Several weeks ago I wrote an article that highlighted some of the difficulties faced by local students who had attended Grambling State University as part of an agreement between the Government of St Lucia and the institution.
I touched on a number of points, including the possibility that the move may have been political, given the timing of the signing. Also mentioned was the associate vice president and the executive director of the Center of International Affairs & Programs, Mahmoud Lamadanie, who was kind enough to proffer the following:
“The Grambling senior administration has been actively responding to many student concerns over the years, despite cuts in state financial support. New dormitories were constructed and old renovated; transportation services were introduced to provide students an ease of regional travel; food services have been revamped under a new director and new options introduced to the food court; and campus beautification projects are now underway. A new high-tech security system has been implemented, which includes the use of strategically placed security cameras throughout the campus.”
Wonderful! Towards the end of my own tenure at the school, I lived in one of the newer dorms and it was a pleasant change from the two I had previously inhabited, one of which had to be torn down altogether. I was only able to live there though because I was given the opportunity to work for the Department of Residential Life, which covered the cost of the room.
The amount of money allocated as part of the student loan agreement certainly did not cover the cost of these newer and obviously more expensive digs. Which meant that the majority of our students were marooned in the older areas. I am also most certainly thrilled to learn the campus now has safety devices. I will always remember the shooting which took place near Tubman Hall while I was standing with fellow students a few feet away, waiting for the cafeteria to open. The incident had the school on lockdown; it even made the news on CNN.
Again from Mr Lamadanie: “Since the spring semester of 2005, I have recruited more than 1,150 international students; close to 500 international students have graduated, including one St Lucian student who received a full scholarship to continue her studies at Harvard University. The majority of international students are on the honor’s list. The top student of each graduating class for six years has been an international student. We have very high retention and graduation rates way above national averages!”
This was never in dispute. It has been well documented how well our students have done at Grambling State as they, quite frankly, do everywhere else. Our students are practically fixtures on the Presidents List, which is the highest honour. There was hardly a commencement that went by without one or more being named valedictorian. And yes, our retention rate is high. It is unlikely that anyone under the financial burden of the student loans in question would flee without receiving what they have paid for. And the young woman currently attending Harvard has a record of excellence that stretches all the way back to her formative years. So yes, our students are awesome and there is no denying that.
More from Mr Lamadanie: “In order to yield suich recruitment numbers, it is necessary for me to travel quite often. While I may be absent often due to such high international travel requirements, the Center for International Affairs & Programs has always had adequate staff to assist international students—prospective, current and alum—with any issues that may arise.”
When I mentioned this part of the email to a fellow classmate, he laughed incredulously and asked: “Who? Miss Dang?” Lovely woman she was. Except communication was often a struggle as English often eluded her grasp. However, I will absolutely vouch for the amazing Anitra who went above and beyond the call of duty before her departure.
What it all boils down to is that I love my alma mater. My experience was quite positive, which I attribute to my focus and ability to adapt quickly. I loved my professors, especially in my Department of Mass Communication. My advisor Dr. Murray remains a trusted mentor to this day. There was nothing like going to football games, step shows, and becoming familiar with bounce music.
I learned to Halle Berry, Ricky Bobby, and do the Stanky leg. I can’t wait to visit again and have plans to go to a few more Bayou Classics and mosey down Bourbon Street. Those hand grenades are the truth!
However, there is no excuse for our government brokering a deal to send hundreds of their students to a rural area they didn’t visit previously, for the exorbitant amounts in interest that they are now staggering under, for what was before those renovations- subpar. And for those who actually returned to the island facing limited options for gainful employment the outlook remains grim.