Sakiya Gallon, a first-year master’s student in LSU’s higher education program, chose LSU because she wanted a diverse collegiate experience. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which is home to only about 3,000 students.
Gallon said the student population at her undergraduate institution was more diverse than at LSU, with a large south Asian population, but just like at LSU, the faculty at her undergraduate institution lacked diversity.
In her four years in Philadelphia, she only had three black professors, and African-American studies classes were not available.
Gallon said she was drawn to a career in higher education because black students like herself rarely see representations of themselves in positions of power on college campuses. She also credits LSU’s efforts to engage different student populations and its commitment to diversity.
In 2016, LSU was recognized for having the highest African-American student graduation rate in the state. In 2015, the spring and fall graduation classes boasted the most degrees ever awarded to African-Americans in LSU’s history.
The University has seen a 51 percent increase in the African-American student population from 2,454 students in 2009 to 3,703 students in 2015. But while things are looking up for black students at LSU, black faculty trail behind, comprising merely 4 percent of the University’s faculty.
“I think diversity of all kinds is very important,” Isaiah Warner, chemistry professor and vice president for Strategic Initiatives, said.
The number of black faculty at LSU trails far behind the state’s population of black residents.
Louisiana comes in second to Mississippi with one of the nation’s largest black populations at 32.5 percent. The capital city of Baton Rouge is over 50 percent African-American and yet, the student and faculty populations at the state’s flagship university don’t reflect those numbers.
With such a large African-American population, Warner believes recruiting black faculty should be one of the easiest problems to reconcile.
In 2015, African-Americans comprised 12 percent of the University’s student population but only 4 percent of the faculty population.
“Your diversity success should mirror your population,” said Dereck Rovaris, vice provost and chief diversity officer. “But that’s kind of a utopia. We just don’t have enough people from those populations getting those terminal degrees.”
Rovaris said even though the black populations of Louisiana and Baton Rouge are large, probably less than 1 percent of that population go on to pursue doctoral degrees. And whether those who do pursue a doctoral degree choose an academia track rather than an administrative track is also an issue.
Another LSU professor who preferred not to be named said LSU’s faculty lacks diversity not because LSU does not want black faculty, but because there are not enough blacks in academia in general. The ones who do make it through doctoral programs are heavily recruited and/or go into private industry.
Roland Mitchell, interim associate dean for the College of Human Sciences and Education, believes the pipeline exists, but those candidates must be recruited.
“I think one of the things that we have to do as an institution is not only try to look for the people who are already the stars, but I think we reach out to people we know are stars and have them help us connect with that next generation of black faculty and staff,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell used Warner in the chemistry department as an example of positive networking to recruit African-American faculty.
The chemistry department at another university might want to recruit Warner but might not be able to afford to pay his salary. In the same instance, that university should build a relationship with him. In return, he may be able to refer an African-American doctoral student he worked with who’s looking for a job.
The other part of the answer is not relying solely on Louisiana residents to become faculty members, Rovaris said. In the future, he hopes to create an initiative at all Louisiana colleges that tracks undergraduate students from underrepresented backgrounds and invites them back after they’ve concluded their doctoral programs.
“One thing about Louisiana is it’s attractive to people who have grown up in the state,” Warner said. “If we make a concerted effort to recruit some of our graduates who have gone on and gotten PhDs elsewhere back to the state, I think we can do a good job of diversifying the faculty.”
While recruitment is one issue linked to the lack of black faculty at LSU, the hiring process is also an issue.
At LSU, hiring is done on a departmental basis. Warner, Rovaris and Mitchell all stated that each department must have a desire to hire more diverse faculty.
“You have to have departments with buy-in,” Warner said.
Warner said it concerns him that departments haven’t bought into the fact that faculty should be diverse.
Warner pointed to Sylvia Hurtado, a professor at UCLA and former director of UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute. For more than 10 years, her research shows students educated in diverse environments are better educated than those who are not.
If LSU is not diversifying on all levels, the University is not doing the best possible job at educating all students, Warner said.
“Not just black students, but white students need to be exposed to black professors also,” Warner said.
Individual departments need to have a charge to want to recruit a more diverse faculty Mitchell said.
“The Office of Diversity should definitely be involved, but I also believe that for the work to be meaningful it should and cannot be framed as solely their responsibility.”
He explained that not only do people tend to hire others who look and act like them, but he explained that just because people know better, they don’t always do better.
“I believe that moving beyond recognition of personal bias or depending on the good will of a system that has historically been racist is the primary challenge the Office of Diversity and University as a whole faces when attempting to diversify the faculty,” Mitchell said.
