UPDATE: Laura strengthens to Cat 4, campus, community prepare for storm

Graphic courtesy of KVEO-TV.

This story will be updated as new information becomes available. 

Aug. 26, 2:35 p.m.

Via the Beaumont Enterprise — “Beginning at 6 p.m., the city of Port Neches will discontinue all city water service.

Water service will resume as soon as possible after the storm has passed, however it will be necessary to boil the water prior to consumption.

City of Beaumont officials have confirmed they do not have any similar plans. Beaumont city water will continue as expected.

Port Arthur Mayor Thurman Bill Bartie said he’s not sure about his city at this time.”

Aug. 26, 2:30 p.m.

Via LU Alert — Lamar University cancels classes

“As Hurricane Laura intensifies and moves closer to the Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana coast, we hope that all members of the Lamar University community are safe and out of harm’s way. At this time, all classes including online courses are canceled. The cancellation of courses pertains to out-of-state courses as well. 

Continue to monitor your LU email, lamar.edu/alerts, the university’s social media and LiveSafe for important official updates.”

Aug. 26, 1 p.m.

Hurricane Laura has strengthened to an “extremely dangerous Category 4 hurricane” with maximum winds of 140 miles per hour, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Aug. 26, 12:15 p.m.

Via KBMT Channel 12 — Some landline prefixes might experience difficulty reaching 911 during the storm.

According to the Southeast Texas Alerting Network (STAN), the affected prefixes are:

  • 409-982-####
  • 409-983-####
  • 409-984-####
  • 409-985-####
  • 409-971-####
  • 409-989-####

Aug. 26, 11 a.m.

Port Arthur Mayor Thurman Bartie issues a curfew order between the hours of 8 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Aug. 26, 10:30 a.m.

“Mandatory curfew order for the City of Port Neches goes into effect at 10 p.m. tonight,” the city posted to their Facebook page. “It will remain in effect until the order is rescinded.”

Aug. 26, 10 a.m.

Via KBMT Channel 12:

City of Beaumont issues dusk to dawn curfew ahead of Laura’s landfall.

Orange, West Orange and Pinehurst have issued a curfew from 9 p.m. until 5 a.m., beginning Aug. 25, until revoked.

Vidor issues a curfew order Aug. 26 between the hours of 8 p.m. and 6 a.m., each day until the order is revoked. According to city officials, any violation of this order shall be punishable as a Class C  misdemeanor.

Tyler County issues mandatory curfew order between the hours of 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. until further notice.

Aug. 26, 9 a.m.

Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick issues a mandatory curfew from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., effective at 9 a.m., Aug. 26, according to KBMT Channel 12.

Aug. 26, 9 a.m. 

According to the Jefferson County Office of Emergency Management, the floodgates on Highway 365 will close at 11 a.m.

Aug. 26

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has added three more counties to the state disaster declaration — Camp, Ellis and Tarrant Counties.

Aug. 25, 5:45 p.m.

Via LU Alert — Hurricane Laura Update, campus closed

“We realize that many of you are preparing for the arrival of Hurricane Laura. Our campus is now closed in preparation for the storm.

Whether you stay or leave town, our primary concern is your safety. All students in residence hall have evacuated to their homes, families or Texas State University.

We are planning to resume normal operations on Monday, but please watch the LU Alert website and our Blackboard course shell for announcements and other important updates.”

Aug. 24, 8:12 p.m.

Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick has issued a mandatory evacuation order for all of Jefferson County, beginning Tuesday at 6:30 a.m., according to KFDM Channel 6.

Essential workers such as those who work at oil terminals, refineries, petrochemical plants, medical care facilities, hospitals, local and state government workers, communication workers, remediation and recovery workers, and insurance adjusters are exempt from the order.

Aug. 24, 5:30 p.m.

Orange County announces plan for mandatory evacuation, beginning Tuesday at 6 a.m., for the entire county.

According to the 12News StormTrackers, citizens who can’t evacuate themselves can find transportation resources at Lamar State College Orange and Vidor Elementary School at 9 a.m. on Tuesday.

