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

Monday, July 20, 2015

I think there is some Brain Food on the way...

We are about 2 months away from the new season of Brain Food. We're starting off dealing with very important issues on college campuses- hazing and domestic violence. Both topics have been in the news a lot lately and colleges and universities are being challenged to do a better job of educating students (and the broader community) on these issues.

Dillard University will lead the way in Louisiana.

The Prez

Thursday, July 16, 2015


Summer might be slow, but we've racked up a few awards lately.

First, our athletic director was named today as the National Association of Collegiate Women Athletics Administrators 2015 administrator of the year. She's won numerous award this year, as well as completed a doctorate.

Last week our board chair was named HBCU alumnus of the year by HBCU Digest. Mike has been working on a landmark HBCU case in Maryland dealing with equitable funding.

Finally, Money Magazine unveiled their college rankings. I'm not a true rankings fan since most focus on inputs, but many say Money does a better job focusing on quality of education, affordability and outcomes. Only 736 out of over 4,000 colleges and universities made the cut, so being #625 places us in the top 15% of all schools.  Only 6 Louisiana schools made the list (out of 20+ 4 year schools). We were #4 in Louisiana right behind Tulane which came in at #620, and the only Louisiana school that got a grade of A for value-added, which assesses our performance with students from similar backgrounds nationally.

Which is something I've said all the while. We do a great job helping students perform beyond usual metrics.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

College of Distinction

Dillard was recently selected as a college of distinction for 2015-2016. We are one of 4 schools in Louisiana. So it seems we are on a roll for recognitions these days!

The Prez

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Putting the $400 million Harvard "gift" in perspective

So today a Harvard alum gave the school $400 million. And he's only like 113th on the Forbes list of the wealthiest with about $13 billion in wealth. I was pleasantly surprised to read a number of high profile folks question this gift.

Remember, I'm the dude that called out Dr. Dre in the LA Times of all places for giving $35 million to USC, a school with a multi-billion dollar endowment. I mean, anyone part of a group whose first name is the N word shouldn't really give their money to a school with few Black folks, should it?

Anyway, here is the Harvard gift based on some other numbers:

1. The $400 million one time gift eclipses the endowment of every HBCU except Howard.

2. The gift is more than half of Puffy's entire net worth ($700M), and just about as much as Jay-Z's and Dr. Dre's (about $500M each).

3. The gift is 20 times the largest gift given to an HBCU- $20 million in 1988 by the Cosbys to Spelman. Almost 30 years later, this is still the record. http://www.nytimes.com/1988/11/08/us/a-black-college-gets-cosby-gift-of-20-million.html

4. The Cosby gift increased Spelman's endowment by 50%! The $400 million gift today increases Harvard's endowment by about 1.5% (ONE POINT FIVE since the endowment is over $30 BILLION). $400 million would increase my endowment by about 550%.

5. The gift is supposed to be for financial aid and scholarships. 10% of the Harvard student body is Pell eligible (roughly from families earning less than $40K per year). 80% of the Dillard student body is Pell eligible.

6. According to the Harvard Crimson, the median household income of Harvard freshmen last year was $125K. In the real America, median household income is $50K. In Mitt Romney terms, 14% of Harvard students ARE the 1%. http://www.thecrimson.com/article/2013/9/4/freshman-survey-admissions-aid/?page=single

7. The average family income at Dillard is about $31K.

8. If I placed $400M in an endowment and only spent 5% annually ($20M), I could pay the tuition and fees of EVERY Dillard student enrolled last year - plus 30 more.

Using the same spending rate, I could do full ride scholarships (I mean everything) for 55% of the student body.

Just something to think about...

The Prez

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Graduate Shout Outs

I was Vice President for Student Affairs at Albany State University from 2000 to 2004. Our president, Dr. Portia Holmes Shields, always did shout outs at commencement- a way to tell the stories of our graduates to personalize the event.

When I became president at Philander Smith in 2004, I continued the tradition with my first graduation in 2005. 10 years later I am still doing the same. Below is my script for the class of 2015 at Dillard. This represents a fraction of their accomplishments and stories. Worth the read!

