January 27, 2015

University Marks Progress on Clock Tower Accords

An Update on the Clock Tower Accords

 On October 18, 2014, with the signing of a 13-point agreement with the University, demonstrators who had led six days of teach-ins and conversations about racial equity and social justice peacefully packed up their camp at the Clock Tower and returned to their homes and residence halls.

The agreement, which has come to be known as the Clock Tower Accords, committed the University to a program of formal and institutionalized conversations about race on our campus. We also committed to devise short- and long-term initiatives that retain and attract more students and faculty of color, to promote equal opportunity, and to advance focused economic development in disadvantaged neighborhoods.

With this message, I want to clearly reiterate that these initiatives were not just words on paper. They are completely consistent with the mission of this University and the challenges I put before students, faculty, and staff during my inaugural address just weeks before the Clock Tower protest began. And they are being undertaken by this outstanding University to effect change and produce tangible results here at SLU and in disadvantaged neighborhoods in the region.

Watching over the progress being made on the Accords is a group of students, staff, faculty, city leaders, and community organizers called the Access and Success Working Group. This group has been meeting regularly with me since the agreement was crafted in October.

As we all knew, some initiatives would move forward quickly, and others would take more time. But I remain committed to each of them; for they provide a roadmap for increasing student access and diversity on campus, and for providing opportunities and support to the disadvantaged of our community.

I have listed below the initiatives that were agreed to on October 18, and a status update on each. Hard work is being done on every one of them, and in the months ahead there will be even more progress to report. As always, I welcome your advice and suggestions on these efforts.

Sincerely,

Fred P. Pestello, Ph.D.
President

1. Increased budget for the African American Studies Program.  Under the leadership of Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Ellen Harshman and Associate Professor of African American Studies Dr. Stefan Bradley, additional funding is being planned to support professional development and research activities for faculty members; opportunities for students to extend their learning through service trips and local activities; and scholarly programs and symposia.

2. Increased financial aid resources for retention of African American students at SLU.  Among the options being discussed are extending undergraduate merit scholarships to 5th and 6th years; working to greatly increase the number of African American students who submit FAFSA applications for federal aid; using the Go Further scholarship donation-matching program to expand the need-based SLU Grant program; and developing creative loan options that may include forgiveness under certain circumstances.

3. Evaluation of SLU's current scholarship programs to better serve African American populations.  The Human Capital Research Corporation has been contracted to provide a broad review of SLU's undergraduate scholarship program and its effectiveness in meeting the University's enrollment goals.  We will examine providing a pre-FAFSA aid estimated package that would accompany the admission letter or SLU counselor phone call.  Also, recruitment efforts will include even more intensive targeting of high schools with large African American populations, and stressing participation in pre-college programs.  In addition, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholarship steering committee continues to implement a series of changes to its scholarship program.  The changes include making the awards available to new transfer students and upper class students at the University.  The Go Further program may also be used to allow organizations and individuals to fully sponsor the tuition costs of qualified graduates of targeted high schools in the metro area.

4. Additional college prep workshops for students in the area's most disadvantaged school districts.  Initiatives under consideration include: increasing middle school workshops and campus visit programs; enhancing transfer partnerships with area community colleges; and having 1818 Advanced College Credit program teachers teach at other schools or in the summer at SLU.  This could be done in conjunction with a number of SLU's current Pre-College, Transfer and Access Program partners including: Harris Stowe State University, St. Louis Community Colleges, the area Federal TRIO Programs, the Missouri Association of College Admission Counselors, and the Missouri Association of Student Financial Aid Personnel.

5. Establishment of a K-12 bridge program, including summer programs, in the Normandy and Shaw neighborhoods to help increase the numbers of college-bound students from neighborhoods in those areas.  Work has begun on these programs, and expanding this initiative to other schools in the region.  A pilot program for 8th-12th grade students on college and career readiness has been created and is being considered by area schools and community colleges.  Most of our current K-12 partners have agreed to assist in these efforts.  This would include student development organizations such as Student Support Services, the St. Louis Public School District, College Bound, the Wyman Center, College Summit, Inspire STL, Big Brother Big Sisters, and Infinite Scholars.  As you may know, SLU hosts more than 40 summer programs for K-12 students.  Many of these programs target and provide financial support for students from disadvantaged neighborhoods in the region.   In the coming year, we expect to be able to support more than 125 students with more than $100,000 in summer program assistance and scholarships.  This effort will continue through our Summer at SLU initiative, and you can view a list of those programs here.

