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University of North Carolina paying a Racist organization $2.5 million is an insult of Epic Proportions

I left UNC in 2013. I was planning on staying there for another year and half, but my onetime boss fell in love, divorced and moved on. My new boss realized, fairly quickly, and that was an accomplishment since she was not the brightest bulb in the box, that the office was more associated with me and my work than anyone else’s and that she needed to get rid of me in order to try to make her own mark. So she suggested I go to the School of Education where I already had a faculty appointment. I suggested I just retire a few months early and get the hell out of a college that had no real commitment to diversity, social justice, integrity or honesty when it came to people of color. It was, as I had suspected from the beginning when they put me up in a hotel that looked like Tara, still a plantation. The house niggers could make some good money at Carolina, but they were not going to be given positions where they could change things or make policy. If you actually seemed to be making some kind of progress you would be considered dangerous. Not staying in one’s place was and is a capital sin. Never having known my place my tenure of ten years + was probably a miracle.

When I came there was no programming by the office for anything but black student recruitment, which I never understood the rationale for housing anywhere besides admission.I started six programs for faculty and staff and grad students, all of which perished when I left. The Diversity Plan which I spearheaded had its teeth pulled as well. The Chancellor who was a good guy, but naive, was replaced shortly after I left by a figurehead who had a commitment to absolutely nothing except keeping her job. If courage was butter she would have to eat her toast dry.

Fast forward to 2018. There is an Interim Chancellor A racist statue, put up well after the Civil War, in praise of the Confederacy on a main quad on campus was pulled down by activists. The college reluctantly decided to leave it down, even in the face of outcry by racists. Now they are giving it to an organization that never owned it along with a $2.5 million bonus for being dedicated to racism and the Lost Cause.

The faculty is not happy. I have yet to see a statement from any black group. The Black Faculty Staff Caucus, which I used to be the Chair of, the Black Alumni group. This is the Carolina Way. Do not criticize the college even when they are as wrong as can be. I sent the following emails to the Interim Chancellor a while back about diversity at Carolina. I received a response from his assistant but not from him. That let me know what he was. They are probably going to keep him on as Chancellor since he has not spoken out against the nasty racism supporting grant. Evidently all house niggers are not black at Carolina

 

March 29, 2019

Good Morning Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz:

I do not know if you know me at all. I am Cookie Newsom. I used to work for the diversity office as the Director of Diversity Education and Assessment. I was also the Chair of the Black Faculty Staff Caucus for most of my tenure and held a faculty appointment in the School of Education until 2015. I started at Carolina in 2003 and retired in 2013 when the leadership of the office changed and the focus of the office and I did not see eye to eye. Something which was not that new actually. I thought the office was supposed to serve as a resource, advocate and educator around the topics of equity and inclusion. The office has never, to my knowledge accomplished that , nor actually tried to except for the brief period that I was there. I invite you to investigate what programs they offer besides Project Uplift.

I have been following events at Carolina and still have many, many friends and colleagues there. One of them sent me your recent statement about racial issues on campus. I decided that I have a moral imperative to fill you in on some things that are probably unknown to you. I do not expect any response or any action or anything, I just think you need to know. I am perfectly content if you ignore this totally as the ravings of a former employee, but I will have done my part to see if I can inspire some kind of meaningful attention to the ongoing problem of race on Carolina’s campus. I am fond of Carolina.

I came to Carolina in 2003 because I wanted to do work on equity and inclusion. I created and conducted the first diversity assessment of the University, and with a trio of graduate assistants analyzed the data. It was why I was recruited to Carolina in the first place. I was in Washington DC at one of my required residencies as a research fellow at the Library of Congress in the Cities and Public Spaces in Cultural Context seminar when I received the call from the then director of Diversity.

The results of the assessment indicated some rather egregious problems around the question of race, from the fact that the Stone Center provided no activism and advocacy, let alone space, for black students, quite contrary to what I had been told its namesake had wanted, to the fact there was no real programming by the diversity office beyond the outdated and never evaluated program Project Uplift ( which has a very unfortunate and racism name by the way, implying minorities need to be uplifted). This was initiated after integration to let black students know they were welcome on campus. It is, in my opinion, no longer necessary and the funds and efforts should be focused on making sure once they get here they have some black tenured professors and have a more organized methodology of handling the issues they face when confronted by racism.

After I finished the Diversity Assessment, which had been suggested by a committee headed by Professor Charles Daye I asked my then boss what I was to do next. His response was “ go meet people.” In other words the job had no other meat on its bones. Lacking a researcher to conduct the suggested assessment they had hired me to design, conduct and analyze the result, but had not thought further.

I did go meet people. What I noticed was there was no pan-University programming that incorporated faculty, staff and students to address diversity issues. So, I began to create programs. The Diversity Education Team was the first. The Faculty Workshop on Diversity was the second, The Diversity Symposium at Carolina was the third, Research Rocks! A program for minority high schools from three counties to encourage early exposure to research where they could come to Carolina and work on projects with faculty was fourth. I started in total 8 programs to engage the faculty, staff and students in examining, evaluating, and experiencing diversity. All of the programs I started no longer function.

The Diversity Office as far as I can tell from a distance has reverted to its origins of being only responsible for Project Uplift. No one is minding the diversity store. The fact that during all of the struggles over Silent Sam I never saw one statement from the Diversity Office is a clear clue of what is not going on at Carolina.

I do not mean to paint myself as the Ex-Officio Patron Saint of Diversity at Carolina. What I do want to share is that it can be different, but here is the sticky wicket. You have to have leaders that care more about their goal of equity and inclusion than about their paychecks. When I first came to Carolina one of the things I was told, usually in whispers, by both white folks who liked me and black folks who liked me was , “Be careful what you say, you do not want to make the people upstairs ( my office was in the “garden level” of South Building) mad.” I began to ask them. “Do people get fired for telling the truth?”  There was, and may still be, a culture at Carolina not to make noise, particularly about race. That was contrary to my being, wrong is wrong and should be shouted down in the public sphere in my opinion. No doubt part of the reason I left before I had intended to and came back to Ohio, my voice was too loud for the atmosphere.

