Mississippi IHL Commissioner and former Alcorn State University President Alfred Rankins had an interesting message for attendees at a recent listening session on campus between system leadership and Alcorn stakeholders.
The Natchez Democrat reports on the concerns from Alcorn faculty, who sought answers from Dr. Rankins on resources and programmatic development, among other issues.
Dr. Rankins’ response?
“Historically, this campus has been invested more in nursing and health courses,” Rankins said. “My concern is, this facility can be utilized for a lot more. What I would like to see is someone taking the initiative to find out what is needed in this community … and offer more programs to fit the need in this community.”
Rankins said the university’s faculty has the ability to change the programs and curriculum offered and should not rely on a newly appointed president to make those changes happen.
“The board hiring the next president is committed to finding the best fit for this university,” Rankins said. “Adjusting the curriculum … should start with the faculty. … They are in the best position for growing their programs.”
Dr. Rankins was named as IHL commissioner in March, just weeks after his four-year anniversary of being named as Alcorn president. It seems strange that the Alcorn graduate who also served as deputy IHL commissioner and former interim president of Mississippi Valley State University would seem to chastise Alcorn faculty for what he seemingly missed in his tenure as school president.
If there was anyone positioned to best understand the industrial and social needs of the community surrounding Alcorn and to advocate for degree programs matching that need, it would have been Dr. Rankins. His relationships with the IHL board, lawmakers, and others higher ed stakeholders in Mississippi, seemingly would have given the school free reign to reset a sustainable long-term agenda for growth which was disrupted by the pseudo firing of former president and current Kentucky State University President M. Christopher Brown II in 2013.
But five years later, Dr. Rankins says that the school has fallen short of distinguishing itself as an asset in teaching and training for the region’s workforce and development needs. With four of those years belonging to him.
If Alcorn is falling short on its value to Mississippi, by design or by chance it happened on Dr. Rankins watch and seemingly under the specific direction of the board and system within which he has spent nearly his entire professional life.
But if Dr. Rankins is bold enough to out himself an agent of stalled progress or disruption, however, is something to consider and digest as far more troubling for Alcorn and all HBCUs in Mississippi.