Friday, April 17, 2015

Presentation to the Board of Trustees

[The following is the text of my presentation during the "public comments" portion of the SIU Board of Trustees meeting, April 17. We were required to keep our comments below 5 minutes.]

I am an associate professor of English here at SIUE.

I am proposing a special academic program entitled "the Leadership Forum" for undergraduates at SIUE. I am appealing to the Board of Trustees for assistance to fund the program. The program seeks to alleviate the systematic exclusion of African American students from “honors” programs and special academic activities and support at SIUE.

As a professor at SIUE for more than a decade now, I have observed the exclusion and absence of African Americans students from academic programming. University officials have acknowledged that African American students have largely been omitted from honors programs and prestigious scholarships here, and some of those officials even admit that it is a problem.

Yet, nothing changes; the exclusion continues to persist. What is worse, the exclusion has persisted even as the numbers and percentage of African American students have now reached the highest number in the university’s history.

The Leadership Forum that I am proposing, along with two of my colleagues in the department of English, seeks to finally provide large numbers of African American students with extracurricular academic opportunities. Over the last few months, I have met with more than 200 students seeking suggestions and understanding about the professional and academic interests and needs of African Americans on campus. The Leadership Forum is what we have come up with, and we hope that the Board of Trustees will take this project into consideration.

I have enclosed the proposed budget for the program in the proposal, which I will pass along to you. Let me say: we realize that the university is experiencing notable budget cuts; however, the program we are proposing is but a fraction...a fraction of the cost that the university currently devotes to the Meridian Scholars, Provost Scholars, and the Honors program--all of which largely exclude black students.

The Leadership Forum seeks to finally provide large groups of African American students with special leadership, public programming, and extracurricular learning opportunities to enrich their academic and intellectual experiences at SIUE and beyond.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

[At the close of my presentation, I distributed copies of the detailed proposal.]

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