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Oakwood University

Mission-Focused Information Statements

Oakwood University periodically releases information statements designed to aid interested persons in understanding the leadership focus guiding Oakwood University to achieve its mission. These position statements are intended to provide:

substance for discussions of issues related to Oakwood University; and

transparency of purpose around decisions which affect the faculty, staff, students, and constituents of Oakwood University; and

clarity of connection between institutional decision-making and the advancement of the mission of Oakwood University.

These statements are not exhaustive. Neither are they intended to preempt the warranted and reasonable conversation that should characterize a University community. We hope that they will provide a helpful frame work for informed discussion, because, as one writer said, “Education makes a people easy to lead but difficult to drive: easy to govern, but impossible to enslave.”

The subject of this Mission Focused Information Statement relates to Oakwood University and the separately incorporated 501(c) 3 organization known as the National Association for the Prevention of Starvation (NAPS). First, the Board of Trustees Action regarding Independent Ministries wishing to operate on the University campus; then comes the explanation of the issues between NAPS and Oakwood University; then the new direction


On October 22, 2012, the following action was recommended to the Board by the Student Services Subcommittee of the Oakwood University Board of Trustees. It was voted unanimously.

WHEREAS Oakwood University has a duty to preserve and protect the University’s accreditation;

WHEREAS Oakwood University must promote its student retention and graduation rates and retain Title III funding support;

WHEREAS Oakwood University has an obligation to protect and preserve its relationship to its core constituencies and takes seriously its God-appointed responsibility to provide a safe environment for our students and honor in loco parentis;

WHEREAS Oakwood University has a responsibility to protect itself from legal exposure and liability;

WHEREAS Oakwood University has a legal duty to protect its Corporate name:

Voted: “We support and affirm the University Administration’s determination to protect and preserve the educational mission of Oakwood University in compliance with all SACSCOC accreditation standards, including 3.2.13.

Voted: “We recommend that the University Administration review all independent ministries (present and future) to insure their compliance with University governance structure, institutional policy and SACS accreditation standards if they wish to operate on the Oakwood University campus.” Voted, 10/22/2012

Context for the Vote of the Oakwood University Board–NAPS Organization

NAPS is an independently governed, owned, and operated 501(c) 3 non-profit organization that has existed since 1978. In 1993, NAPS was incorporated into a non-profit in the state of Alabama. As an independent ministry, NAPS indicates on its website that, “The [NAPS] organization operates independently of all governmental, institutional, or political influences.”

The Issues

While Oakwood University acknowledges the occasional positive public relations NAPS has brought to the University, the operational independence of the NAPS organization as declared on its website presents grave challenges to the academic, social, and legal welfare of Oakwood University. These threats to Oakwood University include . . .

Accreditation concerns–the commitment of Oakwood University to reflect positively on the Seventh-day Adventist Church by remaining a fully accredited institution of higher education is threatened by the NAPS fundraising philosophy and practice;

Student retention and graduation concerns–the commitment of Oakwood University as an HBCU to increase retention and graduation rates of its students and thereby retain its historic standing with the U.S. Department of Education is threatened by the OU students who cease their matriculation at Oakwood on missions unsanctioned by Oakwood; and

Liability concerns–the commitment to protect Oakwood University from unspecified legal liability through the intentional or unintentional association with any and all independent ministries who appear to be agents or units of Oakwood University. Each is elaborated on below:

While Oakwood University acknowledges any positive public relations and/or goodwill that NAPS has engendered on behalf of the University, recent e-mails, campus conversations, and constituent queries from the families of NAPS students has brought into clearer focus the serious accreditation challenges that NAPS, as an independent ministry, represents for the governance, reputation, and legal welfare of Oakwood University. We believe that it is the duty of Oakwood University to steward the mission of Oakwood University by addressing these concerns in an honest, transparent, and compassionate manner.

What follows reflects Oakwood University’s stewardship of its duty to protect and preserve the mission of Oakwood University as an accredited institution of higher education.