I helped begin NADOHE , the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education. I am mentioned on their home page. However, the association and the jobs have taken an entirely different tack than I was intending. It has become primarily not a training and advisory group for all diversity officers but an incubator to help Chief Diversity Officers raise their salaries. Once those salaries are raised the CDOs  generally become house slaves. They want their money and keep quiet about abuses and inequities to keep it coming in.

I failed to accomplish what I wanted with NADOHE and I failed to accomplish what I wanted to at Carolina. NADOHE is not a tool and resource for all diversity officers of any stature and Carolina is not a campus that openly addresses inequities and advocates to end them across all populations, staff, faculty, administration and students.

It might have been that I was channeling Icarus and tried to fly too close to the sun of racism, whatever the reason, I am too often assailed by stories from campus by friends and colleagues there that nothing has changed and in some cases has gotten worse.

 

I appreciate you reading this and hope it shines some little sliver of light on the darkness that is diversity management on campus. I wish you great success in dealing with the issues you mention in your recent public statement, but unless you find better leadership I am afraid you are going to be doomed to doing what has always been done, putting some lipstick on the pig of racism and proclaiming it pretty.

Sincerely,

M. Cookie Newsom, PhD

1530 Wilberforce Switch Road
Xenia, Ohio 45385
937-919-4000
Second Email to Interim Chancellor:

Before any new leadership is installed the office of diversity needs to be studied , examined, evaluated  and given direction, goals and objectives and a plan of periodic evaluation established by a Task Force of faculty, staff and students. The convener of said Task Force should not be a current employee of the University. They do not need to have a nickel in the dime of advancing their careers. They need to be knowledgeable about Carolina and have some pedigree in diversity. I have several folks who would do admirably and are still in the area, Charles Daye former law professor, Elmira Mangum, former President of FAMU and Vice Provost at Carolina, John Boger, former Dean of the Law School ( having a white head might make folks pay more attention). I am sure there are other former employees  who have their social justice cred if you ask around.

Carolina has never had a diversity office. They have had a student recruitment office that paid lip service to diversity in other arenas. There was no activism, advocacy, education, research , before I came and none after I left.

My two cents :

  1. The office should report directly to the Chancellor and be housed in the newly configured Stone Center ( more about that later) . Putting it in SASBE makes it look like it only serves students, which is true, but should not be.
  2. The office should be renamed to include the word “equity”
  3. The office should be the umbrella for all diversity efforts, all centers, institutes, etc. that deal with diversity in any form should have a reporting stream to the office. American Indian Center, Latinix, LGBTQ Office, if there is anything for Asian students, faculty and staff, that too.  Unless there is some cohesion in diversity management folks get to interpret what diversity is and is not. In my view the current centers only serve students. If the goal is to serve only students then the office is not a diversity office, it is a student services office.
  4. Get rid of Project Uplift. It is archaic and unnecessary. Why one would have a special recruitment and orientation for students of color is beyond me, they do not have different bodies or require special handling. Let the Admissions Office handle student recruiting and Student Affairs handle Orientations. If research and assessment are part of the office functions they will be keeping an eye on student recruitment, retention and graduation rates anyway and reporting on them.
  5. The office should serve four functions:
    1. Education—should be involved in the development of and mindful of courses dealing with diversity in the curriculum, should partner in offer ing courses in diversity management for faculty and staff through HR and the Schools and Institutes
    2. Research, Assessment and Oversight—should do a diversity assessment periodically, but not annually. I intended, when I designing the diversity assessment to drill down into specific departments or schools examining employment, retention, enrollment, persistence, graduation rates, etc.  I intended to share the results with the Dean or Director . Archie vetoed it because it would make people mad. When I was at Carolina I presented a paper at the American Association of University Professors at their conference in DC. It was on the dearth of black tenured faculty at Research I universities. I included Carolina in the sample. The paper got quite a bit of attention and was featured in some newspaper stories. When I got back to Carolina all hell broke loose. I was told the Deans were all mad at me and might not want to work with me anymore. I asked them if they disagreed with my data. The answer was “no.” I asked them if they disagreed with my analysis of the data. The answer was “ no.” So, I said, you are mad because I told? No answer. They eventually got over it.
    3. Advocacy—there is no where for people to go who feel misused due to their personal characteristics except HR which requires formality and puts them at risk for retaliation.  Here is an example from my time there:

A student in the school of Library and Information Science came to my office. He was

the only black student in the master’s program. He had experienced a very traumatic

event in his studies. The students were making presentations. He told me he was

getting something out of his bag and was not paying attention yet as two of his

classmates went to the front of the class to start their presentation. They had pulled up

a cartoon on the powerpoint. He heard his name. One of the presenters, a white female

that he knew only from being in class with, said “ Damon will read it.”  Evidently the

caption on the cartoon was too small for the students to read from a distance. He was

startled and could not read it from where he sat so he went closer. The cartoon was of

two dinosaurs discussing the word “niggardly’ and what it did and did  not mean. The

reason the young lady asked him to read it was obvious. He was humiliated and

embarrassed. He went to the assistant dean at the time, a black woman, who told him if

he raised a ruckus it would hurt his academic and possibly his professional careers.

She counseled him to ignore it. He then went to the Provost and got a similar response.

He then came to me and told me if something was not done he was going to have to

dropout of the program. . I took his case to the then Chancellor and everyone’s tune

changed. He was given an internship in the department , the then Dean wrote him a

letter of recommendation to the University of Michigan doctoral program. He graduated

from Michigan and is a professor at the University of Indiana. He writes to me fairly

frequently. I could give you quite a few more examples, but you need to remember I had

NO authority to actually do anything.

    1. Activism—speakers, symposia, opportunities to gather and discuss issues, writing letters to the Daily Tarheel, to the N & O, etc.

6. The Stone Center has to be made to do what its  namesake intended for it to do. It’s head

should report to the Chief Diversity Officer and have new leadership that will make it for

black students, faculty and staff what the American Indian Center and new Latinix Center

do, or should do, for American Indian and Latino/a faculty, staff and students. There

should be a gathering space for black students. The Center should be involved with

curriculum, activism, research and education focused on black culture, history and

current events and needs. Currently there is no Center for black students, faculty and

staff.

