Cairo Association of Teachers - Newsletter

CAT Tracks for July 19, 2008

Going to borrow a phrase from a radio talk-show host that I listen to but don't like...Michael Savage. The "announcer" prefaces the show with a WARNING...The Michael Savage Show contains adult language, adult content...psychological nudity!

After completing my "tirade" below, I realized that it may make some people "uncomfortable"...those who don't like topics about race or simply don't like stressful commentary.

Therefore, if you are offended by "psychological nudity"...skip this edition! (The article is simply about SEMO's attempts to increase enrollment of African Americans.)

Aw, hell...don't get me started!

Oops, gotta insert a "Pardon my French" here...

Also, although I did my "one time disclaimer" about this Website reflecting MY personal opinion and NOT the opinion of the Cairo Association of Teachers, better do that AGAIN!

What follows is RON'S RANT...NOT the CAT!

I know there are tons of folks out there that swear by Southeast Missouri...friends of mine who LIVE in Southeast Missouri. For years, friends would tell Julie and I to seek medical services in Southeast Missouri.

Guess I should are probably wondering what set me off...this time. Well, I'll tell you...and I quote:

  • In trying to attract minority faculty members to Southeast Missouri State University, Lincoln Scott immediately faced an image problem.

    "Why would an African American come to Southeast Missouri if they could work in Atlanta, Austin, Chicago or D.C.?" he asked. "When many African Americans think of Southeast Missouri, the first thing that comes to mind is Cairo, Ill. [site of race riots]. But that's not Cape Girardeau and that's not Southeast Missouri."

It's Cairo's fault that African Americans don't come to Southeast Missouri? Gimme a break!

I mean first of all, if you are an African American (or any kind of American) that does NOT live this in area and you get job offers from "Atlanta, Austin, Chicago or D.C." or CAPE GIRARDEAU...which one are you going to leap at??? I know Cape Girardeau is at the top of my list...NOT!

Back to my rant...

If you are white, you may get good service...a welcome reception in Southeast Missouri. If you are black, you MAY get good service...a welcome reception in Southeast Missouri (although I'll bet my first retirement check that it's NOT as warm.) However, folks, before you get all "warm and fuzzy" about Southeast Missouri, grab a friend of another race (and the opposite sex) by the hand and head for Southeast Missouri.

Those folks scared me back in the early 1970's...BEFORE I took Julie Jones by the hand and headed in that direction. After attending SIU in the 1960's, enrolling at SEMO for a couple of graduate courses was scary...thought maybe I'd entered the Twilight Zone! Obviously, with me, there were no "racial problems", but culturally, it was a step back into time. A veritable sea of scrubbed and shiny white faces...very few black faces...and girls who wore dresses! WOW... It was what many white folks mean when they talk about the "good ol' days".

When Julie first started experiencing medical problems in the early 1980s, we decided to follow the advice of friends and seek the services of a doctor in Cape Girardeau. Unfortunately, we sought out a doctor born and raised in Cairo. Our "bad" can take the boy out of Cairo, but you can't take Cairo out of the (good ol') boy!

An aberration? We wish...

Had occasion to take Julie to the Southeast Missouri Hospital ER...don't remember the crisis. Took her temperature, blood pressure, and advised her to see her regular doctor in the morning. Julie ended up in Carbondale Memorial the next day.

Okay...that was "back in the day" right? Things have changed...RIGHT!

Wasn't last year...or even the year before, but...this century! Julie gets sick in the wee morning hours, can't get out of bed, call 911. Ambulance service will NOT take her to Carbondale..."our policy is we have to take you to the nearest hospital"...Southeast or St. Francis (in Cape Girardeau). Woe is us...

I follow the ambulance, do the admissions process, and wait until they let me go back and see her. When I get back there, Julie is not happy...says they have been saying unkind things about her...just like last time (a couple of years prior.) I try to calm Julie down...know that she is under stress...thinking all the while that being under stress can cause people to "imagine" that they are being treated badly. Julie could read me like a book..."I'm NOT making this up", she said.

While waiting...and waiting...and...for an hour, I step over to the door and look out at the nurses/doctors station. That's when I hear confirmation of Julie's "suspicions". The "doctor" (whom she had described to me) is looking at a chart (which we later discover was Julie's) with a frown on his face. The "doctor" then says in a loud and clear voice "Why did they bring the bitch over here...she's from Cairo...why didn't they take her to Carbondale?" Gave me a "warm and fuzzy" feeling...a feeling of welcome...a feeling that they appreciated our business.

By the time the "doctor" entered Julie's room, she was in too much pain to even speak. When the "doctor" inquired as to her "problem", I indicated in a calm and quiet voice that "the 'bitch' did not want to come to St. Francis...the ambulance service forced us to come to St. Francis...against our will. If you have a problem with that, you need to take your complaint to the ambulance service." Of course, the "doctor" denied ever saying such a thing...and went ahead and sheepishly administered a minimum of care.

Okay, got longer than I intended...but that's the way rants go. Probably should have put this on instead, but I promised those folks that I was going to try to be positive. I did not make that promise to you!

So, in short, people who live in glass houses...

"Doctor" and Southeast Missouri...quit blaming Cairo for your "whiteness" and heal thyselves!

To Lincoln you "wine and dine" your African American recruits, remember they are NOT stupid. They are fellow human beings. They can feel the "pain". They can sense insincerity in the name of gaining profits!

