By Myrle B. Cooper
At St. Cloud State University (SCSU), a PR firm is charging taxpayers $400,000 for deception while Duluth demonstrates ethics and integrity.
Resulting from (a) historic racial hostilities, (b) St. Cloud constantly topping Minnesota’s FBI hate-crimes lists, and (c) St. Cloud City Hall and SCSU refusing to cooperate in racially civilizing the community, both school and city find themselves in deep do-do image-wise.
SCSU President Earl Potter has admitted that local racism and threats of violence can distract students of color: “We know that when people feel a lack of safety, learning is impaired.” (SCSU minority student reports ‘Nazi salute;’” Star Tribune, 12/18/07)
“The St. Cloud area has always struggled with the race issue…,” admits John Bodette, St. Cloud Times editor in chief. (2/20/12)
SCSU sent frantic “SOS” calls to public relations firms. After losing 1,100 students, Earthbound Media Group (EMG) was hired to rescue SCSU’s image by ignoring racial hostilities. It’s called “branding” or PR-speak for putting lipstick on the pig.
EMG’s chief visionary officer said they’ll use “storytelling as a tactic for changing the university’s reputation that, according to Potter, ‘is not as good as [the university] truly [is].’” Disney World’s “imagineers” never fantasized so well. (“EMG Co-founder speaks, unveils new branding initiative at St. Cloud State University fall convocation,” stcloudstate.edu website, 9/16/11)
SCSU’s African American, Chicana/o and Somali student demonstrations against racism (11/19/68, 10/16/91, 5/5/95, 1/21/10, 3/30/10 and 10/6/11 and 10/27/11), plus questionable retention and graduation rates, suggest Black students are better served on campuses in communities far less driven by last-place aversion racism.
In contrast, Duluth YWCA’s Ellen O’Neil, Mayor Don Ness, University of Minnesota-Duluth Chancellor Lendley Black, and presidents of other area institutions have developed what will likely be an award-winning effort to admit to and aggressively attack racism.
The campaign is called “Un-Fair” and targets White privilege enough to easily threaten bottom-feeding White supremacists who cowered in the arms of cops. (“White pride rally flops in Duluth,” Minnesota Public Radio, 3/3/12; “Duluth white supremacists pelted by snowballs,” Star Tribune, 3/4/12)
As St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis carefully denies racism, he’s silent about St. Cloud slavery (1853-1865), Stearns County Syndrome, notorious racial profiling and headlines like these: “Molotov cocktail used in attack: Another violent incident spurs students to question safety in St. Cloud and at SCSU,” University Chronicle, 11/16/98; “[7 to 1] Racial profiling case lands St. Cloud in state spotlight, St. Cloud Times, 5/19/01; “Study shows minority drivers more likely to be stopped,” St. Cloud Times, 9/26/03; “Is it safe to send our children to St. Cloud?” Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, editorial, 2//7/07; “Reported hate crimes up sharply,” St. Cloud Times, 11/20/07; “Somali students, leaders rally against systematic racism,” Latest News, 1/21/10); St. Cloud’s history of friction with outsiders,” Minnesota Public Radio, 7/30/10; “Fights cut short hip hop concert to honor military,” St. Cloud Times, 1/30/12)
Remember “Captain” (Strother Martin) telling “Luke” (Paul Newman) in the movie Cool Hand Luke (1967), “What we have here is a failure to communicate”? At this point, an Un-Fair-type anti-racist campaign is insufficient for “White Cloud.” A community apology for racism would communicate re-branding efforts best.
When Blacks and others of color declare war on “White Cloud” racism by attracting news media attention via defiance, whistle blowing, and students voting with their feet and leaving, communication becomes effective. Call it changing brands.
For each SCSU student escaping/leaving St. Cloud’s racial hostilities, the racist community loses thousands of dollars. Racism should be costly.
Precedent for abandoning Black students through dereliction of duty and ignoring local racism began when St. Cloud State President Robert Wick told 7,000 cheering White students and “police officers in plain clothes,” “The B-SURE [Black Students United for Racial Equality] Corporation, created on campus by Black students for the purpose of securing their demands, is not an official college organization and the college is not responsible for it.” (“Wick cheered at vow to stand firm on campus,” St. Cloud Daily Times, 11/21/68)
Despite psychotic efforts to ignore local racism (along with Duluth’s diversity sophistication), there are comparisons with “White Cloud.” Kleis and assorted lackeys used mug shots of Black men on area outdoor advertising boards (8’ 8” x 19’6”) and the City’s website until challenged by SCSU Professor Debra Leigh.
St. Cloud’s public schools aren’t safe for Blacks, either. Ask the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice who identified maltreatment. (“Tech community doesn’t feel safe: Parents, students voice worries at meeting prompted by racially motivated incidents,” St. Cloud Times, 5/14/04; “St. Cloud school district settles Somali complaints,” Star Tribune, 10/25/11)
Myrle Cooper is retired from SCSU but continues to closely monitor racism and expose a community resisting change. He welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.