7. The office has to have a faculty connection. I had a faculty appointment, given it was in the

SOE it was not that respected, but at least I had one.  The office has never gotten much

respect or attention from faculty and has not served faculty or staff at all. That must

change.

Okay, I am finished. I hope you have a great day!

 
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Posted by on December 11, 2019 in Uncategorized

 

THESE ARE THE TIMES THAT TRY HUMANS’ SOULS: OUR SOULS HAD BETTER GET UP AND FIGHT!

Like most people I imagine, when I study history and see evil things happen, societies transformed from peaceable, calm, good prosperous, places to live to places where people are enslaved, abused, mistreated or massacred, I like to imagine myself as part of the Resistance. Fighting with the French Resistance in World War II, spying for the North in the Civil War, fighting with the Lakota Sioux against Custer, or going back even farther, fighting with the Incans against Pizarro and against the evil empire of Qin Shi Huang in China. I see myself leading the Underground forces, plotting disruptive activities agains the people trying to destroy my country and do bad things to the people. Yet, today I am sitting at my computer while Trump and his administration try to : Strip health care from people who will die without it to make money for rich people, pollute and destroy the earth to make money for rich people, encourage racism and sexism and homophobia and religious bigotry and violence, sell public lands to make money for rich people, allow anyone—even the mentally ill, to buy guns to make money for rich people, destroy the public school system to make money for rich people, destroy democracy with voter suppression, secrecy, discrediting the media, and possibly obstruction of justice and treason.
When is it time to take to the streets? How far did the people in Nazi Germany allow the government to go before they stood up? Did they ever, or was it too late before they reached the conclusion they could not tolerate the atrocities. How bad does it have to get? What do they have to do? What happens if in America your neighbors start disappearing? Will you just idly wonder until your neighborhood is mostly vacant and they come for you?
We have seen what one evil, determined person who uses Us vs Them skillfully can accomplish. And Trump is skilled at one thing, creating division and enmity and hate. We all know it is to the advantage of the rich amongst us to keep those of us in the lower 99% at each other’s throats so we will not turn on them. I truly thought we were smarter and, more importantly, better than that. Evidently I was wrong.
Racism is rampant in our country to the point where people bristle at the name of an organization called “Black Lives Matter.” So evidently it is okay in modern America to be against that. If a black person, usually a man, but quite a few women, is killed by police for nothing it is okay because they are black which is viewed by far too many Americans as a crime in and of itself. Hate crimes and public incidences of racial harassment have increased drastically since Trump was elected.
The LGBTQ community is under attack in pubic and behind legislative doors, protections put in place under the Obama administration are being erased. Remember our Vice President Pence wanted to require a jail sentence for those who entered into a same sex marriage.
The media is under attack, with people being arrested for covering protests, being accused of sharing “fake news” if it is critical of the right wing in any way and the ignorant, poorly educated in most cases, followers of Trump believe it. Go on any Facebook discussion and look at the formulaic responses given by right wing posters. People who believe what they want to believe regardless of the facts are not just zealots, they are dangerous.
The government is attempting to inject religion into every aspect of public life , including education, both K-12 and higher education. The new “Christians”, more like the Taliban than they seem to realize, are determined to make our country into a theocracy, something the Founding Fathers , although flawed morally themselves, warned against as dangerous to a democracy. Controlling women’s bodies and everyone’s sex lives and insisting on punishing those who are not Christian—ever hear of the Inquisition? What is next? Genital mutilation to keep women “virtuous?” Public stocks for those committing adultery? Cutting off hands if you steal? We have a museum about 70 miles from my home that portrays the earth as only 6,000 years old and has tableaux that show that its creators and visitors think “The Flintstones” was a documentary, that people actually did ride dinosaurs. It has a reproduction Ark that could hold about  maybe .1% of the creatures of the earth, but that is okay, they probably believe Noah was given the ability to shrink the animals to amoeba size and put them in tiny bottles. These people do not believe in science, but they do believe in magic as in forty days of rain making the earth flood and women getting pregnant by a deity while remaining a virgin. Education is not their friend since so much of what they believe has been debunked long ago by scholars. They depend on their information on a book written by various authors of a paternalistic society in the Bronze Age. They are also, almost to a person, seriously racist and sexist and homophobic.
In other words, knowledge, attitudes, facts, and beliefs and mores we thought were established in a more enlightened era are, once again, under attack. There are actually movements to rewrite history in school textbooks, making slavery a job program for immigrant blacks and Moses one of the Founding Fathers. Most of us laugh at these people, but they are determined and working hard to turn back the clock in this country to a time of hunters and gatherers.  In their world if you do not agree with a fact you can simply say it is not a fact, no proof necessary. Regression to an age of ignorance and superstition unprecedented in my lifetime and encouraged by Trump and his evil empire is a reality. He recently appointed Jerry Falwell Jr to head a committee on revamping higher education. Let that sink in.
So, we have to do something. Everyone I know of from the left is depending on the tried and true, demonstration, letter writing, voter education and getting out the vote in the 2018 midterm elections. All that might work if you were dealing with ethical, rational people, but we are not, we are dealing with a coalition of white supremacists, religious zealots, sexists, misogynists, homophobic, gun nuts, unethical, irrational, ignorant , the greedy and totally corrupt folks. They will do anything to get their way and evidently democracy is one of those fluid facts that you can believe in or not. .
I watched a PBS program last night on ancient China. It was an object lesson for our times. An evil emperor had come to power and was skilled at some things, unlike our completely incompetent leader, but was a despot. He was over thrown and the people began to adhere to the principles set forth by the scholar Confucius. He had simple tenets for a good government; ethical, humanitarian, educated leadership. The leader had to set the standard of character, he had to have educated government leaders and the citizens had to be taken care of—and taught to take care of each other, and unified in making the country prosperous, safe and ethical. Our leader would not have passed the smell test for being a leader under the philosophy that led to the Golden Age of China.
Unless and until Americans reject the politics of hate and division and stop being so concerned with money above anything else we will not have another Golden Age, instead we are headed for the Dark Ages and coming closer to being a Third World Country. Wake up folks before it is too late history is trying to ring the alarm bell and we are sleeping through it.

