage and lead the University.  To address these allegations, I decided to write you directly in an effort to dispel these rumors and allay all fears, so that you can celebrate all we have accomplished over the last 111 years. 
 
Specifically, the article in The Florida Courier published on October 7, 2015, referencing a letter written by Trustee Johnny McCray to the B-CU Board of Trustees raised eyebrows and questions of my administration's ability to effectively and efficiently steward University resources.  There are four (4) major issues identified in the article and letter.  These are: 1) the residence hall project; 2) the call for a forensic audit; 3) leadership integrity; and, 4) the purchase of the Deltona campus, all of which point to a larger claim about my integrity as a President.  All of these concerns were discussed, debated, voted and ratified by the B-CU Board of Trustees, under the leadership of immediate past Chairman Rev. Dr. John Harrington in the early part of 2015. 
 
Regarding the residence Hall project, in Spring 2015, thirty-nine trustees voted 36-3 to approve moving forward with the residence hall project, citing inadequate living conditions, aging infrastructure, and increasing enrollment as critical reasons to support the development of quality living spaces for our students. The truth is, more than 1,200 new beds and more than 300,000 sq. ft. will be added to our campus. Trustee McCray's letter alleges that $5.6 million of the University's resources were spent and lost on the project. The truth is $5.6 million was part of a service agreement for soft costs.  The truth is the developer, TG Quantum, under that same agreement, consented to reimburse the University for all soft costs.  The truth is $3 million of the $5.6 million was reimbursed at the financial closing of Phase I of the project; and the remaining $2.6 million will be reimbursed at the financial closing of Phase II.  The truth is the residence hall project over the forty-year term will generate more than $240 million in profit, of which the Board has directed the University to build a much needed student union. 
 
The new residence halls will offer state of the art housing accommodations, collaborative living and learning spaces, and will serve as the first major step in positioning the university to upgrade all of it's residential facilities.  Furthermore, the I-4 corridor has witnessed other universities, such as Embry Riddle and Stetson University, increase their residential capacity-at a much higher cost than our own.  If we want our students to be the best, we must offer them the best. Campus is buzzing with new construction, and our students are excited about what is being done in our genuine love for their future success.   
 
When questions pertaining to the fiscal management of the residence hall project developed, the truth is the Board engaged Ernst and Young, LLP  (E&Y) for the purpose of conducting agreed upon procedures.  Ninety-six percent (96%) of expenditures were tested and reviewed by E&Y.  No exceptions were found.  Regarding the University's fiscal management, the Office of Fiscal Affairs presented a three-year fiscal plan to the Board in October 2014.  The Board unanimously voted to approve the plan. This plan ensures fiscal and managerial effectiveness while strengthening the University in the following areas: 1) implementing budgeting processes and procedures; 2) identifying best practices for monitoring pace and consumption; and 3) requiring reporting mechanisms to ensure fiscal sustainability and growth.  Our goal is to ensure that every dollar is an investment in academic excellence and student success.  When questions surrounding fiscal mismanagement under former CFO arose, the truth is, once again, the Board engaged E&Y, and they reported finding no unusual items supporting a claim of fraudulent activity.
 
The last major concern focuses on the Board of Trustees' knowledge and approval of the B-CU Deltona Campus purchase.  Within his letter, Trustee McCray indicated the Board was unaware of the purchase; however, the truth is the purchase was approved at the October 2014 Board of Trustee Meeting and official purchase of the property took place on October 30, 2014.  The University wanted to expand our influence and brand into West Volusia County-primarily as a way to diversify our student population. The University also needed a home for the School of Professional Studies, and the best place to provide that space was the community of Deltona.  This campus operates similarly to our Hastings satellite campus.  This strategy mirrors the one used by former President Bronson who developed multiple satellite campuses in various counties across the state.  
 
In our efforts to strengthen B-CU's brand in a growing and vibrant part of the county, we purchased the property for $1.5 million. After fiscal year (FY) 2013-14, the property generated a $120 thousand profit and in FY 2014-15 generated a $180 thousand profit from long-term lease agreements.   As a result of acquiring this property, we have expanded our presence in West Volusia and increased our public-private partnerships.  The University has started Team Soccer and Deltona serves as the home site. B-CU's first soccer team played their first games in September 2015, recording victories over Embry Riddle Aeronautical and Albany State Universities.
 
Other issues related to Trustee McCray's letter are matters of the Board and will be handled as the Board sees fit.  I cannot tell you why those who oppose our ascent to greatness want to use the media to damage our brand.  I cannot tell you why people who say they love B-CU engage practices that ultimately challenge our ability to promote student success.  I cannot tell you why those who claim to promote the University would pose threats that impugn the credibility of the University's leadership.  However, I can tell you that I remain steadfast and unmovable in my commitment to uphold the legacy of our founder and namesake, Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune.   Each day I walk into my office, I lift my eyes unto hills from whence my help comes, and I read the words found in Dr. Bethune's Last Will and Testament, "Finally, I leave you a responsibility to our young people...," In this moment I am reminded that there are those who work daily to ensure B-CU continues to grow, and promote the "truth"- we are ascending to greatness!
 
There has been much excitement around the selection of Governor Rick Scott as the 2015 Mary McLeod Bethune Leadership Award recipient.  As stated by the Chairman of the B-CU Board of Trustees, Dr. Joe Petrock, B-CU is a non-partisan private small research driven university.  As such, it is essential for us to engage public and private entities to support the University's mission.  Our government relations activities have resulted in more than $15 million dollars appropriated to support student success over the last three (3) years.  Appropriations include support of library resources, the Black male initiative, the Joe and Barbara Petrock College of Health Sciences and the College of Entrepreneurship and Business.  Additionally, former presidents Drs. Bethune, Moore and Bronson were all known for engaging government leaders to support B-CU.  I stand on their shoulders and work with all our civic leaders to strengthen the University.  Moreover, each HBCU within the state of Florida and the Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida (ICUF) all gather in Tallahassee to lobby for our legislators' support.  We are proud of the work we have accomplished to garner this support from local, state, and federal leaders for B-CU becoming the best small research driven university in the nation. 
 
It is my hope that these truths will evaporate the fog that dims the light shining bright at B-CU!  Together, we will celebrate Homecoming 2015 for what it is, a one hundred eleven year testament that faith in God still works.  I have learned from our students, the power of having a handle on situations.  I leave you with these handles: #B-CUnited #LivetheLegacy #ProtectOurBrand. 
 
Hail Wildcats!

Office of Communications

Keisha Boyd
Director of Communications
boydk@cookman.edu
PH: (386)481-2991
FX: Fax

About Bethune Cookman University:

Founded in 1904 by Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, Bethune-Cookman University (B-CU) today sustains her legacy of faith, scholarship and service through its relationship with the United Methodist Church and its commitment to academic excellence and civic engagement.  B-CU offers 38 degrees on its main campus and online college. Located in Daytona Beach, B-CU is one of three private, historically black colleges in the state of Florida. The institution boasts a diverse and international faculty and student body of nearly 4,000.  For more information, visit www.cookman.edu.