Accreditation: Oakwood University has a duty to preserve and protect the University’s accreditation status and its mission. Oakwood University is a fully accredited, institution of higher learning. In the year 2012-2013, 2020 students have registered for the Fall semester. As a member of the worldwide system of Seventh-day Adventist institutions of higher education, Oakwood’s first responsibility is to provide a quality education that incorporates the worldview of the Seventh-day Adventist Church into its curricular and co-curricular educational process. The goal of such an education is to produce competent, committed, servants of the mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The next duty of Oakwood University is to protect its accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). University compliance with the SACS accreditation process ensures the mission’s effectiveness, academic integrity, administrative efficiency, fiscal viability, and governance credibility of Oakwood University. Historically, fundraising activities by NAPS are widely perceived by solicited publics as endorsed and authorized by Oakwood University. Fundraising by NAPS through association with or in the name of Oakwood University violates SACS’ comprehensive standard 3.2.13. Note the comprehensive standard below taken from the 2012 edition of SACS Principles of Accreditation, standard 3.2.13:

“For any entity organized separately from the institution and formed primarily for the purpose of supporting the institution or its programs, (1) the legal authority and operating control of the institution is clearly defined with respect to that entity; (2) the relationship of that entity to the institution and the extent of any liability arising out of that relationship is clearly described in a formal, written manner; and (3) the institution demonstrates that (a) the chief executive officer controls any fund-raising activities of that entity or (b) the fund-raising activities of that entity are defined in a formal, written manner which assures that those activities further the mission of the institution. (Institution-related entities)”

Summary: As a separately incorporated, independent ministry operating “free from any governmental, institutional, or political influence,” NAPS’ fundraising for its programs through association with the name of Oakwood University jeopardizes the University’s compliance with its accreditation agency.

2. Retention and Graduation: Oakwood University has a duty to retain its recruited students and increase its graduation rates. It is commonly understood that NAPS publicly promotes and supports what it calls a YOD (Year of Dedication), in which students interrupt their matriculation at Oakwood University to spend a year in local, national, or international mission and/or fundraising activities for NAPS.

Oakwood University is adversely impacted by the NAPS’ YOD because the U.S. Department of Education calculates graduation rates based on its university students’ uninterrupted matriculation to graduation. Students interrupting their matriculation lower both the retention and graduation rates. Oakwood University cannot afford to lose funds for which it could easily qualify by appearing less effective in its educational mission of retaining and graduating its students.

Oakwood University presently provides numerous opportunities for students to engage in service projects that do not disrupt students’ academic matriculation (e.g., Agape Day Huntsville, Westlake Apartments, Huntsville School Mentors, USM Community Outreach, Community Kids Christmas, et cetera). Further, Oakwood University is actively developing and embedding into the University curriculum a service-learning program for which students will earn academic credit. We encourage all students to consider these opportunities for service that support the educational mission of Oakwood University.

Summary: NAPS’ YOD adversely impacts Oakwood University by reducing the institution’s retention and graduation rates.

3. Oakwood University has a duty to preserve and protect its relationship to its core constituencies. As a Historically Black College and University (HBCU), Oakwood takes seriously its God-appointed responsibility to provide a safe environment for our students, to honor the historic “in loco parentis” expectations of our primary constituencies, and to execute the mission of providing quality, Christian higher education by stewarding the good name and reputation of Oakwood University. Reports of parents’ and guardians’ frustration at the lack of notification regarding NAPS’ activities is frequently assigned to Oakwood University. Additionally, the uninvited appearances of NAPS missionaries to churches with appeals for funds is also assigned to the University. To anxious parents, these realities signal poor student-services administration. University officials have been consistently surprised to learn of the whereabouts of Oakwood students after being contacted by students’ parents requesting information.

Summary: As an HBCU, Oakwood University’s core constituencies (i.e., parents and guardians) look to the University to protect its students and for a reasonable knowledge of their whereabouts during their matriculation at Oakwood University.

4. Liability: In the absence of clear declaration by Oakwood University, Oakwood is frequently assumed to be the sponsor of the NAPS’ organization. But, because NAPS is an independent ministry, NAPS has no accountability to the University. Further, Oakwood has a duty to protect itself from legal exposure based on the apparent agency and authority accorded NAPS because it has existed on the Oakwood campus. Legal liability consistently surfaces in conversations with University legal counsel around NAPS activities, especially when NAPS travels nationally and internationally. Oakwood University stands legally exposed by local, national, and international trips organized by NAPS leadership, which take students into environments unknown to University officers. It is from these legal liabilities that we wish to protect Oakwood University by making clear that NAPS is solely responsible for the health, safety, and security of Oakwood University students choosing to participate in NAPS activities.

Summary: Oakwood University legal counsel indicates that the University faces significant legal liability if it avoids addressing the NAPS’ recruitment and deployment of its students under the apparent authority of Oakwood University.

