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Concussion: Meet the Real Doctor Who Took on the NFL and Changed Football Forever
Baseball may still be billed as the national pastime, but football actually surpassed it in popularity a long time ago. So for anyone born and raised in the United States, challenging the NFL is just unthinkable.
Dr. Bennet Omalu wasn’t born and raised in this country, however. Had he been, it’s doubtful that the forensic neuropathologist from Nigeria would have discovered CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), a degenerative disease associated with repeated brain trauma that doesn’t show symptoms, and its connection to the NFL. He would never have felt the wrath of the NFL, either, and we wouldn’t have Concussion, which marks Will Smith’s finest performance to date.
The Root caught up with the good doctor for a one-on-one discussion about the film, his faith, his wife’s support and his status with the NFL.
The Root: When you turned down this road, did you have any idea of the magnitude of your actions?
Bennet Omalu: Remember, I grew up in Africa. Growing up as a child, I perceived America to be heaven on earth, a country that was closest to what God wants us to be as his sons and daughters. And I came from Nigeria, which is one of the most corrupt countries in the world. So when I came here, I had the study of Mike Webster and other retired football players, and I wondered: If they played this game where they had to wear a helmet, could it be they were damaging their brains without knowing it?
And so I did the autopsy on Mike Webster. I identified the disease and I most gladly took it to the NFL, believing that I had discovered something that would enhance the game. But then I got this pushback, and I discovered there was this systematic and systemic cover-up to conceal the truth. So that reawakened my faith in me, my faith in the truth.
God is the truth. The American experience and the American experiment are founded on the truth. Science was founded on the truth. My faith is founded on the truth. So you have a convergence of both science and America, my faith, coming together to this common objective or common exploit of the truth.
So it was my search for the truth, to become part of that American family, to contribute my part to a society and a country that has given me so much. Because, as the greater American family, we are one love, we are one spirit, we are one hope, we are one joy. So that was what kept me going. Because when you seek the truth, truth shall set you free.
The truth is liberating. Isn’t that what America is all about? One person at a time, one step at a time, one day at a time, we shall continue to build a greater family, if only we would start by the truth. That is what kept me going.
TR: Is the truth still leading you?
BO: Yes, the truth is still leading me. Meeting people like Will Smith, like Peter Landesman, the director, these are people who have reaffirmed my perception of America as a land of perfection. Will Smith epitomizes that perfection. He is such a pristine man. Such a good man. Has such a good heart.
What is going on now is that my story is beginning to reach out to other members of the American family who have been touched and now taking the torch, like Will Smith is doing, the movie is doing, Sony is doing, Ridley Scott is doing; taking this story from the depths of the valley to the mountaintop, or the peak of the mountain of the American psyche, to increase awareness, to enlighten people of the dangers of exposing your head to repeated force.
Don’t get me wrong—this is not anti-football, this is not anti-sports, this is not anti-NFL. This is just about the truth. Because when you walk with the truth or by the truth, the impossible will become possible, which is what the American dream is about.
TR: So, again, you had no idea what football means in this country?
BO: I did not even know what football was. I did not know what the NFL was. All I knew was that this was a game that people dressed up to play. It was called football, but they threw the ball with their hand. I wondered why it was called football, and then I wondered why they had to wear helmets. I didn’t know how big it was. And that may have been what made me to keep on keeping on.
But when I realized how big the NFL was, I was not in fear. I did not fear because of my faith. We were called to not be afraid. Do not be afraid. That “the Lord is my light and salvation—of whom should I fear? The Lord is my stronghold—of who shall I be afraid of?”
TR: You never had any doubts?
BO: As a human being, there were moments I had my doubts. There was those down times where I regretted ever meeting Mike Webster. There were days I just wanted to be left alone. But as my doubts became deeper, the stronger my faith became. And luckily, my wife would advise me: “Bennet, people made sacrifices for you to be where you are. Sixty years ago you may not have been allowed to even walk into some hotels. People fought and died for that. Nothing good comes easy. That it is your call to become the sacrificial lamb. They need you to become the voice of the voiceless. You are a highly educated man. Use your education that the God Almighty has given you; use it as an instrument of God’s peace and become the voice for the voiceless.”
TR: Are you still doing your research?
BO: Yes, in the past two years, because of the movie, I pretty much suspended everything just to focus on the movie, but I still examine brains. I’m still doing research of brains. If people buy the book Concussion—it’s everywhere now on Amazon, Barnes & Noble—it goes into greater depth about my story.
And also visit the website called BennetOmaluFoundation.org. It was set up by Ridley Scott, the great director in Hollywood, and his wife, Giannina Scott. They are both producers of this movie. Ridley dreams that we can find a cure for CTE, and that is what this country is about, the land of dreams, where people dream big dreams.
You dream the impossible. You dream to make the impossible possible. So I think, again, this is about the great American story. Like Will Smith has said, that it is only in America that you can have a Will Smith. And I agree with him. It is only in America that my story could be true.
TR: When did the film start, and how involved were you?
BO: It started in 2009, about six years ago. I was involved through the entire process, so it is an accurate depiction of the historical events.
R: Was it important that your wife, played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw, be in the film?
BO: She didn’t want to be part of the movie. The director convinced her because she was emotional. She was there when I was treated so poorly.
TR: Are you still public enemy No. 1 to the NFL?
BO: I’m nobody’s enemy. Nobody is my enemy. I carry love in my heart. I love everybody, but I stand by the truth.
Editor’s note: Concussion opens nationwide on Christmas Day.
White Lady Gets Caught Making Fun Of LeBron & He Sets Her Straight
Watching the game tonight (December 25th) it was pretty clear that LeBron James may have been getting stressed out. After all, Steph Curry is that boy to be reckoned with, so who could blame him.
But, any who, we all saw that little white lady who was sitting behind James as he stood on the side of the court. Making fun of him with her other white lady friend, you can see the woman referring to him as a “cry baby.”
Yeah, we may not all like his presence on the court, however, that chick quickly changed her tune when she realized that the Cleveland Cavaliers basketball player caught her making fun of him.
This is not the first time that someone has referred to James as a ‘boo-hooer,’ but I think tonight made it pretty clear that you wouldn’t say it to his face, even if you had the chance.
Bron Bron played high school basketball for St. Vincent-St. High School in his hometown of Akron, Ohio, and was highly promoted in the national media as a future NBA superstar. After he graduated from high school, the young basketball player was selected as the first overall draft pick in the 2003 NBA draft by the Cavaliers.
Leading Cleveland to their franchise’s first Finals appearance back in 2007, the team unfortunately lost to the Spurs.
In 2010, James left Ohio with his wife and children to move to Miami and play for the Heat, it was highly publicized in a special called ‘The Decision.’ Playing there for a total of four seasons, he was able to reach the Finals in all four seasons and win back-to-back championships in 2012 and 2013.
King James led the Heat on a 27-game winning streak, which was the third longest in the entire league.
Following his final season with the Heat, James finally decided to return back home to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Two-Year Perkins Extension Clears Senate
The U.S. Senate on Wednesday breathed new life into colleges’ efforts to revive the expired federal Perkins Loan Program.
Lawmakers passed, on a voice vote, a bipartisan deal that would revive the expired federal loan program for the next two years.
The bill by Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee would also impose some new restrictions on how students receive the loans. For instance, borrowers would have to exhaust their eligibility for federal direct loans before being able to receive a Perkins Loan, which is a need-based program.
Alexander, a Republican who chairs the Senate’s education committee, previously blocked efforts to continue the Perkins Loan Program, citing a desire to simplify and streamline the federal government’s various loan offerings for students. The program expired Sept. 30.
