Sunday, November 27, 2016

Dr. Debra Saunders-White

When I learned the date of the inauguration for Deb Saunders-White as chancellor of NCCU, I knew I would have to attend. And I did, in the spring of 2014.

I met her shortly after I became president of Dillard when she was with the Department of Education. Dillard had been working hard to have our Katrina loan modified, the loan that helped rebuild a campus devastated by Hurricane Katrina. So we had a number of conversations until 2013 when she was announced as chancellor of NCCU. She made a visit to Dillard before taking that assignment to confirm that the loan had been modified and the new terms.

The last time I saw her was September of 2015. I was there as the hazing awareness week speaker, and had a chance to visit with her before the event. It was here when she told me that she was battling cancer; the news was not public at that time. You never know what to say when you get news like this, but she had a good spirit and energy.

So when I got the call Saturday morning I was surprised. I knew she was on leave, but I always expected her to fully recover. However this was not God's plan for her.

I am thankful for her service to NCCU and to the HBCU community. She and I were of like minds- involved with students, active on social media, fully understanding the big picture higher ed issues. I always enjoyed any moments we had together, including the 2014 White House Summit on Affordability. I just hate we didn't have more of them.

Thank you Deb for all you did. You will be missed.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Brain Food: Roland Martin

For election years I work ahead to have someone preview the election, and someone else to analyze. I also like to present diverse political points of view. If we don't expose ourselves to other ideas, we never grow. So I had Rich Lowry in September, and wanted a strong liberal for November.

Van Jones from CNN was booked back in April. I figured he would be great. He was, in fact, so great election night that CNN made him work the following week- when he was to come to Dillard. I found out that Thursday, less than a week before his scheduled appearance!

So it is about 7 pm and I am at a board dinner trying to come up with an event, or maybe just skip all together. But I felt we needed something, especially after a contentious election and our own campus tension following a Senate debate. So I reached out directly to the person who did my 2008 post-election lecture at Philander Smith College.

Roland Martin.

I tell my students that relationships are important. I'm not sure how many college presidents can directly contact folks like Roland Martin and have him respond in minutes that he would be here. In so many ways, he was the only person who could have given that message last week.

In his usual "Bring the Funk" style, Roland really did lecture. He covered lots of history, asked questions, and engaged us in a reality check after the election of Donald Trump. One of his premises is that he wants us to change our consumption of news and information.

He characterized the election results as what happens when folks who are not part of a system decide to vote, and that this voter was part of a historical pattern of black success being followed by white backlash. He pointed to signs of racial battle lines being drawn but a portion of the nation that wants to hold on to an America that no longer exists.

His 90 minute address engaged us all. The most important impact though was his citing of numerous books- probably about a dozen. Students after the event even tweeted him about some of the titles. Hopefully he inspired many of us to more actively read!

The Prez

Saturday, November 19, 2016

110 College Leaders Sign Letter to Donald Trump

I was one of the presidents who signed this letter for President-elect Trump. There has been lots of concern about his commitment to diverse students, and there has been tension on many campuses. I was glad that I was asked to participate. Here is the letter:

Letter From Presidents to President-Elect Trump
Dear President-elect Trump,
As do you, we “seek common ground, not hostility; partnership, not conflict.” In order to maintain the trust required for such productive engagement, it is essential that we immediately reaffirm the core values of our democratic nation: human decency, equal rights, freedom of expression and freedom from discrimination. As college and university presidents, we commit ourselves to promoting these values on our campuses and in our communities, and we stand alongside the business, nonprofit, religious and civic leaders who are doing the same in organizations large and small.
In light of your pledge to be “President for all Americans,” we urge you to condemn and work to prevent the harassment, hate and acts of violence that are being perpetrated across our nation, sometimes in your name, which is now synonymous with our nation’s highest office. In our schools, on job sites and college campuses, on public streets and in coffee shops, members of our communities, our children, our families, our neighbors, our students and our employees are facing very real threats, and are frightened.
One of the roles of leaders is to protect and empower the most vulnerable. As president-elect, this responsibility rests heavily on you. Let this be a mark of your leadership.

