By Leonard E. Colvin
New Journal and Guide
On November 18, at Second Calvary Baptist Church an event called “Let’s Save NSU” will be held that is being organized by the Norfolk NAACP and the Pastors Coalition.
A panel discussion, organizers say, will allow school alumni, civic leaders, pastors, and others concerned about the state of the HBCU to discuss issues such as the university’s decline in enrollment, morale among students and staff, and issues related to fiscal and current leadership.
Recently the New Journal and Guide talked to several of the key organizers of the event. They complain that they have been unable to communicate with Interim President Eddie N. Moore, Jr. or members of his administrative team to lend their support or voice to resolving any of the issues the school is currently facing.
If the current lack of communication persists, the organizers of the event say, then a change in the current leadership may be a viable option.
Leaders of the group who are helping to organize the event say they have word that Moore may be seeking to apply to be named the school’s permanent president.
But each who spoke to the Guide about the issue says they may not be in full support of retaining him as head of the school if the lines of communication do not improve in the coming months.
Moore was named interim president in September 2013 after NSU President Dr. Tony Atwater was abruptly fired by the school’s Board of Visitors.
“I have been associated with that school … my Alma Mater, since the late 1960s,” said local businessman Ulysses Turner. “This is the first time, over the past two years, that I have not had any contact with school administration or its president.”
“Previous presidents would summon the Black business, church and civic leadership to sit down and talk and sit on various boards and panels,” said Turner. “But we have not seen this from President Moore. NSU is in trouble.
There are many people who are products of that school and long time supporters. We want to see what we can do to help the school move forward.”
In the October 18 edition of the Virginian Pilot, a letter, written by Norfolk Councilman Paul Riddick spelled out what he said was the sentiment of a growing list of church, political and civic concerns about current leadership and how this is impacting NSU and its future.
In his letter, Riddick did applaud President Eddie Moore for correcting and stabilizing the university’s administrative and operational activities. Riddick wrote, “By most accounts, he has been successful and has laid the groundwork for efficiency and accountability in those areas, a necessary step in returning Norfolk State to its rightful and respected place as one of the nation’s top historically Black colleges and universities.
“Now, NSU must strategically develop a plan to re-emerge as a viable institution of higher education. That process will require someone with vision and the desire and ability to advance academic programming, instructional support and fund development.
“While Moore should be applauded for his efforts in improving administration and operations, I do not believe he has the skills necessary to address the academic and development needs of the university.”
In an interview with the Guide, Riddick cited the central concerns for him as the lack of “growth” in the school’s enrollment, programming, and the support from the community.
Rev. Anthony Paige is the Senior Pastor of First Baptist Lambert’s Point.
“If you see the growth which has taken place at ODU compared to Norfolk State, then that is disturbing,” said Paige. “The problems at Norfolk State are beyond issues related to SACS. We are worried about the future of the school.”
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the agency which accredits the viability of the school’s fiscal and management practices and status of educational programs placed NSU on probation last December, because of shortcomings in academic, fiscal and management policies and procedures.
Dr. Cassandra Newby Alexander is the Current President of the NSU Faculty Senate.
“This school is at a critical juncture, as it celebrates its 80th anniversary,” said Dr. Newby Alexander. “In the 30s, the founders of this school were members of the community … they knew the importance of creating that school in the depths of the Depression. It seems, since the late 1990s, the Presidents of that school have been moving away from the community and that was a mistake. We see the outcome.”
She continued, “I think the November 18 event will give the community a chance to begin asking questions and send a message to people in Richmond and the Board of Visitors (BOV) who may not be listening to some of issues facing the school. There are issues facing enrollment, fiscal management and other issues. But it cannot be done in isolation.”
Representative from SACS were on the NSU campus late last month to determine if the school had complied with the shortcomings which caused it to sanction the HBCU late last year.
Now school officials are awaiting the report from SACS indicating if the probation sanctions have been lifted.
The “Let’s Save NSU” will start at 6:30 p.m. at Second Calvary Baptist Church in Norfolk.
When asked for comments on the event and the goals of its organizers, Stan Donaldson of the school’s department of University Relations said the administration had no comment.