Tuesday, September 30, 2014

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ASU Students Still Push for Answers, Interim Pres. Expects Successful Audit
By Heather VacLav


The ongoing battle at between students and Alabama State University continues after the Board of Trustees approved a number of changes to the ASU last week, including an audit of all university contracts.
 
Wednesday morning former ASU president now turned interim president, Dr. William Harris, called his first public meeting to remind senior staff members that the audit takes top priority.

At the same time ASU students are trying to focus on finals week, but many say they are distracted by what they believe is a lack of transparency at their university.

“We're not involved in the process, we have no clue with whats going on,” said Maya Mckenzie a chief Golden Student Ambassador.

“We still are lost, we don't know what is going on, no one is answering our questions, no one is taking us seriously,” said Quanitra Reid, the treasurer for the Student Government Association (SGA). “So we feel like we don't even matter to [the board of trustees] to be honest with you.”

Students like Reid and Mckenzie are uncertain about the fate of President Dr. Joseph Silver who says he was suspended after raising questions about finances and contracts at the school and also attempting to fire two top administrators, including executive vice president John Knight, who is also a state legislator.

Last Friday during a meeting overseen by Governor Robert Bentley, the board of trustees voted to table the decision on Silver because his mother had died the night before, and instead brought back former ASU President Dr. William Harris as interim president.

Students also say another accounting firm should be involved with the university contract audits, since the selected company, Warren Averett, LLC, has a long-term history with ASU audits.

“They are a first class firm and the idea that they would use their firm to cover up something for ASU just to, doesn't make any sense,” Dr. Harris said.

But students say they aren't buying it.

“As a student body we really are afraid they are going to make a decision while we are gone,” Reid said explaining most students are leaving for winter break by Friday, December 7th when ASU closes.

“I have no reason to believe that there is any misuse of contracts or misuse of funds any other way,” Dr. Harris said when asked about students' doubts in the choice of Warren Averett. “We've had good audits over the past four years and when this review is done I expect it to be the same.”

When asked his thoughts about the student movement and protests against his return, Dr. Harris would not comment.

“It's evolved from Save Silver to Transparency and accountability and I think that no matter who is in the office of the president,” Mckenzie said.

“I think that's what we're championing until we each graduate from the university.”

Members of the SGA tell CBS-8 News even though the campus will be cleared by the end of the week, they will continue to push ASU for answers between now and when they return in January.

Also, in terms of a time line for when the audit will be finished, Dr. Harris says he doesn't know, but does not expect it done by Christmas.