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bhetzler / Byron Hetzler, The Southern 

Anna-Joneboro's Reid Morrison (28) looks to slip past Du Quoin's Ashton Smith (5) in the third quarter on Friday in Anna. Anna-Jonesboro held on to win 42-36.


Siu
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SIU Africana Studies Major
SIUC chancellor says decision on Africana Studies will be deferred

CARBONDALE — Southern Illinois University Carbondale Chancellor Carlo Montemagno has announced that he plans to defer a decision on the elimination of the Africana Studies major for a year.

The planned removal of the Africana Studies B.A. has been hotly disputed by students and faculty members since it was recommended in the Financial Sustainability Plan presented to the SIU Board of Trustees in July.

Montemagno

Montemagno, who assumed the role of chancellor in August, inherited the plan, but it initially appeared that he intended to uphold the recommendation. At an open forum earlier this month, he said that although the Africana Studies major would be cut, the minor and courses would remain available to students.

In an email sent to the Africana Studies faculty on Thursday, Montemagno wrote that his “intent has never been to eliminate this area of scholarly inquiry at SIU.”

“Instead, I believe it is important to look at the program itself alongside our broader goals for ensuring the cultural competency of every student who graduates from SIU,” he said.

Montemagno said the program, as it stands now, “does not reach enough students and is economically unsustainable.”

“However, I believe it has the potential to become essential, along with other diversity-related programs, to achieving our cultural competency goals for our students. We need to examine how we can maximize the use of our resources to meet the needs of students interested in Africana Studies and simultaneously achieve our ambition to develop the cultural competency of the entire SIU community,” Montemagno said.

He said deferring the decision regarding the status of the Africana Studies major for a year “should provide the time for faculty to collaborate on what I hope will be a larger, more sustainable program that also supports our university-wide cultural competency goals.”

Father Joseph Brown, an Africana Studies professor who has served in the department since 1997, said the announcement was not all that comforting.

“What it says is, we’re not going to close it down now because there’s so much controversy,” Brown said when reached by phone on Friday.

In an interview Thursday, before the decision was handed down, Brown said administrative decisions have continuously suppressed the growth of the department over the course of its nearly 40-year history.

“We now have three core faculty and one graduate student teaching one class. So we have been reduced to the point where we cannot offer all the classes in the catalog, which then turns around and people say to us, in a catch-22, circular type of way, ‘Well, you’re not doing enough to attract students.’ We can’t do it because you’re keeping us under-resourced. And you say that because we don’t have enough resources, we’re underperforming, and because we’re underperforming we’re not justified in continuing,” Brown said. “That’s not my fault.”

The Africana Studies Department — founded in 1968 and originally called Black American Studies — is dedicated to the study of history and cultural traditions of people of African descent. It encourages students to “interpret historical and cultural texts from a broader perspective than (is) usually found in classrooms, and connect their lived experiences with the lives and struggles of centuries of Africans enslaved and free,” according to the department’s website.

The department currently has 21 majors including double-majors, according to Brown.

Brown said many of the department’s struggles stem from the way it is perceived on campus.

“On this campus, most people believe that Africana Studies is really a service organization and unit to help black kids feel better. It’s not looked upon as an academic enterprise that helps to establish the credibility of an academic institution,” Brown said.

Faculty and academic advisors routinely tell students that taking Africana Studies classes won’t help them get a job, Brown claimed.

“If they would stop telling students to not take our classes, we would have even more of an ethnically and culturally diverse population. But the fact is, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. If people only think it’s for black students, you’re only going to let black students into it, and you’re going to shift white and other students away from them, and that’s what the problem is,” he said.

In addition to the three core faculty members, the department has 12 affiliated faculty members from all over campus. Despite the fact that the department doesn’t have a graduate program, Brown said he’s serving on a dozen dissertation or master’s thesis committees.

“… When the chancellor says, ‘Well, people are in their little silos or their smokestacks and they don’t know how to interact with each other’ — we are the model of what he’s calling for and he’s never looked at us and said, ‘I see your worth,’” he said.

Brown said Africana Studies courses prepare students for living in a complicated world.