Presidents and Chancellors Who Signed Letter (alphabetical by institution) (UPDATE: Those who signed Friday are listed below.)
  • Raymond E. Crossman, Adler University
  • Mauri Ditzler, Albion College
  • Mark Zupan, Alfred University
  • Jeff Abernathy, Alma College
  • Biddy Martin, Amherst College
  • William R. Groves, Antioch University
  • John M. Sullivan, Art Academy of Cincinnati
  • Paul C. Pribbenow, Augsburg College
  • Steven Bahls, Augustana College
  • Marjorie Hass, Austin College
  • Leon Botstein, Bard College
  • Mac Powell, Bastyr University
  • Scott Bierman, Beloit College
  • Mariko Silver, Bennington College
  • David C. Joyce, Brevard College
  • Kimberly Wright Cassidy, Bryn Mawr College
  • Nancy Blattner, Caldwell University
  • Donald J. Laackman, Champlain College
  • Frank G. Pogue, Cheyney University of Pennsylvania (interim president)
  • David McInally, Coe College
  • Brian W. Casey, Colgate University
  • Helen J. Streubert, College of Saint Elizabeth
  • Reverend Philip L. Boroughs, College of the Holy Cross
  • Jonathan Brand, Cornell College
  • Jann Weitzel, Cottey College
  • Carol Quillen, Davidson College
  • Mark McCoy, DePauw University
  • Walter M. Kimbrough, Dillard University
  • MaryAnn Baenninger, Drew University
  • Donald Eastman, Eckerd College
  • Carl J. Strikwerda, Elizabethtown College
  • Jake B. Schrum, Emory & Henry College
  • James A. Anderson, Fayetteville State University
  • J. Michael Pressimone, Fontbonne University
  • Daniel Porterfield, Franklin & Marshall College
  • Elizabeth Davis, Furman University
  • Janet Morgan Riggs, Gettysburg College
  • Robert Kenny, Goddard College
  • Mark Scheinberg, Goodwin College
  • Jose Antonio Bowen, Goucher College
  • Raynard S. Kington, Grinnell College
  • Jane K. Fernandes, Guilford College
  • Rebecca M. Bergman, Gustavus Adolphus College
  • John J. "Ski" Sygielski, HACC, Central Pennsylvania's Community College
  • Margaret L. Drugovich, Hartwick College
  • Kimberly Benston, Haverford College
  • Lori Varlotta, Hiram College
  • Mark D. Gearan, Hobart and William Smith Colleges
  • Andrea Chapdelaine, Hood College
  • Shirley A. Mullen, Houghton College
  • Lisa A. Rossbacher, Humboldt State University
  • Alison Byerly, Lafayette College
  • Dan McAlexander, LaGrange College
  • Michael B. Alexander, Lasell College
  • Mark Burstein, Lawrence University
  • Barry Glassner, Lewis & Clark College
  • Richard Green, Lincoln University of Pennsylvania
  • Reverend Brian F. Linnane, Loyola University Maryland
  • Kenneth R. Garren, Lynchburg College
  • Brian Rosenberg, Macalester College
  • Stuart Kestenbaum, Maine College of Art
  • James Gandre, Manhattan School of Music
  • Kevin F. F. Quigley, Marlboro College
  • Kerry Walk, Marymount Manhattan College
  • Laurie Patton, Middlebury College
  • Bryon Grigsby, Moravian College
  • John Silvanus Wilson Jr., Morehouse College
  • David Wilson, Morgan State University
  • Stanley J. Pritchett Sr., Morris Brown College
  • Sonya Stephens, Mount Holyoke College (acting president)
  • Timothy E. Trainor, Mount St. Mary's University
  • John I. Williams Jr., Muhlenberg College
  • Kent Devereaux, New Hampshire Institute of Art
  • Richard Helldobler, Northeastern Illinois University (interim president)
  • Lawrence Schall, Oglethorpe University
  • David W. Oxtoby, Pomona College
  • Debbie Sydow, Richard Bland College
  • Allan Cahoon, Royal Roads University
  • Rachel Schreiber, San Francisco Art Institute (interim president)
  • Karen R. Lawrence, Sarah Lawrence College
  • Tracy Fitzsimmons, Shenandoah University
  • Susan E. Henking, Shimer College
  • Peg Albert, Siena Heights University
  • Joe Bertolino, Southern Connecticut State University
  • David Rees Evans, Southern Vermont College
  • Edward B. Burger, Southwestern University
  • John A. Pieper, St. Louis College of Pharmacy
  • Kevin J. Manning, Stevenson University
  • Valerie Smith, Swarthmore College
  • Susan C. Scrimshaw, the Sage Colleges
  • John M. McCardell Jr., the University of the South
  • Joanne Berger-Sweeney, Trinity College (Connecticut)
  • Stephen C. Ainlay, Union College (New York)
  • Thomas W. Keefe, University of Dallas
  • Quint Thurman, University of the Southwest
  • Jonathan Chenette, Vassar College (interim president)
  • Thomas Christopher Greene, Vermont College of Fine Arts
  • Scott D. Miller, Virginia Wesleyan College
  • Weymouth Spence, Washington Adventist University
  • Joseph Kline, Watkins College
  • Jonathan Gibralter, Wells College
  • Michael S. Roth, Wesleyan University
  • Dennis Hanno, Wheaton College (Massachusetts)
  • David J. Chard, Wheelock College
  • Sharon Herzberger, Whittier College
  • Stephen E. Thorsett, Willamette University
  • Elizabeth MacLeod Walls, William Jewell College
  • Adam Falk, Williams College
  • Barbara K. Mistick, Wilson College
Additional Presidents Who Signed Letter Friday:
  • Elizabeth Kiss, Agnes Scott College
  • Lex O. McMillan III, Albright College
  • Debora L. Spar, Barnard College
  • Clayton Spencer, Bates College
  • Clayton S. Rose, Bowdoin College
  • John Bravman, Bucknell University
  • Elaine J. Copeland, Clinton College
  • Harry Lee Williams, Delaware State University
  • Adam Weinberg, Denison University
  • David Dawson, Earlham College
  • Sean Decatur, Kenyon College
  • Teresa Amott, Knox College
  • Marvin Krislov, Oberlin College
  • John R. Kroger, Reed College
  • Donald J. Farish, Roger Williams University
  • Janice A. Cervelli, Saint Mary's College (Indiana)
  • Lara Tiedens, Scripps College
  • Matthew Derr, Sterling College
  • Jay Lemons, Susquehanna University

