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  • Writer's pictureDonald V. Watkins

Birmingham-Southern College is on Its Deathbed!

By: Donald V. Watkins

Copyrighted and Published on November 2, 2023

An Editorial Opinion

Last week, a state court judge in Montgomery backed State Treasurer Young Boozer’s decision to deny Birmingham Southern College’s (BSC) application for a $30 million loan from the state. The court ruling was factually and legally correct.

BSC’s credit rating was awful. Its loan collateral was encumbered with prior liens. Any loan to BSC would be rated as a “junk bond.” And BSC’s ability to repay a $30 million loan is an exercise in fantasy.

No reasonable and prudent financial lender would have made this $30 million loan to a college in such terrible shape.

For all practical purposes, BSC is on its deathbed. The only thing remaining is how BSC officials will wind down the educational and business affairs of the college.

City Officials Should Recruit Miles College to the BSC Campus

This is the perfect time for Mayor Randall Woodfin and the Birmingham City Council to stop crying over BSC’s slow death. They should move forward with the aggressive implementation of a plan to (a) recruit a viable and thriving Miles College and Miles College Law School from Fairfield, Alabama and (b) relocate both institutions to BSC’s campus.

The city should buy BSC’s campus out of the college's anticipated bankruptcy proceedings for pennies on a dollar. Once the city acquires the property, it should lease the entire campus complex to Miles College for $1 dollar per year, for 100 years.

This kind of land lease arrangement is nothing new. The city presently leases the building that houses the Southeast Conference headquarters to the SEC for $1 per year. The city paid for the construction of the SEC’s headquarters building at 2201 Richard Arrington Jr. Blvd in Birmingham. The sole tenant in this building is the SEC.

The city should also offer Miles College hefty financial incentives to relocate to the BSC campus. The $5 million the city recently approved for BSC should be withdrawn and offered to Miles College as a financial incentive to relocate to Birmingham.

Miles College is the Right Fit for the BSC Campus

Any further consideration of helping BSC is an exercise in futility. BSC is a victim of white flight from the neighborhoods surrounding the campus.

White flight will not impair Miles College’s ability to thrive on the BSC campus. Miles has already proven that it can operate successfully in the midst of isolated, all-black neighborhoods.

Additionally, crime in the area of BSC is getting increasingly worse. For example, the main access road to BSC -- Arkadelphia Road -- is in an area that is slowly deteriorating into a hotbed of criminal activities.

A couple of months ago, stunning TikTok videos went viral on the Internet when they showed scenes of a nearby Pilot Travel Center that had been abandoned by employees and looted. The videos showed empty shelves, broken merchandise, and a ransacked ATM inside the travel center, which is located less than a mile away at Finley Boulevard and Bankhead Highway.

Despite the rise in street crime in the area surrounding BSC, crime can be substantially reduced whenever the city decides to get serious about combatting it.

The City of Birmingham Must Stop Baling Out Failed White Projects

I have watched from afar as the city invested $90 million in a new football stadium for the University at Birmingham that the University of Alabama board of trustees refused to fund. I watched the city give the developers of a downtown amphitheater $5 million. I also watched the city bail out the failed World Games 2022 with $5 million.

Now that the state has turned down the $30 million loan, BSC has started begging the city for a second and larger "bailout" package to stay open. They should just say, "No."

City officials must move on from BSC. The state of Alabama could not give a private elite college for white students a $30 million loan while denying Alabama A&M University the $527,280,064 the state has owed A&M since September 18, 2023. The U.S. Department of Justice would not tolerate that kind of blatant racial discrimination in the use of state funds.

At some point, Birmingham city officials need to start focusing on a program of economic and educational empowerment for the Birmingham-Southern College area that is realistic, attainable, and impactful to the people who pay taxes and vote in Birmingham. There is nothing these officials can do to raise BSC from her deathbed.

In this regard, city officials can and should recruit Miles College and Miles College Law School from Fairfield and relocate them on the BSC campus after the city buys the BSC property and buildings out of a BSC bankruptcy proceeding for pennies on a dollar.

In closing, here's something we should all think about: Not one black official who supports $30 million in state funding for historically white BSC has said anything about securing the $527,280,064 that is owed to historically black Alabama A&M University by the state of Alabama. Nothing! Zilch! Why?

When will black elected officials start representing the financial, political, and educational interests of their constituents?


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