S.C. State moving forward | Opinion | The Press and Standard
by The Press and Standard | October 7, 2015 2:04 pm
Last Updated: October 7, 2015 at 3:13 pm
Interim president tells of progress in Walterboro visit
By Minister Anna Stevens Bright
Over the past several months, S.C. State University, according to some, has received a “bad rap.” However, on last Tuesday night, Dr. W. Franklin Evans, the interim president, was the guest speaker for the Colleton County S.C. State Alumni Chapter’s meeting at St. Peters A.M.E. Church Life Center, setting the record straight and offering an enlightening vision of the university’s future. Evans, with his impressive bio, brings to the table a wealth of knowledge and experience that can account for the job that he has done thus far at the university.
Evans was named interim president of S.C. State University by the board of trustees on July 16. Before assuming leadership of the university, Evans served as interim provost and previously as vice president for academic affairs.
Born in Augusta, Ga., he attended public school in the Jefferson County School System. He matriculated at the University of Georgia and Georgia State University, earning six degrees in areas ranging from entomology to journalism, middle childhood science to curriculum and instruction, and administration and supervision to higher education administration. His professional career has included working as a medical entomologist, news reporter, flight attendant, science educator, administrator for middle and high schools, university professor, director and college dean.
Evans has worked as an adjunct professor at Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University, Tennessee State University, Vanderbilt University and Athens State University. Prior to moving to Orangeburg, he was employed as vice president for academic affairs at Virginia Union University.
Evans has held memberships in various organizations such as the NAACP, Black Family Preservation Group, Inc., National Association of Black School Educators, Partnership for a Drug-free Community, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, Toastmasters International, and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Incorporated. He has served on the advisory boards of organizations such as the Sickle Cell Association, Boys and Girls Club, Kiwanis Clubs International and the AIDS Action Coalition. He is an active minister with the Church of God in Christ International. He spends his leisure time traveling, playing tennis, cooking, reading, and singing.
S.C. State University has had its share of problems and negative exposure in the news, but since Evans has assumed the leadership role of the university, improvement has been steadily on the rise. He thanked Pastor Leon Maxwell for opening his church doors to the public for this meeting. Further, he thanked Elder Joe Darby for being there, along with the members from the Beaufort and Charleston Alumni Chapters, parents and grandparents of students presently attending the university, and all other alumni.
Evans said the last few months have been amazing because he serves “an amazing God” who has done amazing things for S.C. State University. In February, there were those who wanted to close the institution. That did not happen, but the damage was done, so he and his staff have been repairing that damage for the past several months. Evans said that news of the institution’s closing “went like wildfire.” He said they have tried to combat that message, but even as late as August, people were still hearing that S.C. State University was closing.
Evans and his administration knew that attracting students was going to be an issue because of the rumors that the school was closing. But not only did they set a budget based on a reasonable number of 2650 students, when August rolled around, they exceeded that number. Evans’ response to this accomplishment was, “Ain’t God good?”
Accreditation was problematic; therefore, the state’s accrediting body put the university on probation during the summer of 2014 for two major reasons: issues with the board of trustees not knowing their role and finances (the institution had not operated with a balanced budget for a number of years.) Evans emphasized that an institution gets only two years to be in compliance once it has been placed on probation. The accrediting body cited nine different standards with which S.C. State was not in compliance. In the few months since Evans took over, the university has been able to reduce that to only five standards with which it must still comply. Evans echoed, “That is worth clapping for!” Thunderous applause from the audience followed.
The five remaining standards focus on the school’s finances. SACSCOC, the state’s accrediting body, has given the school one more year to get it right, according to Evans. As a result, Evans has hired a new vice-president of business and finance, “someone who is very capable and a godly man.” He went on to say that the school is operating under transparency: whatever he says in public is also what he is saying in his office on the phone to others.
Some financial goals that he and this new vice president of business and finance are working toward include creating and maintaining a balanced budget, reducing the debt, and putting measures in place to save money.
According to Evans, the state has not been as friendly to S.C. State as the administration had hoped it would be, and the money that they do provide is not enough. The administration is working to instill a sense of trust and stewardship with legislators, and as a result, they are viewing the university differently now. S.C. State University is a state institution, so it does rely on the state to provide the school support; it is the state’s responsibility. His aim, Evans said, is to show the legislators that they (the university) are good stewards of the money the state provides.
Evans said that alumni giving has increased significantly based on the improvements over the last few months. He encouraged alumni present to continue to give financially, and went on to say that the school needs students and needs the alumni’s assistance to send students to the university.
March 2016 is the deadline to send a report to the accrediting body indicating that the school is in compliance. In April 2016 a team will visit the campus for three days to see if the university has complied. In June 2016 a team of five people will meet before the board of trustees for SACSCOC. That group will determine whether or not S.C. State will remain open or close. In this meeting, there will be two options offered: South Carolina will be in compliance and will remain an institution for another 10 years. The second option will be that S.C. State is not in compliance, and the team will move to revoke its accreditation. Evans said that he is working toward option number one: for S.C. State University to remain an institution and have its accreditation renewed.
Recently, Evans attended a conference in Washington, D.C., the White House Initiative on HBCU’s. He and other presidents of HBCU’s had the chance to meet with President Obama and Vice-President Biden. While Evans was at this conference, he was recognized by a member of the team who came to the school this past spring, the president of Fayetteville State University, for the outstanding work he had done over the past few months at S.C. State University in spite of all the negative press the school has received over the years.
Evans said that in spite of the financial issues, the university has never had any problem with its academic programs, which include:
n The university has 15 specialized accreditations: the School of Business has the AACSB. Only five percent of colleges and universities have this accreditation, and S.C. State University is one of them. Harvard and Princeton are two others.
n The speech pathology and audiology program attracts students from California and New York. There is a two-year waiting list of people who have applied for this program. Evans made a point to say, “Everybody in that program don’t look like me!”
n The largest department is the biological and physical science department where students engage in summer internships, preparing them for jobs awaiting them once they have graduated.
n S.C. State is the only university in the state offering a nuclear engineering degree. S.C. State produces more African-American nuclear engineers than any other institution in America.
n In August the university started an industrial engineering program.
n Just recently, the president received a letter that the state has approved its civil engineering program.
n Several of the students in the engineering program are recruited in Ph.D. programs from other well-known universities before graduation.
n When S.C. State University students graduate with education degrees, they have already passed the PRAXIS examination.
n The ROTC program is the “West Point of the South.” It has produced a total of 19 generals, and this past May, the largest number of females in the school’s history received commissions.
Evans concluded his presentation saying the mission for the university and its new tagline is “Transforming Lives, Inspiring Greatness.”
At the conclusion of the event, Central Williams, president of the Colleton County Alumni Chapter of S.C. State University, thanked the parents and grandparents present for believing in the university by sending their students there. Evans then entertained questions from the audience.