Aug. 24, 5:00 p.m.

Via LU Alert — Lamar University campus residents are encouraged to seek shelter off campus.

 “Lamar University officials have continued to monitor Tropical Storm Laura and the potential impact to our region. The current track of this storm poses an increased risk to Southeast Texas. Therefore, the university will suspend all in-person residential classes starting Tuesday. Additionally, the campus will close Aug. 25, at noon. 

Please check your Blackboard course site for continuation and expectations related to your on-campus/residential classes. Hybrid classes will move to 100 percent online until further notice. All online courses will continue to meet as identified in your syllabi. These actions will take place until further notice, with the expectations of reopening campus Sunday afternoon in preparation for Monday residential classes.”

From the LU housing office — “If you cannot leave and have a vehicle on campus, it must be moved and parked in Parking Lot C1 (Recreational Sports lot) on Tuesday. Do not leave your vehicle in any of the housing lots around Gentry/Combs/Morris/Campbell/Monroe as these lots are prone to flooding.”

Aug. 24, 4:00 p.m.

According to the 12News StormTrackers, a hurricane watch has been issued for several coastal counties ahead of Laura. These counties include Jefferson, Orange, south Liberty and Chambers Counties.

Aug. 24, 12:21 p.m.

Lamar encourages students to continue to monitor their LU emails, as well as sign up for the LiveSafe app.

“Announcements are being made as administrators are making decisions regarding both the COVID pandemic and the storms in the Gulf,” Robert Wagner, LU executive director of campus operations, said. “These situations are fluid and as information becomes available it is shared via campus announcements and our web pages.”

Aug. 24, 11:59 a.m.

Port Arthur Mayor Thurman Bartie is calling for a mandatory evacuation of Port Arthur beginning Tuesday at 6 a.m., according to KFDM Channel 6.

Aug. 24, 10:38 a.m.

Marco projected to downgrade to tropical depression Monday night, Laura expected to impact southwest Louisiana as a hurricane Wednesday evening, according to the 12News StormTrackers.

Aug. 23, 5:15 p.m.

LU Alert — Hurricane Marco and Tropical Storm Laura

“Lamar University officials are monitoring two tropical systems with potential impact to our region. The expected path and severity of these storms have changed significantly over the weekend and remain highly unpredictable. At this time, Hurricane Marco is expected to have minor impacts to campus on Tuesday evening with an increased chance of wind and rain. Tropical Storm Laura is currently predicted to arrive on Wednesday evening or Thursday morning.”

Aug. 23

Several school districts in Southeast Texas are canceling classes from Aug. 24 to Aug. 28 due to potential impact of storms Marco and Laura, according to KFDM Channel 6.

These school districts include: Little Cypress-Mauriceville CISD, West Orange-Cove CISD, Orangefield ISD, Bridge City ISD, Vidor ISD, Port Neches-Groves ISD, Sabine Pass ISD and Legacy Christian Academy (closed from Aug. 24 to Aug. 26).

Aug. 23, 2:10 p.m.

Governor Greg Abbott declares a state of disaster for 23 Texas counties: Aransas, Bexar, Brazoria, Calhoun, Cameron, Chambers, Galveston, Hardin, Harris, Jackson, Jasper, Jefferson, Kenedy, Kleberg, Liberty, Matagorda, Newton, Nueces, Orange, Refugio, San Patricio, Victoria and Willacy.

Abbott declared the emergency, citing that “[Tropical Storm] Marco and Tropical Storm Laura pose a threat of imminent disaster, including widespread and severe property damage, injury, and loss of life due to widespread flooding, storm surge, and damaging winds,” in his proclamation Sunday afternoon.

Olivia Malick, UP editor

Convocation 2020

President Evans praises, students, faculty, staff for persistence through COVID-19 pandemic

LU President Kenneth Evans gives his annual convocation, Aug. 11, in the Montagne Center. UP photo by Olivia Malick

Lamar University President Kenneth Evans held the annual fall convocation, Aug. 11, in the Montagne Center. Evans welcomed faculty and staff members back to campus after its closure in March due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The event, traditionally held only in person, was also livestreamed on the Lamar University website to promote social distancing. Those attending in person were required to wear masks.

