In his first Fall Convocation address at Paine College, Dr. Jerry Hardee presented students, faculty and alumni with some strong expectations that he said would help the school “emerge anew” as it deals with its recent troubles..
Paine is currently on probation with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission, which voted to take away the school’s accreditation in 2016 after it failed to meet financial standards. Paine responded by filing a lawsuit, claiming SACS’s standards are biased against small private colleges. The lawsuit is pending and Paine is considered accredited but on probation.
Hardee said there is no status on the lawsuit, and the school will be reviewed by SACS in the spring and he expects to have the issues resolved and accreditation reinstated.
“I don’t want to talk about what Paine used to be because all I need to do is make sure that Paine is better than it’s ever been,” he said during the convocation service at Gilbert-Lambuth Memorial Chapel.
During his address, Hardee told the assemblage that drugs, alcohol and weapons will not be tolerated on campus.
His declaration was met with some snickers and comments from the crowd, but Hardee reiterated this zero tolerance policy during a follow up interview with The Chronicle. Hall directors, resident assistants, security and the director of student affairs will be just a few of the Paine employees checking dorm rooms and classrooms for prohibited items.
“If you’re in that group, leave today, because sometimes we have to get a little smaller to grow the way we need to grow,” he told those inside the chapel. “I’m not going to allow you to be on this campus and be, pardon me, a hell-raiser.”
Paine enrollment is down compared to recent years. This semester’s student enrollment is 400. Hardee said he expects it to grow to more than 800 by next fall.
He said the college will not tolerate non-students loitering on campus. Hardee said lock downs will be used and students are required to wear IDs and have decals on cars. The majority of students attending the convocation were wearing the IDs.
“I’m going to make sure that the 99 percent of you who came here to get a good education don’t have to deal with people walking in and out of your dorms if they are not supposed to be on campus,” he said.
Hardee did not reserve his stern words for just students, as he also admonished faculty and staff.
“There are people who say they love Paine and the only time they show it is when they reach up on payday,” he said.
Hardee challenged staff throughout the convocation to arrive on time, ready to teach and encouraged students to challenge their professors. He also said that faculty will be required to participate in fundraisers and grant opportunities.
Prior to Paine, Hardee served as dean of the College of Undergraduate Studies at Life University in Marietta, Ga. for nine years until retiring in July 2016. He was also president of Sherman College of Straight Chiropractic in Spartanburg, S.C., from 2001-2005 where his resume states he retired the college’s debts, supervised the construction of the student center, created a $7 million surplus and more than doubled the enrollment in four years.
“I don’t take my position lightly,” he said.
Since coming to Augusta, Hardee has met with the Augusta-Richmond County Commission and Richmond County Superintendent Dr. Angela Pringle in efforts to get local leaders involved with the change.
“The city of Augusta is willing to do whatever we can to ensure the survival of Paine College,” District 1 Commissioner and Paine alumnus Bill Fennoy said at the convocation. He went on to speak on the behalf of Paine faculty, staff, administration and alumni, stating that they were willing to do the same, but also made a request of the students at Paine.
“Be the best you can be. Accept nothing but the best,” he told them. “Remember that we are all in this together.”
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