“If there were no black students on this campus, you would need an Africana Studies program,” Brown said. “If this was an all-male school, you would need a Women and Gender and Sexuality Studies program. If it were all-white, you would need a Latino Studies program, because the people you’re turning out need to live in a global economy and a global political structure, and if you’re going to be taking an economics class or a business class, you might wind up working for a company where the first person who’s your supervisor is a black lesbian. And if you don’t know how to deal with that because of your white male privilege, you’re doomed, and your school did not prepare you to work.”

He said shuttering the program would ultimately hurt SIU’s attempts to turn the enrollment crisis around.

“Close us down, and you will pay the price. Because you cannot welcome people here to save your economic crisis by telling people, ‘We don’t want your kind here.’ You can’t have it both ways. If you want to run a university by being contradictory to reality, good luck,” Brown said.

Brione Lockett, a Ph.D. student in health education and a graduate assistant for the Africana Studies department, double-majored in History and Africana Studies as an undergraduate at SIU. He said his degree helped him gain internships in politics and health — and has transformed the way he looks at the world.

“I want to do something big in health care. There’s a reason why, in health care, certain marginalized populations don’t go to doctors,” Lockett said.

Lockett, who is from Arlington Heights, said elimination of the Africana Studies major would conflict with the chancellor’s plan to improve cultural competency on campus and that he believes racism on campus and in the Southern Illinois region has been a deterrent for prospective students from Chicago.

Daquan Mosley, a freshman from Chicago studying Africana Studies, said his interest lies in racial and social justice and that the department was much of what attracted him to SIU.

“I had reached out to Father Brown over the summer to let him know some of the things I was going through in my community and how I felt about going to college as a freshman and some of the challenges I was facing — financial issues, social issues. And he had reached out to me to let me know to come see him the first week here, and I talked to him, and we just created this bond that we still have today,” Mosley said.

Mosley said the Africana Studies class he’s taking with Lockett has “opened (his) eyes” to racial and social issues.

“I’ll definitely take it hard if the department is eliminated, because I think that the department has given so much to myself and so many others,” he said.


State-and-regional
Illinois Department of Children and Family Services
Young girl's death changes way Illinois manages abuse cases

BELLEVILLE — An Illinois Department of Children and Family Services report details a troubled mother's abuse of her children and recognizes the agency could have removed the five siblings from her home long before she killed her 4-year-old daughter.

Emily Rose Perrin died in April 2016 when her mother, Mary Lockett, laid atop the girl and cupped her hand over the child's nose and mouth, cutting off the air supply, the Belleville News-Democrat reported. Lockett later said she saw a "dark angel," and that God told her to kill the child.

Relying on information obtained through a Freedom of Information filing, the News-Democrat reported that the state received 10 reports of suspected abuse. That includes a June 3, 2015, call in which the caller heard the girl calling for help from a second-story window.

The caller also told a child protective worker that the girl's 6-year-old brother, Ethan, came to her with his hands tied behind his back and told her "they were going to get him with pliers and send him to heaven."

That and the other reports made before Emily's death were deemed not credible after family members denied the allegations.

A DCFS "Quality Assurance Report" details each of the calls made to the agency, as well as efforts made by the agency to help Lockett — who had a history of substance abuse — parent five children without a support network.

The report also details a complaint the agency received alleging Lockett beat her 18-year-old daughter, Corrine, in front of Ethan and Emily. The fight began, according to the report, because Corrine tried to wake Lockett to take Emily and Ethan to school.

Lockett was arrested and charged with domestic battery, but DCFS closed the case with no services recommended.

There are other reports of Lockett's aggressive behavior toward her children, with no moves by DCFS to remove the children from the home.

"Although this family presented as chaotic, unpredictable and at high risk for harm to the children in the household, the approach to service intervention appeared passive," the Quality Assurance Report states. "Rather than act quickly to move to the next step of safety planning or requesting assistance from the state's attorney to obtain a court order or custody, the caseworker offered prompts for a consistent medication and therapy regimen for family members."

DCFS officials say cases such as Emily's have prompted a change in the way the agency manages situations where children are left in a home despite evidence of abuse or neglect. They say DCFS will be more assertive when other abuse or neglect reports come into the department.

"We are making an effort to be much more aggressive in cases where we have children remaining in the home," said Neil Skene, special assistant to the director of DCFS.