 

 
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Posted by on June 21, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

The Ghost at the Feast: Ruining White Folks’ Memories since 1966

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I live in a red state in a red county. Republicans are and have been the majority in Greene County Ohio for eons, even back when Republicans were decent people. Some of them still are decent people, just too tolerant of indecency when it does not impact them or theirs personally. I lived for a decade in North Carolina which was mostly red, but quite blue where I lived, in the Triangle.

In both these areas I have been struck by the short memories of some white folks. While at UNC I made sure to put on my regalia and march in with the faculty each year on University Day even though my main job was administrative. There were very few black faculty and I wanted to represent.  I had to pay for my gesture, however, because I had to watch white folks walk up to the microphone and brag about how their great granddaddy Beauregard Calcuddy graduated from UNC back in the day when they did not have to share space with females and coloreds. They did not, of course, know they were saying that, but it is what I heard, and I complained about it to the powers that be each year. To address a multi-racial, multi-gendered group and brag about how your ancestor took advantage of their ancestors because of  their color and genitals was insensitive to the highest degree. I will wager money it still happens every University Day.

After my 45 high school reunion I was invited to join a chat group of classmates. I told them it was a bad idea. I do not believe any of the other participants were black, at least none of the people who posted were black. Oh, they said, no problem, please join. That lasted about three months. The first problem was their need to make their history every one’s history. No, I did not go to The Candy Kitchen because they did not want black people in there. No I did not swim in Pinecrest Swim Club because they did not let black people join. When I would point these things out to them after they posted one of their euphoric “wasn’t growing up in Xenia grand?” , posts they would act like I had thrown up all over the tuna aspic at a dinner party. The number one reaction was some version of “why do you have to ruin it for every one?” So, their position was, if we bring up nasty memories for you then that is okay but if you point out the unpleasant parts of my memories that is rude. I am telling you that your history is not mine and therefore if you want to discuss history you have to discuss ALL of it, not just your part. I told you not to invite me.

We have a great historical society here in Greene County run by a former student of mine. She is brilliant, hard working and totally a social justice champion. The Society is hosting a tour of homes for Christmas. Not, I believe the first time they have done so. I took my grand daughter Ella to tour the main home that is on the tour last year  so she could see how some folks lived a century or so ago. She enjoyed it. I enjoyed it. This year, however, they have expanded the tour to four other homes on King Street where the rich people originally lived. I posted on Facebook that I would send the $10 to the Historical Society that I would have paid for a ticket because I want to support their important work. I will not, however, tour the grand houses of people who made their money, at least in part, at the expense of people of color ( and other poor whites of course). So they got to have marble fire places and crystal chandeliers while denying decent paying jobs and mortgages to other people. I am not going to go admire what they did with the money they stole from the less fortunate.

I am sure there are people who would be horrified that I am ruining their enjoyment of the beautiful homes. But, most of those people are not horrified at what was done to get the now dead robber barons those homes. And , they are not horrified that Xenia still does not hire black people in representative numbers to work for the city and when they do they hire them at low level positions. I am not sure we have ever had a black fire fighter and black policemen have been few and far between. We have a black mayor, but that job is ceremonial, not decision making. I am sure they are not horrified that the new banners put up for Christmas in Xenia that were chosen have Currier and Ives type prints of Christmases past with, you guessed it, all white folks. They are not horrified that a black child or  Asian American child, or Latino child or for that matter a handicapped child, will not see themselves represented on lamp posts on banners paid for in part by their parents and grandparents.

So, to all of my white friends who a are horrified that I keep messing with your memories I have this to say, a favorite saying of one of my salty uncles: “ It is a tough titty but someone has to suck it. “ I am going to continue to rain on your parade when you bring up things that make me wonder why you thought they were appropriate to offer to the PUBLIC. The public is not monolithic, although I am sure some of you wish it could be. I blame the disgraceful election of the totally incompetent and embarrassing Trump partially on the desire of so many white people to return to a time when the voices of the different were not heard so often or so eloquently. When you could forget about racism because since you weren’t of color it had nothing to do with you. When you had never heard the term ” white privilege” and did not have to consider that perhaps some of the reason you were doing better was that the deck was stacked in your favor. When you could make sexist, gay, black, Asian, Mexican jokes and people did not call you out for begin a bigot or a sexist. When you just wanted every one to forget about race ( except that you never actually did) and just be Americans, ignoring the fact that they were not being treated like the rest of the “Americans.” When there was no doubt that all those black men being shot or put in jail fully deserved it because we all knew that they had to be guilty of something, they were black after all. When women did not work and it was okay to hit them on the butt or tell them their boobs looked good without having to go talk to the folks in HR. When you could send messages to your colleagues telling them how much you hated certain people and not get in trouble once they went public. You know back in the good old Great American days!

This “ make America great again” was an attempt to turn the clock back to a time when white ,straight,male and Christian were the norm and anyone who was not could be treated with disdain and oppressed and society accepted the behavior. Sorry buttercups, but we are not going back there. You cannot put the toothpaste back in the tube no matter how many racists you elect.

So, if you decide to honor someone or something and I am in the audience be prepared to hear another view. I am not asking you to like it, I am asking you to think about it. It’s my job.

 
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Posted by on December 4, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

HBCUs: An open letter to parents considering sending your children to an HBCU

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Back when I graduated from Central State University in the 1970s integration had not yet made raids on black faculty and high achieving black students. It was also a time of heightened awareness of being black, so a lot of us went to HBCUs ( Historically Black Colleges and Universities) because they were predominantly black schools. Some students and parents still select HBCUs for the same reason, but particularly because of the size and offerings of some of the smaller, lesser known schools, they are also chosen for their liberal admission standards.

When I was a CSU student our professors were tenured, they published, they conducted research, one of my science teachers worked with Fermi in Chicago, my history professor co-authored the textbook I taught of when I graduated and began teaching, etc. There were national and internationally known scholars on the faculty and highly skilled and highly accomplished people working in student affairs. They were for the most part, in the late 70s and early 80s when colleges decided they needed black students for money and diversity sucked off to teach at more well funded white institutions.

