View Full Version : Garland says Central State needs more state funding

11-14-05, 06:37 PM
Garland says Central State needs more state funding
By JAMES HANNAH, Associated Press Writer
November 14, 2005 8:49 am

WILBERFORCE, Ohio -- When shrapnel from a land mine tore into John Garland and killed several Marines under his command in Vietnam in 1966, his fight there was over.

But the young warrior who turned into a civil rights attorney in North Carolina and now university president has not stopped battling. He is fighting to nourish and grow Central State University, Ohio's only public historically black college.

The 61-year-old Garland -- a stocky man whose hair is flecked with gray -- became president of Central State in 1997. The school was in a financial crisis, campus buildings were crumbling, enrollment was plummeting and many believed the school would not survive.

Under Garland's leadership and with the state's help, finances were stabilized, buildings remodeled, new construction launched and enrollments began to climb. But Garland feels the school of 1,600 students 15 miles east of Dayton is underappreciated and still not getting enough financial support from state officials.

"I'm dismayed that the state doesn't have the foresight to understand that we are a real jewel -- that we can provide a service unlike any other institution," Garland said in an interview with The Associated Press.

He said Central State provides a four-year education to young blacks who otherwise wouldn't get one. And he said enrollment would quadruple if the school had the right programs and financial resources.

In 1981, the U.S. Department of Education filed a complaint against Ohio, concluding the state had violated federal civil rights laws in its funding and treatment of Central State. Federal officials closed their investigation in 1998, based in part on assurances from the state that it would continue to rebuild and renew Central State.

Garland wants federal officials to reopen the case.

"They could be a bit more aggressive and require Ohio to abide by the agreement," he said.

Ohio Board of Regents Chancellor Roderick G.W. Chu has said Ohio "has long invested an extraordinary amount of funds" into Central State, even in financially tough periods.

Garland grew up in the housing projects of East Harlem in New York and dropped out of high school at 17 to help support his mother and four siblings.

After one month of "backbreaking labor" at a garment factory, he joined the Marines. In 1962, he was deployed on a ship off the coast of Cuba during the Cuban missile crisis and in 1965 found himself in Vietnam.

A land mine decimated his squad near AnHoa in May 1966, killing three soldiers and wounding Garland and four others. Garland came home and got a job at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, pushing a mail cart around and cutting fabric.

"The faculty and other people saw something in me I didn't see," Garland recalled. "They said, 'You absolutely should go to college.'"

Garland enrolled at Central State in 1968, graduated in 1971 and went on to law school at Ohio State University. His service-oriented legal career started when he founded Legal Services of the Coastal Plains in North Carolina in 1979 to provide legal assistance to black farmers. He became an attorney for the Federal Communications Commission and then the Washington Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, later serving as vice provost at the University of Virginia.

Garland knew there were problems at Central State, but took the job because he felt he had the commitment to turn things around at his alma mater.

Paul Dutton, a Youngstown attorney and member of the school's board of trustees since 1997, said Garland was brought in partly because he reacted well under stress.

"At the time he was hired, the university was imploding," Dutton recalled. "John was the right person at that time. He has sort of a battle mentality in which he is great at redressing crises. He's very adept at inspiring and rallying people to follow him. He's a leader."

After four straight years of enrollment increases, the student body shrank this fall by nearly 11 percent, to 1,623 students. That's a far cry from the school's peak enrollment of 3,263 in 1991.

Garland said the school changed from quarters to semesters, and some students may have suffered sticker shock when they saw they had to come up with a higher lump-sum payment even though the annual cost was about the same. And he said recruiters didn't do a good sales job.

Garland said steps have been taken to change that and he's confident enrollment will bounce back.

"No one can every tell me that our mission is not a strong, good, important mission," he said. "At some point -- over the long run -- we'll get an administration in Columbus, we'll get people in Columbus who will begin to recognize that mission and will begin to support it the way it should have been supported over the last 35 years."