HBCU Digest editor on Howell suspension
Published: Thursday, October 20, 2011
Updated: Thursday, October 20, 2011 18:10
Dear Chancellor Nelms:
I recently read an article in the Campus Echo regarding the interim suspension and consequent one-year expulsion of Mr. Roddrick Howell, following an on-campus incident on August 18 of this year.
As an HBCU alumnus, journalist, and national advocate for the progress of HBCU culture, I appeal to you to reconsider the facts and structure of this incident in light of first-hand information published in the article regarding Mr. Howell's mental health challenges and judicial due process.
I admit I do not have all facts of this case, and do not make vague that this appeal to you is devoid of the necessary information that led your judicial committee to render its decision.
However, given that members of your counseling staff have advocated for Mr. Howell's reinstatement, and that your students are mobilizing in support of their classmate and in support of greater awareness and care for brothers and sisters who suffer from mental health challenges, you will find great benefit in heeding the call of your student body now in what appears to be a culture changing moment for NCCU and the larger African-American community on the subject of mental health awareness.
Your campus has an opportunity to shape the narrative on how the African-American community confronts mental health and its affects on public safety, economic prosperity, social development and familial structure.
Mr. Howell's example is a tale of how a potentially dangerous situation stemming from undiagnosed bipolar disorder, when addressed with dignity and care, can reap positive benefits for individuals and communities seeking better ways to care for the members of their village.
I understand that you and your administration hold the ultimate responsibility for the safety of the Eagle community, and I commend you and your judicial board for taking serious that charge.
However, other members of your staff have concluded that Mr. Howell is not only fit to resume his academic career, but to resume it with the same access, rights and privileges afforded to other students.
Chancellor Nelms, diagnosed mental health issues are as common and as manageable as other health maladies that affect our communities at disproportionate rates.
I encourage you to seize the opportunity to engage with your students, faculty and staff, hear their concerns and support for their classmate and student, and render a decision made in the interest of both Mr. Howell and the campus community.
From an internal public relations perspective, this is the fair and right thing to do. From a media perspective, you will save yourself a world of trouble by doing the same.
Earlier this year, your sister campus, Saint Augustine's College, made a decision to bar a student from graduation for making disparaging remarks about the administration and institution.
This incident prompted a global reaction from media and invested constituents, despite the decision being made without legal consequence or significant fear for holistic campus disruption.
If you do not approach this situation with greater care and concern for Mr. Howell and the Eagle family's perspectives, I fear that you may find a similar situation for your campus.
In a hostile media community like Durham, I highly advise that you preempt this kind of reaction with a deliberate and heartfelt connection with your students on this matter.
North Carolina Central University is a leader on economic, social, academic and political matters affecting communities of color in the state of North Carolina and the nation.
You personally are a sought-after adviser on how advocates can change the discussion on how HBCUs do business, and the great need for them to continuing doing so.
Please, do not bring irreparable harm to your individual work, the diligence of your administration, and the pride of your students, by not affording this matter higher priority.
I am available to you at your convenience should you wish to discuss this matter further at 410-635-4228.
I look forward to reporting your response to this matter, and the continuing success of the Eagle Nation.
Yours in Advocacy,
Jarrett Carter Sr.
Carter is the founding editor of HBCUDigest.com and the
Executive Director of the The Center for HBCU Media Advocacy, Inc.