Monday, October 5, 2015

Hazing Prevention Week

I've served as an expert witness in hazing cases since 1998, so I have to keep up with hazing. This actually started when I was coordinator of Greek Life at Emory where I was responsible for much of the hazing training. So over the years I have not only trained students on my campus, but across the nation. That week I spoke at both North Carolina A&T and North Carolina Central.

So a year ago I was surprised to get an e-mail from Michael Morton, former fraternity chapter president and SGA president who spent 2 years in jail- for hazing. In part, he said he wanted to play a role in helping to warn students about the consequences. It was a strong letter and I promised I would find an opportunity for him.

I had been appointed as chair of a hazing task force by the North American Inter-fraternity conference, and for our summer meeting I asked Michael if he would Skype in. My task force was blown away. Although the vast majority were members of predominantly white fraternities, Michael's story resonated with all of us. At that point I knew I needed to bring him to New Orleans.

Michael graciously accepted and during the last week of September, hazing prevention week, he spoke to over 600 students from several campuses about his experience. I don't want to retell the story- it is one that all college students should hear in person. So I am asking that you feel free to contact me so I can connect you with him and have him speak on your campus. Michael gave one of the most personal hazing experiences I have ever heard- absolutely phenomenal!

I will share this. I believe in lectures because they provide spaces for people to come together. The beauty is that you never know who might show up. Before the lecture Michael indicated he saw the father of the young man injured at FAMU which lead to his arrest and jailing. I was thinking that couldn't possible be true- he lives in Atlanta.

Well, after the event a man approached me and said he was the father of the student injured! He was also Michael's fraternity brother. Okay, I was a little nervous but he indicated he had no ill will. In fact, back then he and I spoke on the phone as the lawyers considered me as an expert witness for that case (I was not involved though). So when just about everyone was gone I saw these men (and a third fraternity brother who drove the father to New Orleans) have a heart to heart talk.

It really was a beautiful moment of reconciliation.

And that's why Brain Food is important.

The Prez

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Melton Fellows in China by Ayanna Woolfork '16

Traveling abroad brings about many emotions ranging from excitement to anxiety. Since I left the U.S. I have been on a constant cycle through anxiety, homesickness, excitement, and intrigue. When our group from Dillard first arrived, we were all sent to stay with a family. The first thing that I noticed was that even though both the mom and dad in our family are both university professors, they lived in an apartment and I literally saw no single family homes. When I asked them where the houses were, they said that because of the sheer amount of people in China, they are pretty much forced to build up and only the very rich can afford to buy land and build a home. They also fed me constantly! Every few hours they would have a large spread of food and they wanted me to try everything! The first meal they fed me had beans, salmon, chicken, fish, rice, noodles, soup, tofu, salted veggies, fruit, duck, and shrimp. And before I could digest that, there was a meal of a similar caliber in front of me again. Overall, my honestly was a great experience.

Quite possibly the experience that had the biggest impact on me so far has been going out in public, in China, as a black woman, with a weave. On the first day (Saturday) we went out to the most popular tourist destination in the Hangzhou area, Westlake. I stopped with my host mom to take a picture and the next thing I knew, there was a crowd of people around me, staring at me, and taking pictures of me. One guy asked if he could take a selfie with me and then even more people showed up. I was confused and honestly wanted to cry. I felt like a circus. Throughout the day, it didn't stop and my host family either didn't notice or didn't think anything of it. For me it was degrading and disrespectful, but I on the second day I tried to make the best of it by smiling and saying "ni-hao" to those I caught staring.....and by telling people who I caught taking pictures of me that I was famous in the U.S. It made me feel better so I guess it worked!

Overall my experience in China and within Melton has been amazing. I've gotten to see old friends and make new ones (specifically the new fellows from Ashesi University in Ghana). it's also been interesting to realize that all people of color are not minorities and to think of all people of color as minorities, is very distinctly American. Being in China and with the Melton Foundation has opened my heart and my eyes to a very different reality and I couldn't be more grateful for this experience!
Ayanna Woolfork is a senior public health major from Houston TX, reporting from China!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Judge Carl Stewart and the next generation of DU lawyers

This past Saturday the Greater New Orleans Louis A. Martinet Society hosted their scholarship Jazz Brunch. Dillard was in the house in a BIG way.

First, we congratulate our alumnus Chief Judge Carl E. Stewart, United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, who received the 2015 Martinet Lifetime Achievement Award. His wife and daughter, also alums, were there at the event (his daughter is also a judge).

Next, Jackie Fuller '16 received the Ortique Scholarship. Jackie is a pre-law student and active in a number of organizations on campus. Finally, there was a table of Dillard students there to represent the university, along with our alumni director (who holds a JD from UVa) and a 2012 DU alumna who is a law student at Tulane.

Expect to hear more from our pre-law program in the near future as it grows.

The Prez

Friday, September 4, 2015

Remembering Hurricane Katrina

Last week was interesting- the entire nation looked to see where New Orleans is ten years after Hurricane Katrina. As a campus that was the most damaged of any higher education institutions in the city, it was appropriate for us to have our own service of remembrance.

Our special guest was Dr. Marvalene Hughes, the 6th president of Dillard. She started as president here July 1, 2005. Katrina hit August 29th. I still can't even fathom what went through her mind. But as she said, she believed she was being prepared for this experience. I agree.

We also premiered a short documentary of the impact here. It was powerful especially for our students since about half are from outside of the area. And for me as someone who was not here but who housed Dillard students at Philander Smith, the ceremony was moving for me as well.

