Taking a stand

Designed by: Hyllary B.

Over the last few months, Bennett College has been asking for donations so the institution can keep its accreditation. Students and the community only have a few more days to show their support and stand with Bennett.

Bennett has been struggling with retention and enrollment which seems to be the root cause of their financial issues. In the Fall of 2015, Bennett College only enrolled 126 first-time and transfer students. In the following school year, their retention rate was only 45 percent.

The college was on probation from 2001 to 2003 due to a 30 percent decline in enrollment, causing their annual budget to shortfall to $3.8 million, according to the News and Record.

This time around, the Board of Trustees of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) cited Bennett for failing to comply with its standards for financial resources and financial stability.

SACSCOC did not provide details about where the college fell short. Instead, it cited the accreditation standards that Bennett did not meet. As a result, SACSCOC voted to remove the accreditation of Bennett College.

However, the institution remains accredited and on probation during the 10-day period after receipt of official notification in which it can submit a formal appeal.

If the institution appeals the decision by submitting a formal request in accordance with SACSCOC’s policy, the institution will maintain accreditation on probation pending the decision of the Appeals Committee. The Appeals Committee will convene on one of the following days: Feb. 18, 19 or 20.

The community should be standing by Bennetts side because of their rich commitment to the community. What some may not know is the Bennett Belles showed their support during the sit-in movements in the 1960s.

Bennett College was instrumental to the sit-in movements that were sparked by the Aggie Four. In 1959, during the NAACP student chapter meetings that were held at Bennett College, where students began to plan the sit-in movements that would set the nation ablaze.

Bennett has always nurtured and extolled student leadership. Before the four North Carolina A&T State University students sat at Woolworth’s lunch counter to protest discrimination, the Belles picketed the Carolina Theater in 1938 over its racist practice of editing African-Americans out of films.

“This is not a new thing for Bennett College,” said Bennett graduate, Dr. Linda B. Brown. “When I was there in 1960, I knew that part of my education was to develop my leadership abilities and to be an outstanding woman – not just an outstanding person but an outstanding woman.”

Brown said she , Johnson and other Belles of Liberty dared to protest and get arrested because they knew they had the strong backing of the College.

Bennett’s legacy of producing strong women has continued through the decades. Examples include Dr. Gladys Ashe Robinson, a 1971 Belle who is a Democratic Senator in the North Carolina General Assembly and also Chairwoman of the Bennett College Board of Trustees, and Belinda J. Foster, a 1979 Belle who made history by becoming North Carolina’s first African-American woman District Attorney.

Former Bennett student government president, Sandi Smith, was very active in the Greensboro community was killed by the KKK in the 1970s. Rev. Nelson Johnson and others had a demonstration against the KKK which the Klan disrupted with violence. Some Belles have literally given their lives for the cause.

Bennett Belles have also significantly impacted North Carolina politics is no surprise to Dr. Gwendolyn M. Bookman, chairwoman of the Department of Political Science and Sociology and an associate professor of political science.

“Bennett Belles are also known as Voting Belles,” said Bookman, citing a phrase coined by Congresswoman Alma S. Adams who taught art history at Bennett for 40 years.

This legacy is the reason why we can’t stand by and let Bennett be lost. As one of only two women-only HBCU institutions, both of these places are almost sacred – where Black women are able to come and blossom into who they are.

Bennett honors, lifts and empowers Black women to be all that they can be. Bennett has fostered a space that highlights women in leadership, nurtures sisterhood and community.

The school has improved fundraising efforts. A year ago, Dawkins and Board of Trustees Chairwoman Gladys Robinson said the college set a goal of raising $4 million from its alumnae and friends.

It beat that target with a little more than $4.2 million in gifts and pledges during 2017-18. The college’s financial audit for the year, Dawkins added, came back clean.

It’s a crucial time for the college which is trying to raise millions by month’s end to ensure its survival. Supporters from across the country have given more than $2 million to the private institution. The tiny school has raised national media attention as well as catching several well-known faces attention.

The Papa John’s Foundation has donated $500,000 to Bennett College, making it the largest gift that has been contributed to the Institution since administrators announced they need to raise a minimum of $5 million by Feb. 1.

In addition to the half-million dollars, Papa John’s has pledged to develop an ongoing relationship with Bennett College.

“Papa John’s has supported educational institutions of all levels for years and we are a proud partner to many colleges across the country,” said Steve Ritchie, CEO of Papa John’s. “That legacy continues through The Papa John’s Foundation’s support of Bennett College.”

“In August 2018, I committed to establishing a corporate foundation, and I’m pleased that its first grant will go to an institution that shares our values of equity, fairness, respect and opportunity,” he added.

The college’s social media campaign also caught the attention of the Smollett family. Brothers Jessie and Jake Smollett took to Instagram and Twitter to share their support of the campaign, garnering more than 4,000 likes on Twitter and 100,000 on Instagram.

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We thank you, @lodivadevine, for the love and support! Please click the link in our bio to stand with us! #StandWithBennett #BennettCollege #BennettBelles #HERstory #EducationForYourFuture #SisterhoodForLife 🔔💙🔔 . . . @michelleobama @sza @lancegross @ebonymagazine @hbcustylemagazine @hbcupridenetwork @hbcumuseum @hbcugirlstalk @hbcutheyard @hbcupulse @msnbc @cnn @abcnews @nowthisnews @buzzfeednews @tarajiphenson @ncnaacp @naacp @naacpimageawards @bet @djkhaled @jcolewrld @tasiasword @willsmith @jadapinkettsmith @jadenovah @c.syresmith @angelarye @im.angelabassett @iamnialong @queenlatifah #shaderoom #savehbcu #love #bennett #college #university #school #blacklivesmatter #cnn #msnbc #donate #gofundme #saveourcollege #student #collegestudent #dorm #dormroom #zetaphibeta #deltasigmatheta #deltasigmathetasororityinc #alphakappaalpha

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In addition to celebrities and alumnae who have voiced their support for Bennett, the college is also receiving support from their fellow campus Queens and Kings.

Campus Queens Jada Brown of North Carolina A&T State University and Jasmine Moss of Wilberforce University are standing in solidarity with Bennett Queen, Brooke Kane, and are willingly forfeiting votes they received to give to Kane.

Kane, who serves as the institutions 39th Misses, said that school has made a profound impact in the community.

As Bennett approaches the final hour of their fundraising campaign, efforts may seem as though they’re only a drop in the ocean. While the Belles have been working tirelessly to save their home, a miracle could be in the works. Many organizations have seen the extent of the kindness of strangers at the last minute.

A 140-year-old church held what they thought was its final service after facing foreclosure, legal issues and nearly $8 million in debt. Church leaders received a midnight phone call from a group offering almost $2 million donations to help the church purchased the property from the bank.

This allowed the church to halt the auction and demolition of the historic property.   

A last-minute Hail Mary by the Oakland Raiders saved the Oakland Unified School District sports program after the team stepped in donating $250,000, making serious department cuts unnecessary.

In order to save money, the district chose to eliminate wrestling, tennis, golf, swimming and girl’s lacrosse among other sports to close a $500,000 budget deficit.To make a donation to help Bennett College reach its goal and/or to learn more about #StandWithBennett, click here.