After faculty are recruited and hired, the goal is to keep them at LSU. Retention is also a problem LSU faces.
“I think we need to do a better job at retaining people after they come here,” Warner said. “And whether those persons are minority or otherwise, we do a poor job in that area, particularly with our history and the state of Louisiana not supporting higher education.”
Gallon also thinks LSU should do a better job at retaining black faculty because such action is attractive to students like her.
“It’s a good idea to recruit faculty,” she said, “but if you’re not retaining them, then it’s like you’re washing away and trying to start the slate clean every time.”
Twitter made the “hashtag” popular. The symbol, which is also recognized as a pound sign is notorious for grouping together topics on social media websites and applications like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
For communication studies and sociology senior Stephonie Rodgers, 22, the symbol means a lot more. She described it as a symbol of unity, community and connection. It is an essential part of her #LoveThyself movement.
“When we want to make something known or want other people to be able to find something, we hashtag it,” Rodgers said. “That’s really what I wanted #LoveThyself to be, something that connects people together.”
Rodgers started the movement during the summer of 2014 as a way for her to gain support throughout her weight loss journey.
Rodgers said she has struggled with her weight for her entire life.
“I would always tell myself when I’m this age, I’ll be this small; before I get to college, I’ll weigh this much,” she said.
During her senior year of high school she weighed more than 300 pounds. When she got to LSU, she began to workout and eat healthier. She dropped down to 275 pounds.
As she progressed, school got harder. She found it easier to say she couldn’t go to the gym because she was too tired or she couldn’t eat right because she didn’t have time to cook.
“It sounds like a reason, but it’s really an excuse because your health has to be first," Rodgers said.
She was now the heaviest she had ever been at 310 pounds and it was affecting her health. She had blurred vision, couldn’t breathe well, didn’t sleep well at night and I couldn’t walk without running out of breath.
One day during July 2014 she knew it was time to make a change.
“It was just time for a change for me because I love myself too much to see myself hurting like I was,” Rodgers said.
That is when she decided to start working out and eating healthier, but in a way that would also inspire others. She began by uploading small snippets of new exercises to her Instagram page. She also posted pictures and recipes of simple meals that she cooked.
She wanted other college students to see that a healthier lifestyle didn’t mean hiring an expensive personal trainer or a chef, but making small, inexpensive changes conducive to their schedule and budget.
Aside from posting videos and pictures to her Instagram page, Rodgers also started a YouTube channel. Her earlier videos focused on her background and her weekly routine, but posting videos became harder as her movement began to transform.
Starting out as just a way to keep herself focused and encouraged on her own weight loss journey, #LoveThysef has become much bigger than she had imagined.
#LoveThyself became a community of people with flaws who came together to acknowledge how far they have come in loving themselves and pushing others to do the same.
The movement is no longer just about weight loss. It is about loving yourself for who you are now and progressively working toward what you want Rodgers explained.
Rodgers’ movement was initially designed to target teenagers, but it has come to inspire young adults and college-aged students. Her new focus is lifestyle changed that are fashionable, affordable and realistic. She re-launched her YouTube channel and it will include new workout videos, cooking tutorials and affordable shopping and fashion tips.
On her first video she featured fellow LSU student Nyles Walker. Walker is a chemistry major from Winneketa, California who grew up cooking by watching the women in his family and Food Network.
He hopes to inspire others to learn how to cook and credits Pinterest and allmyrecipes.com as some great tools for finding healthier recipes and video tutorials.
Walker, who has struggled with his masculinity and with having confidence in his intelligence, was happy to be part of the movement.
“I think it is a great movement that is brining people together to share love, wisdom, and encouragement to one another,” Walker said. “It has truly blessed me to make sure I instill in others and myself that no matter what, God sees you as perfect and that is all that matters.”
Rodgers had Walker cook for her channel because of his great personality and because he was able to make a healthy meal that was tasty and affordable.
“I wanted to show it’s possible to cook fancier stuff that is affordable and simple,” Rodgers said. “It doesn’t have to taste like wheatgrass and sadness.
Walker is a member of the #LoveThyself Facebook group, which is a newer aspect of the #LoveThyself movement. Rodgers added friends and family who in turn added their friends and family.
It’s a place for members to receive and give encouragement, support, ideas on cooking and workouts and post inspirational videos. The support group allows members to see that they are not alone.
After creating the group many people have inspired Rodgers to continue on her healthy lifestyle journey but her biggest inspiration was herself.
“It dawned on me that what I was at that moment was my fault, but it’s okay because I can change that and I can love myself enough to change,” Rodgers said. “I inspire myself.”
