Diversity necessary at NIU

I am writing in response to the lead story of the Wed., Oct. 19 issue of The Northern Star entitled “Counselors Leave Program” and the editorial entitled “Diverse Counselors Needed” which appeared in the same issue.

I am concerned because not only were my comments extracted from a much broader context than was reported upon, my comments were not accurately reported. The resulting article, in my opinion, gives your readership a twisted and narrowly focused picture of not only my opinions, but the CHANCE Program in particular and the office of Educational Services and Programs (ESP) in general. Indeed, as an apparent follow up to the premise established in the article, the editorial seeks to address matters that truly are not at issue.

First of all, I do feel a need to say that I most strenuously agree with Mr. Todd Ellis and others who recognize the critical need which blacks and other minorities have for counselors from like backgrounds to relate to. Remarks which were taken out of context, apparently shortened to fit into the story line, give the reader the opposite impression.

The editorial further presumes that there is little or no concern about or effort underway to employ and maintain a staff that fairly reflects the ethnic make up and the needs of the student body served by the CHANCE Program. The CHANCE Program and ESP overall are certainly well known for a history of being the greatest single concentration of minority professionals on this campus. While that distinction should not suggest that NIU should not work to employ minorities in all areas, in all likelihood, the pattern will unfortunately remain so for some time.

In any event, as was clearly pointed out to the reporter who questioned me, staff searches are currently being conducted with notices having been sent to populations, media outlets and professional associations which will hopefully yield a reasonable field of minority professional capable of joining the ESP staff and making a real contribution to the NIU community as a whole, including minority students.

Perhaps what most concerns me about the article is its limited scope and its apparent disregard for the broader issue of what is really needed on this campus. I dare say that few anywhere on campus will disagree with the notion that if NIU is to recruit a diverse population then it must seek to diversify its faculty and staff to more properly serve a diverse student body. Those who would disagree with such a conclusion are apt to also fail to be able to contribute to the success of minority students in this community.

The editorial refers to the CHANCE Program and “its 80 percent attrition rate.” I beg to correct the Star and ask that we first look beyond the single worst year in the computer files (actually the 1981 cohort), and that futher, we consider the fact that CHANCE has but a small staff and funding that limits its most intensive work with students to be the freshman year.

Finally, if there is fault, and there are problems that must be addressed, ownership is no more narrow than the total scope of a student’s experiences on this campus. Not CHANCE or ESP, or even the Star so controls students’ environments and experiences that one can alone accept full credit for their success or failures. The parts of the whole which contribute to the NIU experience must be held up to scrutiny.

Minority professionals are needed throughout NIU and not solely because there are minority students on campus, but because ignorance and insensitivity can best be obliterated by education and familiarity.

The CHANCE Program is not the answer, it is a part of the NIU response to a need to redress, develop and build. No apologies need be made for the CHANCE and ESP efforts to contribute and assist. If these efforts to serve NIU and the young people who come through the CHANCE door are to be successful, then it seems to me, we should be concentrating upon increasing options through services. It is not simply important, it is vital.

While the Star editorial does not serve to enlighten the CHANCE staff, for its message is not news though it may make news, perhaps some will consider that there is a job being done in Williston Hall East. The team that is the NIU_ESP staff invites your support for a better educational community for all of us. Come see what we do.

Tendaji W. Ganges


Educational Services and Programs