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Time to Go to Work

This is the note I sent to our campus community this morning in the election aftermath:

Good morning family-

If you are like me, you are sleepy. I finally gave up the ghost around 1:30 am when it was clear that America had spoken. It was probably a fitting end to an interesting 7 days for Dillard University. Just a week ago, we found ourselves at the epicenter of national news when a well-meaning protest ended in chaos. I am deeply sorry that some in our community felt like one of the participant’s participation on our campus was offensive and threatening, that they had been disrespected. Believe me, no one here has paid for this more than me, having been viciously attacked on social media, threatened and disparaged mostly by people I have never met. More than anyone, I wish things were done differently.

But last night I hope you received wake-up call- I sure did. It is time to get serious and go to work.

While we live in a protest culture, Trump’s supporters didn’t talk about it, they did it. And now many issues that are important to HBCUs, their alumni and students, will be in jeopardy- don’t fool yourselves. Larger issues like prison reform and voting rights will face new challenges, a new Supreme Court may roll back important legal gains, and higher education faces a president who rarely mentioned us at all- we don’t know what to expect.

Now more than ever we have to be Dillard Bold, Dillard Proud, Dillard Strong.

We will announce a time for faculty experts to help us process the election today in Georges, and next Wednesday you don’t want to miss Van Jones- he was POWERFUL last night on CNN (either Google his comments or check twitter- lots of people are talking about it). Process is important.

But big picture: It is time to go to work.

2017 marks the 50th anniversary of King’s last book, “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community” published that June. He gave a speech with that title to the SCLC on August 16, 1967. Take some time and read it today.

