BREAKING: Students At Bethune-Cookman University Protest Unsafe Living Conditions & Other Issues, Call For Removal Of Board Of Trustee Members

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Update (1/27/23, 7:30 PM EST): Bethune-Cookman University released a video this afternoon recapping a meeting that Interim President Dr. Lawrence M. Drake II and Athletic Director Reggie Theus had with the current Wildcat Football players. The duo were accompanied by Bethune-Cookman football alumni who also got the opportunity to play in the NFL. In the meeting students got to ask questions and received clarity on the hiring of a new football coach. Dr. Drake assured the football team that a new head coach will be named within the next 10 days.

Players laid out concerns for the administration about obtaining better nutrition, on staff trainers, a training facility and voiced concerns about sharing helmets and cleats and better campus conditions. In the video, Dr. Drake says he was unaware of several of the things that the football players presented to him in the meeting. Also, Theus announced that plans are in place to create an on-campus practice field and also a $3 million investment into the stadium locker rooms. He says both will be done by August.

Update (1/26/23, 8 PM EST): Students continue their protest of unsafe living conditions at Bethune-Cookman University. On Tuesday, student protesters were informed that Interim President Dr. Lawrence M. Drake II will speak with student leaders at some point next week to address student demands. The student protesters held a peaceful demonstration inside of White Hall on campus the same day.

 

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Yesterday afternoon, the student protesters marched to City Hall to continue to raise awareness to the protest. Several student leaders have appeared on Roland Martin’a eponymous news program #RolandMartinUnfiltered to address the protest and issues that they’ve faced. Bethune-Cookman SGA President Wilbert Stubbs said on #RolandMartinUnfiltered that SGA leaders haven’t had a meeting with Interim President Dr. Drake since August. 

“My last meeting with the university president that was in person was back in the beginning of August…August 10th to be exact,” said Stubbs to Martin during his appearance on the show. Roland Martin will be hosting a town hall specifically about the Bethune-Cookman protests next Friday from 6 PM-8 PM at Greater Friendship Baptist Church located at 539 George W. Engram Blvd. in Daytona Beach, Florida. Doors open at 5 PM.

The students have released a list of demands in advance of a meeting with Interim President Dr. Drake. The list of demands as obtained from student leaders is below.

List Of Student Demands

NON- NEGOTIABLE DEMANDS

INVESTIGATION OF ADMINISTRATION

A detailed investigation of the leadership of our campus will aid in locating the main problem. As we don’t feel included in the direction our university is headed in. We feel as if the Board of Trustees led by Judge Belvin Perry Jr. has not been completely transparent with us. Being that we don’t feel valued, heard, or supported by the administration we are DEMANDING the immediate revision of these roles. WE DEMAND STUDENT AND ALUMNI REPRESENTATION ON THE BOARD

  1. Create a better method of requesting maintenance requests.

1a. There needs to be staff appointed in CIT or Facilities to ensure these claims are being addressed in a more timely manner

  1. Enforce better safety regulations on campus

2a. There needs to be better safety measures in place to protect the safety of students suffering from crises: physical injury, emotional distress, and sickness or illness.

  1. Improve screening measures for employees of the university.

3a. There must be set criteria for employment at the university and employees must represent Dr. Bethune’s legacy by exemplifying her core values. FIRST

  1. Release detailed financial statements for each student account

4a There has to be a better format for the balancing of accounts. Without the direct presence of a financial analyst in the administration, we have suspicions regarding the use of funds. Provide detailed explanation with supporting documentation for the removal and non-authorization for scholarship funding.

  1. Amend the student handbook and code of conduct.

5a. There should be a revision of regulations regarding attending the university and the way students are expected to behave.

  1. Renew vendor contracts

6a Delegating specific individuals within the administration to ensure contracts are renewed to ensure the upkeep of the university. Food and beverage contract renegotiation with Sodexo. As they are ultimately responsible for basic amenities on campus; Dining hall, Maintenance and Facilities, and on-campus services.

  1. Formulate direct and frequent communication with the administration

7a. Creating a relationship amongst students to ensure their voices are being heard and respected.

  1. Restore the tradition of the university.

8a Formulate a plan to ensure the university still demonstrates its founding principles despite dismay.

  1. Protect the Interest of students

9a Amplify student leaders and encourage students to engage in activities that will aid their improvement.

  1. Remain a Family 

10a Enforce that Students, Administration, Professors, and community members all must treat each other with respect.

