African-American faculty and alumni voice concerns for university’s current state and future

By Jeremy Brown, Staff Writer

At a town hall meeting in Carbondale on Thursday, Feb. 15 at the Eurma B. Hayes Community Center, African-American faculty and alumni discussed their issues with the current state of SIU and possible solutions to send to the university’s Board of Trustees.

Charles Koen, the coordinator of the meeting, said that he wants to ensure the survival of SIU.

“The conclusions that we reach, and the recommendations that we reach, will come up in a paper,” Koen said. “We will submit [the paper] to the chancellor and the Board of Trustees.”


Koen said that the issues discussed in the paper will need to be addressed by the Board of Trustees.

Joseph Brown, a professor of Africana Studies at the university, said that retention is a crucial issue affecting the university.

“28 percent of our student population is African American, and only 33 percent of them graduate over a six-year period,” Brown said. “Our chancellor has already said it’s even worse if you count the four year period. Well sir, why aren’t you talking about that?”

Brown said it’s frustrating to get calls from talented young students who say they don’t plan to return in the fall. The point of education, Brown said, is to give more opportunities to students.

“I don’t teach what’s good for me,” Brown said. “I teach what was useful for me, and will be good for [students.] That’s the point of classical education, and we’re not doing it.”

Ella Lacey, a retired health education professor from the university, said the administration needs to change the vocabulary with which they discuss enrollment at the university.

“We need to put qualifiers when we describe recruitment,” Lacey said. “Recruitment, you can do that anywhere. We’re trying to reach out to people and tell them to come to our institution.”


Lacey said that maybe some of the younger recruiters don’t understand how to promote the university for new students and could be better at showing potential students what the university can offer.

“They think they should just put a sign up that says SIU, and this is what you get,” Lacey said.

Lacey said that to have stronger retention of students, the university needs to have a better inclusion of African Americans.

“Inclusion is not a history of SIU,” Lacey said. “Inclusion would say ‘You’re here, we are happy you’re here.’”

Lacey said that is not what African-American students are feeling.

“I was at a forum on campus not too long ago, and they said ‘We don’t feel welcome,’” Lacey said.

Lacey said the university needs to make students understand the importance of graduation.

“Graduation is supposed to be advancing you to something,” Lacey said. “We need that concept, so students know we are still advancing them to the next step in their lives.”

Charlie Howe, a life-long Carbondale citizen said the future of the university is also the future of Carbondale.

“I’ve seen the problem in communities, what happens when things go wrong,” Howe said. “Ever since the 1970s, real wages in this country have gone flat. When SIU goes, the community goes.”

Howe said he’s spoken at the past two university Board of Trustees meetings as the only member of the community.

He said that the administrative systems running the university aren’t working because of a lack of communication with the Carbondale community.

“What we need more than ever is communication,” Howe said. “That is the problem with SIU right now. The communities affected just as much by this issue. We need a new system to run this university. Why use a broken system to fix a broken system?”

Staff writer Jeremy Brown can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @JeremyBrown_DE.

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