NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A former president of Norfolk State University told WAVY.com he thinks the current administration is blaming him for the school being put on probation by its accrediting agency.
10 On Your Side reported about a Wednesday news release from current interim president Eddie Moore Jr., announcing the accreditation status downgrade from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS).
“We believe the concerns are a result of administrative and governance issues from previous years,” Moore wrote. ” … Norfolk State has made substantial progress in the past 15 months.”
Fifteen months ago is exactly the time when former NSU President Dr. Tony Atwater was ousted from his position at the university. WAVY.com sat down with Atwater on Thursday and got his reaction to NSU’s probation.
“This will significantly impact enrollment, fundraising, and budgetary support for programs,” he said.
Atwater is critical of Interim President Moore, who said in his news release that NSU will remain fully accredited and that the probation will not impair students’ eligibility for federal financial aid.
“I would say that is back pedaling, and essentially down playing the significant negative consequences of probation,” Atwater said.
Dr. Atwater, who remains a faculty member at the school, said enrollment is in a stunning decline, with 700 fewer students currently than the fall 2013 semester.
“We were told there would be budget adjustments and possible faculty layoffs, and program cuts,” Atwater said.
10 On Your side reminded Atwater of the following:
- that he was fired because things were bad when he was president of NSU
- that he failed to get audits completed in a timely manner
- that he failed to connect with the Board of Visitors
- that he failed to win the confidence of Richmond legislators that he could change the downward direction of the university
Atwater replied: “I certainly take some of the responsibility for some of the issues.”
However, Atwater blamed NSU for systematic failures that include: a weak full-time faculty workforce, low-quality instructional facilities, inadequate student advisers, inadequate enrollment management, and lack of leadership from the Board of Visitors. He said he resents Interim President Moore’s implication that things were bad when he was president.
“I do resent that, because the implication is that … things were very, very bad, and getting worse when I was there,” Atwater said. “But now, with the accreditation review, they are much worse than when Tony Atwater was president.”
On Friday, Norfolk State University’s Board of Visitors will hold its regularly scheduled meeting, where topics like declining enrollment and the probation will be discussed.