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Leadership must prevail if our Black colleges are to survive

admin | 2/8/2012, 7:30 a.m.

Several of our Black colleges and universities in the State of Florida seem to have reached a crossroads with the quality and abilities of their leaders being the primary issue and the future of the schools at stake. FAMUs President Dr. James H. Ammons is caught in a hazing fiasco that could impact the university for years to come. Trouble continues for Ammons, Band Director Julian White and the historic Marching 100 Band as more allegations come to light of students being hazed. When the dust settles and the truth is finally known, Ammons and White may both face their own Waterloos losing their jobs and leaving with severely tarnished reputations if it is determined that they were aware of ongoing instances of hazing but did nothing to stop it. The recent decision to suspend all recruiting efforts by student organizations, including the band, does not bode well for the immediate future of the band or the university. At Bethune-Cookman University, the recent resignations of President Dr. Trudie Kibbe Reed and Attorney Larry Handfield, who served as the chairman of the Board of Directors, point to a battle over philosophies, ethics and managing styles. For the moment no one is talking, except for carefully-crafted statements from the Universitys public relations department. Our concern rests with what really caused Reed, who appeared to be moving the ship along in an admirable way, to suddenly resign. Furthermore, its difficult to fathom why Handfield, who brought significant donations to his alma mater as well as thousands of hours of volunteer leadership, would be allowed to step down from the board. Handfield was, from all accounts, a respected cheerleader and a real motivator. It looks like the gauntlet has been thrown down as certain parties push their particular agendas. It remains to be seen who truly has the best interests of B-CU in mind. Finally, there is Florida Memorial University South Floridas sole historically-Black university. This week well see plenty of pomp and circumstance as President Dr. Henry Lewis III is installed, almost a year after his arrival, as FMUs 12th president. Lewis has certainly made the rounds since taking over at the university and has the kind of personality that makes most people like him. Still, there are those who say that he has yet to prove that he has overcome his outsider status and firmly understands not only how things work here in South Florida but who the powerbrokers and deal breakers and makers really are. That could be an issue as Lewis seeks to secure financial contributions for FMU. Each of these colleges has their own problems and challenges, none of which are insurmountable. But if our Black colleges are to survive and thrive, they will need solid leaders at the top and an equally-talented supporting cast. We have come too far to allow our beloved institutions to implode.