Tag Archives: stennis institute

The Value of Public Forums

On June 26, 2010  57 town hall meetings were held simultaneously  in cities all across the country.   The 3500 American participants spanned a wide spectrum of ages, ethnicities, religions and political affiliations.  They discussed and learned about ways to reduce the federal budget. They were presented with 42 options that had been developed by a national advisory committee, and were encouraged to suggest additional options to meet the deficit cutting goal.

When the votes were tallied, a vast majority – 85 percent of participants – expressed support for cutting the defense budget by at least five percent. More than half favored reducing defense spending by at least 15 percent. More than six in ten participants expressed support for reducing health care spending by at least five percent. No options for reducing Social Security benefits received a majority of support.

These public forums demonstrate that public discussion of issues can be a valuable way to make public policy decisions.  When people listen to understand rather than to influence others they find that they often have more in common than they previously believed.

The forums are summarized and analyzed in a report entitled The Difference That Deliberation Makes – Evaluating the “Our Budget, Our Economy” Public Deliberation.

In January and February 2011 The Stennis Institute at Mississippi State University will be conducting a series of forums around Mississippi in co-sponsorship with local mayors on a similar subject.  It will be interesting to see what Mississippians think about the future of their economic security.


What do Renaissance Men Wear???

This following is a guest blog from Kesha Perry, on of my colleagues at the Stennis Institute of Government (reprinted with permission) –

Morehouse College. History. Tradition. Martin Luther King, Jr., Spike Lee, Samuel L. Jackson, Maynard Jackson, and countless others have roamed the halls and grounds of this private, all-male, historically black institution. Recently, Morehouse has instituted a dress code policy in efforts to “get back to the legacy,” according to Dr. William Bynum the school’s Vice President of the Office of Student Services. He continued, “We expect our young men to be Renaissance men.” This policy was not only driven by the powers-that-be at Morehouse, but also by student leaders. Cameron Thomas-Shah, student government’s co-chief of staff, believes “the image of a strong black man needs to be upheld. And if anyone sees this policy as something that is restrictive then maybe Morehouse is not the place for you.”

Morehouse is not the only historically black college or university (HBCU) to institute a dress code. Hampton University has instituted one, which also encourages its graduate business students with locs or braids to cut their hair. Bennett College in North Carolina has adopted a comparable policy as Morehouse’s.

Included in the new dress code policy:

–no caps, do-rags and/or hoods in classrooms, the cafeteria, or other indoor venues

–no sun glasses worn in class or at formal programs

–no jeans at major programs, as well as no sagging pants on campus

–no clothing with derogatory or lewd messages either in words or pictures

–no wearing of clothing usually worn by women (dresses, tops, tunics, purses, pumps, etc.) on the Morehouse campus or at college-sponsored events.

Those found in violation will not be allowed to attend class until they abide by the new policy. However, repeat offenders could be subject to suspension.

The one restriction that has many students upset is the no wearing of women clothing. Co-president of Safe Space, a gay-straight student alliance, Daniel Edwards believes the policy unfairly targets gays. “Some believe that this restriction is what the entire policy is correlated around. It is all an issue of perception and what manner of image you want to prescribe to.”
Click here to read a CNN article regarding this restriction of the policy.

Dr. Bynum believes this policy “is necessary, this is needed according to the students. We know the challenges that young African-American men face. We know that how a student dresses has nothing to do with what is in their head, but first impressions mean everything.”

(Interviews courtesy of Mashaun D. Simon of the Atlanta Journal Constitution)
Published in: The Black Man on October 20, 2009 at 8:00 pm Comments (1)
Tags: Atlanta Journal Constitiution, Bennett College, CNN, Dr. William Bynum, Hampton University, HBCU, Jr., Martin Luther King, Mashaun D. Simon, Maynard Jackson, Morehouse College, North Carolina, Samuel L. Jackson, Spike Lee

The two main reasons strategic plans fail

I did an Internet search for “why strategic plans fail,” and was presented with one post that purported to contain the top five reasons and one post that contained 37 reasons.  The latter was a blogger who said that he was asking his clients to give him more reasons so that he could have 50 reasons.  Perhaps I’m oversimplifying this subject, but I am of the opinion that there are two main reasons why strategic plans fail.  This assumes that the plan is sound in the first place. The first reason is that no one is responsible for achieving the goals and the second reason is that there is no accountability.  If I had to add a third reason, it would be that the environment has changed.

Speaking of strategic planning, I’ll be conducting a workshop presented by the Stennis Institute of Government on “How to facilitate a strategic planning retreat” on Thursday, September 3, in Jackson.  More information about that at the Stennis Institute Web site training page.

