May 3, 2011 — If there's one thing Chicago's black community can agree on, it's the necessity of higher education and the role of Chicago State University in graduating what amounts to 20 percent of black college students from Illinois public universities.
United in that belief, member newspapers of the National Newspaper Publisher's Association spoke with one voice on its pages last week and again this week: Give CSU's new administration the time and space to shore up the school's management practices so they can continue to do the work of supporting students.
In response to incomplete and skewed reporting from the Chicago Tribune on April 13, 2011, NNPA felt it was necessary to make a unified statement about CSU that reflects the true nature of its mission and the team currently running the school and implementing new best practices. Participating papers include: Chicago Crusader, Chicago Defender, Citizen Newspapers, N'Digo, The Bulletin and Final Call.
"It was extremely important we come together as the black press because Chicago State is more than a collection of buildings, it's an institution," said Crusader Publisher Dorothy Leavell. "It was important to support of this progress they are making and condemn those who are highly critical and have ulterior motives. It was important for the publishers to give the institution our support so we can continue to graduate people who can live better lives as a result of getting an education."
Dual editorials, one by N'Digo Publisher Hermene Hartman, and the other by CSU President Wayne Watson, PhD., seek to underscore this: Those who have never set foot on CSU's campus don't know the school mostly serves older, working students who have transferred into CSU. These students are often economically disadvantaged across the racial and ethnic spectrum, and the first in their families to attend college. The graduation rate for these students mirrors the national averages of about 20 percent. And though CSU graduation rate for first-time full-time freshmen has lagged at 14 percent due to the challenging circumstances students live in, the administration, under the 17-month tenure of Dr. Wayne Watson, has boosted that rate to 20 percent.
"The reality of Watson's CSU tenure is that the morale on campus has moved from negative to positive, and freshman student enrollment has increased," Hartman wrote in one of the published unity editorials. "The rates of retention and graduation have increased. Faculty and administration have been right sized. Incompetence has not been tolerated."
Leavell expects more united statements about CSU and other critical issues from NNPA member papers in Chicago: "The black press is strongly in support of the leadership of Chicago State," Leavell said. "I believe the community supports our stand. This is not the end of it."