Speaking on the Senate floor Wednesday, Alexander calledthe two-year extension — with new eligibility restrictions — a “fair compromise” to keep the program while lawmakers “work on a long-term solution for simplifying the student aid program” in the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.
Senate Democrats, many of whom pushed for the program to be renewed, also praised the deal on Wednesday.
The legislation now awaits approval from the U.S. House, which earlier this fall passed a one-year extension of the program.
The Obama administration has indicated that it supports the program.
JCSU earns SACS accreditation for more master’s degrees
Charlotte, N.C. / Dec. 15, 2015— Johnson C. Smith University was recently approved by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) for continued accreditation at an advanced degree level. SACSCOC previously approved the University’s application to move from a Level II to a Level III institution in December 2013 to offer a Master of Social Work program. The recent decision extends JCSU the opportunity to offer additional master-level degrees.
“Our work in developing a strong Master of Social Work program will be very valuable as we add master’s degrees in other disciplines,” said President Ronald L. Carter. “The graduate program will provide an additional revenue stream for the University while increasing opportunities for non-traditional students to earn master’s degrees. Our vision-in-mission is thriving as we continue to build a national reputation for innovative programs.”
In March 2015, a Substantive Change Committee conducted an on-site review. During this visit, the committee reviewed JCSU’s compliance with several principles of accreditation, including governance and administration, institutional effectiveness, educational programs, faculty, library and learning resources, student services, financial resources and physical resources. Based on the committee’s report and the University’s response report, the SACSCOC Board of Trustees gave a positive vote at its December annual meeting in Houston.
The decision furthers the University’s goal of developing a comprehensive graduate program and increases JCSU’s footprint as a new urban university.
“This decision is further evidence of the quality of our faculty and staff and the commitment of our administration and Board of Trustees to move the University forward with quality graduate programs,” said Dr. Jeanne F. Cook, director of the MSW program. “I am delighted that SACSCOC has recognized this.”
Daniel Holtzclaw And The Reality Of Police Brutality Against Black Women
The decision was reached on his 29th birthday.
After four full days of deliberation, former Oklahoma cop Daniel Holzclaw was found guilty of rape and sexual battery Thursday. Holtzclaw sobbed relentlessly after an all-white jury convicted him on 18 of the 36 charges he faced, which included six first-degree rape counts and a slew of sexual battery charges.
The verdict came after weeks of harrowing witness testimonies, egregious tactics by defense attorneys and pleas from prosecutors who said Holtzclaw preyed on black women with criminal records and substance abuse problems because he thought they wouldn’t speak up.
Holtzclaw was wrong. They did.
Holtzclaw carried out calculated attacks of sexual violence against one of America’s most marginalized and mistreated groups: black women. Yet his lewd acts are just one example of brutality and sexual assault cases against black women by police that too often go ignored.
What kind of police do you call on the police?”A 17-year-old victim who testified about her rape by Holtzclaw
For seven months, Holtzclaw patrolled one of the state’s poorest black neighborhoods and individually sought out black women with criminal records and/or a history of drug use.
Prosecutors said Holtzclaw specifically targeted these victims because he believed them to be too vulnerable or fearful to do or say anything against a criminal cop acting under the color of authority. Ultimately, he believed that his gender, race and policeman status would intimidate his victims enough to protect his purported innocence. Again, he was wrong.
The youngest victim was a 17-year-old girl who said Holtzclaw raped her on her mother’s porch and whose DNA was found in the crotch area of his uniform pants, one expert testified. “What kind of police do you call on the police?” the victim asked in court. A 57-year-old grandmother sparked an investigation after she reported her assault by Holtzclaw to authorities last year. She told them Holtzclaw forced her to perform oral sex during a traffic stop.
In court, Holtzclaw’s defense attorney Scott Adams used the background of these women as ammunition to paint victims as violators of the law who “want to work forward their own agenda” and “don’t care about the truth.”
But the real truth is:
THIS is what rape culture looks like;
THIS is what police brutality can look like against black women.
MIA FERMINDOZA, THE AFRICAN AMERICAN POLICY FORUM
Sadly, we’ve seen this victim-blaming narrative played out countless times before in cases against black women — hell, against all women — robbing them of the sympathy and support they so desperately deserve.
Holtzclaw specifically targeted on women with criminal histories who in turn wereput on trial themselves as they testified against him.
“It wasn’t coincidence who he chose to violate, it was methodical and it was deliberate,” Benjamin Crump, a national civil rights attorney, told the press on Friday. “Some might not consider them model citizens, but they were citizens. They were Americans, and their lives mattered.”
Their lives matter just as much as the blistering number of black boys and men killed by police, who have also been unfairly treated by both the media and law enforcement officials in twisted attempts to criminalize them.
They matter just as much as the countless number of black women, with criminal histories or not, who have not escaped the same or similar level of racial profiling and violent police aggression.
“They patted around my waistline and butt. They were so aggressive.”Crystal Pope
In 2013, I wrote a story on Crystal Pope, a 23-year-old black woman who told me police officers stopped and frisked her while searching for a male rapist on the loose.
“They patted us down and ran their hands through my front and back pockets,” Pope told me. “They patted around my waistline and butt. They were so aggressive,” she said.
Similar instances of brutal treatment of black women by white male police officers also occurred in cases like those of 16-year-old Dajerria Becton in McKinney, Texas and 51-year-old Marlene Pinnock in Los Angeles. That is to say, as we’ve said before: For black women, police brutality and sexual harassment go hand in hand.
A detailed report by the Associated Press published in November found that in a six-year period, roughly 1,000 officers nationwide have lost their licenses over sexual misconduct, in cases of rape, sodomy and other sex crimes. However, that number reflects only officers who lost their badges in states with laws in place to decertify them for such behavior (large law enforcement agencies in California and New York, for instance, do not follow such protocol).
“It’s happening probably in every law enforcement agency across the country,” Chief Bernadette DiPino of the Sarasota Police Department in Florida told the AP. “It’s so underreported and people are scared that if they call and complain about a police officer, they think every other police officer is going to be then out to get them.”
Information gathered from the report suggests there are likely at least hundreds of other cases of current officers who abuse their power to perform acts of violence against women, particularly black women. A report released earlier this year by the #SayHerName campaign, which highlights police brutality against black women, confirmed this, providing an accurate reflection of the ongoing sexual exploitation black women battle every day.
As we decry the ongoing police violence committed against many of our black men and boys, campaigns like #SayHerName, #YouOkSis and other initiatives, aim to recognize and respect the value of black women whose names rarely receive national attention. They fill the void left neglected by so many, including black men, who are largely absent in the rally to fight the injustices black women face.
MIA FERMINDOZA, THE AFRICAN AMERICAN POLICY FORUM
While justice was delivered in Holtzclaw’s case, his victims are still left scarred, scared and surrounded by haunting memories — both of their physical attacks by him and the excessive ridicule by defense attorneys who attacked their credibilityand dehumanized their character.
And there are countless of other black women who likely face some of the same battles.
So, what do black women do when we are attacked by those put in place to protect us? Where are we to turn in times of such tragedy? Who can we go to for support?
These are all questions similar to those Holtzclaw’s prosecutors posed to the court:
“Who will care?” they asked. “Who will believe them?”
Trump Praises Justice Clarence Thomas
Donald Trump slammed Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and named Associate Justice Clarence Thomas as his favorite judge on the high court, the Associated Press reports.
“Justice Roberts really let us (conservatives) down. What he did with Obamacare was disgraceful, and I think he did that because he wanted to be popular inside the Beltway,” Trump told about 4,000 supporters at an event hosted by South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson.
The Republican presidential candidate was referring to Roberts voting two times to support President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.
Trump described Thomas, the only black justice on the Supreme Court, as “very strong and consistent.”