The Prez


· This award dates back to the 1950s when it was called the Ernest W. Armstrong award. Beginning last year, it is called the William Sutton prize, named for Dr. William Sutton who graduated from Dillard University in 1953, who as a student was class president for 3 years, football captain and science major, who later taught on the faculty for 20 years and served as president of Mississippi Valley State University for 10 years. The medallion is sponsored by Mr. William Sizeler and the Sizeler Thompson Brown architectural firm. Each recipient received a $1,000 cash prize.

· Let me introduce our recipients.

o Daniel Gibson. Track and cross country teams. Officer in the political science club and African World Network Organization. Polemarch of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, Inc. Member of the honors program. Dean’s list. Admitted to four law schools, and will be attending the University of Tulsa.

o Roneisha Joyner. Resident Assistant. Senior class officer. Officer for several student groups. SOAR leader. Student ambassador. Cheerleader. Dean’s list. Martin Luther King Week of Peace Community Service Award winner in 2014. 3.9 GPA. Will be attending the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, California to attend the number one school in the country for their Doctorate of Physical Therapy Program on a $10,000/year scholarship.

o Keylantra Taylor. Basketball athlete. Volleyball athlete. Track and field athlete. Daktronics NAIA Scholar Athlete for 2015. People’s choice female athlete of the year. Officer for the National Society of Black Engineers and Scientific Honor Society. First place winner in the NORC Research competition and the LAMP Undergraduate research competition. Will begin a 10 week internship with the Army research lab before graduate school this fall.


· 13-15 part 1: Taylor Webster. Her big brother Dorian Webster Jr. finished Dillard in 2013.

· 13-15 part 2: Lyndon Catalan. Mr. Dillard 2014-15, his big sister Lyneice graduated in 2013. Lyndon will be working at Ultra Clean Technologies-Engineering Company in Silicon Valley.

· Angelle Williams. Her sister, Kyla Dawson finished Dillard in 2005.

· Pharyn Alexis Thornton. The only child of Pia Thornton, Dillard University class of 1991.

· Ayanna G. Humphrey has a host of family members who have graduated from Dillard. Most recent her cousins, 2014 grads Damon Carraby and Kyrean Bowens; aunt Sharon Ross Magee in 1979; and finally, her great-grandmother Annie Dixon Ross, magna cum laude in 1952.

· Dexter Smith. 3rd person to graduate from Dillard, 2nd in nursing. Mother Dr. Charlene Smith class of 1978, and sister Dr. Annie Smith-Whittle class of 2003. Dexter will be at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital, Baton Rouge, LA in the Surgical Nurse Residency Program.

· Walsdorf Jenneford, III. His father and grandfather, all of them with the same name, attended Dillard, as well as a great uncle and 2 aunts that attended Dillard.


· Jazmene K. Stewart. Will be working with the Washington DC Department of Health as a Food Health Inspector.

· Shannon Albert. Will be working at Ochsner Hospital Westbank, Gretna, LA in the Mother/Baby Unit as a Staff RN

· Donielle Brown, Falicia Jones, and Jestin Major. Nursing graduates all offered employment in the telemetry departments at area hospitals.

· Chloe Harrell. Will be at University Hospital and Clinics, Lafayette, LA, in the Emergency Department as a nurse.

· Keshona Holmes. Joining Teach for America Corps assigned to the Greater New Orleans area.

· Courtney Glover. Will be working for Department of Public Health in Atlanta through the Directors of Public Health Education (DHPE) program.

· Shantrell Green. A participant in the Keys to Success Single Parent Residential Program, will be employed by the New Orleans Film Commission.

· Edward Buckles. An award winning filmmaker he is completing production of his film Katrina Babies funded by the New Orleans Film Society, and will begin on June 7th working with the television franchise, NCIS.

· Vivian Adams. Concert choir soprano will begin in about 10 days singing the praises of Dillard as an admissions recruiter.


· Olivia Babb. Admitted to 3 law schools and will be attending Southern University.

