Meadors defend efforts to lure Indians to UNCP

First Posted: 1/15/2009

PEMBROKE -- Allen Meadors, the chancellor at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, spent 30 minutes Thursday night trying to dispel any notion that the university does not work hard enough to recruit American Indian students.
Meadors, speaking at a meeting of the Lumbee Tribal Council, used statistics, graphics and a slide presentation to make his case. He was at the meeting at the invitation of the council, whose chief, Milton Hunt, wrote a letter to Meadors in May that criticized the university, saying it was losing its American Indian identity.
In other business, the tribe will begin searching for a full-time tribal administrator. Ruth Dial Woods, who was hired in October 2001, has been serving as acting tribal administrator on a consulting basis. Her contract expires Dec. 31.
Meadors, accompanied by several staff members, presented a 16-page document which outlined several programs and activities that target American Indians, including an American Indians studies department, a sorority and fraternity and a Native American Resource Center.
He said the number of American Indians enrolled at the university has risen from 686 in 1999 to a record 941 for the current school year -- an increase of 37.5 percent. He said American Indians are also more likely to return from school year to the next, with a retention rate of 76 percent, more than the overall retention rate of 72 percent.
Meadors said those numbers are encouraging given the county's high drop-out rate, especially among Indian students.
“We are a public university and we recruit across the board,” Meadors said. “The only group we specialize in or have gone out and have done more for is the American Indian population.
“We spend more time at Purnell Swett than any other high school.”
Purnell Swett's student population is 85 percent American Indian.
Councilman Rosa Winfree, education committee chairman, said the Tribal Council is not seeking an “adversarial relationships” with the university.
“We are seeking partnerships to establish dialogue and to create new opportunities for us to be engaged in what you are doing and for you to be engaged in what we are doing,” she said. “I think we have to be as persistent as our ancestors were in establishing schools and seeing that our people have the very best.”
Hunt agreed, saying “the Tribal Council is interested in becoming a part of anything for the betterment of the Indian community. Our concern is to make sure Lumbees are taken care of and that we don't lose our Indian perspective.”
Administrator search
Hunt said that the Tribal Council will begin advertising for a full-time administrator in November.
Woods, a retired college professor and long-time educator, said her current commitment to public services would prohibit her from working full-time. She is a member of the UNC Board of Governors and serves on numerous state and local organizations. She said she plans to remain with the tribe until the tribe's audit in January.
Hunt said he hopes to recommend someone for the position in January or February. His recommendation must be approved by the council.
In other business, the council:
-- Passed in a 13-5 vote an “ethics and conflicts of interest” ordinance which prohibits a tribal council member from working for an entity that competes for the same contracts, grants, or service as the Lumbee Tribe.
The ordinance says a tribal councilman shall not represent the interests of a third party who has a potential adversarial relationship with the tribe. The ordinance also applies to tribal officers and employees.
-- Accepted a $1,300 lease bid from Jerry Cummings to rent the former Copy Cat Printing office on Union Chapel Road. The tribe will move the Tribal Enrollment program there.
-- Agreed to spend $175 on a float for the in Pembroke's Veteran's Day parade on Nov. 11.
-- Learned that $594,000 of the tribe's housing funds has been spent to rehabilitate at least 101 homes. The tribe has committed another $400,000 to additional homes in the tribe's four-county service area.
-- Announced that the Tribal Council will sponsor a Wagon Train event at the N.C. Cultural Center on Nov. 2.