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MCTC’s Student Life: Being Colorblind won’t help the majority

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I wrote this many years ago. It was originally posted on February 2, 2012 by in Letters to the Editor. With the hiring of Sharon Pierce, President of Minneapolis Community and Technical, there is a need for an immediate change in the politics which reject the success of the black body. President Pierce must reconfigure the Student Life department and bring the basketball program back to the community college; it saved lives.

by Don Allen, Publisher – Our Black News (Originally published in 2012)

Minneapolis Community and Technical College is nested near the heart of downtown. Minneapolis’ cool Skyway system, library and a host of fine dining and entertainment venues that make downtown Minneapolis what it is today: a diverse, hip, and cool place to be.

The diversity and everyday hustle and bustle of downtown Minneapolis is mirrored inside Minneapolis Community and Technical College. Unfortunately, the college’s Student Life department leaves much to be desired.  Their student engagement piece lacks diversity, color and competence as it pertains to school-to-student collaborations with the majority population of the school being non-white. The education piece for Black males is already tough, but ignoring a population of Somali, Arabs, Black, Veterans and Hispanic-Latinos that make up the majority is something that cannot go unaddressed. This is a simple fix, which starts in the foundation of Student Life at MCTC.

“MCTC needs to be a culturally competent 2-year college due to the number of people of color who attend the downtown Minneapolis melting pot,” says Rochelle Washington who is a member of the Student African American Brotherhood (SAAB), the first of it’s kind in the state of Minnesota. Washington, a two-year student who graduates this year goes on to say, “If it wasn’t for SAAB, and her Work Study position, me as a Black person wouldn’t have any connection to the college other than coming to class and going home.”

Washington’s sentiment seems to resonate across the college with other Black students interviewed for an upcoming documentary for SAAB’s Black History Month Kick-Off titled, “Education, Struggle, and Success: Educating Black Males in Public Spaces,” which will be viewed with a panel discussion on Wednesday, February 1, 2012 from 5:30-7:30pm in room F-1400.

The lack of the right cultural engagement, diversity projects and progressive thinking by the college and Student Life saw a 17% drop in student enrollment midterm in the Fall 2011 semester as reported by MCTC president Philip Davis on Thursday, Oct. 27, during the Black Men in America event in room K.3360. According to Davis, the midterm drop in enrollment was for the most part, first-time college and math students who probably weren’t ready for college. This is a national problem facing the public school system not adequately educating students, especially Black males.

The enrollment decline at MCTC didn’t just begin. With a student body enrollment of 14,609 in the 2010-2011 school year, and a 17% drop by midterm (Fall 2011), this meant MCTC loss more than 2,484 students, which would bring the enrollment to approximately 12,125.  Of course to make the numbers look good on paper, the MCTC website hasn’t been updated since the 2005-2006 school year to reflect the drop in students.

I attribute this loss in students to the lack of positive, top-of-mind cultural engagement that is intentional, created and implemented on behalf of the majority of students at the school to the colorblind operations of Student Life at MCTC.

Student Life should always mirror the majority without alienating the minority – but what is happening with Black students at the school is a travesty, embedded in racial tensions for the simple fact that an office meant to uplift the educational experience while providing cordial and diplomatic relationships between and around the color lines has chosen to be colorblind therefore further perpetrating everything about the term: Institutionalized Racism.

Don Allen is the editor and chief of the Independent Business News Network.

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