By Shanderia K. Posey
Alumni and supporters of Jackson State University stood in solidarity July 1, with a local faith-based group to pledge their continued support of JSU.
The Ministerial Alliance, led by the Rev. Thomas Jenkins, pastor of New Dimensions Fellowship of Ministries in Jackson, held a press conference “to pledge our support to Jackson State University and express extreme disappointment on how JSU has been portrayed over an incident involving the JSU Development Foundation that happened more than two years ago yet resulted in no loss,” Jenkins said. “Make no mistake, we are extremely confident in JSU’s president and her leadership team as good stewards of our funds. This is evident by the university’s quick action to correct problems and secure 100 percent of reimbursements.”
Jenkins was referring to stories published in The Clarion-Ledger newspaper June 18-22 detailing a report questioning unauthorized spending of JSU Development Foundation funds.
Of the $25.7 million the foundation had in 2014, it was determined some expenses were undocumented and some employees made personal purchases using credit cards issued to the foundation. The foundation was reimbursed for all unauthorized purchases made by a few employees, and it also discontinued use of credit cards in 2014.
In addition, David Hoard, former vice president of Institutional Advancement, was terminated. He had made about $24,000 in unauthorized purchases and returned the funds to the foundation in August 2014.
“We are utterly dismayed of the attention given to JSU when other university foundations which are separate operating entities … follow similar practices,” Jenkins said. “We are asking the city to join us in making sure that representation is fair and balanced because JSU has made important contributions to our great city, state, nation and the world.”
Joining Jenkins at the press conference were JSU National Alumni Association President Yolanda Owens of Atlanta, Ga., and JSU National Alumni Association First Vice President Dr. Earlexia Norwood of Detroit, Mich. Several other local pastors, including Bishop Ronnie Crudup, also lent their support.
“These disparaging remarks cannot be, will not be allowed to go forth without a response,” Crudup said.
“We don’t know what the catalyst is that caused the story to resurface, but we did deal with this in 2014,” Owens said.
Owens, Jenkins and Norwood emphasized their desire for media to share positive stories of JSU.
Without JSU, many would not have been given the opportunity to live out their dreams, Jenkins said, who noted the university can be credited for helping establish the middle class in Jackson and surrounding areas.
“Misplaced attention takes away from the real story of my Jackson State,” he said. “We would like to see people start reporting the good things about Jackson State.” Jenkins would even like to see an apology from The Clarion-Ledger.
Recently his 12-year-old grandson spent time at JSU in a Verizon program and has created an app.
“Can you imagine what would happen if all young males had the opportunity to spend time on Jackson State’s campus and got exposed to that kind of technology? We believe we can do what prisons can never do.”
Owens echoed Jenkins’ sentiments of the type of coverage JSU recently received.
“If there is ever a time that there is a perceived wrongdoing at Jackson State it gets heavy media coverage,” Owens said. “What we’d like to see is that same vigor and enthusiasm in coverage of the positive activities that are going on at Jackson State. We have accomplished a lot since 1877. If there is an opportunity or room for improvement, we will accept that challenge and make the necessary improvements and continue to move forward.”
Norwood, a physician, said, “It is important for the safety and health of our institution that the lies, the misperceptions be stopped.” Norwood noted JSU makes an impact locally as well in more than 60 countries across the globe.
As alumni president, Owens did have to quell concerns alumni have had in recent weeks. Once she explained how the university took swift action two years ago regarding the spending irregularities, the responses were positive for continued support.
“We did not lose anyone (alumni). The prevailing tone is that the Jackson State support system has not wavered,” she said.
Funds raised during JSU’s Day of Giving held July 7 on campus is a testament to support. More than $70,000 was raised, which was an increase from last year.
Shanderia K. Posey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org