The bishop and his degree
The North Carolina higher education scandal involving FAMU President James Ammons has a Tampa Bay tie.
Bishop Eddie Long, the megachurch minister at the heart of it, claims a Ph.D in pastoral ministry from the International College of Excellence, an affiliate of Life Christian University in Lutz north of Tampa.
Neither institution is accredited by an agency recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation or the U.S. Department of Education. (LCU's Web site says the school is accredited by the Transworld Accrediting Commission International and the Biblical Accrediting Association.)
Long's church referred Gradebook questions to Long spokesman Dan Rene, who initially said LCU was accredited - by the Florida Department of Education. But the DOE does not accredit. In a subsequent call, Rene said LCU was "recognized" by DOE.
A DOE spokesperson said LCU and like religious institutions must simply file a sworn affidavit verifying they meet these requirements since, according to Florida Statues, they are "not under the jurisdiction or purview" of the Florida Commission for Independent Education, which is under DOE.
Long, who was elected to the FAMU Foundation board last month, was also a keynote speaker at FAMU's spring commencement in April. Did FAMU know about the degree before choosing Long to speak? Does it matter?
In an e-mail, FAMU spokeswoman Sharon Saunders did not answer the first question and offered this response to the second:
Commencement Speakers are selected based on their ability to provide an inspirational and appropriate address to graduating students. All of the speakers selected are accomplished in their fields. Among our recent speakers since Dr. Ammons has been president have been world renowned Poet Nikki Giovanni, Florida Attorney Willie Gary, Bishop Eddie Long and professor and author Dennis P. Kimbro.
- Ron Matus, state education reporter