Citing "War," Threatening Lawsuits, Fearing "Blackball": TSU Ph.D. Students Bring Forth Claims of Program's Suffocating Politics
Toward the end of her 2011 Race and Crime course in Texas Southern University's Administration of Justice Ph.D. program, Natalie Hinshaw raised her hand. She, and the rest of her classmates, had not yet received her mid-term paper back. The course's final project was coming up, and Hinshaw wanted to be sure not only to see where she stood in the course but to have the chance to refresh her memory on all that she'd studied over the course of the program.
Numerous TSU students allege a political atmosphere stifling their education.
"I stood up and asked Dr. [Anita Kaluta-]Crompton, who was teaching, I asked her if she was going to return the paper," Hinshaw tells Hair Balls. (This is not Hinshaw's real name -- both she and every other student interviewed for this story requested anonymity, citing the repressive politics of the program.) "She said, 'Do you expect me to read all those papers?' I'll never forget that -- 'Do you expect me to read all those papers?' And I said, 'Hell, yeah, I expect you to read them! Because you asked us to write them!'"
Hinshaw is gathered over a stack of papers -- reams of e-mails and communiqués, piles of documents supporting all that she's experienced over the past five years. She's sharing her story about her time at TSU, because, as she has recently written to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB), "Students have no appeal or arbitration power."
"I'm $170,000 in debt," Hinshaw says. "I can't just back out and leave this. [They've] taken my money, but [they're] not doing anything about this." As she noted in an e-mail last November, "I feel as if the biggest mistake I have made in my life is deciding to attend TSU for my higher education."
To be sure, Hinshaw isn't some spoiled twentysomething unaccustomed to a bit of scholastic challenge. Rather, Hinshaw, somehow composed behind her anger, is in her late 50s. She's the mother of four sons -- a few of whom have seen and suffered from the lingering underside of racial profiling. "Some of the things my sons experienced -- that's why I'm here," Hinshaw says. "I'm not here just because I have nothing else to do. I'm here to work, because I know what my sons went through, and no one should have that happen."
Hinshaw won't delve into the specifics of her sons' experiences. Those aren't important. She doesn't even want to talk much about her successes since returning to school -- the near four-point grade averages she's attained, the multiple degrees she's gotten since turning back to academic pursuit. She shares her transcript with Hair Balls, and it's easy to see why she's managed to come this close to completing her doctorate. As one professor noted during a study group, "[Natalie], you deserve a huge round of applause (or standing ovation) for all the work you have put into running this group."
Indeed, Hinshaw, who began this Administration of Justice program in 2008, has but a few steps remaining before she can finally turn her talents to aiding those in straits similar to her sons'. There's the final dissertation, currently outlined and pitched. And there's one remaining comprehensive exam -- which Hinshaw cites as yet another reason she's reached beyond the plugged appeal avenues she's experienced at TSU.
Hinshaw admits that she put forth less than her best effort in her original comprehensive exam. But, much as in her Race and Crime course, when she asked to see her graded exam, she was rebuffed.
"The first time I failed, I asked for my exam back, and the professor said, 'No problem,'" Hinshaw remembers. "But I waited, and I stayed on there, and he never, never gave me the pages. The second time [I failed the test], I went up to Dr. [David] Baker and Dr. [Helen Taylor] Greene. And all they said was, 'You're not going to get your paper. You don't get your paper back.'"
In a later e-mail exchange with Baker, Hinshaw asked for specific clarification about his views on returning graded papers, writing, "If I understood correctly, when I asked you for a copy of my graded tests, including the qualifying exam along with both of my graded comprehensive exams, you informed me that to your knowledge no other university give[s] the exams back to their students..." Per the e-mails Hinshaw shared with Hair Balls, Baker never responded to her prompt.