Final Disclaimer...

Our experiences may have been abberations...I hope that they were, although the blatant stares that Julie and I received in Southeast Missouri during the years...up to the very end...lead me to believe otherwise. Julie DID receive good medical treatment from some health care professionals in Southeast I know it's not characteristic of all of them.

And, as THEY say, some of my best friends...(live in Southeast Missouri!)

From the Southeast Missourian...

Southeast working to attract minority faculty, students

By Lindy Bavolek
Southeast Missourian

In trying to attract minority faculty members to Southeast Missouri State University, Lincoln Scott immediately faced an image problem.

"Why would an African American come to Southeast Missouri if they could work in Atlanta, Austin, Chicago or D.C.?" he asked. "When many African Americans think of Southeast Missouri, the first thing that comes to mind is Cairo, Ill. [site of race riots]. But that's not Cape Girardeau and that's not Southeast Missouri."

To combat the misunderstanding, Scott decided to hinge the initiative on building relationships. Getting people to give the community a chance was a first step.

At conferences and through existing faculty, Scott identified people who would be good fits. He spent hours on the phone. Eventually the university paid to fly in five people. They were shown the community and introduced to faculty members.

"I don't want to use the expression 'wine and dine,' but I gave them a good time," Scott said.

The participants were encouraged to apply. Four out of five were hired.

After years of stagnant growth no black faculty members were hired the previous two years the university attracted more members this year than the past five combined, according to Scott.

"Everyone was very warm and welcoming, and they supported my research efforts," said Dr. Shewanee Howard, an assistant professor of health promotion hired in January.

This year's increase is important because black students need role models, school officials said. Black professors have been scarce. In 2007, eight out of 413 faculty members were black, less than 2 percent. In comparison, 11.4 percent of the student body was black.

Scott is quick to point out the none of the filled faculty positions were affirmative action positions. "We had jobs, we needed them filled, and we hired qualified people," he said.

While the university still wants to increase its minority faculty, it has neared its goal of having the minority student population mirror that of the state. The percent of black undergraduate students has grown 80 percent over the past decade, a result of targeted recruiting efforts.

Starting early

The biggest change is that recruitment is starting earlier, according to Dr. Debbie Below, director of admissions.

Through a federal grant called Gear Up, the university works with middle and high school students in the Bootheel to teach them about the college application process, financial aid, and skill building in math and writing. Caruthersville, Mo., and Hayti, Mo., school districts are currently served under the grant.

"We have outreach beginning in the sixth grade," Below said.

A similar program directed at St. Louis students is called College Summit. On Thursday, about 40 students arrived at Southeast for a four-day workshop designed to give low-income, first-generation college students a jump on the college application process.

Hunched over computers, they learned how to navigate the complicated process of evaluating schools, received coaching on writing college entrance essays and started applications to their top three universities. Without help, college often seems unobtainable, said Alan Byrd, Southeast's associate director for recruitment.

During their senior year, the students will continue College Summit classes.

"It gives us an advantage because when we get ready to go to college we'll already know what to expect," said Victoria Jackson, who will be a senior at Roosevelt High School in St. Louis next year.

Partnering with College Summit, a national not-for-profit organization, has paid off for Southeast. Enrollment of College Summit students at Southeast has steadily increased, jumping from two to 10 to 25 in its three-year existence.

Other recruitment efforts by Southeast include speaking at community functions, such as church or college fairs. Preparation for college is a major stress.

"What we noticed when we started recruiting is that minority students didn't have the academic background. They were taking the ACT way too late or were only taking it once. They were not taking challenging classes. We have started earlier telling students they need to go above and beyond the expectations of their high school," Byrd said.

Increasing retention

Standards are not bent for minority students, Below said. Unprepared students are encouraged to attend one of Southeast's regional campuses or a community college.

Nevertheless, the retention of minority students on the main campus is a major concern for school officials. While about 51 percent of all Southeast students graduate in six years, only 28.6 percent of black students do. About 44 percent of black students drop out by their second year.

"Are they having issues as related to race? Or is it academic or financial? We don't know why, but we want to," Scott said.

Initiatives to improve retention have been launched, although a majority of the focus is letting students know what already is available to them.

Any student can receive a coach from an Academic Support Center that meets with students eight times a semester to discuss topics such as syllabi, mid-term grades or registering for classes. Staff also can direct students to other resources such as financial aid.

A peer coaching program matches an upper-class student with an undergraduate for mentoring. A minority peer coaching program exists where all the coaches are minority students.

Each year about 35 to 40 minority students are matched with faculty or staff members for a work study program that stresses building relationships and experiential learning.

"My focus is we want you to use the resources we have. We want students to understand the importance of engaging with the entire campus," said Trent Ball, associate dean of students.

A minority student leadership group is in the beginning stages of formation. The group will serve as an advisory to administrators regarding programming and "decisions that affect students of color," said Vida Mays, the adviser.

"After hearing students saying there's nothing to do," administrators encouraged students to form a group, Mays said. "Students want to see more speakers that look like them or more programming that is of interest to them, like Savion Glover." The black tap dancer will perform Oct. 31 at the River Campus.

The student group will meet for a planning session this week. It is the first of its kind Mays has seen during her seven years at the university.

"The students felt a need to have a voice," she said.