Feb 162005
Authors: Sara Crocker

The sound of water slapping against the side of the boat, the stench of cramped bodies and rotting flesh and the realization of never being able to return to the happiness of home was often a black experience during transportation to America.

This same fear and uncertainty was related to the experience of some black students by Robert Page Wednesday in the Lory Student Center.

"For some students that's exactly how it is," said Page, keynote speaker at "Black College Students Today" as part of the events for Black History Month.

Page is the founder of The National Black Greek Leadership Conference and the "Am I my Brother's Keeper" Black Male Collegiate Conference. He has also served as an adviser to the Big XII Conference on Student Government and as coordinator of the Noell Levitz Conference on Recruitment and Retention of Students of Color.

He discussed leadership roles and particularly how black students fill these roles. He stressed the importance of leadership as a means of articulating values.

Page then had the audience of about 50 people write down four things they value.

"I believe that institutions take values away," Page said. "As a leader you control those values."

Some members of the audience agreed and discussed how attending a predominately Caucasian institution challenges some of their values.

"It takes away that culturalistic value," said Bruce B. Douglas, a Ph. D. student studying education. "You're by yourself."

Page said these challenges and feelings of isolation could cause some students to drop out.

"Usually it's value-based things that drive students of color out of colleges and universities," Page said.

He said he even took a semester off from Central Missouri State University because he was overwhelmed.

Some students also said they felt forced into leadership roles because they are black. James Kandor, a graduate student studying education, said he attended Southern University, a more diverse school, and he felt less inclined to be involved in black programs.

"Here it seems there's more of a need for me to step up," Kandor said.

However, Kandor, who is involved in some black groups on campus, said he would like to see more students involved with these groups.

"We need to try to get more minority students here," he said. "The more people they see, they'll step up, too."

Wilhemina Proby, a senior psychology major, said she would like to see less talk and more action among students.

"I would just like to see more of the desire for change," Proby said.

She said she has felt out of place in some classes and that some people assume her opinion is the same as all blacks, serving as a "black representative," but Proby said she is glad to be at CSU.

"I think I'm here for a reason," Proby said.

Page said campus evaluation is necessary and education would be the best means for changing the black experience.

Adrian Douglas, a Ph. D. student studying education, said institutions need to be more involved in collaborating with black students, since that is what contributes to students leaving a university.

"They don't feel they fit in. They feel that isolation," she said.

Tony Daniels, the interim assistant director of Black Student Services, said he would also like to see more synergy between students and the university. He said the university offers many unique opportunities and experiences that he would like to see students take advantage of.

As the discussion continued, Page had to close and said this issue could not be resolved in the hour he had been allotted. But before closing he said he would give back part of his payment to pay for a lunch for those in attendance so they could continue this discussion.

"Leaders are eaters," Page said with a laugh. "I don't come for the money. I come for the change."

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