Now,as at most black colleges, I do not believe there is any such thing as tenure at CSU, and while there are still a few stars shining in the faculty and staff they are for the most part getting quite old and soon to leave. As far as I know there is no requirement to do research or to have published, two of the traditional requirements for college teaching besides a PhD. I feel comfortable in saying that too many of the professors at most HBCUs would not employed beyond the adjunct category at most PWIs ( Predominantly White Institutions) of any size and reputation. This is just one of the ways in America we continue the miseducation of black folks ( apologies to Carter Woodson).

First we sentence many of them to low performing, badly staffed, frequently with decaying infrastructure K-12 schools that rarely offer instruction in either science or math by people who majored in those subjects, and then we blame their lack of performance on standardized tests on the children or their parents. With their low grade averages some of them are accepted at HBCUs in desperate need of students. The schools in the South usually do better in attracting students, but there are more black people in many of the Southern states. As more and more opportunities opened up to black college students in the 70s and 80s many choose to go to  PWIs.

In 2016 America the jobs you can get with just a bachelor’s degree are not that many or that lucrative. If you get a teaching certificate in most states, for example,  you have to get a master’s degree to keep teaching. The jobs you could get with a high school diploma thirty years ago now required a bachelors in many cases, the ones that required a bachelors now require a masters and the ones that required a masters now require a PhD. Without learning to write effectively and at least do basic research you are going to have a hard time even in an education grad school. If you are trying for a graduate degree in most fields it will be even harder. The new economy depends on STEM ( Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and on service. Manufacturing jobs are no more. Although education is in high demand for k-12 teachers the myth that blacks now have much broader opportunities ( some blacks do, but not most) and even more damaging, that education is not for black people, has made black educators increasingly thin on the ground. A factor that leads to all kinds of problems in our public schools which are getting to  be more of color as the teaching and administrative staff gets whiter and white.  For example, most educational research conducted about the achievement gap focuses on finding out what is wrong with the student, not what is wrong with the instruction. But, for whatever reason many of our HBCUs are de-emphasizing or even abandoning their education departments, something I consider a serious mistake.

So. If you are sending your child to an HBCU, or thinking of doing so, here are some questions you should ask and things you should do:

1. Google the President. If there is not a strong academic, not just administrative, record that you can easily find, publications, presentations, lectures, etc. pass on that institution. It is being run by a bean counter. A lot of the white schools are too as we have made the unfortunate shift to treating colleges as businesses before educational institutions, but they can afford it. Considering the usual gaps in  k-12 education you need a prez who knows about black education and has published something indicating they do or at least presented on the topic frequently at national conferences. Do the same with his/her cabinet. Far too often they are just people who are considered “ good enough” for black schools.
2. Research the faculty. What are their degrees in and where are they from? Have they published? Presented? What is the evidence of their scholarship? You cannot teach what you do not know. Ask how many or what percentage of their classes are taught by adjuncts. What requirements are in place for adjuncts—can you teach there with a masters degree and as a first time faculty member? Ask them to see the materials for faculty orientation, for adjunct orientation. Ask how long faculty stay on average including adjuncts. In my experience sometimes adjuncts at HBCUs are thrown into classrooms with little or no preparation with unfortunate results for all concerned. Because they are not permanent employees of the institutions there is little that can be done if they do a bad job besides not hiring them again, and that does not ameliorate the damage already done.
3. What kind of bridge or remedial programs do they offer if students need them? Particularly with the new emphasis on STEM when most inner city and rural schools do not offer higher level math and science taught by people who majored in those subjects there is going to need to be some attention paid to filling in some gaps. Be wary of too much of this promised, however and check to make certain they are not no credit classes or your student will end up at the end of a few semesters with no credits and therefore no eligibility for financial aid.
4. Ask the graduation rate. That should, perhaps, be first question . If it is beneath 50%, run!  There are reasons kids do not graduate from a college and it is not because they are dumb or lazy.( Only four black HBCUs: Hampton, Howard, Spelman and Moorehouse have more than a fifty percent graduation rate) . The average college graduation rate among people starting a bachelor’s at all colleges is 57% for public colleges and 65% for private colleges. My alma mater, CSU , in the most recent data I could find had a graduation rate of 24%.Ask how many students who graduate go to graduate school and what kind they go to.
4. Ask about employment rate of graduates upon graduation, in three years, in five years. If they cannot tell you, pass on the school. They do not know what is happening with their graduates and probably do not care. You cannot make improvements to make your students more employable or help them get jobs if you do not know how they are doing and what kind of help they need to do better.
5. Ask to see the student orientation materials. Look for contact information to be listed , phone numbers, office addresses and emails, of at least two people in each department. Look for information on who to call for what if it is after regular office hours.
6. Ask about technology. Is there wi-fi everywhere on the campus? If not, it is not a priority and your student is going to be frustrated and inconvenienced and held back academically. Are there well staffed computer labs with working computers, printers and help available, either staff or student work study folks who are knowledgeable about technology and online research.
7. Ask about the library. Ask about the collections, number of books, periodicals subscribed to, available technology and hours. Are there computers and printers available to all students at hours when they are not necessarily in class or doing work study? A campus library should be open by 7AM and not be closed until at least 10PM and should be open seven days a week. Are textbooks used in classes routinely ordered for reserved use by students in the library?
8. Ask about accreditation. Are all programs accredited and by whom? Graduating with a degree from a college without accreditation is not going to help you much.
9. Ask about Communication. Call several offices. If the phones in more than one go unanswered pass on the institution. This is not necessarily confined to HBCUs but it does seem to be more common and more accepted that nobody is answering the phone. This can get crucial in the areas of registration and financial aid among other things. Is the website regularly updated with important dates and contact information for faculty and staff? Do they answer emails within 24 hours? Can you find who you need to talk to about a question easily? If they are not worried about helping you before hand they will sure as heck not worry about it once your child is already a paying customer. When you visit look to see how readily help is available to you to give you directions or provide you with information.  This would include signage, receptionists, information booths, clearly posted telephone numbers and websites. If you are a parent and have to jump through hoops to get information I promise you your student will have to go jump at least five times as high and as often.
10, Ask about campus safety. Each school is required to produce an annual report about incidents that happen on the campus. Read them. Ask about emergency services, medical care, clinics.

