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Nov. 14, 2005

Barber-Scotia president resigns

Troubled school now has one employee,
few students, no accreditation

by Evan Silverstein


LOUISVILLE — Gloria Bromell-Tinubu has resigned as president of Barber-Scotia College, a Presbyterian-related school in Concord, NC, that now has just one employee and soon will have no students.

     The college announced Bromell-Tinubu’s resignation in a news release dated Nov. 8.

     In the release, Thomas G. Robinson, chair of Barber-Scotia’s board of trustees, commended Bromell-Tinubu for “the innovations and contributions (she) made, especially during the most challenging period in the history of the college.”

     Robinson reportedly told a North Carolina newspaper that Bromell-Tinubu resigned by “mutual consent.” Mable Parker McLean, Barber-Scotia’s first woman president (1974-1988 and 1994-1996), is coming out of retirement to accept the board’s appointment as acting president.

     The private, historically black college about 20 miles north of Charlotte suspended classes last month when fewer than five students enrolled for the first part of the fall term, according to Beneva Bibbs, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s associate for racial-ethnic schools and colleges.

     Bibbs said the four-year liberal arts institution, which lost its accreditation last year, will not have any students for the winter term that begins in January.

     She said only two volunteer instructors were on the job when classes were suspended.

     Bibbs said her office had asked the college to provide a viable business plan and hired a consultant to help. “The school needs to devise a plan for the future,” she said.

     In the meantime, officials have taken no action to close Barber-Scotia for good.

     “As a board, we are still very optimistic, as far as funds being raised and the college coming back,” Robinson said.

     Bromell-Tinubu’s resignation came as the college laid off six of the seven employees still on the payroll. The one remaining staffer works in the business office.

     Barber-Scotia, founded by the Presbyterian Church in 1867 as a seminary for daughters of former slaves, once had more than 1,000 students and dozens of staff members.

     Bromell-Tinubu, who could not be reached for comment, faced numerous hurdles in her 16 months at the college. Just days after she became president in June 2004, the college lost its accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools because it had awarded degrees to about 30 adult-education students who hadn’t completed the requirements. The loss of accreditation meant the loss of the federal funding on which most students had depended.

     Enrollment dropped from nearly 600 students in 2004 to only 91 in January 2005. In May, the college expelled 42 students who had not repaid debts to the school. Three months later, Barber-Scotia announced that it would cut expenses by closing on-campus housing for the 2005-’06 academic year, a move that further diminished student interest.

     The setbacks raised fears that Barber-Scotia would be forced to close its doors permanently, as happened in March to another PC(USA)-related, historically black school, Mary Holmes College in West Point, MS. Mary Holmes also had lost its accreditation.

     At Barber-Scotia, Bromell-Tinubu tried to change the college from a four-year liberal arts program to a business-technical curriculum, and sought partnerships with accredited colleges.

     “We’ll do what’s necessary to get back on the right track,” she told the Presbyterian News Service shortly after taking office. “We really believe ... things will be put back in place. The school will live up to its potential.”

     Bromell-Tinubu, a former Atlanta city council member and onetime Spelman College economics professor, told The Charlotte Observer last month that she was trying to arrange for another four-year college to offer courses at Barber-Scotia, starting in January. She said the partnership would generate revenue and attract students to the campus.

     Barber-Scotia receives money from the PC(USA)’s annual Christmas Joy Offering, which supports seven Presbyterian-related racial-ethnic schools and colleges. According to Bibbs, Barber-Scotia’s 2005 allocation was $323,419, of which $100,000 was retained by the church to cover property insurance.

     McLean, an 83-year-old Barber-Scotia alumna, was president in the mid-1990s when the college was on “warning” for accreditation and enrollment was dwindling.

     “We are fortunate to have a wise and dedicated resource embodied in Dr. McLean, who has come to the aid of the college once again,” Robinson said. “Clearly, in order to survive, we will need to draw on the expertise of someone … who knows the college well from the perspective of a former student, professor and president.”


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