Office of African American Student Affairs seeks to fill vacant positions

Vacancies remain in the Office of African American Student Affairs (AASA) at Northern Kentucky University months after the positions were hoped to be filled. The positions have been vacant since the two previous coordinators, Blanche Pringle-Smith and Michael Griffin, were fired in February 2010.

The coordinator position currently being filled is supposed to have a primary effect on the retention and graduation rates of African-American students, especially through the NKU R.O.C.K.S. (Responsibility, Opportunity, Community, Knowledge, Success) program, which is designed to provide camaraderie, mentoring and leadership development for incoming students. Retention and graduation rates for minority students continue to be a problem area for the university.

From fall 2008 to fall 2009, 56.8 percent of African-American students returned to continue their NKU education, according to an institutional research report. The retention rate for Caucasian students for the same period was 83.3 percent, the rate of Asian or Pacific Islander students was 76.9 percent and Hispanic students had a rate of 70 percent. Only American-Indian or Alaska Native students were lower, with only a 25 percent retention rate.

Vice President for Student Affairs Zebulun Davenport and Dean of Students Jeffrey Waple refused to release any updated figures, citing advice from the university’s legal counsel. University Provost Gail Wells said that she is also awaiting the release of the updated information from institutional research.

While the positions are vacant, responsibilities have primarily fallen on an employee from University Housing, Destiny Harper, who has been shared with AASA in addition to her duties.

Waple, who directly supervises the Office, originally hoped to have the individuals named to fill those positions by the end of the spring 2010 semester in May. He later changed that timeline and said he hoped to fill the positions before the fall 2010 semester began. Now, the timeline has been changed again and the hope is to have only one of the positions filled by the beginning of October. The search for the other position, which has been changed to assistant director of AASA, has not yet begun.

Waple said that decision was made to wait for students to return so more could be involved in the hiring process, as many students leave the area during the summer.

According to Chair of Search Committee Arnie Slaughter, students have been involved early on in the process, listening in on phone interviews and assisting in the ultimate selection of the three final candidates that came to campus for interviews. Students were invited to participate in open sessions and lunches to ask candidates questions and weigh in on the selection process.

Members of student groups that work with AASA and the Student Government Association were invited to participate in the process.

Kevin Golden, president of the Student Government Association, said finding someone who plans on staying at the university for a long period and who can relate to students was important.

A decision on which of the three candidates will fill the first vacant position is expected to be made before October.

Story by Jesse Call