 

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Update (1/24/23, 12 PM EST): Bethune-Cookman University Interim President Dr. Lawrence M. Drake II released a statement addressing student protests over unsafe living conditions as well as if the university is willing to resume talks with Ed Reed on becoming the head football coach. The statement comes after an appearance on Roland Martin’s “#RolandMartinUnfiltered” news program last night addressing the aforementioned issues.

The statement is below:

First, let me begin by saying that I was very proud of the manner in which our students handled themselves during yesterday’s student gathering. It was orderly and represented the best intentions of students sharing their voices. While social media and media outlets have seized on not continuing negotiations with NFL Hall of Fame player Ed Reed, many of our students chose to use this moment to voice their concerns. This administration takes no issue with this. In the coming davs. I will meet with student leaders to ensure that we address many of the students’ concerns and answer their questions as honestly as possible.

To close the chapter on Mr. Reed, he was a tremendous player. Still, as we continued to observe him, we felt that his behavior was not aligned with the traditions of our founder Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, and the university. We have over 50+ inquiries concerning our Head coaching position and are very excited about our candidate pool. Many of them possess not only knowledge of the game and the ability to assist in raising funds for the program. Still, they are disciplined leaders who have demonstrated their steadfast commitment to our Christian values. They also have the leadership skills to mold successful young men who are also student-athletes.

We’ve also added a football player representative to join the search committee, giving the football team aa stake and a voice in choosing our next Head Football coach.We hope to announce our selection of a new Head Football Coach in the next week to ten days.

Next, Issues and concerns: Over the last year, Bethune-Cookman University has begun a complete assessment of all its facilities for fitness, renovation, and teardown, as well as the construction of new facilities to enhance our campus. We’ve enlisted the assistance of CT Construction, an Orlando-based firm with extensive HBCU campus experience, our facilities partner Sodexo, and several environmental and architectural engineering firms to continue the assessment of over lOU buildings.

Simultaneously, we have begun to prioritize necessity and cost, as financial resources are limited. For some buildings and facilities, in light of two unprecedented weather events, Hurricane Ian and Hurricane Nicole, and enrollment growth, we have begun renovation and construction immediately. As with any process, facility age, building conditions, time to remedy, weather impact, and expense are paramount. To ensure we are thorough, this phase will likely not be complete until late summer or just before the FY23-24 school year. Once school begins in the Fall, we will work around student movement and will likely require moving students around, which could be disruptive to their living and learning. Student logistics, campus housing, and instructional classroom spaces are keys to the university meeting its academic requirements.

While I believe the truth and transparency are always the best courses, some “facts” are not always friendly! However, we have to do what is right even when it’s not popular. Our Founder Dr. Bethune once remarked, “The progress of the world will call for the best that all of us have to give.” We will continue to move to be the best version of ourselves and truly appreciate the patience of our students and al concerned as we work to improve our community.

“Hail Wildcats”!

Sincerely,

Lawrence M. Drake II, Ph.D.

Students are continuing protests today as they plan to protest in front of White Hall on campus.

 

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We will continue to keep you abreast on updates on this story as they are revealed.

Read The Original Reporting On The Article Below

Students of Bethune-Cookman University are holding an on-campus protest of unsafe living conditions on campus as well as issues with the leadership of the Board Of Trustees. Orlando news affiliate Fox 35 released an article reporting on the motivations over half a dozen student protesters that they spoke with under the assurance of anonymity to protect themselves from possible backlash from the university. The students interviewed told Fox 35 reporter Marie Edinger that “Reed losing his contract isn’t the point of their protest, but rather that it was the spark or the last straw for them.”

A student quoted in Edinger’s article wrote, “What started off as my dream school turned into something that’s far less than what I thought.”

Fox 35 also obtained pictures of unsatisfactory living conditions on campus sent by students. The pictures showed mold that has grown on bedding and other furniture, clothes and the dorm walls. Another student, who is asthmatic, spoke about how the mold in the dorm triggered her asthma and sent her to the hospital.

The protest, which is still taking place as this article is written, features students speaking about their issues as well as publicly requesting the removal of the Board Of Trustees. Several students some tearfully, recount unpleasant experience and their displeasure with on-campus conditions.

 At this time, Bethune-Cookman has not released a statement about the protest or the status of the Board Of Trustee members. We will continue to update you on this story as more information is presented.

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