Minority students voice concerns

Lauren Sanchez

More money, more money, more money – that’s what students want to see in Western’s future.

Tuition increases, financial aid and scholarships were among many topics discussed in Tuesday night’s Minority Future on the Hill forum in Grise Auditorium.

The forum, which was a 90-minute question and answer session, featured a panel including President Gary Ransdell, Gene Tice, vice president of Student Affairs and campus services, Howard Bailey, dean of student life, Marilyn Clark, student financial assistance director, and Ingrid Woods, academic advising assistant director. The forum was sponsored by the Black Student Alliance.

Administrators opened the floor to a group of about 50 students, encouraging questions or concerns. One recurring issue was the retention of African American students and faculty on Western’s campus. Though Western has improved, Ransdell said it could be better.

“We meet the state’s minimum requirement, but I don’t think it’s enough,” he said.

Ransdell said he is combating the retention of African-American students on campus by means of a task force. The committee’s specific aim is to examine the eight initiatives of the Kentucky Plan and make sure Western fulfills those objectives to the best of its ability.

The Kentucky Plan, formed in 1983, was designed to eliminate the formerly segregated system of higher education.

He also said that there are currently about 70 job searches out, and he said he hopes that many of those will be filled by African-Americans.

Along with retention rates, Ransdell said he is also concerned with graduation rates of African-American students.

“… We’re not performing and that’s the issue we need to focus on,” he said. “We’re still going to continue to recruit African-American students, but we need to focus on what they do once they get here.”

Bailey offered several reasons for the retention problem, including the transition into a “predominantly white environment,” poor advisement, late registration and the possibility that a student might have a bad rapport in the classroom.

Woods agreed with Bailey’s comments and added that poor advisement is an issue she is working on through the use of two new programs – the Steps Program and the Partner Program. Both programs seek to give students assistance.

“It catches students after their first and second semesters that have basically not passed,” she said of the Partner Program. “I have invited all of those students back to give them another shot.”

Overall, Georgetown senior Natasha DeJarnett, who hosted the forum along with the Black Student Alliance, said the goal to answer many questions was reached.

Cameron Yancey, a sophomore from Memphis, Tenn., attended the forum because he was concerned with Western’s ability to meet the requirements for African-American enrollment. He said he was satisfied with what the panel had to say. Though he still sees problems, he said he doesn’t blame the administration.

Yancey said minority students often fail to apply on time and tend to disregard probation warnings. Though he said it’s something minorities need to act on, he realizes that it will take more than just a forum to achieve.

“It’s going to take an eye opener, like the budget cuts, that will hit us hard,” he said.

Reach Lauren Sanchez at [email protected]