While Thomas is the high court’s sole black justice, his decisions and behavior during oral arguments tend to be at odds with most African Americans.
Most recently, many blacks heard Thomas’ loud silence when Associate Justice Antonin Scaliasuggested that African Americans are better suited for “slower-track schools where they do well.” Thomas probably looked the other way because he has made similar suggestions in other cases.
Thomas was on the losing side earlier this year when a majority of justices voted to save a key component of the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which outlaws housing discrimination.
In his dissenting opinion, Thomas pointed to the disproportionate number of black professional basketball players to argue that the existence of racial disparities does not necessarily indicate that racism exists.
FSU graduation: Don’t allow the goal to overshadow the journey
THE CEREMONY: 26th Winter Commencement, Fayetteville State University, 9 a.m. Saturday, at the Cumberland County Crown Coliseum
NUMBER OF DEGREES CONFERRED: 240 attending, 460 total
SPEAKER: Stephen Christopher Pennink, 2010 graduate of Fayetteville State, entrepreneur and business executive, Fayetteville native who lives in Charlotte.
THE MESSAGE TO GRADUATES: Pennink described his life growing up in a single-parent home and using adversities in life as excuses to fail. His grandfather said something that changed his life. “You can’t truly help others until you learn to help yourself,” Pennink quoted. “It was like a slap in the face and a breath of fresh air” rolled into one.
Pennink said he uses adversities as challenges to overcome, and succeeds by breaking them down into small segments he can accomplish.
Applied to his studies, Pennink discovered that reading one minute a day for a year would allow him to read an entire book. Or, taken to a logical next step, reading 20 minutes a day makes it possible to read 20 books a year.
“Break it down into small tasks and it becomes achievable,” Pennink said. “Choose to not allow the goal to overshadow the journey.”
WHAT I’LL REMEMBER MOST ABOUT COLLEGE: Timara Jefferies, of Kings Mountain, earned her bachelor’s degree in social work and was the first in her family to go to college. She learned that the fun of her freshmen year came to an end when her grade point average dipped and she had to stay at home and study rather than go out with friends frequently.
“You realize you don’t have time,” Jefferies said. “I had to focus and study more.”
She credits Dr. Debra Brown on the staff with her success.
“She motivated me to keep going,” Jefferies said. “I raised up my GPA and got honors in my major.”
GOOD ADVICE: James A. Anderson, the school’s chancellor, described the students’ experiences with long hours of homework and taking tests, but said the reward was worth the effort.
“The word ‘homework’ will be a foreign concept,” Anderson said. “The real test is the test of life. If you mess up on that one, the consequences are dire.”
Without a degree you are “guaranteed no income or low income,” Anderson said. “Become the person you want to be.”
PROUD MOMENT: Dionne Scott Lennon of Fayetteville, originally of Columbia, South Carolina, earned her Bachelor of Science in birth through kindergarten education while taking care of a family, working a full-time job at Trinity Christian School and while dually enrolled in Fayetteville Technical College and Fayetteville State.
“I failed a class and wanted to give up,” Lennon said. But a professor encouraged her to continue. “It took me five years.”
DID YOU SEE? They gathered in the fog before dawn, waiting outside the coliseum, but once inside, it was all about cheering the graduates. There were waves, shouts, tears and excitement everywhere, as friends and family watched the new honorees. Some were almost timid, while others bounced with a swagger of confidence in a future still to be written.
NOW WHAT? Jefferies is bound for graduate school at UNC Charlotte and Lennon seeks to continue with graduate school and has a dream for the future.
“I hope to have my own business – an early childhood learning center,” Lennon said.
Wake Up, Black People. The Supreme Court Is Poised to Drop a Bomb on You
So, there’s nothing new about a spoiled rich white dude saying crazy things so he can get a bump in a poll. On real, tell us something we don’t know about professional megaphone Donald Trump. Yet that’s all we spent much of this week munching on … while a conservative Supreme Court quietly considered how to best roll back 50 years of civil rights brought to you by our bloodied, beat-up, battle-weary ancestors.
Funny enough, we were so caught up in the latest rhetorical best hits on the campaign trail that we took little notice and made no noise over two crucial cases that slowly snaked their way into oral arguments Monday and Wednesday. Both cases could fundamentally reshape or effectively destroy core pillars of the civil rights movement: voting rights and affirmative action.
Whichever way either case goes, it’s not looking good. The highest court in the land can’t seem to stay off the subject. As if black people (clearly the aggrieved) are the ones actively oppressing, Supreme Court justices keep eagerly tinkering with issues that were settled quite a while back.
“The petitioners in these cases are looking to reopen precedent that’s been around for 50 years,” Liliana Zaragoza, an NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund litigation fellow and lawyer who’s worked feverishly on both cases, told The Root. “We’re opening up cases that have long been confirmed by the court.”
Putting faith in this particular high court to decide the fate of voting rights and affirmative action is potentially putting history on a five-decade reverse course: What would the nation look like if the civil rights movement had lost key fights? Suddenly we’re ending up in a parallel universe, a sloppy purgatory mixed with present racial tensions and refreshed assaults on critical legal, policy and political gains that African Americans hold near and dear.
One case, Evenwel v. Abbott, would—especially if it goes south—arguably be the most impactful policy decision since the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and it could be the most consequential decision since the three-fifths clause in the Constitution. Evenwel challenges legislative districts apportioned by raw population. It would remove from the count those who can’t vote; immigrants, children for example. The other, Fisher v. University of Texas, could mark the complete destruction of affirmative action—or, at the very least, a bizarre reconfiguration.
What makes both cases suspect is that they’re both underwritten and filed by the same crunchy band of fringe conservative legal insurgents, the Project on Fair Representation, led by former stockbroker Edward Blum. He and his donors have a thing for picking cases and plaintiffs that have big racial chips on their shoulders: If PFR isn’t pushing the Evenwel or Fisher case up the federal legal ladder, it’s winning the seminal Shelby County v. Holder case in 2013 or the pregame Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District Number One v. Holder, both of them providing the one-two knockout punch that gutted the very necessary Voting Rights Act.
The Supreme Court just can’t stop giving them an audience.
Now, with the outfit receiving funding from a number of shadowy and very rich conservative donors, PFR could very well be on track to two more legal Super Bowl wins—in the name of what is, real talk, white-collar white supremacy. The plaintiffs in Evenwel are putting a detonation device on the age-old principle of “one person, one vote”: the essence of every vote being counted. Without it, blacks and women would never have had the right to vote; nor would there be as many (if any) black and Latino elected officials as there are today (even if we still have a long way to go in that category).
But the folks at PFR argue that the Constitution should be stingy about that, so let’s just erase kids, immigrants, ex-felons, prisoners and intellectually disabled folks from the voter rolls forever. Let’s just create a really bad slippery slope that, essentially, redefines the legal definition of a person, shall we? Should the high court agree with Blum, Evenwel could destroy voting rights for tens of millions of people and dramatically redraw congressional districts to the point where many black members of Congress disappear. It won’t stop there, either.
NCCU Awards 560 Degrees During 126th Commencement
North Carolina Central University (NCCU) awarded 560 diplomas Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015, during the university’s 126th annual Commencement Exercises.
Tom Ross, president of the University of North Carolina (UNC) delivered the Commencement address.
His address to NCCU graduates is his final major address to a university audience as president of the UNC system.
“NCCU is a very special place to give my last Commencement speech,” said Ross.
Ross gave graduates advice on how to be a great leader. “To be a effective leader: know yourself; communicate well; care for yourself; clarify your values; embrace differences; involve others with talent; and take risks,” said Ross.
“We need leaders now more than ever. Each of you can be a strong effective leader,” he told the audience.
Ross concluded his address by advising graduates to seize the opportunity to make a difference by leading for the common good.
