Town hall meeting for MLK scholarship

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On April 17, a council meeting was held in the Busch Student Center discussing the current state of the Martin Luther King Jr. scholarship.

The meeting consisted of talking about the past, present and future states of the MLK scholarship. This issue was brought to the public thanks to a project started by Professor Johnathan Smith’s African American Studies class talking about the flaws of and how to fix the MLK scholarship.

Many initial decisions about the scholarship, “Happened in ad hoc ways,” Dr. Stefan Bradley, who was on the discussion board at the meeting, said. He talked about how he thought there was a surprisingly low African American population at Saint Louis University and an even lower percentage of African American students who receive the MLK scholarship.

“[There is a] systematic issue with recruitment of students,” Bradley said when addressing one of the primary factors of a low African American population on SLU’s campus.

“I wonder what are the chances that Martin Luther King would get this scholarship?” Bradley said provocatively.
He mentioned the idea of changing the name of the scholarship to something other than MLK because, as he stated, “not a lot of black people get it.”

The board mentioned the need to recruit from different places than what is currently practiced. They also noted frustration with the fact that a lot of African Americans from poorer areas do not know much about the MLK scholarship in the first place. This makes it hard to help provide low-income citizens with the benefits of a scholarship, as they don’t know what they need to do to meet the requirements, the board claimed.

When speaking about the future of the program and how it has advanced recently, it was stated that one of the main changes to the application process was adding essay questions to the application instead of just asking about race and geographical features; the purpose being to better inform the interviewers about an applicant’s character.

“[The program] is still growing and is still making changes,” said George Winston who is the program director for Multicultural Recruitment and Outreach.

He suggested that certain requirements should be put into place that more closely follow the Jesuit mission. These would include things such as service requirements.

Margaret West, the associate director of the John B. Ervin Scholars Program at Washington University, talked about SLU’s need to make the school more appealing to African Americans. She stated that a sticking point for that advancement would be the low African American population currently.

During the latter half of the meeting, the board members and audience members brought up possible solutions to the problems addressed. The majority of what was discussed surrounded increasing African American enrollment at SLU.
There was a general consensus that SLU needed to reach out to more majority-minority schools that are primarily located in low-income areas — not just in St. Louis, but around the entire country.

Other actions proposed were “phone-a-thons,” special mailings and offering additional counseling for MLK students. West suggested that current MLK scholars should conduct interviews for the program so the applicants can develop a connection and feel more welcomed on campus.

“Students have much more power than you think,” said Bradley when talking about advocating for a higher percentage of African American students.

The Senior Legacy Symposium will be held in the BSC on Tuesday, April 23. The public is welcome to attend the symposium, where there will be further discussion concerning the MLK scholarship.