Pay special attention to his thoughts about how the Watts riots can’t be viewed as effective action, his commitment to love his enemies (read Matthew 5:38-48), and the concept of a Divine Dissatisfaction. My King Day speeches next year will be a 50th anniversary reflection, and in the age of Trump, the question really is where do we go from here. And in April, I will turn 50. The fact that these words so accurately describe what we see today troubles me, and therefore any delusion that many might have had that America was in a new place after 8 years of Obama was wiped away with a reality check signed by one Donald J. Trump.

We need to come together in the spirit of Ex Fide Fortis, strong from faith. Get your faith right, because these times call for strength and unity. Below is a note from Bishop Cynthia Harvey from the Louisiana Conference of the United Methodist Church- she is on our board. I hope her words offer additional comfort to you.

As always, I am here for you- don’t be afraid to reach out. I will do so as well.

Walter M. Kimbrough, Ph.D.
Dillard University
2601 Gentilly Blvd.
New Orleans LA 70122

God is Still God

The months leading up to this election have been long and the words have been ugly. But today, the sun rose and the God of yesterday is God today and tomorrow and the many tomorrows to come. Some awoke today happy, some sad and some confused but God is still God.

There has never been a more important time for God's people to be in concert as a nation and as people of faith.  We must listen to one another and not simply the headline hype and rhetoric of the pundits. Our future is secure in the knowledge that God is with us.

It is time to pray for our leaders. May God give them the wisdom to lead with eyes open to see the needs of the people and the ears to hear their cries.

May we, people of faith, be reminded of our clarion call to bring good news to the poor, release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind.  We must stand for the least and the lost, the oppressed and the marginalized protecting the rights of children, immigrant families, African-Americans, Latinos - all of God's children.

And as my colleague and friend Bishop Ken Carter has said, "The Kingdom of God is not the United States of America."  Let us not confuse the two.

May we live in a spirit of hope and never of fear.

Grace and Peace,
Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey

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Friday, November 4, 2016

Happy 8th Birthday Benjamin Barack Kimbrough

Raise Your Perspective

My colleague Dr. Toya Barnes Teamer sent this to me on Thursday (it's now after midnight so technically Friday). Helping me to process where we are, where I am....

The Prez

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Raise your perspective

Do what you do not for attention or glory. Do what you do because it is good and right and worthwhile.

Live your life not to gain social standing or to collect empty sensations. Live to make each moment more filled with love, care, and goodness than it would have been without you.

Seek positive, beneficial results, yet don't let them define you. See yourself not as a collector of trophies but as an enabler of possibilities.

Let go of any need to prove you're right, or to be praised, or to feel superior. Fill yourself with peace, gratitude, and the love of making a difference.

The world rushes by, its false urgencies shouting, shoving, mostly ignoring the great beauty that is life. Lovingly raise your perspective high enough so you can see more of the beauty and less of the pettiness.

The value of your life today exceeds all you can imagine. Fill it with what matters.

-- Ralph Marston

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Brain Food: Dr. Christopher Emdin

I have had a chance over the past few years to participate in a weekly Twitter chat called #HipHopEd. The creator of this chat, Dr. Chris Emdin, recently wrote a book that spoke to me as it describes New Orleans, "For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood (and the rest of y'all too). With school board elections coming up, this was a perfect Brain Food topic.

Dr. Emdin did not disappoint! He started out with a thesis that school has become the site for the incarceration of the minds of young people. Weaving through examples told in stories, he pointed out how many practices mirror those used to convert Native Americans.

He challenged notions that all STEM education is good (if they are being trained to be at the bottom of the STEM hierarchy that's not good), and that education is predicated on the underperformance of certain populations.
My big take away is that we need to make sure young people are engaged, having fun, and in that climate they will learn. I think back at my best high school teachers and it was fun- I try to do the same with my class as well.

If you have not read this book and you are an educator, do it. Now!

The Prez

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Softball challenge

For weeks there was build up to a Dillard vs Xavier softball game, but not the students- the faculty and staff. After being delayed a week due to a wet field, the game happened.

