Dear Union, I am concerned…

Dearest Union,

My alma mater. My first academic love.  I am very concerned about the well-being and success of your students and your legacy. On Friday, I had the opportunity to talk to two classes of students and a few other students walking around in the halls, and I was shocked to hear their stories. They are not happy with their college experience. They feel that you do not care about them.

One student shared with me that there has been rat infestations in MacVicar hall and spiders in the living and learning center. One student was bitten by a spider in her bed and had to go to the emergency room. Another student shared with me how a student had her arm broken when an elevator door shut on it.

The students feel that you take their money and that they have nothing to show for it. Some students shared with me how they were charged lab fees for biology and chemistry courses that never occurred. They feel that our Board of Directors are embezzling money and would like to have a better understanding of how their tuition money is spent. I must say, I agree. I would like to understand where the money that alumni donate goes. We definitely have had a few presidents that have misused funds.

Dearest Union, the students that I talked with expressed how much they would like better guidance on how to succeed post-college. They want to have more interaction with alumni that are successful in career paths that they aspire to. I definitely agree that this is needed. The students do not seem to have the same drive and excitement about college like my fellow classmates and those that blazed the trail before us.

Dearest Union, in light of what I just shared about my student interactions on Friday,  I would love to offer some recommendations that might improve things. First, engage your younger alumni to give with their time and not money. There are a lot of alumni that would come back to campus and interact with students if they were just asked. A lot of younger alumni would mentor from afar if they couldn’t make it to campus. The point is other universities do a better job than you at engaging their alumni base. They realize that if they engage their alumni well at all ages, they will donate when they are financially able to do so.

Secondly, I recommend that you chose the next president of Virginia Union University well. The president has the ability to set a new tone on campus. One that could inspire faculty to work at their optimal best and encourage students to have faith in their education. Virginia Union University needs a person that realizes that things cannot continue to be done in the same way in order to continue to exist. A fresh perspective and clear transparency is needed to help Union Thrive.

Lastly, get beyond the pomp and circumstance and hold your administrators, board members, and faculty accountable for the success of our university and our students. The student body should not feel that many faculty members do not care about their success. They should not feel like their money is not actively improving the school and they should not feel like their voices are not being heard.

Dearest Union, I am not saying that the students I talked too are reflective of the larger student body, but to hear this message from more than 30 students is concerning to me as an alumna. It makes it worth checking out and confirming that you are indeed doing your best for the student body.

Dear Union, I still love thee but you have to do better for your students. Please take this as constructive criticism and make steps to improve the university I hold so dear.


Dr. Shanta Whitaker, Class of 2002

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1 Response to Dear Union, I am concerned…

  1. Joseph F. Johnson says:

    January 23, 2017

    Dr. Whitaker:

    Irrespective of your lack of courtesy to me regarding any concerns you may have about your Alma Mater, I am extending a courtesy to you regarding your January 22, 2017 posting in cyberspace regarding your “love and concerns” for Virginia Union University. While it is my belief that you genuinely care about Virginia Union University and have an endearing love for it, I must question the motive behind the method in which you chose to call the question.

    I am in a quandary that you chose such an open forum to include Facebook and your personal blog (Fashionably Cosmopolitan) to vent your concerns. My quandary is amplified by the fact that the tone of parts of your discourse is accusatory and inflammatory without considering the rest of the story or proven facts. My quandary is amplified further by the fact that we had the pleasure of meeting last fall at an alumni function in Northern Virginia in which I invited you to contact me if I could be of any assistance or if you had any suggestions.

    Virginia Union University (as are most colleges and universities) is definitely not perfect and I welcome the feedback and perspectives of the students and alumni. In fact, I welcome meaningful discussions with any and everyone for the betterment of the students, faculty, staff, alumni, friends and supporters of Union. Please consider this a personal invitation for you to contact me directly to address your concerns and recommendations.


    Joseph F. Johnson, Acting President
    Virginia Union University

    Copy to: Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson, Chairman
    Virginia Union Board of Trustees

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