Bethune-Cookman University continues to batttle its way through scandal and fulfilling requirements to get off probation.
“Now is not the time to give up on this university,” said B-CU's Interm President, Judge Hubert Grimes, at a news conference Jan. 11. “we are still here, we are still working. The university is going to continue moving forward.”
Judge Grimes addressed the status of efforts to come into compliance with Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges requirements, the strength of the university’s academics, a scandalous student housing project and ongoing commitment to students and staff.
“We do have some challenges. We are going to make the changes we need to make. If we maintain the resilience of our founder, I have no doubt we will be able to succeed,” he said.
At the center of the controversy is a $25 million discrepancy in the housing project, which is still under investigation.
“We are continuing to fight our way out of financial stresses that have come about over the last few years,” Judge Grimes said. “We are working diligently and we will get out of that completely.”
Judge Belvin Perry, a BC-U trustee and vice chair of the board of trustees, also had plenty to say.
Judge Perry didn’t hold back his disdain for current Board Chair Dr. Michelle Carter-Scott.
“We have been silent too long about what is going on, the dark cloak of darkness that has veiled this board during the past year, beginning in 2018, and probably years before that,” he said. “It matters because Bethune-Cookman matters to me.
“During the period she has been chair of the board of trustees, there has never been any attempt to find out what happened to the $25 million. Twenty-five million dollars does just not evaporate into thin air.
“It is interesting to note that anytime we try to ask any questions or deal with anything dealing with possible conflicts of interest, possible corruption, we are shut down,” Judge Perry said. “Why is it you don’t want anyone to find the answers? Judge Grimes cannot do his job with people like Michelle Carter-Scott and her cronies interfering. I have no faith and confidence in anything that her and her cronies do.”
He stated that both illegal and unethical activities have been occurring and he would not be silent even if it meant he would be terminated from his position.
He stressed the need for background and credit checks, and demanded Dr. Carter-Scott and Renee Forbes Williams be removed from the board. If the board does not see the need to do that, he said the entire board should be replaced.
Judge Perry added, “For too long this board has been silent. For too long we have failed to provide answers to the Bethune-Cookman family. I am not going to be intimidated by anyone. I stand for truth. I stand for justice. Bethune-Cookman University matters. We cannot let things done in the darkness kill this university. It is time for a change.”
Judge Grimes further discussed the administration and board’s commitment to removing the school from Southern Association probation, and how students will be minimally affected during the probationary period. He stated that six of nine issues have been addressed, while further acknowledging the awareness that the university’s bond rating has dropped.
He stated the board has decided to pursue the hiring of a new president with a decision to potentially come next month. He mentioned positive changes to the campus include a Faculty Innovation Center, food court expansion and replacing the Larry Little Field House. He added the university still has full accreditation.
Student housing, financial aid and schedules are all continuing as planned as the administration and board work to correct financial missteps made by the previous administration and the resulting probation.
Prior to being named interim president, Judge Grimes served as B-CU’s legal counsel. He replaced prior president Dr. Edison Jackson in July 2017 when he retired from the institution.