ASU leaders discuss the future

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 4, 2010

LORMAN — With promises of new leadership, the death of a university merger bill and a 10 percent funding cut, Alcorn State University has a year of change ahead.

Former Alcorn President George Ross, Interim President Norris Edney and Commissioner of Higher Education Hank Bounds shared their thoughts on the upcoming changes with those in attendance at the college’s convocation ceremony Wednesday.

While the purpose of the convocation was to introduce Edney to the university’s student body and faculty, and to say goodbye and good luck to Ross, the event also served as an update on what to expect in the days ahead.

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“I’m happy to report (Wednesday) morning there were no bills brought forth for the merger of Alcorn State University,” Ross said.

Receiving a standing ovation, Ross told those present that he was aware of the nervousness that had settled over the university since Gov. Haley Barbour proposed the merging of Alcorn and Mississippi Valley State University with Jackson State University.

Bounds said he was pleased the merger died in committee.

“Dr. Ross did speak accurately,” Bounds said. “In legislative terms the merger bill is dead, dead, dead.”

Despite the good news, Bounds said the university is tightening its belt.

Bounds said the university’s 10 percent funding cut could make it so that every action— whether big or small — by students and faculty could make or break the college.

“The month of January was the worst month yet. And there is some concern that we haven’t hit bottom yet,” he said.

Bounds said if students switch off dorm lights when they aren’t needed and professors turn off their computers when they aren’t using them, the money saved would help.

“At the end of the day, every penny we save will end up saving jobs.”

After delivering the message he described as “sobering,” Bounds introduced Edney to his student body.

Edney told students and faculty that during his 32 years at Alcorn he’d seen his fair share of financial cuts, and every time they arose, the school came out stronger than before.

“We’ve been cut 28 percent before,” Edney said. “We must stand at all times together. As you look up and thank the good Lord, don’t forget to look around, and what you’ll see when you look around is what has come out of little to now be great.

“We learned to say to ourselves, ‘God is so good to us that we must take what we have and turn it into what we want it to be,’ and that is what we want to continue to do at Alcorn. We have the best students in the world.”

Edney told those present that in order to see Alcorn continue to thrive through the face of adversity, students, faculty and administrators must respect one another and stand together.

“My pastor told me that it wasn’t about me. And it’s not about me. The unfortunate thing is that it’s not about you either. It’s about Alcorn State University as a family, and if that doesn’t survive, none of us will survive.”

In his closing remarks to the faculty and students he’s worked closely with for the past two years, Ross expressed his gratitude for the support and prayers he’s received, and charged the university to work with Edney.

“Dr. Edney will be able to do nothing more than what you do,” Ross said. “He’s going to make decisions that are forward thinking decisions for this university. As much as you rallied against the possibility of a merger, rally around the future of this university.”