NCCU presented Ross with a formal commendation recognizing his achievements as a proponent for public higher education in North Carolina.
During the ceremony, NCCU Chancellor Debra Saunders-White recognized Department of Public Health Education graduate Salima Taylor.
Taylor is a native of Durham, whose been a student leader at NCCU and played a pivotal role in establishing the university’s community garden in 2013. She conducted a summer internship in Gaborone, Botswana. Taylor will continue her research studies at Brandeis University’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management before applying to medical school.
Saunders-White closed with words of encouragement to graduates by saying, “I charge you to eradicate the world of fear, because in fear we will never succeed. Soar and be great, for it is not enough to be leaders but also be change agents. Stand and dare others to do the right thing everyday of your life.”
Minority Serving Community Colleges: Meeting the Future Now
The Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) hosted the first Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) convening for two-year colleges on November 16th and 17th. I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank all the representatives of MSIs, the experts from academia and the philanthropic sector, and the staffs of the White House, Congressional legislative staff and the many federal agencies, including the Department of Education, who collaborated to make this convening such a success.
Deputy Assistant Secretary, Mark Mitsui welcomes Minority Serving Institutions (MSI) leaders from across the country.
As our nation becomes more diverse, a growing number of community colleges are designated as, or are eligible to be designated as Minority Serving Institutions. These colleges play a key role in the higher education completion agenda and have a lot of hard-earned wisdom, experience, and knowledge about student success that needs to be shared. Our work on November 16th and 17th was a major step in the right direction. OCTAE hosted over 120 institutions. More than 250 participants in the convening exchanged practices with peers, networked with representatives from 13 federal agencies, and discovered how philanthropy, research, and national student success initiatives intersect with their work. Attendees also had the opportunity to engage in dialogue with several different divisions within the Department of Education and with Congressional staff. A panel of excellent students provided their perspectives.
This conference built on the foundation of work these institutions have already established to help their students to be successful. The energy and enthusiasm at the conference was inspiring and I am looking forward to the work ahead.
Participants agreed to join one of the MSI communities of practice, some of which had been established prior to the convening by volunteer leaders at various community colleges across the country. These communities will continue to exchange promising practices, share invaluable experiences, and connect with federal agencies in an online format.
If you are interested in joining one of the communities of practice or want to discuss other matters with us, please email me at Mark.Mitsui@ed.gov.
With this said, let me once again take the opportunity to thank the attendees for their participation in the convening, for the ideas and aspirations you shared with us, and for your continuing commitment to the well-being and success of your students.
Mark Mitsui is the Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education Deputy Assistant Secretary for Community Colleges.
SCSU junior receives Joyner scholarship
South Carolina State University junior Kordell Walker, a mechanical engineering technology major, was named the Tom Joyner Foundation “Hercules Scholar” for the week of Dec. 3.
Walker, whose hometown is Manning, received a $1,500 scholarship named after Hercules L. Joyner.
The 2015-2016 president-at-large of Minorities in Agriculture Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANNRS), has a 3.6 grade point average and plans to pursue a master’s degree in mechanical engineering. He also is a member of the S.C. State Honors College.
Hercules Joyner was an HBCU graduate and father of Tom Joyner, the nationally syndicated radio personality, entrepreneur and philanthropist.
Walker is the seventh student from S.C. State who has been recognized as a Hercules Scholar. He shares this distinction with:
- Corey Hagans, senior, music education
- Allen Fleming, freshman, professional drama
- DouDou Gueye, junior, business
- Cordell Brown, freshman, biology
- D’Angelo Simmons, sophomore, nuclear engineering
- Antonio Hamilton, junior, physical education
A DAY AT VSU
with students in The Reginald F. Lewis College of Business
Is your company looking to increase its exposure on a leading college campus?
Are you interested in developing a real professional intimacy with bright college students?
Tired of the same old career fairs & competing with dozens of other employers for students’ attention?
SPEND A DAY AT VSU with students in The Reginald F. Lewis College of Business
is an exclusive opportunity for your company to market to a select group of students absent
the distraction of other employers in the room.
HOW IT WORKS 1) pick a Wednesday in the spring semester 2) identify a preferred
time of the day to spend a minimum of three hours on campus 3) choose three options from
a list of five opportunities (operate a career booth, conduct mock interviews, facilitate a
small-group role-play session, teach a class, host students for a lunch) 4) contact Jonathan Young at
804-524-5987 or at email@example.com
WHY YOU SHOULD PARTICIPATE regards an opportunity to augment your
company’s brand on our campus, work with hand-picked students that have been identified
as a right fit for your company, and participate in a highly selective program. Oh, by the way,
there is NO cost to you to participate!
PUT YOUR COMPANY NAME HERE DAY AT VSU
VIRGINIA STATE UNIVERSITY
PUT YOUR COMPANY NAME HERE DAY AT VSU
Jonathan M. Young
Director of Corporate Relations
Virginia State University
Reginald F. Lewis College of Business
P.O. Box 9398
Virginia State University, VA 23806
Did you know?
We are the 2011 recipient of the Governor’s Award for Innovative Use of Technology in Higher Education.
We are the 2012 RichTech Technology Innovation Deployment Awardee for being Digital at the Core.
Of over 100 HBCUs nationwide, our business programs took top honor in 2012.
Your company can host a student for a 1 day “Project Shadow” visit; over 600 students have participated.
More than 250 companies have facilitated innovative small-group role play for students regarding “real-world” skills including sales, cold-calls, conflict resolution, customer is always right, elevator speech, etc.
After 6 semesters, students have accrued savings exceeding $1,121,000 because of new digital-delivered & customized text books at the same time increasing retention.
Our aim is to refine “soft skills”, augment career awareness, and develop “real world” skills not often learned in a traditional classroom!
Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson gives $250,000 to JCSU scholarship fund
Charlotte, N.C. / Dec. 7, 2015 – Johnson C. Smith University announced that Carolina Panthers owner/founder Jerry Richardson has made a $250,000 donation to the President’s Gap scholarship fund.
“When it comes to paying college tuition many families are left distressed, or have to leave their dreams behind altogether,” Richardson said. “Our hope is that this gift will help Johnson C. Smith University open doors for more families and continue to be a place that affects change in people through education,” said Richardson.
The President’s Gap scholarship was established in 2012 expressly for the purpose of closing the monetary shortfall students face between their financial aid packages and the cost of tuition. JCSU Trustee Cameron Harris, who is also part-owner of the Panthers, helped secure the gift. Richardson was swift to respond when he learned of the need. The donation will help provide education, internships and employment opportunities for students who otherwise might have been shut out by lack of funds. This is the latest example of the strong partnerships the University has built with key leaders in Charlotte and beyond.
“Mr. Richardson upholds JCSU’s mission as an independent urban university: To provide an outstanding education for talented and motivated students from diverse backgrounds,” said President Ronald L. Carter. “His dedication to the students we educate ensures they will continue to smash the mold.”
About Johnson C. Smith University
Founded in 1867, Johnson C. Smith University is an independent, close-knit urban university located in Charlotte, N.C. It has a growing national reputation for integrating the liberal arts with business, the sciences and technology in ways that empower tomorrow’s diverse entrepreneurial citizens and leaders. Offering 23 fields of study, including a master’s degree in social work, to more than 1,400 students from a variety of ethnic, socioeconomic and geographic backgrounds, the university’s excellent academic programs focus on servant leadership, civic engagement and global responsibility. For more information about JCSU, visit www.jcsu.edu or follow the university on social media sites Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and Pinterest.
Higher Education Groups Seek Flexibility for Accreditors
Three major higher education groups on Friday urged the U.S. Department of Education to allow federally recognized accreditors to evaluate colleges differently based on the colleges’ performance.
