Oakwood University Press Conference — January 2, 2008
Good Morning, this is Wednesday, January 2, 2008, and my name is Delbert W Baker. I am the President of Oakwood University. Thank you for coming out to this, the second press conference, concerning the campus disturbance that took place on the Oakwood College campus, December 9, 2007, following a basketball game late Saturday night on December 8.
To you, the media, the greater Huntsville community and the constituencies of Oakwood University; it is with an attitude of openness and transparency that I share with you consequences to be administered as a result of the December 9 incident that took place on campus. The specific purpose of the press conference is to share the outcome as it relates to the 16 students involved.
But first: in the spirit of the New Year, and with a genuine spirit of thankfulness and positivity, I share a few quick notes: The entire Oakwood community is excited with the reality of Oakwood College becoming Oakwood University! That excitement is bundled with some very good news:
· Our new graduate program—the Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies—will start in a few days with approximately 15 students.
· Construction of our new $9m men’s residence hall, Holland Hall, is to be completed by April, 2008.
· You can expect to hear more information about the strategic plans for University expansion and the prospect of future graduate programs and the final developments of our online LEAP adult education program….
· I believe—with all positive prospects for the future and the increasing enrollment—that I should be planning to take another dive, not from the low-dive board for reaching 1800-plus students, but from the high-dive for reaching 2000-plus students. Under God, the sky is the limit for Oakwood University!
Now, to the issue at hand: At the first press conference that took place here, December 11, 2007, Chief Lewis Eakins and I shared information about the December 9 incident. This morning, we are here for the follow-up conference in which we will share the outcome as it relates to the persons involved in the incident. The information shared and the conclusions arrived at may be difficult to some, but the process will bear out that they are fair and consistent with the standards and mission of Oakwood University. I should say here that I wish the best for all students involved in this unfortunate incident.
Due to the judicial process under way, we’ve been advised to refrain from answering further questions.
The PROCESS to the conclusions I will share are the Oakwood University Division of Student Services and the Office of Public Safety, and University Administration. As a result, Oakwood University has completed the process that has resulted in what can be referred to as “administering consequences” for the students identified as being a part of the. In response to the last press conference and to provide a context, please note the following:
1. IMMEDIATE CHANGES: Life happens and when unfortunate events occur like this one—our job is to learn from the situation and to be better as a result of it in the future.
a. Educational and Training opportunities will result from this situation during the Spring Semester, i.e., conflict management, anger management relating conflict situations and how to process complaints or disagreements
b. Multiple surveillance cameras installed in Ashby Auditorium (gym) and surrounding areas when the students return in a few days
c. In cooperation with our Board of Trustees and donors, we will study the feasibility of how soon we can realize the dream for a new state-of-the-art health and recreational center; in the meantime, we will carefully monitor the gym capacity and continue to provide live video feed from games in the present gym to other locations throughout campus via closed circuit
d. Facilitate understanding on how to avoid events like this happening in the future.
2. INVESTIGATION: The investigation was completed and the steps comprised the process: All reports—preliminary and final were gathered and reviewed—student, faculty and staff comments were reviewed; further numerous face-to-face interviews were conducted, all available visuals were studied and reviewed; even information online was reviewed.
All these information sources were compared to the Oakwood University Student Handbook (that all students sign and agree to abide by upon their acceptance). For the sake of brevity, I will outline the basic steps taken:
1) Reports/Testimonies Received
2) Investigation Conducted
3) Broad Consultation Sought
4) Office of Student Services took action on the 16 (17) (A part of this process is that of the Oakwood University Judicial Review Committee that reviewed and affirmed the decision concerning the 16 students
a. Specific cause for the consequences or actions are based on the Oakwood University Code of Student Conduct and the Standards of Oakwood University
5) Decisions were copied to Administration
6) Task Force Met to Review the Process
7) BOT Conference Call (Update)
8) Letters were sent to involved students
3. CONSIDERATION: As to the Decision concerning the 16 persons, four considerations are important:
a. There are discretionary limits as to what we can and should say in light of the ongoing judicial proceedings.
b. HPD and Oakwood Public Safety still have their own ongoing investigations as to the methods used by officers in the handling of this Incident—as stated, these investigations proceed on separate parallel tracks that are independent of the decision of the University as it relates to the 16 Oakwood students.
c. While the investigation and conclusions as to student consequences have been carefully considered, student rights and the internal judicial process insure that students have a right to appeal if they so chose.
d. Because of the nature of the , I convened a taskforce, and I want to thank them for their time and expertise in meeting and reviewing this matter during the holiday season:
On December 27, they submitted an unqualified statement: that in the opinion of the five-member taskforce, the investigation conducted by Oakwood University that led to the disciplinary decision concerning the 16 students was fair and consistent with the policies and practices of Oakwood University.
That the 16 students under question in the December 9 incident are suspended from Oakwood University for the Spring 2008 Semester; while they may apply for future entrance, all appeals are subject to institutional review.
5. CONCLUSION: I end by stating that I want to again express my confidence and pride in the quality Oakwood University students we produce and the wonderful difference they make here in Huntsville, across the country and around the world. I express my confidence and pride in our Law Enforcement agents—HPD as well as the officers in OU Office of Public Safety. My prayers and positive thoughts are with the students who were a part of this incident. I ask the media to join us as we move on the high and noble mission of making Huntsville, the US and the world a better place.
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