5. Oakwood University has a duty to clarify the legal and corporate distinction between the University and the NAPS organization. Significant confusion has occurred in the minds of parents and constituencies because the common perception that NAPS is operated by Oakwood University. Because NAPS has “grown up” on the Oakwood campus, utilizes the University’s address, utilizes the University’s phone system, occupies and utilizes University buildings and facilities, the perception of sponsorship by Oakwood University has been intensified. Donors regularly give to NAPS because of the belief that NAPS is a department, ministry, unit, et cetera of Oakwood University. This apparent agency is problematic for Oakwood University. Parents often allow their students to participate in NAPS and its activities because of their belief that NAPS is a ministry of the institution. This confusion has brought us to the decisions below, intended to safeguard the mission of the institution, protect the accreditation status of Oakwood University, to fully educate our multiple publics concerning the legal distinction between the institution and NAPS, to inform parents that they and their students take to themselves full and absolute legal liability, and that all agree to hold Oakwood University harmless if their children and dependents engage in NAPS service activities.

Summary: Oakwood University must publicly communicate to its constituencies the legal and organizational distinction between Oakwood University and the NAPS organization.

New Direction Decided

We, the University Administration, after engaging in considerable prayer, and after meeting with the President of NAPS recently, as well as the student leaders of NAPS, Oakwood University believes that implementation of the following actions will best preserve its educational mission. The following actions are designed to protect Oakwood and to clarify the relationship between NAPS and Oakwood University. Our actions are also designed to eliminate every real and/or perceived contributor to the confusion over NAPS’ relationship to Oakwood University.

That in harmony with SACS principle 3.2.13, Oakwood University will issue a disclaimer differentiating itself from the NAPS organization. Disclaimer will indicate that NAPS is a separately incorporated 501(c) 3 organization. NAPS is not affiliated with, neither does it represent, Oakwood University. Fundraising by NAPS is not controlled by Oakwood University. Oakwood University is not liable for, neither is it party to any of the activities of NAPS. Participants in the NAPS organization assume all liability for their activities and agree to hold Oakwood University harmless in the event of injury, mishap, calamity, or misfortune.

We ask that the NAPS organization post a similar disclaimer and a statement of notice explaining the relationship between Oakwood University and NAPS.

That Oakwood University will direct the NAPS organization to establish its own address and phone lines, and house its materials and supplies at a location outside of Oakwood University campus. This relocation includes elimination of the use of offices in the Cooper Science Complex and the use of storage areas in Cooper and elsewhere on University property. Motor vehicles parked in University lots will be relocated to NAPS’ off-campus address. The use of the campus for meetings (see number 5 below), and use of campus telephones, servers, and e-mail systems will no longer be deployed as NAPS’ communication vehicles. The former WJOU building will no longer be used for NAPS storage.

NAPS will immediately cease its use of the Oakwood University name, seal, or brand in its fundraising or published documents.

As with every other independent organization seeking to recruit on the privately-owned and operated Oakwood University campus, Oakwood will determine NAPS’ access to campus and University events.

We recommend that, in support of Oakwood University’s commitment to the successful retention and uninterrupted matriculation of Oakwood students to graduation, that NAPS reconsider the timing and structure of its “Year of Dedication” through which students’ retention and matriculation at Oakwood is interrupted.

For every student choosing to participate in NAPS, we request that NAPS leadership report the names of enrolled Oakwood University students’ participation to the Student Services Vice President of Oakwood University. Upon notification, the Student Services VP will contact students and the students’ parents or legal guardians to request that participating students sign waivers of liability in which Oakwood University is held harmless in the event of illness, injury, or death during the student’s participation in any and all NAPS activities.

If at any time in the future, the NAPS organization wishes to reconsider its relationship to Oakwood University, we will be happy to dialogue. We will remain open to God’s future guidance.


The decisions above have been arrived at through much prayer, on the basis of the facts available, and in the single interest of protecting the educational mission of Oakwood University. May God bless Oakwood University, where the ministry of saving lost students, educating saved students, and graduating educated students, continues to populate the world with ministers for kingdom service, who “Enter to learn, and depart to serve.”

Oakwood University Administration
Leslie Pollard, President
Timothy McDonald, Provost
Garland Dulan, Vice-President for Academic Administration
Sabrina Cotton, Vice-President for Finance
David Knight, Vice-President for Student Services
Howard Weems, Special Assistant to the President for Spiritual Life
Kisha Norris, Executive Director for Advancement and Development

Oakwood University
7000 Adventist Blvd. NW | Huntsville, Alabama | USA
Phone: 1-256-726-7335