The goal is to allow colleges with strong student outcomes to face a less intensive review process, which many institutions find to be “long, arduous, expensive and complicated,” the associations wrote in a letter to Education Secretary Arne Duncan. It was signed by the leaders of the American Council on Education, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and the Association of American Universities.
“Because the current process requires accreditors to treat all institutions the same and spend equal amounts of time on all institutions regardless of performance, that necessarily limits the time accreditors can focus on institutions with weaker outcomes that actually need greater oversight,” they wrote. “Indeed, it is important to keep in mind that some institutions with low records of student success actually may need to be reviewed more closely.”
The groups also published a legal analysis, which argued that nothing in federal law prohibits the Education Department from recognizing an accreditor that varies its approach to evaluating a college based on the college’s characteristics.
Last month, as part of a package of accreditation announcements, the Education Department said it was studying the issue. Duncan instructed department officials to clarify the authority that accreditors have to apply varying levels of scrutiny to different institutions by early next year.
JCSU to revitalize West Side ties with $200,000 from Knight Foundation
Charlotte, N.C.—Dec. 2, 2015—Johnson C. Smith University is launching a series of public events in the Northwest Corridor (Beatties Ford Road) as a way to encourage a “sense of place,” according to President Ronald L. Carter, which will promote a close-knit sense of community. The plan is supported by a $200,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which will be disbursed over the next two years.
The first event will be the Northwest Holiday Soul Celebration, Dec. 6 from 4-6 p.m., immediately preceding JCSU’s annual vespers service.
“By creating a sense of place in the Northwest Corridor, we are increasing connections in Charlotte’s historic West End, bringing together residents, students, faculty and artists,” said Carter. “We hope these events contribute to the ongoing West End renaissance.”
About eight events per year are planned to take place, each featuring a mainstage act of music, spoken word or work by local artists, including emerging and student artists. The celebrations will be outdoors and visible from Beatties Ford Road, a signal that not only is JCSU’s campus open to the community, but is shaped by the community and vice versa. The series is a continuation of the Knight Foundation’s Soul of the Community project.
The steering committee is made up of community leaders such as J’Tanya Adams of Historic West End Partners, INDABA elders and JCSU staff. They hope the events enrich ties and positively impact local businesses as well.
“We want the community to have ownership and input in this series,” said Kelly Musante, a committee member and development officer at JCSU. “This is a vibrant area with a growing arts scene, and by creating a regular hotspot we are adding to the cultural capital of the Northwest Corridor.”
Two Visions of Desegregation
In Maryland, a lawsuit over the desegregation of historically black colleges and universities has people in the state and those who watch the higher education wondering: Did HBCU advocates ask for too much? Did the state give too little? Are both sides gearing up for a court battle that might just reach the U.S. Supreme Court and change states’ legal obligations to their public black colleges?
Two years ago a federal judge ruled that the Maryland Higher Education Commission perpetuated segregation by allowing predominantly white universities (PWIs) to duplicate programs offered by HBCUs, assuring that white students would overlook black colleges and setting off enrollment struggles at some of the state’s four public black institutions.
Since then the two sides have bitterly disagreed on how to remedy the segregation — with the state of Maryland most recently arguing against many of the theses that have governed desegregation strategies in the past and disagreeing with nearly all the proposals offered by HBCU advocates, calling the proposals “manifestly risky, costly and intrusive in the extreme.”
Indeed, the black college advocates’ proposals are sweeping. Earlier this year they submitted a proposal to a federal judge that sought wide-scale program transfers from PWIs to HBCUs, a redefining of the state’s public online college and the merger of an HBCU and another state institution. The proposals would have targeted programs at such institutions as the University of Maryland-Baltimore County and the University of Maryland University College, the former known for unusual success in educating black scientists, and the latter of which has an undergraduate enrollment that is more than one-quarter black.
For many affiliated with the state, the request went too far.
“They’re asking for a massive transformation of higher education in Maryland,” said Laslo Boyd, who has served as an education adviser to Maryland’s governor and as the state’s acting secretary of higher education, though he is not currently employed by the state. “The plaintiffs, in asking for almost everything imaginable, opened themselves up to an argument that they have not tried to just remedy wrongs but have created wish lists.”
In a Nov. 20 response, the commission argued that such proposals offer “no likelihood of increasing Maryland students’ educational options,” and said there is no evidence program transfers or mergers would boost enrollment at HBCUs or attract more white students. In fact, the state argued, there are several examples where unique programs at HBCUs have netted fewer white students than duplicated programs at the same HBCU.
In questioning whether starting new, high-demand programs at HBCUs would net the desegregative results desired by plaintiffs, the state broke with reasoning that has long governed similar cases where HBCU advocates have accused or sued a state for program duplication resulting in segregation. Most of the time the question is not whether to offer new programs, but how many to offer. In Pennsylvania, for example, the state system — which is also being sued by HBCU advocates — is working with Cheyney University to develop such programs in an effort to boost enrollment.
When most people think of the desegregation of higher education, images come to mind of the first black students enrolling at places like the University of Mississippi. But much of the litigation of higher education desegregation has focused on historically black colleges — and how state systems can be dismantled without simply dismantling black institutions. In the years of Jim Crow, black colleges were denied much in terms of money, programs and land — so advocates for HBCUs have said that simply dropping de jure segregation wouldn’t go far enough to promote equity.
One argument in Maryland was to question the idea that its public colleges are indeed segregated, noting the high levels of racial diversity at Maryland’s PWIs — including that a nearly equal number of black and white students attend the University of Baltimore, the very institution plaintiffs want to merge into Morgan State University, a HBCU located 30 miles away. The state said a merger, if anything, would lead to less racial diversity at the resulting institution.
So in its most recent filing, the commission didn’t agree to the plaintiffs’ proposals to transfer programs or merge institutions. In fact, it didn’t even suggest the creation of new, independent programs at HBCUs. Instead, the commission suggested a six-year, $10 million fund to create joint and dual programs between PWIs and HBCUs.
Johnny Taylor, president of the Thurgood Marshall Fund, an organization that advocates for HBCUs, said the $10 million fund was not nearly enough money to begin to rebuild the damages inflicted on the state’s HBCUs. He also called the commission’s insistence on joint programs, over new or transferred programs, insulting.
“I am really surprised by the level of intransigence that we are seeing from the state of Maryland. We have a finding now. That’s law,” Taylor said, adding that the state appears to continue its argument — made earlier in the case before a federal judge decided program duplication did put Maryland’s HBCUs at a disadvantage to their PWI peers — that program duplication is often not harmful. “So the question should be how do we reverse these losses and make these schools whole?”
The lawsuit against the state by a group of HBCU supporters called the Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education spans nearly a decade — and people on both sides expect the case to continue for several more years. Both sides are prepared to appeal the judge’s forthcoming decision on how best to rectify the segregative effects of program duplication in Maryland.
The coalition brought the suit in 2006 after the University of Baltimore and Towson University, both located in the Baltimore area, created a joint M.B.A. program. The program was similar to an existing one at Morgan State University, an HBCU in Baltimore. Frustrated by Morgan’s shrinking white enrollment, the coalition sued the state, and in 2013 U.S. Judge Catherine C. Blake ruled that unnecessary program duplication had indeed harmed the state’s HBCUs. She cited the M.B.A. program as a strong example of that harm, and in its November filing the state said it would disband the joint M.B.A. program — yet the commission offered few other concessions.
Marybeth Gasman, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Minority-Serving Institutions, says throughout the last decade, neither the commission nor the coalition has found much common ground — and she’s not hopeful they’ll find any in the near future.
