Dear Fellow Tiger:
When I returned to campus to begin serving as Interim President, I was struck by how wonderfully the campus had evolved and grown since my days as a student. It caused me to contemplate how my life has evolved and grown, due in many ways to Jackson State. I have had many fantastic opportunities to serve in the field of education, but this appointment was particularly close to my heart. I know that many of the doors that have opened for me would not have been possible if I had not first walked through the doors of Jackson State.
Jackson State has opened the doors of opportunity to many of us -doors that would have otherwise been closed. The JSU faculty and staff welcomed us and prepared us for the future, and to be the leaders we are today. When we faced obstacles and challenges, they helped us to overcome them. As alums, we have been helped immensely by Jackson State University. This university is a special place, but it is now facing challenges.
I want you, as fellow alums, to be fully informed and aware of our situation. The same university that afforded opportunities for us, the university we love, is now facing critical challenges. For the past few years, when the university's accounts payable exceeded its accounts receivables, cash reserve funds were available and could be used to fill the gap. This practice depleted the cash reserves. Now, as the University accounts payable exceed the accounts receivable, cash reserves are not available to fill the gap. This creates a dire situation, and immediate action must be taken.
As alums, we have an opportunity to give back and help our university overcome these challenges. I'm asking you to join me in an urgent fundraising campaign to help put Jackson State back on financially sound footings.
When I arrived at JSU in November, my early assumption was that the university's primary problem centered on the fact that the cash reserves had been spent down. As I began investigating the matter, I discovered that the university's problem was much deeper than that. The issue was much more serious than it first appeared because the problem involved both spent down cash reserves, as well as across-the-board spending practices that exceeded university income.
These challenges have been widely reported, as you can see from these news reports:
Jackson State Cash Reserves Down $33 Million in Four Years
HBCU Digest - October 20, 2016
IHL Board: JSU has enough cash reserves to operate for just over a week
WJTV - October 20, 2016
IHL investigates potential financial crisis at Jackson State
Mississippi Today - October 20, 2016
Is JSU Broke?
Jackson Jambalaya - October 20, 2016
College Board hires firm to inspect JSU finances
The Clarion Ledger - October 20, 2016
JSU Interim President Rod Paige looks to cut expenses
The Clarion Ledger - January 21, 2016
Links to these articles are available at the end of this letter.
One other news item you might have seen recently is a settlement agreement Jackson State reached with the Department of Justice related to a National Science Foundation audit that occurred ten years ago. These reports can be misleading in two areas. First, let me say emphatically that Jackson State University has in no way mismanaged federal grant funds. The actual problem came in lack of time and effort reporting, which boils down to not completing time cards while working on grant projects. There should also be no concern over how the settlement amount will be paid. It will be paid from an insurance pool that is managed at the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning. It will in no way have an immediate impact on our cash reserves or operating budget.
A second round of state budget cuts were announced last week, which further complicates the situation. During this fiscal year, we have received a 3.3% budget reduction in state appropriations, equating to a cumulative reduction of $1.3 million through two rounds of cuts. This makes it very difficult to meet our financial obligations.
This is a serious situation, but with your help we can overcome this. There are only two solutions for this problem -decrease spending and increase funding.
To decrease spending, we are in the process of instituting spending cuts, being careful not to harm the university's prime mission. Some measures already taken include instituting a hiring freeze and placing controls on travel and other selected spending.
To increase funding, we are organizing approaches to foundations, philanthropic organizations, and vendors that do business with the university. We need to raise $5 million in short order.
Finally, now that you understand how difficult the challenge is, I hope you will join hands with me in helping our university to overcome this challenge. This situation is urgent, and it requires an urgent request for an urgent response. Therefore, I am asking each JSU alum, and former students, to help us in our fundraising efforts.
I understand many of you have been generous in your support of JSU through JSUNAA fundraising efforts in the past, and your support is greatly appreciated. But this is a special request for help during a critical university situation. This should not impede your continued giving through the JSUNAA. This is a special personal request asking you to go beyond what you are already doing and respond to this current situation.
Our faculty and staff have stepped up to do their part in addressing this urgent need. Through the Yearly Employee Support (Y.E.S.) campaign, employees have contributed $46,000 in the year to date. You, as alumni, can join the cause and make your mark in ensuring JSU remains a beacon of higher education both nationally and globally.
As a student at Jackson State University, I learned the importance of leading by example, as I am certain many of you did, so I want to be the first to step forward with a contribution of $10,000.
We are all members of this tremendous Jackson State family and I know each one of you wants to help our alma mater in any way you can. I therefore ask each JSU alum for a contribution of $100. If you are able to contribute more or are unable to contribute that much, please contribute what you can. I ask each alum to give something. Every little bit helps our university continue to serve our students the way the university served us.
To make a contribution online, click here.
If you would like to mail your donation, please send to:
JSU Development FoundationPost Office Box 17144
Jackson, MS 39217
To read the articles referred to earlier, open the URLs below.
Thank you for your support,
Jackson State University
Class of 1955