We spent a few weeks practicing to get ready for the game which was great fun. The game went back and forth until Xavier went up by 8 after 5 innings.

But over the last two innings we held them and tied the score. The ref then told us the game ended- as a tie, 15-15.

Great fun by everyone, and the rematch will take place.

In addition, we hope games like these inspire healthy lifestyles for our faculty and staff.

The Prez

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Alumni Connect

Every year we make an effort to visit alums in various cities to give updates on the university. I made my first trips last week with a west coast swing to San Francisco and Los Angeles.

We hosted about 20 at each event, and we had a great number of fairly recent alums. It is always cool to see folks who graduated since I have been there.

Our alums are doing great things all across the nation, and these trips help to keep them connected to the university, but also to make sure we know what they're doing so we can tell that story as well.

The Prez

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Who Won the Week

What a great news week for Dillard!

When I got an email this week saying our men's basketball team was ranked #1, I expected it. We won the conference last year so I knew we were favored. But I was wrong. We are ranked #1 in the nation for all of NAIA! I don't even know how big this really is yet until we check the records. But this is big for us.

It is part of the larger athletics dominance as our program ranked #1 in conference for use of Twitter and Facebook, and in the top 30 nationally for both social media tools.

US News rankings don't move me much- I've been a strong critic. But I know some like the bragging rights, especially on the HBCU list. Dillard moved up 2 spots to #12 based on strong alumni giving and improved graduation & retention rates.

Finally, I did a lot of media this week based on a Washington Post editorial published last Sunday on HBCU enrollment. From NPR to CNN to the NY Times to HBCU Lifestyle to The Chronicle of Higher Education, I had a chance to offer a different narrative- HBCU enrollments growing. And as more data is released there appears to be fairly robust growth throughout the HBCU sector. Sure, there are many factors involved, but unrest on majority campuses is a factor too- maybe bigger than we want to realize.

It was a good week for Dillard.

The Prez

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Helping Students Become Sprinters

Monthly our university leaders (vice presidents, deans and directors) spend a couple of hours sharing information, looking at big picture issues, and strategizing. One of the conversations over the past few months revolve around the Jeff Selingo book, "There Is Life After College." Jeff spoke here a few years ago.

One of Jeff's ideas is that only a third of students graduate as sprinters, meaning they are ready to go right into a career or have a path to career through graduate school. In any case it is deliberate. So we gathered and added student leaders to figure out what kinds of unique experiences can we enhance or develop to create more sprinters, and what do we need to do to ensure students don't miss out of experiences and opportunities that will help them become sprinters.

Our students were very engaged, and provided good ideas to continue this conversation.

The Prez

Saturday, August 13, 2016


On Thursday we kicked off our faculty staff institute with Dr. Terrell Strayhorn, Professor and Director of the Center for Higher Education Enterprise (CHEE) at The Ohio State University. He is a very accomplished brother- 10 books, dozens of articles, and hundreds of presentations. He spoke to our faculty and staff as well as our student leaders.

He shared lots of good ideas and thoughts in a moving speech that made people laugh, think, reflect and cry (literally). There were several key themes and ideas that I want us to remember this year:

1. We must always remember that we are here on purpose, on assignment, and we should make sure we ask ourselves why are we here?

2. What student are we telling that they are great? (This was actually a nice preview for my speech later that day when I used a Muhammad Ali analogy)

3. There are 3 things we have to do to raise the confidence of our students:
     A. Verbal persuasion
     B. Vicarious experiences
     C. Mastery experiences

4. We have to make sure our students can tell their stories- people who can tell their story will always have a job!

5. It is impossible to be culturally aware without exposure- this is key for liberal arts colleges.

6. Place matters- we should be intentional to ensure students experience New Orleans as part of their education.

7. We have to understand that many students bring past educational traumas with them, so we have deal with and help address those traumas.

8. I love this one- we can be Academic Spotters. We are there attentively to help step in if they can't handle the situation.

As you can see, not only were the faculty and staff moved, so too were the student leaders. I think after Dr. Strayhorn finished, we were all ready to #DoGoodWork!