Maryland, she says, “has been so rigid in its approach to HBCUs,” first arguing that program duplication was not a problem and now, in its most recent filings, minimizing the perceived harmful effects of duplication. Meanwhile, she says, the coalition is unlikely to get all the concessions it’s asking for and will need to find ways to compromise.
“Something has to be done in the state of Maryland. This cannot keep going on,” Gasman said, describing the decade-long lawsuit as a perpetual game of tug-of-war in which neither side has compromised. “You’ve got two groups that are pulling on that rope and nothing is happening. It has been like that forever.”
Both sides disagree on whether a merger or program transfer would attract white students, and in one case they’re each using the same example to support their viewpoint.
HBCU advocates point to the merger of Tennessee State University with the University of Tennessee at Nashville in the 1970s as an example of a successful merger between a PWI and HBCU. The university under the Tennessee State name has a robust enrollment of more than 9,000 students and a six-year graduation rate of 62 percent, which is quite high among HBCUs. Yet the commission, in its filings, said the merger is a failure in terms of diversification. It noted how nonblack enrollment comprised 51 percent of students at the two colleges before the merger. In 2014 that number had shrunk to 29 percent, according to federal data.
The Tennessee case “suggests that merging UB into Morgan would destroy one of the most diverse public universities in the state,” the commission’s filings said. While not a HBCU, UB enrolls more black students than white ones (47 percent versus 37 percent, respectively). At Morgan, just 2 percent of students are white.
“Is the aspiration of diversity about students or institutions? Are you trying to create opportunities of advancement for minorities, or are you trying to strengthen HBCUs regardless of the effect?” asked Boyd, adding that the state’s filing questions the very idea of what constitutes a desegregated system of higher education. “The state seems to be arguing that minorities have lots of opportunities at a full range of institutions.”
The state also disagreed with the coalition’s central premise that creating unique, high-demand programs at HBCUs is “fundamental to developing institutional identities that go beyond race and, in turn, attract not only white students but students regardless of race,” saying the position was unsupported by scientific research. According to the state, creating such programs “would not contribute to diversity” at HBCUs. In fact, an analysis by the state found that the percentage of white students enrolled in unduplicated programs that already exist at Maryland’s HBCUs is negligibly different, and in some cases lower, than the overall low percentage of white students enrolled in HBCUs.
“This is a novel theory, this notion that, in transferring programs from a majority institution to a minority institution, white students won’t follow and the program would be harmed,” said Taylor, adding that if a transferred program is adequately supported and funded, there should be no difference in performance or enrollment.
“The idea that something, because it’s at Morgan State, won’t be as attractive is racist itself. You’re essentially saying a black college can’t deliver with the same resources that a majority [white] college can. You’re making all sorts of assumptions,” he continued. And the idea that white students won’t matriculate into a specialty program at a HBCU that is of equal caliber is one that assumes, and then permits, students to make decisions out of bias, he offered. “That is really a sad commentary on what is the state of race relations in the state of Maryland.”
Gasman says there is “historical evidence, legal evidence and just practical evidence” that white students “tend to hold racial bias against black institutions,” which can keep them from enrolling in HBCUs. Yet Gasman said that if resources are put into a program and it is perceived as unique and high quality, students generally overcome that bias. She notes that currently about 13 percent of HBCU students nationally are white, and that enrollment figures are higher at HBCUs in areas where there are more limited options for college. Maryland, meanwhile, is geographically small and students have lots of in-state options for college.
“It’s great that these other institutions are more diverse. It’s great that they’re desegregated. But just because that’s taking place doesn’t mean Maryland has lost its obligation to make sure its HBCUs are strong,” Gasman said. She added that diversity at traditional institutions does not solve the issue in question: that a federal judge found the state had allowed program duplication to harm and weaken HBCUs.
Officials from the Maryland attorney general’s office and the state higher education system declined to comment for this article, but the system did release a statement saying that transferring programs to HBCUs would adversely affect diversity at PWIs. Yet Taylor said the state, in its reasoning, is placing its PWIs ahead of its HBCUs, and “making a value judgment that it prefers that those institutions be racially diverse at the expense of the HBCUs being racially diverse.”
William Kirwan, former chancellor of the system, highlighted how complicated and involved program transfers can be. “People have a misconception that moving programs is like moving pieces on the chessboard,” he said. In reality, he adds, it’s not so simple. One must consider elements like accreditation and faculty appointments, which would be at risk if a program was transferred.
“The faculty may not go, so then the program doesn’t exist,” he continued. “There’s no evidence that it works and it puts at great risk programs that are very successful in serving a state interest.”
Boyd suggested that program duplication is not responsible for many of the issues facing HBCUs. Demographic changes and the rise of online education have also shifted the landscape for black colleges. He noted how Morgan’s M.B.A. enrollment was showing signs of struggle even before Towson and UB launched their hotly contested joint program. “Even if you move every high-demand program to Morgan, it’s not clear what the effect would be,” he said. “Particularly in a day when so much is offered online. You’re not limited by geography anymore.”
Kirwan is quick to point out how Maryland’s flagship public university, the University of Maryland at College Park, is among the most diverse member institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities. “Maryland has a good record of diversifying its traditionally white institutions,” he says.
Indeed, many of Maryland’s PWIs are diverse — with several providing better outcomes for black students than their HBCU peers.
At UMBC, 16 percent of undergraduates are black and black students have a six-year graduation rate of 59 percent, compared to 61 percent for all undergraduates. At Towson, 16 percent of undergraduates are black and black students have a 67 percent six-year graduation rate, compared to 68 percent for all undergraduates. At College Park, 13 percent of undergraduates are black. Black students there have a 77 percent graduation rate, compared to 85 percent for all undergraduates.
UB, a minority-majority institution, has one of the system’s lowest graduation rates, partly because of the university’s commuter profile. UB’s six-year graduation rate among black students is 30 percent, compared to 43 percent for all undergraduates.
Meanwhile, Maryland’s HBCUs are much less diverse and their outcomes are generally less rosy than those of their PWI peers. At Morgan, 84 percent of students are black and just 2 percent are white. The six-year graduation rate is 32 percent. At Bowie State University, 87 percent of students are black and 3 percent are white. Bowie’s graduation rate is 33 percent. At Coppin State University, 82 percent of students are black and 2 percent are white. The graduation rate is 17 percent. The University of Maryland Eastern Shore is by far the state’s most diverse HBCU — 72 percent of its student body is black and 12 percent is white. The six-year graduation rate is 37 percent.
HBCU advocates say the difference in performance is due mainly to HBCUs not being supported by the system, and also because many of the students that HBCUs serve are low income and first generation, groups that generally struggle with college at any institution. In particular, they say, the state has duplicated programs at majority institutions that have drawn well-performing and racially diverse students away from the HBCUs and precipitated academic decline.
“The state puts all the signature programs at non-HBCUs and then blames HBCUs for not being able to attract students,” Gasman said.
Yet whatever the cause, there is sharp disagreement about how to remedy struggles facing the state’s HBCUs. The state suggests joint programs between HBCUs and PWIs as a solution. It also proposed a summer academy that would expose aspiring college students to HBCU campuses. The Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education and other advocates are doubtful that the joint programs proposed by the state would be an equal partnership, and instead are seeking more drastic measures — like mergers and transfers.
Though Kirwan thinks program transfers would be harmful to public higher education in Maryland, he departs from his former colleagues at the commission in his robust support of program creation. Where the commission, in its filings, says there is no concrete evidence program creation leads to more diversity at HBCUs, Kirwan disagrees. He calls the University of Maryland Eastern Shore “the poster child for how building program inventory can work.”
The 4,300-student university is located 20 miles from the system’s 8,800-student Salisbury University, but is otherwise geographically distant from any other public college. Its pharmacy and engineering programs have been successful in attracting students, and the college is one of the most racially diverse HBCUs in the country.
