BY CHARLES W. CHERRY II / GUEST COMMENTARY
Thanks to Bethune-Cookman University students and National Football League Hall of Famer Ed Reed, we now know things are worse at B-CU than even we thought. And we’ve known for years that things have been bad.
List of horrors
Homeless people living on campus and squatting in dormitory reception areas. Mold and mildew in dorm rooms. A handful of functional washing machines and nonfunctioning air conditioning systems in student living quarters.
Football players attempting to disinfect moldy equipment, including helmets that they must share. Student leadership being required to sign nondisclosure agreements that prevent them from publicly speaking about living conditions and other concerns under penalty of internal discipline or even lawsuits.
Students and alumni getting “cease and desist” letters from one of Daytona Beach’s most influential (and expensive) law firms, Cobb Cole. Why? Because they dared to criticize B-CU online.
The university spending thousands of dollars to sue and dismantle its own official alumni association – and their predominately White law firm taking a beatdown in federal court by the association’s Black female sole practitioner – while at the same time, the University cries broke and asks alumni for their financial support.
This drama ain’t new
For more than a decade, starting with the selection of Dr. Trudie Kibbe Reed as then-Bethune-Cookman College’s fifth president, the local Black press – the Daytona Times and Florida Courier newspapers and the former WPUL-AM radio – has been warning the institution’s stakeholders about the danger of selecting presidential leadership without a bonafide, rigorous national search by a professional search firm.
Why? To try as much as possible to keep temporary, unstable, incompetent or dishonest leadership out of the presidential office.
(Full disclosure: your humble writer was formerly the publisher of both newspapers and the general manager of the radio station.)
Here’s what I wrote in 2019, after recommending (again) that the entire Board of Trustees (BOT) resign, that a new president be appointed after a full-blown national search, and that every B-CU employee resign and compete for their jobs against the best newcomers:
For 40-plus years, our media company has covered Bethune-Cookman University. And for 40-plus years, multiple generations of small-minded, crab-in-bucket, insecure cowards – usually holdovers from the previous administration – have attempted to prevent the new university leadership from moving forward.
(There have been) generations of rot. Unfortunately, resignation and rehiring have never happened in any of the four past presidential administrations of Oswald Bronson, Trudie Kibbe Reed, Edison Jackson, and now Dr. (E. LaBrent) Chrite.
Consequently, each successive presidential administration has been hobbled by nepotism, incompetence, small-mindedness, turf protection, lack of accountability, and a sense of entitlement for people who have served in too many positions for too long.
Nothing has changed.
Multiple iterations of the BOT took no heed to our “due diligence” warnings. They have selected, since 2004, five of six B-CU presidents – Reed, Dr. Edison Jackson, Hubert Grimes, Dr. Hiram Powell, and Dr. Lawrence Drake – with no search at all.
The notable exception was the selection of Chrite, who suddenly resigned with no notice in March 2021. Rather than immediately launch a national search, B-CU’s BOT led by Chairman Belvin Perry appointed Powell, then Blake, as interim president.
Why no search after almost two years? Perry keeps indefinite control of the institution through his leadership of a weak, compliant board.
Three interim presidents – Grimes, Powell, and Drake –were and are impotent figureheads subject to manipulation by Perry and his consigliere, Executive Vice President & Chief Innovation Officer Karen Bearden.
Gaming for the throne
What’s Perry’s end game? It’s gotta be the B-CU presidency – something that is well within his reach, given that the presidential search committee is a sham.
It’s stocked with current trustees – including Perry himself – plus longtime staff and faculty who are working in an atmosphere of fear and intimidation. They also signed non-disclosure agreements that prevent them telling their own truths publicly.
Think this committee wouldn’t appoint Perry as president? Think again; it’s happened before.
Though she wasn’t on the B-CC presidential search committee herself, Trudie Kibbe Reed was the consultant for the committee that eventually selected her.
I’ll repeat it again
Time for Trustees Perry, Joyours “Pete” Gamble, Jennifer Adams, Jeffrey E. Branch, Deveron Gibbons, David Brewer, Lorenzo Brown, John Crossman, Gregorio Francis, Courtney Rhodes, John A. Williams, and Alice Williams, plus interim President Drake and Athletic Director Reggie Theus, to all walk away. How much more damage can your individual reputations take as hidden facts are revealed?
Mass resignation is the only way B-CU gets a “factory reset” that returns it to values of its founder.
And be advised that the Black Press, including “Roland Martin Unfiltered,” won’t stop covering this story. I’ll see y’all at Roland’s town hall meeting next week.
Coming up: B-CU has banked approximately $145 million in cash grants and low-interest federal loans, and had approximately $21 million in debt has been wiped off its books. Where dem dollas at?
Charles W. Cherry II, a Daytona Beach native, is president and CEO of 623 Management, Inc., an advertising agency focused on online (smartphones, digital) and offline (print, broadcast, outdoor) messaging to Black Floridians.