Mary Lockett was charged with murder. In June she was found not guilty by reason of insanity and placed in the care of the Illinois Department of Human Services.


Harrisburg
alert top story
Harrisburg
Harrisburg police chief defends Facebook post some residents perceived as racist

HARRISBURG — Harrisburg's police chief is defending a Facebook post he made that some have complained is overtly racist, saying it does not violate the city's social media policy.

Early last week, Chief David Morris matched memes — an image with a text overlay easily shared online —  with fellow officer Nathan Moore. The original post showed two officers, faces screwed, eyebrows high, with the text “The face cops make when their arrestee threatens to whip their asses.” Morris, who is white, fired back with an image of a Chicago Police cruiser with the text, “BREAKING NEWS: The Chicago Police Dept has replaced all sirens with the National Anthem, to force suspects to stop running and take a knee.”

Screengrab from Facebook 

A post made by Harrisburg Chief of Police David Morris.

Morris said flatly that the post — which he has since removed from Facebook — was not racist.

“It had nothing to do with race,” Morris said, adding that “There’s not a racial bone in my body.”

According to census data from 2010, blacks make up 24.8 percent of the population in Cook County, the county Chicago is a part of. At the same time, according to a 2012 article published in Loyola University's Faculty Publications eCommons by David E. Olson, 66.9 percent of inmates in Cook County Jail are black, more than double the proportion of the county's total black population.

The post also references the recent controversy of NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem to protest the use of deadly force by police against African-Americans, which also led readers to derive a racist message.

One such reader is Harrisburg resident and chartering member of the Saline County Black Caucus, Marc Hodge. Hodge works in law enforcement, but is not affiliated with the Harrisburg Police Department.

“I think it was disguising and subtle,” he said of the meme’s perceived racist undertones. He added that this is how more socially acceptable forms of racism occur.

“Obviously the Klan don’t run around in white robes and burn crosses,” he said.

Morris defended at length his stance that his posting the image was not intentionally racist. He said in his opinion, the word "suspects" was racially neutral and he said he takes offense to the kneeling protest out of a sense of patriotism. He said he sees it as an affront to the country’s national anthem.

“It’s like burning the flag,” he said, adding that if protest is needed “you got other ways that you can protest.”

As to the police angle, he said police were not the primary cause of death among black people, saying that “they kill more of their own.”

He asked why others were not considered racist for calling him a racist, saying that he was being persecuted as a white man who others perceive is making comments about black people.

Morris said he did not violate the city’s social media policy by making the post. He said because he did not post while on duty, from a government device, and did not mention the city of Harrisburg directly, he was in the clear.

“It’s not a violation of their social media policy,” he said.

Both Mayor John McPeek and Beth Montfort, the city’s public health and safety commissioner, said there was no plan of disciplinary action to be taken against Morris for the post that prompted public outcry during last week’s City Council meeting.

When asked what his immediate reaction to the post was, McPeek said he knew it needed to come down and asked that it be taken offline. He said he did not initially read it as racist.

“When I first saw it, no I did not (see it as racist), because it never mentioned anything in particular … but I could see where people could probably think it was something,” McPeek said about perceived racial commentary made by the post. He said that he knew it could be inflammatory, though, and said that was the reason he wanted it removed.

“As a public official, I feel even as a chief of police, we are held to a higher standard where we should not put anything controversial on social media,” McPeek said.

Based on the language of the city’s social media ordinance, that would seem to be the city’s official stance.

“For police officers: by virtue of the position of peace officer, they are held to a higher standard than general members of the public and their online activities should reflect such professional expectations and standards,” the ordinance says.

“Any online activity that has the effect of diminishing the public’s trust and/or confidence in the City will hinder the efforts of the City to fulfill its mission. Any online actions taken that detract from the mission of the City, or reflects negatively on the position of the City will be viewed as a direct violation of this policy,” reads the policy section of the ordinance.

The ordinance gets more specific in the rules and regulations section. It says employees who wish to maintain a social networking profile should do so in a professional way that does not reflect poorly on the city and the following rule should apply: “Any text, photograph, audio, video, or any other multimedia file included on a social media or social networking, site that infers, implies, states, opines or otherwise expresses the employee’s views on the legal, judicial or criminal systems shall not, in any way, undermine the public’s trust and confidence of the City departments.”