If you do your due diligence you will not get nasty surprises when your child is far from home and finds him or herself in some kind of crisis. There is much talk these days about how dreadful helicopter parents are, interfering, handling affairs that should be handled by their children, but at most schools and particularly at HBCUs you need to be in the mix as often as you feel necessary and you need to be both informed and persistent.

One of the disadvantages of many HBCU students is being a first generation student. The first in their immediate family to attend college. That means they lack some of the tips and tricks of the trade that those with a long history of college going have and can pass along. Which means that it is even more important for alumni and faculty and staff to provide them with the information they need to thrive academically and socially and physically and emotionally. It means we all have to reject the unfair and untrue idea that things are “ good enough” for our students.

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Teacher Preparation needs reform ( So does teaching) : You cannot teach what you do not know

 

teacher-clipartI have been in involved in teacher preparation from pre-service teacher to education professor. I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly along the way. I have seen hero and shero teachers who give it their all, not just during the school day but whenever they are awake. I have seen teachers whose licenses should be revoked for malfeasance and posters of them put up in all school districts to ban them from setting food in a school building.

Teaching is a calling as certainly as being a pastor is a calling. Being a teacher is not a career it is a lifestyle and it is not one you can turn on and turn off. I used to line up my dolls and teddy bears on the stairs of our home and teach them when I was a small child. I identified more with the teachers than my fellow students from kindergarten through my PhD program. In many ways true educators are cult members. We feel we have great power and we do not like it when someone fails to use theirs in the proper way.

Teaching is not easy. It is demanding, emotionally, physically, and psychologically draining.  On the one hand you are the expert in the room, the authority figure, the in loco parentis, but in some ways you are at the mercy of so many others. The school board, the superintendent, the principal, your fellow teachers, the parents of your students and in some cases your students.

Teaching is an art form but we try to make it into a static system. I always tell my teacher preparation students that no one can teach you to teach. We can give you tricks and clues but the development of the relationship with your class is the same as the development of any relationship, it takes work, listening and being willing to learn yourself.

The idea that the students sit and listen and the teacher imparts wisdom is as old as humankind and as ineffective as if we were chiseling out numbers on a rock tablet. The teacher is a guide , not an oracle of wisdom. Any teacher who believes that they know everything and the students should just listen to them and they do not need to listen to the students needs to be summarily dismissed.

In this era of electronics and the internet, all of which have revolutionized information streams, teaching is trying to hold the line and continue the old ways. Won’t work.

Teacher preparation schools have to understand that the way to teach the modern student is to teach the individual, to take him or her from where there are to closer to the goals that they need to accomplish. The students  have to be participants in the journey, not simply mute followers of the herd. Creativity and adaptability and the ability to assess whether what you are doing is working is crucial.

Yet the preparation of teachers is heading into more stylized methodology rather than less and at least in the materials provided by Pearson, one of the giant money makers taking the field of education instruction by storm, there is less and less relevant material about difference.

When I was in a teacher prep program, back when the earth was still cooling, the emphasis was on subject matter knowledge. This is still vitally important. As my after the colon comment says you cannot teach what you do not know. This is one reason we need to stop asking elementary school teachers who did not major in history or art or music or math or science to teach it. There should be majors teaching those subjects, not folks who can just pull up Wikipedia and jot down a few perhaps accurate facts and tell the kiddos that.

But, we have all known brilliant people who cannot teach worth crap. They are sometimes too smart, but frequently too arrogant to understand that if you know it but cannot communicate it to the students in a way that it interests and engages them then what you know is irrelevant to anyone but you.

The emphasis on teacher preparation should be tripartite: 1) You have to like students, all of  your students and accept responsibility for figuring out how to get the best out of them. The fact that they are poor, of color, orphans, from a single family home,  or any other personal characteristic is irrelevant. You have to free yourself of stereotypes and biases or change careers.  2) You have to know your subject matter in depth so you can vary your instruction as you need to in order to get the students on board and interested in inquiry. If one thing does not work you have to know another path to get to the same goals and objectives  3) You have to be adaptable and creative and willing to experiment and willing to defend what you do against the status quo keepers who do not want change because they are not confident they are smart enough to adapt.

I know already what the response from teachers is going to be. We have to teach to the tests or be penalized. What we teach and how we teach it is not up to us. And my response to them is going to be, whose fault is that? If all teachers were politically and socially active they could change what is going on in education.  The new status of teacher as martyr is not working, not for you, not for your students. I never felt powerless as a teacher. I never was powerless as a teacher. Yeah, yeah, I know, it was a different time.

Don’t like what you have to do? How many times have you and your colleagues gone to school board meetings and presented a petition to stop or start something? How many letters and emails and trips to the legislature? I was unhappy with some things I saw in my last gig teaching teachers. I tried to tell the Dean, he smiled and did not change anything, I tried to tell the President who dismissed it out of hand, I told the legislature in my state in charge of education. She is starting an inquiry into what I said was wrong. The only one who can improve your lot is you and your colleagues.

Education got into this mess from being passive. It is true that education is not valued as it once was in many places but that erosion of power and respect is down in some measure to the education community. When non-educators began making the rules and coming up with simplistic solutions to complex problems, which led to standardized testing taking the place of curriculum design and delivery based on educators’ knowledge did you revolt or just whine? If enough teachers say NO, things will change. If everyone is afraid things will get worse. What you tolerate is what will continue.

Perhaps I should add a fourth requirement to my previous list of what needs to be taught to and required of  pre-service teachers, how to be a revolutionary bad-ass teacher.

One of the reasons I was popular in my teaching career is because I did not allow anyone or anything to get between me and my students. They were MY students and I did what I thought was best for them whether it was what the administration or the School Board or anyone else thought. It was my duty as their teacher not to betray my ethics and shortchange them because somebody else thought it was a good idea. So we have two choices, keep on doing what we are doing in teacher prep and teaching and continue to get what we are getting or change and turn out students who can and will change the world for the better. Your choice, choose wisely grasshoppers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

HBCU Blues: Some black colleges are in need of a make over

IindexI have been affiliated either as a student, faculty, adjunct or in some other way ( collaborating on projects, friends with administrators) with four HBCUS, Central State University, North Carolina Central, Florida A and M. Only one in the North and three in the South, where, for obvious reasons HBCUs tend to proliferate more. At all of these fine institutions there is an almost constant financial emergency of one sort or another. Many would make the claim, and probably they are at least partially right, that these institutions are not funded properly, that they get short shrift whenever they can because the legislatures or governing bodies are not that fond of black people. Wilberforce University , of course, is private and therefore can lay its money woes at the feet of other causes.