The Prez

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Shame on UL System Day 9 (Last update)

Progress. It only took nine days after announcing the search is open to actually post the "qualifications" to be president of Grambling State University.  So this is better:

But as I've said, really no need to act like this is a real, legitimate, intentional search. I know they know what a real search looks like. It looks like this:

And this:

And this:

And this:

And this:

They didn't even use a non-search search during the current process for the system president:

Real talk: The decision has been made and really that's OK- it is within the board's powers. I am going to do whatever I can to help the new president be successful because Grambling has to be successful. A strong GSU is good for Dillard and all HBCUs.

The problem with a play search though is the ULS board has set themselves up for scrutiny if a stronger, eminently qualified candidate than the one they've selected decides to apply & challenge the process. With an open process everyone will get to see resumes and then compare to the job description (which is why in my op ed I suggested just selecting without a search if you have someone already).

This will be a great case study for grad students and researchers studying HBCUs!

The Prez

Monday, July 4, 2016

Shame on UL System Day 6

Hopefully tomorrow, after the holiday, we can fix this. Reminder- here is the Grambling search page:

Here is the Northwestern State search, conducted in the Spring of 2014:

Meeting and public forum. Search firm. Search committee (included alumni, faculty, staff and student reps). They hired a TERRIFIC president (I love him).

Why won't they give Grambling the same consideration? Why not wait a year and really figure out what's wrong at Grambling so they can hire the best fit.

The Prez

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Shame on UL System Day 2

Ok- they added a little to the Grambling presidential search page:

But still no job description, no desired characteristics or skills, etc. Basically, anyone is qualified to lead Grambling. We don't care!

Again, let's compare another school in the system. This is the page from the 2013 Nicholls State presidential search:

Real search. Real process. Must mean that Grambling isn't seen as real....

The Prez

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

UL System's Presidential Search Process- One Way for HBCU, Another for PWI

I have a scathing editorial coming out on Sunday in the Monroe LA News Star regarding the proposed search process for Grambling State University. The University of Louisiana System apparently has one process for its 8 predominantly white institutions when selecting a new president, and a trifling process for its only HBCU.

The president of Grambling State resigned last week. Today, the system announced the position is open for applications and they hope to meet finalists next month. They even set up a website:

That's it. No links. No job description. No overview of Grambling State. One page and an email address. You can find more detail applying for a job at Starbucks!

Contrast that to the recently completed search for a new president at the University of New Orleans. Here is the search website:

Detailed information about the University. The process for selecting the next president. A profile. Members of the committee. 12 links for more information. The new president who was the provost is AWESOME! Yet he was vetted by a thorough process that was done quickly. I would argue Grambling needs more time to address the campus culture but a process is warranted.

All Grambling alums and friends of Grambling should begin to FLOOD the UL system with calls, letters and e-mails demanding that they conduct a serious search for an institution in need of great leadership. This bold display of disrespect should not be allowed without swift and strong responses.

The Prez

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

In Amite, NO BEARDS ALLOWED (except when in the field): The hypocrisy of the Andrew Jones saga

Andrew Jones, #3, pictured in full beard during this past basketball season.

The following is a letter I sent to Tangipahoa Schools Superintendent Mark Kolwe and their school board.

26 May 2016

Dear Superintendent Kolwe,

Last night, I watched “The Nightly Show” with Larry Wilmore. In the first segment, he discussed the case of Andrew Jones at Amite High School. Living in New Orleans, I was already aware of the case, but I watched Wilmore present the absurdity of this situation to the nation.  For the past week, this case has been a national embarrassment to the school, the parish, and the entire state. For me, it represents a tremendous lack of judgment and a colossal failure of leadership. It also exposed blatant hypocrisy present in your school system.

So, I began to research this situation more closely and I want to present my findings. My hope is that you will issue a public apology to Mr. Jones and his family. Additionally, since this once in a lifetime event was ruined because of what appears to have been an ego contest with an 18 year old, I recommend that you offer restitution to him in the form of a scholarship for college.

