A Dillard tradition rose from the waters Tuesday, April 25, when the 136th Honors Convocation was held in the Jefferson Ballroom. The ceremony was intended to be a return to normalcy, but some of the audience felt the message given by speaker, Dr. Lucius T. Outlaw was inappropriate.
Dr. Outlaw, the Associate Provost of Undergraduate Education and professor at Vanderbilt University, related his address to the struggles of slaves and stated that, “every generation of people with African descent went through a trial. It just happens to be your turn.” Outlaw also remarked that universities are not costumer service desks and no matter the charge, the true cost of education will never be paid, so complaining should end. Comparing the trials of previous generations of African-Americans to the wrath of Hurricane Katrina, Outlaw said victims should “get over it.”
Reactions quickly surfaced after the ceremony. Christy Malbrew, of Baton Rouge, LA and Miss Dillard 2005-2006, appreciated the speech because “it made us revisit the reasons we are here and helps us to be humble.
Dr. Marvalene Hughes, President of Dillard University, felt the speech was positive. Hughes remarked that “the intellectual achievements of the students are absolutely stunning.” Concerning students’ interpretation, Dr. Hughes hopes the underlying message to strive to survive was heard. “His [Dr. Outlaw] message was saying accept and honor your history; don’t get buried by it. Look forward,” commented Dr. Hughes.
Not all honorees saw celebration within the ceremony. “I’m a little in awe about it. The speech was supposed to motivate us to continue our good work, but it only bored and upset a lot of people,” shared Karista Williams, a sophomore honoree.
Mixed feelings were also present. Kelvin Haynes, an junior Accounting major from Dallas said “I didn’t agree with, ‘I don’t give a damn, get over it’ because in reality, school is a business and we are paying to be here. However, some situations we can get over without complaining.”
Stephanie Woodard, a sophomore Political Science major from Houston, shared Haynes’ feelings. “Dr. Outlaw was a very smart man, I wouldn’t say he was wise because comments he made were untrue and were not sensitive to the Dillard body, who have experienced Hurricane Katrina, and I think that it could have been more inspiring than reprimanding.”
Many questions have risen about the speech’s affect on attendance of the Honor’s Convocation Ceremony and enrollment at Dillard University next year. Part of the faculty and student body felt the subjects that Dr. Outlaw suggested should not be complained about, are some of the deciding factors for some students to stay at Dillard. While others agreed that a sense of selfishness and self-pity has clouded the path of higher education. Only next year will reveal the truth.