But, I think, regardless of funding woes the primary issue with all of the colleges I am somewhat knowledgeable  about is leadership, or lack thereof. I hasten to add that in the case of FAMU the relatively new President is a good friend and I have no doubt she will make a great difference, but she has only been on the job since April of 2014.

A. Far too often the leadership of these institutions is lacking in several areas; A. money management  and fund raising skills being first and foremost, B. academic credentials and scholarly background being a close second and C. understanding the limits of cronyism being a close third. The prevailing attitude seems to be among far too many administrators that black colleges will always have money problems due to racism and poor funding. Therefore, there is little motivation to fund raise and to examine where the money is going and why.
B. Not understanding academics is a close second. The tendency seems to be to concentrate on the physical, new buildings, paint, landscaping, rather than scholarship and research. What programs are offered that involve student participatory research are generally very basic and not necessarily intended to be useful in a graduate program. No president of an HBCU I am familiar with has required the faculty to engage in research and demonstrate some skill in both inquiry and writing to keep their jobs. A codicil to this might be that many people act like teaching at an HBCU is an act of martyrdom rather than a privilege.

C. While I understand that you might want your own people to help you run a college, it is important that they not only have some demonstrated skill in the area you are asking them to oversee, but that they are savvy enough to know that they need to learn the history and landscape of the college before they start making pronouncements and decisions and setting policies. Inviting your friends to come drink from the trough while you are there is not in the best interests of the institution. Google some of the administrators at black colleges when they are newly appointed and you will see what I mean.

Add to all that the tendency of many black leaders to look at the presidency of an HBCU in terms only of what it will put in their pocket or on their resume and the recipe is , not surprisingly, doomed to failure. There are, of course, dedicated, skilled and committed leaders at some schools and they are to be praised and honored, but they are, sadly , in my opinion in the minority.

The overarching symptom of dysfunction among HBCU leadership is, however, poverty behavior. Poverty behavior settles for good enough rather than for excellence. We are still here and still doing something, that should be good enough. We are surviving, not thriving, but that is the best you can expect, after all we are an HBCU. We are doing the best we can with the money/students/faculty/staff/ we have.

Visit any HBCU for any period of time and you will see what I mean by poverty behavior. Resources are often allocated for pet projects and run through quickly. Things routinely available on most PWI campuses, like paper for printers and copiers, access to printers for the students, well maintained libraries and buildings, on campus relevant activities for students, student support services, customer service attitude from staff,  study abroad opportunities, a viable internship program for students, sabbaticals for faculty, available wi-fi on the entire campus, knowledgeable and helpful financial aid staff, snack bars, coffee shops, large well stocked bookstores, are often missing from HBCU campuses.

Even more troubling research opportunities for faculty and students are often not present. If you are going to want to attend grad school at most schools you are going to have to be able to do research, or at least know the basics. I am sure the elites, Hampton, Howard,etc. , have faculty that engage in research and involve students in the same, but most of the mid tier and lower schools do not. In addition that means that there are fewer opportunities for internships, paid or unpaid for students at the regular HBCUs.

If I had a magic wand and could waive it I would make the following standard at all HBCUs:

  1. Excellent communication between students, faculty and staff—this is especially important between faculty and students and student services like financial aid and enrollment and students. No unanswered telephones, no unanswered emails and there would be severe penalties for not adhering to the policy. Campus wide free wi-fi. There would be online ( cheap and cheerful, printed would be better but I know what would be said about that)  handbooks for students, faculty and staff with rules, deadlines, details of majors, phone numbers and names of staff members , administrators and faculty and what each handles, regularly updated. Great care would be taken to monitor who is available and accessible and knows their stuff and who is not or does not. The latter category would be filing for unemployment. Cross training  and frequent meetings to share information would be a requirement, everyone needs to know as much about what other employees do as possible. You cannot help students or other staff and faculty if you do not know who does what and where they are.

2. Attitude would be monitored as well. The sour puss, “students are a pain in the butt” folks would have to go. Students are the customers, if you do not have students you do not have a college. The staff who behave like students are bothering  them, and are hostile to them from the beginning of any interaction need to be replaced. Yes, students can be difficult, yes sometimes they , or their parents make impossible demands, but when you go to Macy’s and ask for something you cannot get they do not treat you like a nuisance.

3. Transparency about finances. Where is the money going? Who gets paid what? If there is no money for toilet paper but the Vice President is driving a Hummer something is wrong here. I am not suggesting that administrators at HBCUs need to get lower pay that at other institutions, but it is foolish to make students suffer as they are the ones bringing in the money. If you treat the students badly either with poor attitudes, poor services or poor facilities, your student body will shrink and take your resources right along with them. Perhaps one or two fewer administrators and more attention to student life is a good idea. This is a sub codicil of the above that teaching at an HBCU is an act of martyrdom, this one posits that student at an HBCU are really not deserving of better because if they were they would not be at this HBCU.  Another evidence of poverty behavior—this is all they ( we) deserve.

4. Excellent support for research, a well maintained library, knowledgeable staff and faculty about research protocols and where to find information and resources as needed. If necessary collaborations with other colleges PWI or other HBCUs that have a better developed research history. (One of my students last semester was able to take part in a program between CSU and UD and she is now in grad school at UD. ) Faculty must be willing and able to write letters of recommendation for students  to participate in research opportunities while they are undergrads and for graduate school. Agreeing to write a letter of support and failing to do so by the time required should be grounds for severe discipline.
Required faculty and staff participation in extra-curricular events: Plays, football games, basketball games, track meets, debates, concerts. Faculty and staff need to show up. College is not just about what happens in the classroom. I have attended events where I was the only or one of two faculty members, the staff generally does better. One must view the college experience as a whole as worthy of support. Students love to see professors at these events. It enhances the college experience.