“The state should invest in increasing the program inventory at the HBCUs and provide money to start up programs that are in high demand,” Kirwan said.
HBCU advocates interviewed for this article said they expected more support for program creation from the commission. “I’m just surprised that the state did not come back and say” we don’t want to move an existing program, but “here are three brand-new, cutting-edge programs that we’re going to give you,” offered Taylor.
Boyd, the former commission official, has a theory. Each side, he surmises, is giving as little ground as possible in order to make their case stronger, given the likelihood the lawsuit will be appealed to a higher court — perhaps even the highest court.
“Both sides are planning on this going as far as it can go,” he says.
WILBERFORCE UNIVERSITY UPDATE
Algeania Marie Warren Freeman, Ph.D., President
It is a tremendous pleasure to share the GOOD NEWS about the things that are occurring at Wilberforce University. The followings items are but a few things that are being worked on to continue moving Wilberforce University beyond the Show-Cause accreditation status:
- We are working on a $43 million bond issue.
- We are working on final closure of the $2 million gift from the AME Church.
- We are working on the regular audit and A133 federal audit.
- We are working on submitting HLC Financial Data Report to the Higher Learning Commission.
- We are working on trying to get forgiveness from the U.S. Department of Education $3.5 million in financial aid penalties for the years of 2009, 2010, and 2011. We are currently paying on financial aid penalties for 2009.
- We are preparing our presentation before a federal judge on January 19, 2016 for financial aid penalties for the year 2010.
- We are working on getting an external vendor who would be willing to construct two modular housing units with 500 beds for students off of the balance sheet for an estimated cost of $1.5 to $1.7 million.
- We are working on putting in a new Jenzabar administrative software system which is better suited for a smaller size institution.
- We are replacing our network infrastructure. We are putting in thirty (30) switches, and we are replacing our core server.
- We are installing eighteen (18) network security cameras.
- We are installing thirty (30) wireless network access points.
- We are finalizing the last migration of our telephone system to a true voice over IP hosted system. Putting in this new system will save the University $3,500 to $4,500 a month.
- We will be integrating over 120 computers in the next few months, and replacing older computers for staff and faculty.
- We are working on enhancing distance education by installing Structure Canvas. Faculty members are already being trained on the use of the new system, and they have begun using the new system. The Canvas system replaces Blackboard. Canvas is a cheaper system, more compatible with other software systems, and easier to use.
- We are currently building out an audio recording studio and brand new internet radio and television stations which will increase communications ability and capacity worldwide with the community, alumni, and the AME Church.
- We are working on reconditioning two buildings to house our student services and financial aid programs that will allow students to earn while they learn so that they can leave Wilberforce debt free as a part of our Promise Program.
- We are working on Performance Reports for the HBCU and SAFRA grants that are due in January 2016.
- We are working hard to maintain and exceed our Fall 2015 student enrollment (653 students in Fall 2015 as compared to 353 in Fall 2014).
- We are in the process of signing 21 partnership contracts with Warrensville Heights City School District, East Cleveland School District, Maple Heights City School District, Cleveland Public School District, and various other agencies and groups in the City of Cleveland, Ohio.
- We have been accepted into the prestigious HLC Assessment Academy that will enhance the University’s ability to remain compliant with its assessment requirements.
- We sent 29 persons to the 2015 Assessment Institute in Indianapolis.
- We have completed academic program reviews for the business and CLIMB programs.
- We produced the first Wilberforce University FACT book which provides comprehensive data and information on the status of the institution.
- We have met with NASA officials several times to work on a pre-collegiate project.
- We are working on trying to get funding support for various projects from foundations.
- We hosted a corporate reception in the City of Dayton, and we are currently hosting individual meetings with potential corporate donors.
- We are continuing to host our strong Student Leadership Development program with workshops being conducted by Griffin and Associates.
- We are having tremendous success with reinstituting our Chapel and Vespers programs, and we established a new Chapel and Student Development Office.
- We are continuing with academic program reviews and credential audits.
- We are launching a $4 million fund raising project to establish our 160 year legacy Memorial Gardens and to support student scholarships.
Stability and Modest Growth Expected for U.S. Colleges
Stability and modest growth. That’s what U.S. colleges and universities can expect over the next year to 18 months, according to a 2016 outlook by credit rating agency Moody’s Investors Service.
Tuition revenue growth is expected to be between 2 and 3 percent for public and private universities, with overall revenue growing at about 3 percent. State funding for public universities is anticipated to grow between 2 and 4 percent.
Moody’s outlook is based off a comprehensive look at the agency’s higher education portfolio, which includes 230 public universities and 275 public universities.
Though Moody’s predicts most colleges will see some revenue growth, it says between 20 to 30 percent of the colleges it rates will struggle to reach the 3 percent revenue growth figure. The ones that will struggle the most, according to Moody’s, are small colleges with limited economies of scale.
National Association of Title III Administrators, Inc. Scholarship Recipients 2015
National Association of Historically Black Colleges and Universities
Title III Administrators, Inc.
Graduation Rates Rise, for Some
Graduation rates have been steadily improving at universities for about a decade now.
But a report released today by the Education Trust shows that at some public institutions, the gap in graduation rates between minority students and white students is actually growing. The Education Trust is an advocacy group for low-income and minority students.
At 26 institutions, the researchers found, the completion rate increased more for minority students than for white students from 2003 to 2013, resulting in a narrowing of the racial gap. At 17 colleges, by contrast, graduation rates for students of color declined and gaps between white students and minorities on their campuses grew. The Education Trust focused its analysis on 328 public institutions where overall graduation rates increased, and specifically on a group of 255 universities within that pool that had at least 50 minority and 50 white students in their graduation cohorts.
“We caution institutional leaders who celebrate their graduation rate gains to take a good look at their data and ask whether they are doing enough to get more African-American, Latino and Native students to graduation and to close completion gaps,” said Kimberlee Eberle-Sudre, a policy analyst at Ed Trust and co-author of the report, in the news release.
Over all, the report found that two-thirds of four-year institutions have increased graduation rates from 2003 to 2013. Of the 255 institutions that serve a sizable minority population, 77 percent increased graduation rates for their minority students. But the minority graduation rates increased only slightly more than for white students — 6.3 percentage points compared to 5.7 percent. So the completion gap between white and minority students has narrowed by less than 1 percentage point in 10 years, according to the report.
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga topped the list of the 17 institutions that had the widest completion gaps, though its overall graduation rate increased. The Education Trust, using U.S. Department of Education data, found that the completion gap between white and minority students there increased 18.7 percentage points between 2003 and 2013. Minority graduation at the university fell by 11.9 percentage points, but overall graduation increased by 2 percentage points. The overall rate was boosted by an increase in success for white students — by 6.8 percentage points.
|Four-Year Public Institutions With Increasing Gaps|
|Institution||10-Year Change in Minority Grad Rates||10-Year Change in Overall Grad Rates||10-Year Change in White Student Grad Rates||10-Year Change in Completion Gap|
|U of Tennessee at Chattanooga||-11.9%||2%||6.8%||18.7%|
|Texas A&M U-Commerce||-7.1%||4%||10.1%||17.2%|
|U of Missouri-Kansas City||-6%||3.6%||9.4%||15.3%|
|U of Central Arkansas||-9.5%||1.5%||4.3%||13.8%|
|Auburn U at Montgomery||-7.2%||1%||5.7%||13%|
|Kutztown U of Pennsylvania||-3.6%||4.6%||7.2%||10.8%|
|U of Alabama in Huntsville||-5.7%||3.1%||4.6%||10.3%|
|U of Southern Mississippi||-5.5%||0.5%||4.4%||9.9%|
|Weber State U||-6.4%||1.9%||3.5%||9.9%|
The university has seen an increase in retention among its minority students more recently, said Chuck Cantrell, associate vice chancellor of communication and marketing for UT-Chattanooga.
