Dr. Allan Lee Sessoms, the president of Queens College, would like to turn his institution into Queens University. He has set a tough standard for himself and his school and ultimately for the students. And, along the way, he has made some powerful enemies.
Dr. Sessoms is reportedly in favor of eliminating remedial classes from the college. In a recent speech the president used some colorful language to illustrate his frustration with the level of some of the students gaining admission to Queens College. (At least we think the language was colorful. The exact words were not printed in newspaper accounts of the speech.) Some sensitive ears were offended. How, they asked, could a college president use such salty language?
Although the don't know the exact words used, our guess is that they are a common vulgarity often used for a substance that sometimes passes for art in Brooklyn museums, but only when it is of the elephant variety. If we are right, is there really a student or professor is truly offended by such language?
We suspect that the real offense is the willingness of Dr. Sessoms to challenge the status quo. He sees the tremendous potential of Queens College and knows its rich history. He also knows that any college is weakened when it begins accepting students who are not prepared to do college-level work.
Dr. Sessoms deserves at least some of the credit for the decision of the federal government to build the nation's largest AIDS research center on his campus. We are not persuaded by those who argue that Queens College is a poor choice for the AIDS center because it does not have its own medical school. The research center will have access to a number of teaching hospitals in the area and will form a partnership with St. John's University as well.
Meanwhile, this has got to be a shot in the arm for the science program at Queens College. The millions of federal dollars coming to this research center will benefit all students. Queens College is also preparing a media center.
Dr. Sessoms has his work cut out for him. He has thrown down the gauntlet before an entrenched faculty, which has been more than willing to accept academic mediocrity. His courage and determination are refreshing.
America has more people behind bars by far than any of the world's modern, industrialized countries. For the protection of society, some of these people belong in prison. But thousands of others don't need to be in prison, particularly those who were driven to a criminal act because of a drug addiction.
It was for these people that the Queens Drug Court was created one year ago. The court gives defendants who do not have a felony conviction, the opportunity to enter drug treatment rather than going to jail. This makes tremendous sense. Not only is it less expensive by far to send an offender to drug treatment, it is also far more effective. But this program is about more than saving millions of dollars. This program is about saving lives.
People coming to the drug court are referred to treatment by the court. If they fail to take that treatment seriously, they risk going to jail or prison. So far, the results of the Queens Drug Court have been impressive. Rather than rotting in prison at the taxpayer's expense, these same people are on the way to becoming productive members of society.
We congratulate everyone involved with the Drug Court and we look forward to seeing this program expand in the future..
©1999 Community News Group
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