5. Active academic clubs. French major club, History major club, Education major club, all with good, involved advisors

6. A strong mentorship program with black alumni.

7. A strong volunteer program for alumni and others interested in helping, not just giving money when asked, but actually interacting with the students.

8. An alliance with corporations that would not only provide resources but would offer internships and jobs to students and graduates . Most corporations are looking for talented minorities, and many would like to forge a relationship while they are still students, to try them out so to speak.

9. Better opportunities for student leadership—this is often truncated due to limited resources so is tied to several of the other bullets above.

10. A re-dedication to being what black colleges used to be, incubators for black leaders, bastions of black culture and history, and not simply colleges with a majority of black students that is very little different in mission, scope and sequence than most white colleges. Every student at my HBCu would take at least three courses in black history.

Sadly, I lack a magic wand, but perhaps someday someone will begin to look at HBCUs, if they survive and apply some benchmarks  that are needed and remove leadership that does not meet them. After all, while everyone on campus has some responsibility to do what they are supposed to do, in the final analysis the buck stops with the leadership. Or it should.

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Murder in South Carolina: America you created the racist Dylann Roof, he is your child.

Confederate flag nopeThe first thing that struck me when I read about the murder by the young racist Roof was the amazement and shock most people interviewed expressed. I would not have been surprised by grief, anger, sadness, melancholy, or rage, but I was surprised by surprise. Where, I wondered, do these people live that they have not been aware of the ugly undercurrent of racism that has changed form in America from signs that proudly proclaim “ White only” to practices that daily say the same thing?

Racism is as American as apple pie and as widely savored by some. The displaying of the Confederate flags on trucks and houses in the North by people who have never been south of Cincinnati or had relatives who were ever south of Cincinnati is a not so tacit declaration of their racism. It is equally a sign of racism in the South.

When I went to UNC to work they took us on a week long bus tour of the state—only the important people, administrators and tenured faculty, the common people got no love. While we were being wined and dined,  driven around the state looking at people and things we were often hosted by owners of banks, companies, mines or in one case mountains.  On our way to one of these events, being given a personal tour of Grandfather Mountain by its owner Hugh Morton (  This trip early in my career at Carolina made me know I would never really fit in there. Who gets to own a fucking mountain?) we were driving up the incline and at the side of the road was a stand selling souvenirs, including Confederate flags. It was not on the grounds of the mountain complex, but before you got there. I , of course, made a comment about  it. One of our guides, a man who in my short experience with him—he was a former editor of the News and Observer— I had pegged as a racist by some of his comments, stood up and told me quite loudly that those flags were for tourists, that North Carolinians did not buy or display that flag. About ten seconds later the bus was passed by a car proudly displaying the stars and bars on its bumper, it had a NC plate.

Americans have tolerated racism in all of its myriad forms since about the end of the 17th century. In the very beginning it was virtually unknown. But, the need to have free labor and the the failure to enslave the Native Americans meant that another group had to be found. The white ones disappeared too easily into the general population and besides mistreatment of them , folks who looked like you, caused push back sometimes. So blacks were relegated to the role of slaves. In order to make them unsympathetic the pro-slavers worked diligently to churn out print material about how inferior, animalistic, dumb ,hyper sexualized and uncivilized they were. They must be kept in check.  If not kept in check they would rob, murder, and gasp! rape the white women! Sound familiar?

At no time in our history besides the brief actions of the Civil Rights Movement which was primarily directed at the South, has there been any effort to quell racism in an organized fashion in this country. The Civil Rights Movement itself concentrated, as it should have, on public accommodations and institutions, not on education about race or creating a moral imperative or even a societal standard that racism is unacceptable. Illegal in some cases, yes, unacceptable in your daily activities, no. As an American you have no responsibility to condemn racism, let alone help to eradicate it. We call that freedom in America. Freedom to be a bigot.

As a result white supremacy was bent, but not broken. With the election of Barack Obama the nightmares of lots of white folks have come back. “ They are taking over!” and the presumption is that if they do take over they will treat us like we treated them. Oh horrors!

There were white folks firmly convinced that the election of a black President would mean they are going to be enslaved as payback. The level of ignorance in that belief was so staggering i could not even get to the racism in it. I learned in 2008 that far too many Americans are morons. They lack critical thinking skills and have no concept of reality at all. Much of this is instilled by the modern pro-slavers like the Koch Brothers, North Carolina’s Art Pope, the Tea Party and Fox News. Daily doses of how dreadful black people are are really not designed, believe it or not for the simple goal of making people racists. If they fool these gullible mini-brained folks into thinking their main problem is black people they can pick their pockets of everything they have and keep them from advocating or even agreeing that change needs to be made in a country where one person can own a mountain.

Nothing black people have done, said or are created racism. It was created and is carefully tended and promoted by white people for profit. It is part of American capitalism. There is money in poverty, just not for the poor. Ask the owners of the for profit jails, the owners of the Payday loan places, the mortgage companies that charge blacks with the same credit twice as high an interest rate, the ads on television for easy credit that always feature black people in them, the schools where nothing is taught and nobody cares.  As long as the people being denied educational equity, economic equity and equity in the justice system do not look like you   you may not feel the need to confront the abusers. That is the problem of “those people.”

So America, you get what you bargained for. You allow bigotry, prejudice and racism and then are shocked when a racist shoots black people in church. You feign outrage and do absolutely nothing to address the root causes. You tell people it is time to pray  heal. The 9 dead people were praying when they were shot and are going to have a hard time healing in the ground.

Turning the other cheek only gets you two bruises folks.

If you have heard people on television, in print media or anywhere else spewing race hatred and have been silent some of those bullets you bought. If you have just ignored it when people were trying to tell you that this country is broken when it comes to racism because you feel like it is not your business, you bought some of those bullets, if you have allowed you family members, co-workers, Fox News, or anyone else to tell lies about black people and have not spoken up, you bought one of those bullets and if you raised your child to believe black people are inferior, you pulled that trigger at least once.

Don’t like to talk about race because it makes you feel bad? Glad you have the decency to feel bad, sad you don’t have the decency  or courage to change things so you don’t have to.

 
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Posted by on June 22, 2015 in Uncategorized