How Do We Pay for Health Care?

There seem to be weekly snapshot pools on what people think of health care reform.  A better tool, in my opinion, for guaging the public sentiment on this issue is a report prepared for the Kettering Foundation that was released June 19, 2009 at briefings in Washington, DC.   The Stennis Institute held one of the forums last year for this report.  Here’s more info about the report:

The report, titled Public Thinking about Coping with the Cost of Health Care: How Do We Pay for What We Need, presents outcomes of the 2008 National Issues Forums (NIF) where participants used the issue book titled Coping with the Cost of Health Care: How Do We Pay for What We Need? in deliberative public forums around the country.

The following are excerpts from the report’s executive summary.

This report examines public thinking about the rising cost of health care–the values, thoughts, insights, and struggles voiced by a diverse collection of thousands of Americans in deliberative forums in 40 states and the District of Columbia from July 2008 to January 2009.  Forum participants gathered in educational and faith-based institutions, clubs and community centers, and libraries to deliberate about an issue that is currently of central importance to this nation–the challenges associated with the rising cost of health care. (report page 6)

Areas of Common Ground

Despite the complexity of the issue, participants in a great many forums did find areas of common ground.

    • People agreed that the issue of cost–the cost of providing both health care and health insurance–poses the greatest threat to the system
    • They favored providing at least minimal insurance to all Americans, especially children.
    • Many strongly endorsed increasing wellness and prevention programs, particularly in schools, saying these could help decrease health-care costs in the long run.  Participants also favored educating the public about making good personal health decisions, and providing incentives for better behavior.
    • Most important–and despite the fact that they did not reach consensus on every aspect of the issue–participants agreed that the nation’s health-care system is in dire need of a complete overhaul and that increased public deliberation and dialogue is crucial to moving forward and reaching that goal. (report page 4)

The report Table of Contents includes:

      • Executive Summary: What Mattered Most
      • A Framework for Public Deliberation
      • Health-Care Costs and the Economy
      • Finger-Pointing…and Some Nuanced Thinking
      • Health as a Public Good
      • Areas of Common Ground
      • Questions and Answers about the Forums
      • Appendices
        • Postforum Questionnaire Results and Demographics
        • Methodology
        • Issue Map
      • About National Issues Forums
      • About Public Agenda and the Report’s Authors
      • About the Kettering Foundation

The report can be downloaded by clicking here, or by contacting the Ruffolo Company at 800-600-4060 (phone) or 937-388-0494 (Fax) and ordering ITEM # 10184.

Stennis Institute sponsors D.C. trip for MSU students

Twenty-eight (Mississippi State University) students will attend the presidential inauguration of Barack Obama Tuesday through the Stennis Montgomery Association, a bipartisan political group on campus.

Marianna Prather, SMA vice president for community relations, said students with the most points at the end of the semester get to visit Washington, D.C.

“We get various points throughout the semester for different activities we are involved in through the Stennis Montgomery Association,” Prather said.

The Stennis Institute of Government sponsors SMA, she said…

… Besides attending the inauguration, the group will be involved with other activities to get the full experience of Washington, D.C.

Whitney Holliday, SMA president, said the group will be meeting with prominent Mississippi natives that will help them network for the future.

“We will meet with the Mississippi delegation and Mississippi congressmen, along with MSU lobbyists and military leaders,” Holliday said. “We will also be hosting a reception for MSU alumni, so the students on the trip can meet people in the area and network for the future.”

Click here to read the entire article in The Reflector.

Mississippi Municipal Salary Survey

With the qualifying deadline for Mississippi municipal elections approaching, some potential candidates might be interested in knowing what the pay would be to serve in a local government position.  Also, citizens might want to know how much department heads and elected officials in their local government earn. And then there are some people who just want to know the range of salaries for aldermen/city council members in local governments around Mississippi.

These and many more  answers can be found in the 2008 Municipal Salary and Benefits Survey, which is prepared by the John C. Stennis Institute of Government for the Mississippi Municipal League.  Click here for the online report.

Persons interested in running for municipal office will surely want to check out the Municipal Elections 2009 Candidate Qualifying Guide published by the Secretary of State’s Office.

Southern District Supreme Court Candidates Speak on Monday, October 6

Oliver Diaz and Randy ‘Bubba’ Pierce, Mississippi Supreme Court candidates from the Southern District, will speak to the Stennis-Capitol Press Luncheon on Monday, October 6, 2008.  The event is open to the public, however registration is required.  Registration details are on the luncheon’s Web site.

Here are the candidates’ Web sites:    

Oliver Diaz
Randy ‘Bubba’ Pierce