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New President Comes With Changes: A Look Into Changes President Thomas Has Made & What Is To Come

Jair Hilburn, Editor-in-Chief

Despite not hailing from the institution that he has had a love for since childhood, President David A. Thomas has dreams that he plans to become a reality while he is serving as the president of Morehouse College.

When speaking at the Opening Convocation, Thomas informed the Morehouse community about how he plans to lead the institution. He found inspiration from Langston Hughes’ poem “I Dream a World” but with a twist that makes it more applicable for those that he is leading – from students to faculty and everyone in between.

“I dream a Morehouse where, as an idea, the institution will continue to be a place where black men can come and just be without all the noise that surrounds them in this country and other parts of the world,” Thomas said during his Convocation address, “and where, in the process of just being, they can discover who they are, what their potential is, and become anchored in their identity in a way that steels them against what will be thrown at them when they leave.”

 

Courtesy of President David A. Thomas.

 

Being a leader is a task that not all can fulfill because not everyone will believe in your dream or they may prefer a plan compared to a dream. But Thomas dreams a Morehouse for one reason in particular.

“Dreams are about possibilities not yet seen … unlike fantasies,” he said. “You dream because you believe this is what you want to come true, so I dream a Morehouse. It’s not all here yet, but then, dreams are also based in some reality.”

Some incoming presidents are getting acclimated to the school’s environment as they plan what needs to be done for the betterment of the institution. Thomas was granted the luxury of getting to know the workings of the school during the Spring semester of 2018.

Before the beginning of this academic year, he was able to assess members of his leadership team, renovate Hubert Hall, hire Aramark to manage the facilities, and see how the institution works.

“Because the year was already underway when I arrived, what I essentially got to do was see it in progress,” Thomas said. “Also, I think it helped me get a good sense of some of the things that might not pop out to the president of the college unless you have time to walk around and talk to students. I’m already in relationship as opposed to showing up and the first time people see me be today, and NSO for the freshmen. So I think that’s all accelerated.”

Just before this semester began, he lived in Room 116 of historic Graves Hall for two days to get a better understanding of the student experience. While getting to know and build a relationship with students, he was able to hear some of their concerns.

They wished to have a nighttime convenience store on campus because it would be safer than going off campus, so by the time students returned to Morehouse from summer break, P.O.D. Market was ready to fulfill a request previous administrations had failed to meet.

But President Thomas’ work hasn’t stopped there. He also is tackling problems that stuck out to him soon after he arrived.

 

Courtesy of The Philadelphia Tribune

 

“I think I was only here for a few weeks, maybe a month, before I announced the goal of a 70 percent graduation rate for the class that enters this fall, and when you think about the fact our graduation rate today is about 38 percent in four years, some people would say big, hairy, audacious goal,” Thomas said.

“But, you know, it just seems clear to me that is where we need to be to be consistent with our brand and our reputation The other part of it is in a world of escalating challenges with affordability, it’s to a student’s advantage to get out in four years. … The longer you stay, the more it costs, the less likely you’ll ever finish.”

After seeing litter on his way to work, Thomas took to Twitter to implore the Men of Morehouse to take care of the campus and keep it clean. However, there were those who felt that was an issue that shouldn’t have been put in the public eye.

“To me, how we treat our campus, how we treat each other, how we treat those who visit our campus tells the world something about us, and they will treat us in kind,” Thomas said. “One of the fun things about when people visit Morehouse is to see their reaction and how impressed they are. The flip side of that is, why are they surprised, right?

“So we know some people come not expecting to see excellence, including not expecting to see us demanding respect for our spaces.”

As the year continues, the college’s accreditation process is coming to a close. It will end in October with the campus visit from the external review team from SACSCOC (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges) that inspects every aspect of the college.

 

President Thomas stays in Graves Hall as freshmen move into their hall. // Photo Courtesy of Brinley Hineman.

 

As part of that, there is a Quality Enhancement Program (QEP) that is meant to serve as a way to enhance the education at the college. The Five Wells were revitalized after students expressed their desire that they should be reinstated. While it will change tradition, the theme for the QEP will be adding a sixth well to former President Robert Franklin’s Five Wells: The Morehouse Man Writes Well.

“I think the five wells that Dr. Franklin articulated don’t capture everything, but they captured five important dimensions right about how one should experience the Morehouse Man and how the Morehouse Man should want to be seen and experienced,” Thomas said. “Well, once you know something, you have to be able to express it. No surprise, given the oratory traditions of Morehouse College, that we come quickly then to well-spoken, but you can be well-read and not well-written.

“Adding the sixth well, which is the Morehouse Man writes well, is really to underscore the importance of that as the third leg of communication.”

While there have been changes on campus that pertain to the school’s collaboration with the NFL, the creation of the Institute for Social Justice Theory and Praxis, fundraising and other things, the president believes there’s still a need for improvement. No matter how much work needs to be put in, it’s that love for Morehouse that keeps President Thomas going.

“At the end of the day [Morehouse] is worth my love,” Thomas said. “We’ve already gotten better even in the last few months. The question is: can we get better fast enough?”

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