· Tyrell Collins. Will attend Columbia College in Chicago, IL. For a master of fine arts program in creative writing specializing in fiction.

· Brittany Smith. Women’s basketball co-captain will start at UNO for a masters in finance.

· Arian Pierre. Will attend Emerson College in Boston for a masters in Global Marketing, Communication and Advertising.

· Shakayla Nunez. Will attend Morehouse Medical School for a Masters Degree in Biomedical Science.

· Melritha Spencer. Will attend Liberty University for seminary.

· Kentrell Roberts. Concert choir Lyric Baritone will attend Graduate School at Loyola University in New Orleans majoring in Voice Performance.

· Samantha Brown. Will attend Jackson State for a masters of public health in epidemiology.

· Michael Brathwaite. Admitted to Penn State University for the Family Nurse Practitioner MSN Program, but has employment opportunities with Holy Main Medical Center in New Jersey in the Emergency Department, and with Our Lady of the Lake, Baton Rouge in the Surgical Nurse Residency Program

· Danita LeBeau. Will be attending SUNO for their master of social work program.

· Calvinesha Weaver. Invited by the director of the Tropical Pathology and Infectious Disease Association to attend the University of Health Sciences Antigua School of Medicine.


· Brother act. Trevion and Germoin (jer MON) Green, brothers graduating together today, both in Public Health.

· Sister act. Jennifer and Jeannine Jackson, twins graduating today, both in biology.

· Lynisha Jordan. Today is her 22nd Birthday.

· Casey Hawkins. Today is her 23rd birthday.

· Trenell Williams. This week earned a back belt in martial arts, the first for the new Dillard University martial arts program.

· Charlene Ellis. Charlene was supposed to graduate in May 2012 but was pregnant and had to have an emergency C-section her senior year so she didn’t finish her last semester…until now. She sat out 3 years and just returned this semester to finish.

· Dwan Jacque: Non-traditional, single mother of two participated in our Keys to Degrees program for single parents this past year which allowed her to be able to live on campus and stay involved. She comes from a long line of Dillard attendees including her mother, aunts, & grandmother but is the first to receive her degree from Dillard and the first in immediate family to receive a college degree. She is graduating in just 3 years, and taking advantage of our pre-law program she is now heading to Loyola University for law school.

· John Johnson. 32 years old husband and father, attended Dillard from 2000-2004 and I left in the spring of 2004 because of personal reasons. He moved to Baton Rouge, got married, entered the workforce, and began a full time job. He worked at this job diligently for 9 years, but during the course of his employment I began to see that just working wasn't enough. He started taking night classes at Southern University, because commuting back and forth and supporting a family just wasn't feasible. His wife encouraged him to get a degree audit so he could finish at Dillard. 32 credit hours to complete my goal. He continued working full time and attending night classes. In February of last year he found out he was going to be laid off from his job, so stepped out on faith to finish school. He took 18 credit hours commuted back and forth from Baton Rouge 5 days a week, and finished last semester on the Dean's List. 

· Calvin Felton. When his mother was pregnant with him she was told he would have Downs Syndrome but he doesn't. When he was a young child he was diagnosed with autism but his mother refused to put him on medication as doctors suggested. In the 5th grade his special education teacher told him he would never graduate high school. After that, his mother took him out of special education and committed herself to working with him and giving him more attention and he continued in all regular courses through graduation. Today he is graduating from Dillard University.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Freshman Awards

Going back to about 2007 I have done special awards for first year students. Some are for those who work with the lecture series as this is always a great opportunity for freshmen to get involved.

Lauren and Tevon were my Diaper Dandys, essentially 2 freshmen who had a great year. When I do freshman lunch group meetings I always ask them who is impressive in their class. These two were mentioned a number of times, plus they did extremely well academically.
I also added one more for a student that really understandings hustling. Aaron, as a freshman, tracked down the president of Entergy New Orleans because he is interested in energy law, went to his office to have breakfast, and now has a great connection. In addition he will be an intern with one of his Congressmen from Georgia. This is what I want all students to do- don't wait for things to happen to you, make them happen FOR you.
The Prez