“We’re focusing on all students’ success and we recognize the need to address the needs of students in certain multiracial and multicultural populations,” he said. “We have implemented a couple of programs that although they serve all students, the participation rates tend to be minority students.”
According to UT-Chattanooga’s retention data, retention of first-time, full-time black students increased from 70 to 80 percent, in 2015. That increase is higher than the 1 percent increase in retention among white students from 70 percent last year.
Cantrell said within the last two years the university established a summer bridge program to better prepare high school students for college-level math and writing, and a minority mentorship program. That mentor program matches upperclassmen with underclassmen to help minority students feel more engaged on campus.
The University of Montana — the only flagship to make the list of 17 — had a decrease of 3.5 percentage points in its minority graduation rate and an increase in the completion gap of 8 percentage points.
The minority population at Montana is substantially Native Americans, who account for about 800 of the approximately 13,000 students on the campus, said Perry Brown, provost and vice president for academic affairs at the university.
Brown said the university has been working to increase retention and graduation rates for Native students, although he added that he couldn’t speak to why there were declines in the minority rates. Last year, the university renewed its participation in the federal TRIO program, a slate of initiatives and projects that help low-income, first-generation and minority students to succeed in college.
For years the university has had Native American advising offices at the college level to help students. Brown points to the College of Forestry and Conservation, where a Native American advising office was installed about 10 years ago and the retention rate increased from about 10 percent to 80 percent in that time, he said, adding that the number of graduates also increased from about one or two students a year to about eight a year.
Andrew Nichols, director of higher education research and data analytics for Education Trust, said the group’s findings don’t suggest that the 17 universities where the completion gap is growing aren’t committed to diversity or focused on advising or increasing aid to low-income students.
“But it does seem what they are doing isn’t necessarily working,” he said.
Leading the 26 universities that have narrowed the completion gap between white and minority students was the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, which has closed the gap by 15.2 percentage points due to the institution’s efforts to increase freshman retention.
Each university is different, but the researchers identified some explanations for why some universities were better than others at closing the completion gap and increasing both minority and white graduation rates.
“It usually comes down to a couple of specific things, and one of the most important is leadership and having folks on campus who take these issues seriously and recognize there must be targeted intervention for students of color,” Nichols said. “Another is financial aid. So ensuring low-income students and students with the least ability to pay have the ability to pay not just in their first year, but so they can return to college year after year.”
Washington State University, which saw the minority graduation rate increase by 13 percentage points over 10 years and the completion gap narrow by 5.4 percentage points, credited the institution’s first black president, Elson Floyd, with leading the initiative to increase diversity on the campus. Floyd served as president from 2007 until his death in June.
North Carolina State University had a 12 percentage point increase in the minority graduation rate and closed the completion gap by 4.8 percent. Administrators there attributed the success to increasing financial aid for low-income students, Eberle-Sudre said.
The 26 institutions that are closing that completion gap also pointed to using targeted advising approaches or using their own data to examine subgroup performances in courses that had high withdrawal rates and then working with faculty to re-evaluate how they offer those courses or examining if additional tutoring was needed, according to the report.
“The traditional approach to advising has been on the student to seek help, but these institutions have flipped the narrative on its head and been more proactive in how they approach advising,” Nichols said, adding that either they’re mandating advising time for students or counselors are sitting down with students to help map out the courses they need to take to reach a degree.
Education Trust is also releasing two briefs to accompany the report that will delve deeper into the gaps between black and white students on these campuses and Latino and white students.
Minority student protests have taken off in the past few weeks over retention, lack of minority faculty and other issues that students feel hinder their success on campus. Those protests led to the resignation of University of Missouri System President Tim Wolfe. Missouri’s Kansas City campus also made the list of institutions failing to close the completion gap and experiencing decreases in minority graduation.
“What we’re seeing in the data is that all of these things are part of the mix or part of the issue and that maybe leads to lower completion rates for black students,” Nichols said. “Generally when we have these conversations we are in some ways more likely to focus on income as the predictive issue and we’re less likely to talk about race and challenges with racism in America.”
Nichols said even when they examine the performance of people with similar socioeconomic backgrounds, race is still a factor.
The report also found that similar institutions, with similar SAT scores and percentage of minority students or demographics, could differ in widening or closing the completion gap.
“It really comes down to what that specific institution is doing, and that goes back to leadership, advising and the use of data,” Nichols said. “What they do on campus matters at the end of the day.”
VSU, AG produce film to counter heroin epidemic
If there’s one message that Jesse Vaughan hopes his new documentary on the heroin epidemic will drive home, it’s this:
“Young people are dying every day,” the Emmy-winning filmmaker at Virginia State University said.
“We’ve become so immune to death that we just sort of brush it aside, but behind all of those deaths are families that are being destroyed.”
Vaughan is director of “Heroin: The Hardest Hit,” a documentary produced with the state attorney general’s office that will premiere next week at the Library of Virginia.
In 2014, 728 people died in Virginia from heroin and prescription drug overdoses, up from 661 in 2013, according to the attorney general’s office. In the last five years, fatal overdoses have increased by 57 percent and claimed nearly 3,000 Virginians.
What was once seen as an urban problem has spread to rural areas and middle-class suburban neighborhoods, Vaughan said.
“We want people to know that this is in your back yard,” he said. “You can close your eyes to this epidemic. But I suggest you should open your eyes because it can happen to you.”
Vaughan is director of VSU’s Advance Creative Services Group, which produces commercials, documentaries and the TV show “VSU Today.” His team, which has won 13 Emmys in the past four years, in April produced “Living in a Food Desert,” a documentary about food insecurity in Richmond.
The attorney general’s office sought VSU’s help with the film as part of its initiative to counter an epidemic of heroin and prescription drug overdose that killed more Virginians than car crashes in 2014.
“Heroin is so addictive, so dangerous, so deadly,” Attorney General Mark Herring says as the film opens, his words interspersed with a 911 overdose call. “It has become one of the worst drug epidemics in Virginia’s history.”
The 48-minute film, narrated by journalist Ed Gordon, says deaths nearly doubled from 2011 to 2013, with increases of 164 percent in Northern Virginia, 94 percent in Hampton Roads and 50 percent in the Richmond metro area.
The path to addiction often begins innocently with painkillers prescribed after surgery and proves fatal when users turn to heroin laced with dangerous additives. In the Richmond area, heroin was found to have been mixed with powerful horse tranquilizers, the film reports.
Recovering addicts recount “the start of the end,” as one put it, and mothers tell of their heartache from the epidemic that spans all social strata and walks of life.
“She thought she would beat it but the drug was too strong,” says Carolyn Weems of Virginia Beach.
Her daughter, Caitlyn, died at 21 from a heroin overdose while in rehab from her addition, which began when she was prescribed painkillers after dental surgery to repair an injury that occurred during a high school soccer game.
Another mother tells how her daughter was found unconscious next to her napping son.
“They took me to a room and showed me her brain scan and told me right then and there to start planning her funeral,” Denise Hannan says of the death of her 23-year-old daughter, Lauren, in Winchester.
The film will be shown in free screenings around the state in December and aired on television in January. It also will be available Dec. 2 to view on the attorney general’s website, www.oag.state.va.us. DVD copies and screenings with OAG staff also can be requested.
“This film is a priority for our office because we think it really has the chance to save lives,” Herring spokesman Michael Kelly said by email.
The VSU team created a video “we think is going to open a lot of eyes to the realities of heroin and prescription drug abuse in the commonwealth,” he said.