With midterms week in the rearview mirror and Spring Break just around the bend, LSU students have one last time to party until the finals week crackdown begins. Some students prepare for finals by becoming best friends with Club Mid and CC’s. Others take a less conventional approach.
Students turn to “study drugs” like Vyvanse and Adderall to help them stay awake and focus while studying or taking a test, but if you don’t have ADD or ADHD, should that be considered cheating?
In a random survey of 100 LSU students, 42 students said they have used study drugs to help them study or take a test. Only seven of those students reported having a prescription for the medication. Twenty-six students said the illicit use of ADHD medication is cheating, 57 said it isn’t and 17 said they were unsure.
In the survey, a few students compared using ADHD medication to drinking lots of caffeine.
Assistant director of Wellness and Health Promotion for the LSU Student Health Center Kathryn Saichuk dismissed that comparison.
“It is a completely different affect on neurotransmitters in the brain,” she said. “In particular, the genes that carry the dopamine neurotransmitter”
Communication studies and sociology senior Stephonie Rodgers, who also compared Adderall to coffee, doesn’t consider the illicit use “study drugs” cheating.
“You still have to know the material regardless,” she said. “I don’t think it is a form of cheating unless it will give you the answers to your test.”
Saichuk agreed by saying the drugs don’t make you smarter, but only keep you focused and help you to concentrate. However, she said it is a form of cheating and compared it to athletes who use performance-enhancing drugs.
History and anthropology junior Lauren F.*, was diagnosed with ADHD in the second grade.
“I was in English class,” she said. “I caught myself daydreaming and I was like maybe if I pay attention now I wont have to study as hard later.”
The harder she tried to focus, the more distracted she got.
Students without ADHD get an unfair advantage because the drug gives them an edge she said.
“I think it’s stupid and lazy,” she said. “But is it cheating? I mean, I don’t think so.”
History senior Marissa Johnson, who has had prescriptions for Concerta, Aderall, and Vyvanse, also thinks its unfair for students without a prescription to use the drugs to help them study and take tests, however she considers it a form of cheating.
“To be honest if the medicine isn't prescribed, the after effects are almost punishment enough for some people,” Johnson said.
Anyone can get side effects from these drugs Saichuk explained. Side effects can include increased heart rate and blood pressure, restlessness, anxiety, loss of appetite and the tendency to repeat actions such as pulling your hair or twiddling your fingers.
One of the biggest concerns of taking ADHD medication that isn’t prescribed to you is the dosage. Saichuk explained that medical professionals are very careful when prescribing the type of medication and specific dosage for each patient because of side effects.
When someone takes the wrong dosage for their body weight, they run the risk of having a stroke, psychosis, or amphetamine induced behavior.
In a National College Health Assessment survey conducted in the spring of 2015, 1,349 LSU students responded to questions about their drug use.
About 14 percent of students reported being diagnosed with ADHD, 9.7 percent said the ADHD affected their academic performance and almost 23.6 percent reported difficulty sleeping.
“I had too much energy to go to sleep,” Rodgers said after taking Adderall for the first time her sophomore year. “It’s like having insomnia.
Instead of helping her focus, the drug had her shaking on her toilet for 45 minutes. She vowed never to take it again.
“You could compare it to a jet engine on an airplane being at its highest performance and then all of a sudden throttling down to nothing,” Saichuk said.
Biology senior Jocelynn Brazill, who has been taking Adderall since her freshman year in college said the drug doesn’t work the same for all people and that’s what students fail to understand. Instead of helping with concentration, some students end up cleaning his or her room for hours.
“I do think it could be considered cheating,” Brazill said. “It’s abused by others who just take it to take it because they think it’s going to enhance their performance but they don’t actually understand how ADD works.”
Aside from the significant health risks attached to illicit drug use, LSU has no specific rules in regards to drug use and cheating.
Assistant director for Student Advocacy & Accountability Rachel Champagne said that any person who uses medication that is not prescribed to them is committing a crime. In some cases, it can be a felony charge.
Illicit use of ADHD medication is a violation of the LSU Code of Student Conduct section 10.2.F., which states, “Possession, use, public intoxication, sharing, furnishing or distribution of illegal drugs, intoxicants, controlled substances and/or drug paraphernalia; including the distribution, use or possession of prescription medications contrary to a valid prescription.”
Using medication that is not prescribed to succeed on an exam or for any other reason would result in a charge under behavioral misconduct.
“There are several layers of how charges of violations are assigned and I cannot say for certain if this would be an issue of academic misconduct,” Champagne said. “It would depend on the specifics of the case.”
