Sunday, March 8, 2015

Philosophy 444 (#PHI444)

This is my second semester teaching Philosophy 444 (I Cram to Understand: Hip Hop, Sex, Gender and Ethical Behavior). It came out of discussions with MC Lyte and she was the co-instructor last term. I was only going to teach the class once a year but there was still interest so I am continuing it this semester. This is a flipped class, where most lectures, videos, etc. are viewed before class and then we have the time in class to work through issues and have rich discussions.

Skype has been an important tool. I have been able to have some great guests, including public intellectuals Michael Eric Dyson and James Peterson, Industry Ears founder Lisa Fager, and pastor of Impact Church in Atlanta, Rev. Olu Brown. Above, Attorney Deanne Arthur in San Diego spoke to us about a case where her client (Tiny Doo) is being tried on conspiracy charges for rapping about gang life. They are trying to tie him to some murders even though his lyrics are not about any specific crimes. This case has been covered by national media including CNN, so it was a coup to get her for class.

This past week journalist Rajul Punjabi stopped by to discuss issues including cultural appropriation. I was in New York for the UNCF meeting so I had to Skype in, which was cool because I could still hear her presentation and engage the class as well. There are just so many more options with technology these days.

I am looking forward to the rest of the semester. Killer Mike is coming to visit March 25th, hip hop industry exec Shanti Das will be here April 1st, and hopefully I can get a surprise guest in soon (hopefully this week!)

So I think I will teach the class every semester now. It is extra work, but it has been a great way to interact with students I might not normally meet. I have 17 this semester but going up to 24 in the fall. That might be the ceiling for enrollment.

Follow the class on Twitter using the hashtag #PHI444.

The Prez

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Arthur J. Winfield '70

It is hard finding a picture of someone who often has a camera in his hands. But this picture was taken on my birthday last year with the staff development committee. On the far left is Mr. Arthur Winfield whose funeral was held Saturday at Dillard. I would guess that over 600 people attended, and as many say, if you live your eulogy every day, you will see this kind of outpouring of love and support at your service of celebration.

Mr. Winfield always had a camera available to take photos. It really was a symbol that he was a servant leader- he didn't have to be in front at all, but working behind the scenes to make things happen. I learned yesterday that he served as the undergraduate advisor for our Kappa Alpha Psi chapter for over 15 years, and that his line brother is former NBA champion George Johnson (6'11" tall), so they were the bookends of their line in the late 1960s.

Some people you can just say are "good people." You never hear any bad words spoken about them, and they are always positive. That's how I would describe Mr. Winfield - good people. He lived his life in a manner that many of us should emulate.

And it starts with understanding that we need not be in front of the camera all of the time. Sometimes we need to get behind it so we can help others see what they might not normally see. Because being behind the camera can give you great perspective.

Here's to a great son of Dillard, Arthur James Winfield.

The Prez

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Dillard Pre-Law LSAT Prep

We just began our third annual LSAT prep course. This course and the growth of our pre-law program is a result of the university honoring Justice Revius Ortique when the new professional schools building was opened. We launched the Ortique courtroom and hosted the first Ortique lecture on law and society in 2010 with Attorney General Eric Holder. This past December the speaker was Benjamin Crump.

The main challenge facing students of color is having no experience with the LSAT prior to taking it, therefore the scores are low (with African Americans the lowest). For the first two years the average score increased by 10 points for all completers, with a 14 point increase for students who fully engaged in the course.

This year we're starting with 19 students (almost all juniors)! Thanks to the support of alums and friends who have made this experience possible for our students. So we're expecting a big group entering law school for the fall of 2016.

The Prez

Monday, February 16, 2015

Mardi Gras Parades

It doesn't take long to get used to Mardi Gras. Just a great time to celebrate life, friends and family. The parades are great because it is a chance to see all of the high school and college bands perform. HBCUs are very prominent in the mix. This year we saw bands from Southern University, Talladega College, Alcorn State University and Mississippi Valley State University. They are always crowd favorites.

And of course a highlight is catching all the beads and the like. Of course it helps when you get to sit in the Mayor's box (these two are going to be spoiled!)

The Prez

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Happy Mardi Gras

We're deep in the Mardi Gras season- balls, parades, King Cake- you name it. New Orleans is an interesting place to live during this season. It was really easy to get used to it, as I think the culture here is one of the endearing qualities.

The Prez

Monday, February 2, 2015

Prospective Honors Students

As part of the Bleu Devil Classic Weekend, we hosted prospective honors students from across the nation, hoping to convince them to attend Dillard. A very strong group with diverse interests, they had a full weekend of activities. This is definitely a good event for us, one that I believe we can grow in the future.

The Prez

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Brain Food: Jason Riley

I love bringing hard core conservatives to speak at HBCUs! Probably one of the best ways to engage people in great dialogue. Jason Riley did just that. His new book, "Please Stop Helping Us," indicts liberal policies that he says have actually harmed black people.
Riley argues against minimum wage in that it prevents job growth. He says affirmative action is now a discriminatory program. He says the current civil rights leaders essentially have monetized racism. And he suggests that Blacks really need focus on culture- attitudes toward family and education- to solve problems.
The book is an interesting read, and Riley is pretty confident in his positions. He did not waiver during Q&A, which I gave him a lot of credit for even coming to speak to a crowd that probably disagrees with most of what he says. I want my students to be able to do just as he does- have courage of conviction no matter the audience. That alone is a great lesson.
The Prez