In your letter, which appears in the Amite Tangi Digest, you write:

The Tangipahoa Parish School Board Student Dress Code Policy states that “beards will not be allowed.” As Superintendent, I am obligated to ensure that all Board policies are followed.

Indeed, the Student & Parent Handbook explicitly states this on page 8 under Student Dress Code, item #1 under dress code regulations grades 4-12. On page 9, it then describes how dress code violations will be handled, with the first violation resulting in a notice to parents and students (essentially a warning), and a subsequent violation resulting in a one day suspension due to disrespect of authority.

Jones and his family contend that he has worn a beard all year, and that he shaved part of it before the ceremony. I tend to agree with them, not because I know them, but by this story in the Hammond Star recapping the basketball season found here:

The picture shows a young man, wearing a #3 on his jersey, who looks like Andrew Jones to me, with the fuller beard as he has described. I then checked the roster for the Amite Warriors and confirmed that Andrew Jones wore #3. (,la)/basketball/roster.htm).

So the question is, why would you wait until graduation, after he has completed all requirements to graduate and will no longer attend the school, to finally enforce a policy that has been unenforced for an entire year? More specifically, why would you punish your top student, 4.0 grade point average, and three-sport athlete with academic and athletic scholarships to Southeastern Louisiana University, on the very last day of his formal association with Amite High School?

Yes, you are obliged to ensure the policies are followed. But policies were ignored during the football season. He was allowed to play football against Bogalusa in October, where the Amite Tangi Digest reported, “This would help set up a scoring drive that resulted in Walker hitting Andrew Jones for a 33-yard touchdown reception.” He was still playing in November, as the team played against Port Barre, The Advocate wrote “A fumbled punt snap gave Amite the ball at the Port Barre 39, and Walker drilled Andrew Jones with a 39-yard touchdown pass that made it 40-0.” He wore a full beard, in plain view, all through basketball season in the spring.

The height of the hypocrisy is that you personally made a case for an exception to a rule in the name of fairness for students. In late November, a fight between Amite and Bogalusa resulted in Amite being removed from the football playoffs for violating the Louisiana High School Athletic Association rule that players are automatically suspended for the next game if they leave the bench area during an altercation. In fact, you sued because you felt the decision was too harsh. In an Advocate article, it reads “Taking away the opportunity for senior players to continue their quest for a state title was also deemed unfair by the Tangipahoa contingent.”

At a school where only 36% of the students go to college within a year, where 80% of them are Black, and the average ACT is below 16, you are more willing to fight for students to participate in athletics than you are for an athlete who shows academic accomplishment to give his valedictory address at his only high school graduation.

This facial hair rule, one that was not enforced all year long, is now non-negotiable at the very end of the year. Again referencing the handbook, page 10 explains discipline and indicates that administrators will “implement the Student Code of Conduct in a fair and consistent manner” (#3), “implement Board policy in a fair and consistent manner” (#7), and “use professional judgment to prevent minor incidents from becoming major challenges” (#5). There is nothing fair or consistent in the implementation of this rule, and now this minor incident has become a national embarrassment.

The interim principal, and you as superintendent, failed on these responsibilities. However, if you are willing to exercise leadership, you can work to make amends to Andrew Jones and his family. Here are my suggestions:

1.              A public apology should be issued to Andrew Jones and his family. It is still okay to say “I’m sorry” and “We made a mistake.”

2.              Work within the local community to find a venue for Andrew to give his commencement address. He should still be afforded that opportunity.

3.              Some form of restitution would be appropriate in the form of a scholarship to assist with his first year of college. That moment has passed and cannot be relived, but a scholarship would serve as a tangible expression of regret.

Please understand that these actions display a, hopefully unconscious, bias that allows you to advocate for Black students on the field or court, but to be punitive when it comes to academics. The vast majority of them will never be professional athletes, but they can use their athletic ability to pay for college. And so when you have a true scholar athlete like Andrew, he must be celebrated profusely so that he becomes a role model for others to follow.

It is my hope that you will rectify this situation as best as possible.


Walter M. Kimbrough, Ph.D.