Letter to the Editor
EDITOR’S NOTE: Myrle Cooper, a retired Black faculty member at Minnesota’s St. Cloud State University (SCSU), submitted the following letter to the editor about what he calls the mistreatment (if not outright racism shown) towards Black students who attend SCSU. Though this is a Minnesota issue, it still impacts Wisconsinites, especially Black Wisconsin students who are preparing to attend the school or are high school students seeking a college to attend. We think Mr. Cooper’s letter bears attention by our readers, many of whom are helping their children decide on what college their child will go to.
St. Cloud State University (SCSU) is in the bastion or citadel of racism, St. Cloud, Minnesota. It’s a last place aversion community where slaves were illegally and secretly held (1853-1865) by Appalachian whites barely able to feed themselves.
(“Sesquicentennial voices: Slaves no longer hidden in history;” St. Cloud Times, 12/29/2006)
After slaves were freed, Black residency was restricted for the next 90 years.
Twenty eight years ago a local newspaper survey revealed Blacks were still unwelcome. (“Minority recruitment unpopular;” St. Cloud Daily Times, 4/15/1985)
Since St. Cloud ranks high on Minnesota’s FBI hate crimes lists, SCSU has trouble recruiting, retaining and graduating Blacks and others of color. Black student attrition rates are particularly high. For example, SCSU claimed 385 total “African American or Black” students enrolled in fall 2006. Six years later, by August 2012, only 27 Blacks had graduated.
Quite simply, most Black students voted with their feet and transferred to colleges and universities in more accepting, diverse and safer communities. (“[U.S. Department of] “Justice official to test racial climate;” St. Cloud Times, 8/1/1998; “Molotov cocktail used in attack: Another violent incident spurs students to question safety in St. Cloud and at SCSU;” University Chronicle, 11/16/1998; “SASSO/Somali community organization building firebombed;” St. Cloud Times, 11/17/2002; “St. Cloud ranks high on hate crimes list: City was 2nd in state for number of race-based incidents in 2003;” St. Cloud Times, 11/23/2004; “Reported hate crimes up sharply;” St. Cloud Times, 11/20/2007; “Is it safe to send our children to St. Cloud?” editorial: Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, 2/7/2007; “St. Cloud officials dispute dubious distinction;” Star Tribune, 11/25/2007)
Unlike other Minnesota communities where business owners, city government, and college or university administrators value money spent by students of all colors and aggressively attack racism for community image and income sake, if not sincerity, St. Cloud has yet to be civilized.
Efforts to avoid investigations and scrutiny forced SCSU to cook its books by illegally and unilaterally altering transcripts, changing and deleting student grades (federal crimes when student grants and loans are involved). SCSU counts as its own, Blacks who transfer away then “graduate elsewhere.”
Currently, SCSU is being investigated by the FBI and the Regional Department of Education’s Inspector General. (“Feds asking about transcript changes at St. Cloud State University;” Minnesota Public Radio, 7/3/2013; “Feds look into grade charges;” Star Tribune, 7/6/2013)
SCSU must recruit Black students to satisfy diversity expectations.
Since Twin Cities’ high school counselors, parents and prospective Black students are more suspicious, SCSU depends increasingly on Black students from outstate, suburbs and neighboring states. Madison and Milwaukee are targets.
After all, it’s assumed Blacks so far away know much less about St. Cloud racism.
Myrle B. Cooper
Retired Black SCSU