Morris Brown, Georgia’s first historically black college, has been hit with another setback after the college’s multi-purpose center caught on fire.
WSB-TV reports the fire happened over the weekend and caused a tremendous amount of damage to the multi-purpose center, which happens to be the school’s only functioning facility. Interim president Dr. Kevin James was informed about the fire on Saturday, but the fire started Friday and the sprinklers were activated later that evening.
“About 6 a.m. Saturday morning I got a call from my security team and they said there was a fire here at the campus,” Dr. James said. While the fire was contained, the water caused a flood. Restoration crews worked on the building and faculty were told not to come to work on Monday.
In total, Dr. James believes the fire caused nearly $100,000 in damages. The school hopes alumni can step up and help assist with costs of repairs as well as the public. A GoFundMe was set up by the school to help reach their $100,000 goal.
“We’re going to be reaching out to the alums to give what they can, and the community and other supporters to help us to raise the dollars needed to restore the building,” he said. They also reached out to the insurance company to see what can be covered.
Morris Brown hasn’t had the best luck in restoring its good name. After losing its accreditation in 2002 due to their debt, the Atlanta-Journal Constitution reports several administrators committed fraud by registering for financial aid and in their students’ names as well as people who never applied to the school.
Former president Dolores Cross and financial aid director Parvesh Singh were charged in December 2004 on a 34-count indictment with Cross sentenced in 2007 to five years’ probation. Since then, the school’s attendance has plummeted with only 42 students currently enrolled; a stark difference from its peak attendance of 2,700 students. Because the school isn’t accredited, students cannot register for federal loans.
In March, Dr. James became the interim president and stated a plan for accreditation with the Virginia-based Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools. “We will be accredited within 12 to 18 months,” James said.
Founded in 1881 by the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Morris Brown’s history in Atlanta is rich as it was included in HBCU-based films like Stomp The Yard and Drumline.
“It’s just another roadblock but guess what? We’re going to overcome this and we’re going to keep moving forward,” Dr. James said. “Restore Morris Brown, the hard reset.”