Fisk's New President Says He's Up To The Challenge
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Fisk University's new President has only been on the job for four days and the honeymoon is already over. That's because lingering financial woes could threaten the school's accreditation and ultimately its future.
The routine walk to class for Fisk University students is a walk through history.
"The history and the visions and the goals of Fisk are what really brought me here," Freshman Necho Hopkins said.
It's a history steeped in a tradition of overcoming the odds. But the constant financial problems are now putting the future of the oldest college in Nashville at risk.
"I understood all along that there was going to be challenges but I think those challenges are well worth the effort," Dr. James Williams, the new President of Fisk said. He started on February 1st becoming the 15th President in the school's history.
"There's no way we can just let this place go and somebody has to do the job."
A job that may literally involve saving the University as its accreditation status is in jeopardy.
Last December the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools placed Fisk on continued probation, giving them one last year to address financial issues. When accreditation is reconsidered later this year the options will be to either remove Fisk from probation or revoke accreditation all together
"It's like the chicken and egg in many instances, because in order to get some of those fiscal issues addressed we also have to grow the student enrollment," Dr. Williams said.
Enrollment currently stands at 620 students, up from last year but down from 814 students in 2007.
"We want to make sure we bring in students who are academically capable, respectful and mature," Junior Gabrielle Ridley said about the idea.
Dr. Williams is intent on making the University more attractive to prospective students both aesthetically and in what it offers, so students can meet the demands of the workforce.
"He wants to make a bunch of changes and I always look forward to change," Hopkins said.
The future of Fisk rests squarely on the leadership Williams is able to provide.
"I felt the pressure all along and I knew what I was getting into," he said.
Williams is confident that he's up to the challenge.