Here’s something that hasn’t been said much the last few years: Things are going pretty well at Alabama State University.
The troubled historically black university has experienced a solid run of decent news of late.
Nothing earth shattering. Not setting the world on fire.
Just solid, move-things-forward news that reflects positively on one of the state’s most important colleges, because of the area and economically depressed citizens it serves.
Thursday was a perfect example.
Early in the day, ASU officials held a press conference to announce a new scholarship partnership with Hyundai — the white whale of business partners for colleges and nonprofits in the Montgomery area.
On the surface, a couple of $20,000 scholarships doesn’t seem like much, especially to a university and car company accustomed to dealing with figures in the millions. But ASU has been chasing Hyundai for quite some time, attempting to get the company to partner with the university in any number of endeavors or sponsorships.
Hyundai has resisted, particularly recently. Privately, company execs told ASU officials that they were concerned with the school’s image and leadership — problems mostly related to a long-running forensic investigation of ASU’s finances.
That audit is over and the accompanying attorney general’s investigation found no wrongdoing. Add that to the hire of Quinton Ross as president, and it seems Hyundai is now willing to take that step.
In addition to that piece of good news, ASU also was handed a win in a very high-profile lawsuit on Thursday.
A federal judge dismissed the claims of several Nigerian students against ASU, saying there was no evidence that the university had misappropriated funds meant to pay for the students’ tuition and expenses. Those students had claimed that ASU had collected money it shouldn’t have and kept overages for things like books and food that should have gone back to the students.
ASU officials had maintained that the money didn’t belong to the students, but instead should go back to Nigeria, which footed the bill. As was pointed out in court, to facilitate the return of the funds, ASU officials had opened a bank account to store the excess monies. It has more than $200,000 in it, awaiting instructions for delivery from the Nigerian government.
See? Nothing huge.
But good news for a college that desperately needs it.
Look, I’ll make a couple of admissions here: I want to see ASU climb out of the hole it’s been in and flourish, and I think Ross is the right guy to do it.
ASU is a vital cog in this state in more ways than people even realize. It has historically played a significant role in educating black leaders, and its public service pipeline has helped create some of the most recognizable names in progressive Alabama politics.
All of which, I believe, played a role in its many recent troubles. ASU was largely responsible for producing an opposing party, and some folks really wanted it to be less opposing. So they all but killed ASU.
To dig out, the school needed a leader familiar with the inner workings of Alabama politics, and ASU’s unique role in that world, and someone who genuinely cared for ASU and its history and traditions. That’s Ross, and so far he’s done a fine job cleaning up a disaster area.
If that stops one day and he spirals downward in the manner some recent ASU presidents have, I’ll write bad things about him.
But for now, you couldn’t do much better. And for the first time in a long time, for ASU, there is light at the end of its very dark tunnel.