McPeek said he did feel like Morris violated some rule by posting what he did.

“To me, he did break something by putting that on Facebook. I wish he hadn’t of put that on there,” he said. McPeek said he and the city attorney are looking at ways of amending the ordinance that would allow for punishment of future actions similar to Morris’.

When asked if she felt the post was unacceptable when she saw it, Montfort said, “I wish it wouldn’t have been posted — let’s put it that way.”

How to move forward

Hodge came to last week’s City Council meeting. As a black resident of Harrisburg, he said he was not able to see the post as anything but racist.

“It showed no kind of respect for minorities,” he said.

He said it could affect the police department's future defense of the use of force.

Hodge said if there is a need for use of physical force, "there’s an appearance that they have already given their opinion on how they were going to react,” he said, indicating that based on both social media posts in question, there may be the perception that the cops both discriminate against minorities and are up for a fight.

Of the Saline County Black Caucus, Hodge said while they may have had a strong need to start such an organization before, this incident underscored it.

“I think it reinforces the need for the group to be created,” he said.

The new group was a starting point of community outreach for McPeek and Montfort.

“I’m going to go to some of their meetings and talk with them and see what they have to say,” McPeek said.

Montfort said she talked with Morris about the police department being out in the community in a more positive way — she said most of what kids see of the police are arrests — but she also called for there to be more diversity across city departments. However, she said she believes because of the small population, “we don’t have a lot of minorities who apply for jobs.”

Hodge said he appreciates the dialogue, but said action means more.

“Attending a meeting does not get you a get of jail or 'I know black people' card,” he said. “We can meet forever, but until actions start to occur, unfortunately, a lot of that falls on deaf ears.”

He said he would like to see Harrisburg create a diverse citizen advisory board. He said he also would like to see city officials meet with minority business leaders and meet in high-crime areas of the city to address ways to come together and move forward.

A takeaway from the incident for him was simple — be who you are.

“If you are racist, just tell me, I can deal with it, I can navigate,” he said.

Morris said he is sorry that what he posted may have offended people. McPeek also apologized on behalf of the city of Harrisburg.

Morris said people who know him know he is not a racist. He said if one were to interview “good” black people in the community, they would say they have no problems with him — he said some even called in to support him. He said those who complained are family of people who are frequently arrested.

Morris claimed that the previous chief, whom he would not name directly, did not post internally the social media ordinance. However, Morris said he posted it when he took the job. While he reiterated he did not break the rules last week, he said when he posted the ordinance for his employees he told the city’s attorney and his commissioner that the policy was too broad and needed reviewing.

Morris contends that the uproar over his post is a political witch hunt. He would not name names, but said the political actor at play was running for office with the local Republican Party, was currently an off-duty sergeant and was the former chief of police.

Earlier this year, McPeek named Morris chief of police, replacing former Chief Whipper Johnson.

“He’s just stirring s--- because he got knocked out of chief of police by me,” Morris said.

“I know where it’s coming from and I’m going to deal with it,” Morris said without providing further detail.

Editor's note: The final four paragraphs of this story were accidentally removed from the web version of this story on Friday evening while the story was being edited for space in print. The Southern regrets the error; the removed paragraphs have been added back to the web version of the story.


Govt-and-politics
breaking
Former Gov. Pat Quinn announces run for attorney general

CHICAGO — Former Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is joining a crowded field attempting to become the state's next attorney general.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports Quinn on Friday announced his intention to run, saying he wants to be "the lawyer for the people."

Quinn, who governor from 2009 to 2015, says he intends to present his case to be the Democratic nominee next week to the party's Cook County organization.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced last month she wouldn't seek re-election.

The other Democratic candidates are suburban Chicago mayor Nancy Rotering, state Rep. Scott Drury, state Sen. Kwame Raoul, former State Board of Education Chairman Jesse Ruiz, Sharon Fairley, former head of Chicago's police oversight agency, and former assistant U.S. attorney Renato Mariotti.

Attorney and former Miss America Erika Harold is seeking the Republican nomination.