Future leadership at Bethune Cookman uncertain as president resigns

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Bethune Cookman University's Board of Trustees met Wednesday afternoon to decide when university president Dr. Edison Jackson will step down and to discuss plans for the future.

Jackson announced his early retirement Tuesday.

"I had the upmost respect for Dr. Jackson. In fact, I was probably one of his cheerleaders,"  Dr. Beverly Bethune said.

But the university founder's granddaughter said that after financial troubles came to light, her opinion changed.

"Now here we are. With our debt sky high, our credit rating climbing out of the ditch and a major concern about the level of indebtedness that will hang on this university for an extended period of time," Bethune said.

According to Fitch Ratings, BCU showed a $15 million decline in available funds from 2014 to 2016, coupled with spending $85 million on a set of dorms, which was originally projected to cost slightly more than $72 million.

"There were no answers to our questions and basically, we were spoken to like we were kids," Bethune said.

The controversial choice of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos as the commencement speaker at graduation and Jackson's reasoning for the invitation were also a concern at the meeting.

"We're always in the business of making new friends," he said during the ceremony. "If you don't have friends, it's very difficult to raise money."

Word spread among students on campus about their wildcat leader.

"It's like sad and (students) question why he would do that, but, I can't really answer for him," said Briana Richardson.

Sources told News 6 that another meeting is scheduled for Thursday to discuss who will serve as acting president and the parameters of Jackson's separation agreement.

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