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Office of the President: Transparency, Integrity, Positive Action

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Greetings to Faculty, Staff, Students and Alumni:

When our beloved Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune founded the Daytona Literary and Industrial Training School for Negro Girls in 1904, she envisioned creating educational opportunities for those who didn’t have access to such opportunities previously.

While growing the school wasn’t easy, and impediments to success were found at every turn, Ms. Bethune persevered and eventually merged her school with Jacksonville’s Cookman Institute.  In 1931, the school became a junior college and, a decade later, Bethune-Cookman College was born.

Dr. Bethune’s vision, drive and spirit of excellence ensured that African-Americans and students from all ethnicities from around the country would have the chance to get a quality college education, many for the first time in their family’s history.

In 2007, we became Bethune-Cookman University. 

While our name may have changed, Dr. Bethune’s spirit and vision remain. 

Recently however, we have fallen short of the spirit of excellence that Dr. Bethune so proudly brought to this institution. 

Administrative decisions were made that negatively impacted our university.  We experienced internal turmoil.  Rumors swirled about financial impropriety.  Accusations were made that threatened the very essence of B-CU.

Getting through this past year was not easy. 

But today is a new day.  And today marks a new start.   

It marks a new start for me, as well.  After retiring from a legal career that included serving 25 years as a judge, I went to work at B-CU and in 2015 became General Counsel.  It was my honor to be considered to serve as the Interim President of this great institution.  After all, I’ve spent my entire career helping young people be the best that they can be, often in spite of difficult circumstances. 

When I was officially named Interim President July 13, my No. 1 priority was to win back the trust of those who are most important to B-CU:  Each of you.

Implementing a new culture starts at the top.  To that end, I have adopted an acronym that will become the backbone of this administration: 

TIP.  Transparency.  Integrity.  Positive Action. 

Transparency:

I pledge to each of you that we will do a much better job of communicating with you than we have in the past.  Whether good news or bad, you’ll hear it from us first. 

We are developing a communications program that will feature regular contact through a number of vehicles including newsletters, email, social media and more. 

We are working now to establish a website that will address issues currently facing the university.  We will provide as much detail as possible regarding how we intend to deal with these issues going forward. 

Integrity:

We will work tirelessly to create a culture of honor and excellence at B-CU.  We will do what we say, when we say we’re going to do it.  We will provide positive leadership for our students, faculty, staff, alumni and donors. 

Most importantly, we will uphold the principles of F.I.R.S.T.:  Faith, Integrity, Respect, Service and a Thirst for knowledge.  It starts with me and will flow through our entire administration and student body.     

Positive Action:

We will take immediate steps to remedy many of the issues facing the university.  We will ensure that B-CU is visible in our local community.  We will do everything in our power to reinforce your pride in this institution.   

I promise you that we will work through our existing issues and continue to do the things that made this university great.  We will give our students an opportunity to earn a quality education in an excellent environment.

I want to assure you that in spite of all the noise, our students continue to learn, grow and thrive.  We will remain focused on fostering a positive atmosphere for our students as we work through these issues. 

Speaking of our students, as we welcome 1,200 new students and all of our returning students to campus today, I wanted to highlight some of the good news we’ve experienced of late. 

Our students are landing paid internships and turning those internships into full-time positions at top-tier companies.  Several groups under ‘Male Initiatives’ have been getting out in the community to read to children at schools and conducting community clean-up efforts, among other activities.  Our nursing students are volunteering at the Odessa Chambliss Center and many other positive efforts are currently underway.   

While words matter, actions speak even louder.  I ask each of you to watch our actions as we navigate this chapter of B-CU’s history.  We will work tirelessly to ‘preserve the legacy of our Founder and protect the vision’ of our future.   

I look forward to working with each of you to help realize the potential of our great university. 

Cordially,

Office of Communications

Ursula James
Assistant Director of Communications
jamesu@cookman.edu
PH: 386-481-2975
FX: Fax

About Bethune Cookman University:

Founded in 1904 by Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, Bethune-Cookman University (B-CU) today sustains her legacy of faith, scholarship and service through its relationship with the United Methodist Church and its commitment to academic excellence and civic engagement.  B-CU offers 38 degrees on its main campus and online college. Located in Daytona Beach, B-CU is one of three private, historically black colleges in the state of Florida. The institution boasts a diverse and international faculty and student body of nearly 4,000.  For more information, visit www.cookman.edu.