Atlanta Conference Focuses on First-Year Progress of HBCU Initiative on Violence-Prevention Models: Students Heavily Involved in Program Formulation

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Atlanta Conference Focuses on First-year Progress of HBCU Initiative on. Violence-prevention Models: Students Heavily Involved In Program Formulation

ATLANTA -- An HBCU-based initiative to prevent family and community violence marked its first anniversary recently by highlighting its early accomplishments and refocusing on designing a comprehensive program of violence-prevention models over the next two years.

"It's still too early to present qualitative measures," said Dr. Laxley W. Rodney, principal investigator for the project, "but my qualitative assessment after one year is that we are making good strides."

The initiative is the result of a cooperative agreement between the Office of Minority Health (OMH) of the federal Department of Health and Human Services and 19 historically Black colleges and universities, called the MIN-MALE Consortium.

The consortium was formed in 1992 on the proposition that HBCUs "should assume a major responsibility and lead role in designing solutions to reduce anti-social behavior and violence affecting minority males and their families."

Explaining the strong interest of HBCUs in curbing violence, Rodney said, "A significant number of the victims as well as the perpetrators of this behavior are African Americans. And many of the communities are urban areas where HBCUs have traditionally operated."

Moreover, said Dr. Zaid Ansari, project evaluator, "HBCUs have a track record of successfully developing perpetrators and victims by getting them to college. If they can make it through that first year, there is great potential for them to turn around their lives and the lives of those they come into contact with."

Both Rodney and Ansari are on the faculty of Central State University in Wilberforce, OH, the lead institution for the consortium. The three-year project is funded by OMH, with assistance from six other Public Health Service agencies.

Comparing Notes

At a national conference held here to thrash out initiative issues, program participants were given a chance to "compare notes and assess where we are," Rodney said.

Violent crime increased 17 percent nationally between 1975 and 1989, Ansari said, despite a move toward longer sentences for violent-crime offenders. The consortium takes the position that more resources should be devoted to prevention.

Ohio Common Pleas Judge Michael Murphy told the conference that with society focused on retribution in its battle with violent crime, "We have the opportunity before us to address issues that are pertinent to our community."

Murphy spoke in support of the mentoring, mediation and conflict resolution strategies that play an important part of the prevention models the consortium is developing. Said Murphy: "They're trying to find a genetic, a biological basis [for criminal behavior]. Who do you think they're talking about?"

Dr. Clay E. Simpson, OMH deputy assistant secretary, reminded the nearly 500 conferees that the continued existence and success of the project requires a persistent effort to cultivate and protect funding.

"If you don't understand a role you can play in this arena, then we will have done what has happened so many times," Simpson said. "We will have met, gotten our emotions at a high pitch, and then gone away feeling good. But yet, erosion is taking place as we speak."

While $5.9 million in federal funding is secured for the program's second year of operation, Simpson cautioned conference participants to be mindful of the federal budget-cutting climate and of the emerging trend of money collected at the national level being "put back in the hands of the local community. …