*Student Lauren F. did not want her last name to be used in this story.
Two police officers were shot Saturday morning after responding to a complaint about damage to property in the 5600 block of Fairfields Ave. The two officers were driven to the hospital before EMS could arrive.
Had Earl K. Long Medical Center not been closed in 2013, the drive to the ER would have only been about seven minutes. Had the Baton Rouge General Mid-City emergency room not been closed last year, the drive would have been even shorter.
Local activist and publisher of The Rouge Collection Gary Chambers used this example as a wakeup call to the healthcare crisis in North Baton Rouge.
Police officers have a dangerous job and access to emergency medical care is critical when officers are wounded in the line of duty. Had those officers received more life-threatening injuries, they could have lost their lives.
“You see, this is the everyday struggle of residents of north Baton Rouge,” Chambers wrote in an article published to The Rouge Collection’s site. “This tragic situation with the police officers allows it to be seen in real time.”
The only emergency rooms in the area are now Our Lady of the Lake Hospital and Oschner Medical Center in Baton Rouge and Lane Regional Medical Center in Zachary. Depending on your location in North Baton Rouge, the drive to an emergency room could take 20 minutes or more.
In the bigger scope of things, residents of North Baton Rouge are not only frustrated with the lack of adequate healthcare access but with the proposal of a health district to improve health care in South Baton Rouge.
In 2011, the parish’s comprehensive plan for growth, FuturEBR, called for a health district plan. The Baton Rouge Area Foundation took the initiative to develop and fund a $700,000 plan for the Baton Rouge Health District. They collaborated with health care leaders and consultants to develop a master plan that would include improvements to transportation and pedestrian access and the development of a four-year medical school.
The district would connect institutions such as the Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center and College, Ochsner Medical Center, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana, along with others.
City-parish Planning Director Frank Duke said the biggest feature of the plan is the commitment from private sector healthcare providers to create an organization that works together to more efficiently provide healthcare opportunities to residents of the parish.
Last month the Planning Commission approved the plan with a 7-3 vote, with one of the opposing votes coming from Metro Councilwoman Tara Wicker.
Wicker, who represents District 10, said her “no” wasn’t in opposition to the district, but an attempt to gain more time to discuss how to address healthcare access issues in North Baton Rouge with other political leaders.
After discussing the issue of lack of healthcare services in North Baton Rouge and the health district proposal with other councilmembers, they agreed that the topics are two separate issues.
“The conversation has been not eliminating the opportunity to do something, while we’re working on what’s going to happen in north Baton Rouge,” Wicker said. There are a lot of different views on that, but I think as a whole, as a community, we’ve got to be able to holistically look at it.”
Baton Rouge Organizing started a petition on Change.org entitled “Stop the Assault on Healthcare in North Baton Rouge.” The petition has 740 signatures and three demands.
Petitioners want a hospital, with an emergency room, in North Baton Rouge, policy to prioritize medical development in North Baton Rouge for the next 15 years and a study funded to examine the impact of the disproportionate allocation of medical resources to different parts of the city and how that correlates to health, economics, and scholastic effects of residents in those areas.
“The petition is there,” Wicker said. “I’m excited about it because I think it gives light to the fact that people are really concerned about an issue that should have been talked about before Earl K. Long closed. That should have been a major discussion before that decision was made.”
A few people who signed the petition left comments regarding the issue.
Joseph Chaney, who grew up in North Baton Rouge, said he has always been frustrated with the lack of economic development in the area. He is not opposed to the hospital district, but thinks council members should prioritize the city’s needs.
“Not having adequate E.R. facilities in an area that serves a university, a host of chemical companies, a regional airport, and a large working class community is disturbing,” Chaney wrote. “This type of city planning is inadequate and inequitable.”
Gary Chambers said the problem is the lack funding to study the deficit of healthcare in north Baton Rouge.
Although not against the health district, Chambers is against the implementation of the district before addressing the issues in north Baton Rouge. It’s not a bad idea, just a bad time he said. There are no hospitals in North Baton Rouge.
“It doesn’t matter if you have the best hospital in the world on the other side of town if it takes too long to get you there,” Chambers said.
The Baton Rouge chapter of the NAACP agreed with Chambers and the demands of Baton Rouge Organizing’s petition. In a letter sent to councilmembers this morning, General counsel Alfreda Tillman Bester urged the council to work in the best interest of the whole community.
The organization opposes use of public resources to fund the project until there is a fully functioning hospital and emergency room in North Baton Rouge.
The Metro Council will vote on the zoning of the health district in a meeting this afternoon.
“Hold your elected officials’ feet to the fire,” Chambers said.