The Prez

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Faculty-Staff Institute

On August 13th we officially opened the year with our faculty staff institute. It is a time to get updates as we enter the year, have staff development sessions, and motivation. Our keynote speaker was Larry Jemison, Jr. who reminded us to focus on customer service. Always a good message.

We then recognized faculty and staff for years of service. A very important activity!

And we ecognized two retirements, Ms. Andrews in Student Success (over 40 years),

and Dr. Wiltz in psychology, close to 40 years. Both are (they will always be) valued members of our community. So we definitely started off right.

The Prez

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Is Karrine Controversial?


Some folks have expressed concern about Karrine Steffans speaking at Dillard. She just published a book that deals specifically with domestic violence, and since October is domestic violence awareness month, and colleges and university have been admonished to make sure we discuss domestic violence, teen dating violence, and sexual assault, she is the perfect guest. Here is the blurb for the book:

             For a decade, Confessions of a Video Vixen author Karrine Steffans and the details of her private life have been the subject of debate and scrutiny. But, as gossipmongers and critics speculated, assumed, and manufactured tall tales about the New York Times bestselling author, Karrine hid herself and her truth from the world, imprisoned by an abusive marriage and the judgments of society. In Vindicated: Confessions of a Video Vixen, Ten Years Later, Karrine takes readers into the belly of the beast as she harrowingly chronicles the systematic breakdown of her mind, body, and spirit at the hand of one man and the events that propelled her back to prosperity after losing everything. She candidly shares her struggle to be what others demand, her obsession with the American dream, her desperation to appear normal, the lengths to which she went, and the price she paid for it all.

Her visit will also link with my class. For the past year my class of hip hop, sex, gender, and ethical behavior has wrestled with music and lyrics that convey values that trouble many, and how do we make meaning from these words, what do they way about who we are, how do we treat women, can we explain the homophobia and homoeroticism, etc. She Skyped in last fall and we have another 50 students come sit in the session, so I know she is a popular speaker for students.

Yes, I could have found someone from one of the domestic violence agencies to come speak. We already do and have been doing sessions with NOPD & Crescent City Women, Infants and Children Services for 4 years in a row; they provide great information. Guess what? Very few people attend. No one is offended, but we're not making a large impact with that event. And yet we'll keep doing it- there is value in small groups.

I have known Karrine for almost a decade. She spoke during the first season of Bless the Mic at Philander Smith College (and clearly was NOT the most controversial speaker- I hosted Ann Coulter 4 months before she came! I later hosted Ward Connerly, Richard Murray and Kwame Kilpatrick). She is honest and eloquent, and her celebrity ensures people come out to get the information, which is the point of the session.

This present "controversy" reminds me of another. I got flack when I had Ne Ne Leakes speak during domestic violence month one year.

People thought I was crazy, but none of them read her book, appropriately titled "Never Make The Same Mistake Twice" about being in an abusive relationship while in college, one where her boyfriend would place a gun on the night stand and he physically beat her. As you can see, I did read the book.

That night we had a student come in front of the 700 people there (standing room only as you can see below), baby in her arm, crying and saying that she was in that situation right now. We were able to get the proper services to her and avoid a tragedy.

Yet some folks were caught up in the messenger, not the message.

But the messenger DOES matter, and to get today's students to hear the message, you have to have the right messenger. And that means being willing to think differently, even with an edge.

Brain Food is a SERIES! It means there will be a variety of voices. Conservative Jason Riley has been here. Social justice activist Rev. Jim Wallis has. Tavis Smiley and Michael Eric Dyson have been with us (and both will be back in 2016). So have Sunny Hostin, Glenda Hatchett, Susan Taylor, Iyanla Vanzant, Charles Blow, Misty Copeland, Clarence Jones, Jeff Johnson, Michael Steele, Sampson Davis, Joan Morgan, Joyce Roche, Benjamin Crump, and Kirk Franklin. Lots of voices, lots of ideas.

Heck, today Cornel West would be controversial these days (ask Ta Nehesi Coates and Toni Morrison)- and he's been here too.

I don't expect everyone to love every speaker, just like everyone doesn't like all types of food. I guess this Karrine Steffans dust up means some of my people are picky Brain Food eaters! But don't let some false sense of decorum cause you judge others. In fact, we've had a speaker here, who has been to all kinds of schools across the country, that at the time of their speech we heralded them as a philanthropist, role model, etc. when we did not know about the crimes they were committing at the same time.

Today we wouldn't want this person anywhere near us. It really is a different world....

Yet someone who has been honest and transparent their entire public life is somehow unsuitable. The whole incident reminds me of a great Bible story, taken from Matthew 9:19-13. Here is the passage from Eugene Peterson's Message version:

Passing along, Jesus saw a man at his work collecting taxes. His name was Matthew. Jesus said, “Come along with me.” Matthew stood up and followed him.
10-11 Later when Jesus was eating supper at Matthew’s house with his close followers, a lot of disreputable characters came and joined them. When the Pharisees saw him keeping this kind of company, they had a fit, and lit into Jesus’ followers. “What kind of example is this from your Teacher, acting cozy with crooks and riffraff?”
12-13 Jesus, overhearing, shot back, “Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? Go figure out what this Scripture means: ‘I’m after mercy, not religion.’ I’m here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders.”

I love this translation! "I'm here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders."

In short, I deal with real issues in an honest way. And so does Karrine Steffans, which is why she will be our guest. If you don't like her, don't come. Bryan Stevenson, author of the phenomenal "Just Mercy," will be here in November to talk about justice issues. And believe me, there are people offended by his willingness to address disparities in justice by race. And there will be other speakers -  because it is a SERIES (a number of things or events that are arranged or happen one after the other).

Now, let me find Donald Trump's phone number....

The Prez