6. Establishment of a community center. We expect to evaluate potential sites later this year.

7. Mutually agreed upon commissioned artwork.  The University has commissioned renowned African American artists and sculptors Kyle and Kelly Phelps to design a sculpture that captures the spirit and importance of the demonstration and encampment at Saint Louis University on October 13-18, 2014.  Kyle Phelps is an associate professor of fine arts at the University of Dayton, and twin brother Kelly Phelps is associate professor and chair of the art department at Xavier University.  The Phelps brothers have completed more than 80 major commissioned artworks, and their work has focused on race, class, and the working class/blue-collar themes.  You can learn more about the Phelps brothers and see some of their highly-reviewed work here.  Design work has begun on the SLU project, with an expected completion in about 12 months.

8. Development of an academic Center for Community and Economic Development to be integrated with the community center.  This initiative is in its early stages, with the anticipation of demographic mapping of the Shaw and North St. Louis neighborhoods to begin this spring.

9. Creation of a Race, Poverty and Inequality Steering Committee.  The membership of this committee is being developed, and will be assisted by the new Assistant to the President for Diversity and Community Engagement.

10. SLU sponsorship of a national conference on racial equality.  Under the leadership of professors Dr. Stefan Bradley and Dr. Norman White, and Director of Pre-College and Access Programs Will Perkins, planning for a major conference has begun.  However, to achieve the goal of hosting a prominent national conference on campus, and to ensure the participation of important speakers and participants from across the country, an FY16 date is the earliest possible for an event of this caliber.  In the interim, we are exploring a series of smaller conferences that will focus on topics of diversity and inclusion.

11. Appointment of a Special Assistant to the President for Diversity and Community Engagement.  A position description has been developed and approved.  A search committee, chaired by Father Richard Buhler, S.J., has been formed and had its first meeting earlier this month.  In addition to Father Buhler, members of the search committee include:

  • Dr. Teri Murray, Dean of the School of Nursing;
  • Dr. Kent Porterfield, Vice President for Student Development;
  • Mikaela Romo, Senior, College of Education and Public Service and SGA Vice President for Diversity and Social Justice;
  • Brittany Kendrick, Senior, Parks College and Black Student Alliance member;
  • Nebu Kolenchery, Senior, College for Public Health and Social Justice
  • Dr. Michael Railey, Assistant Dean for Minority Affairs for the School of Medicine;
  • Dr. Ness Sandoval, Associate Professor, Sociology and Anthropology
  • Dr. Darcy Scharff, Associate Dean, College for Public Health and Social Justice; and
  • Regina Walton, Administrative Assistant for Alumni Relations.

In addition to working on these important initiatives, the Special Assistant will facilitate the development, implementation, and assessment of strategies to further diversity and inclusion on campus and with the external community.

12.  Establishment of a diversity speakers series. This initiative is being led by Professor Dr. Stefan Bradley in collaboration with the Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs.  I am pleased to announce that on April 9, 2014, renowned Yale University Sociologist Dr. Elijah Anderson will speak at SLU in an Inaugural Year Lecture. Dr. Anderson's lecture, "The White Space and the Iconic Ghetto," will deal with the contrasting perceptions that black people have of white neighborhoods, schools, restaurants, work places (the white space) and that white people have of the "iconic ghetto" (black space), as presented in public media, popular music, and TV news.  Dr. Anderson is a Professor of Sociology at Yale University, and has received several awards from major academic sociological societies for the penetrating analyses of his many books and for his world-renowned studies in urban ethnography.  The new speaker series is intended to complement a number of University-wide efforts to build productive discussions on race, class, and inequity throughout our region.  On February 4, 2014, SLU's College of Education and Public Service is sponsoring a free public screening of the film "Pruitt-Igoe Myth: An Urban History." A post-screening discussion panel will feature Paul Fehler, a producer of the film, and Sylvester Brown, Jr., a journalist, former St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist and former resident of Pruitt-Igoe.  You can learn more about the screening on the College of Education and Public Service website.

13.  Bi-weekly meetings with an inclusive group, including the president, to continue to advance SLU's efforts to address inequality and poverty in the community.  As noted above, the Access and Success Working Group has been meeting since mid-October.  In addition to several University vice presidents and the president, the Working Group includes faculty members and students, as well as community leaders.  Discussions have focused on advancing the Clock Tower Accords.

Higher purpose. Greater good.
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