Friday, August 26, 2005

Change and Controversy at Del State

Alan Sessoms, who came to Del State as president two years ago, is a man in a hurry who seems unconcerned that not all share his plans for changing the historically black institution. Yesterday Dr. Sessoms responded to his critics, as reported in the News Journal:
WILMINGTON -- Laying out his vision for Delaware State University after months of criticism and the alumni association's recent call for his resignation, President Allen Sessoms said there will "always be anxiety over change."
But "change we must, and change we will," he told about 100 attendees of a Thursday presentation before the Wilmington Rotary Club at the Hotel du Pont.
Delaware State University was founded in 1891 as The State College for Colored Students. The William C. Jason Library, built under the previous president, William DeLauder, is emblematic of the school's ambitions. Dr. Sessoms' plans to raise standards, attract more research funding and increase enrollment have alarmed alumni and other black leaders who are concerned that Del State will lose its identity as a black university:
"We strive to be a premier" historically black university, he said. "We also strive to become a premier university, period. We want this to be the best place in the nation for everyone to come, black and white."
Sessoms also said he wants Delaware State to become the school of choice for the large percentage of in-state students who don't get admitted into the increasingly competitive University of Delaware.
"The rest of those kids have to go somewhere," Sessoms said in his speech. "We want to be the place where they go. ... If UD wants to be Princeton, more power to them."

Dr. Sessoms took time to meet with some influental black clergy yersterday:

The Rev. William Wilmore, president of the United Baptist Convention of Delaware, was among a group of black clergy who did get to meet with Sessoms before the luncheon.
"I'm not mad at him for raising the bar, but I don't want it to be at the expense of destroying the legacy," Wilmore said. "We did agree that there needs to be a much longer and open meeting. The Board of Trustees needs to reach out to folks."

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