Brenda Nichols, senior provost and vice president of academic affairs, introduced Evans.

“Who would have thought the whole world would shift so completely and that we would now try to be figuring out how to change to online, hybrid, remote classes?” Nichols said. “The campus classrooms look different. We have socially distanced everything that we possibly could.”

Sreenshot of Evans' convocation, viewed through the Lamar website livestream. UP staff screenshot
Sreenshot of Evans’ convocation, viewed through the Lamar website livestream. UP staff screenshot

Nichols highlighted newly implemented guidelines, such as signs posted around campus urging people to wash their hands and arrows on the floors in buildings marking safe distances for people to stand, as preparation for Lamar to open for the upcoming semester.

President Evans began his speech by congratulating students, faculty and staff members for adjusting to “the new normal.”

“We, along with the rest of the world, continue to address pandemic and social justice concerns, not to mention the other challenges we encountered this past year,” he said. “We had a convocation last year, and shortly thereafter (tropical storm) Imelda hit. Then of course we had a plant explosion, and now we’re dealing with the challenges of the pandemic — and at the same time embracing our responsibility and providing leadership and advancing racial equality.”

Evans said no other institution in the United States has withstood what Lamar has.

“I’m incredibly proud of this institution, and I’m proud of all the people who are part of it, and what you’ve been able to overcome,” he said.

LU is ahead of other institutions in the country, Evans said, by converting many programs, such as music and art and labs, which took creativity and innovation to respond to the pandemic.

Faculty members who were not used to working online worked extremely hard to convert their classes and support their students, Evans said.

“Our faculty on this campus reached out to students and helped them in that transition,” he said. “Our faculty ensured the continuity of coursework learning.”

Evans praised faculty members for making sure students had the necessary equipment to complete the spring semester — stories which he said he has heard firsthand from students.

The IT department was instrumental to the university’s success after its closure, Evans said.

“If it hadn’t been for them, we would not have been able to make the transition online and do all the things we were able to do last semester,” he said. “They helped faculty make the transition — ensuring that they have the right equipment and right assistance to do their jobs. I thank them from the bottom of my heart for what they’ve done.”

Evans also spotlighted the facilities and maintenance department for their extensive cleaning efforts on campus.

“This group of amazing, devoted employees constantly cleaned and disinfected every space and building on this campus,” he said. “They also took advantage of the empty campus and filled potholes and reworked landscapes, updated air conditioning units, cleaned and polished floors — I could go on and on.

“These are the same people who are preparing the campus for us to safely return shortly, and practice social distancing.”

Evans highlighted housing and residence life for remaining open and conducting virtual tours for prospective students. He said 2,300 students are expected to stay in the dorms for the upcoming semester.

In addition to dealing with issues surrounding the pandemic, Evans said Lamar was also confronted with addressing the reality and implications of our society’s embedded evidence of social injustice.

“The death of George Floyd, an unspeakable tragedy, ignited torturous events across our nation,” he said. “During this time, Lamar University, I’m proud to say, has begun a process of discovery and preparation for social justice focus, vision and action plan.”

Evans said Lamar has engaged a diversity task force to lay out a vision and blueprint for the university going forward.

“We’re not only surviving during this most challenging time, but we are thriving,” he said. “Collectively, through open communication and innovation, hard work, true caring (and) compassionate commitment to the education of our students, we will prevail.”

For more information on Lamar University’s plan to return to campus, visit www.lamar.edu/return.

Olivia Malick, UP editor

LUTV: Distractions, Sports and Entertainment

Jonathan Tippett along with Dr. Natalie Tindall and a panel of University Press and LUTV News contributors discuss how not having the distractions of sports and entertainment has forced people to examine ills plaguing society during a pandemic.

Be sure to like LUTV News on Facebook and subscribe to the “LUTV News and Media Online” channel on YouTube.

LUTV: Protests and Civil Disobedience

LUTV News contributor Jonathan Tippett, a panel of University Press and LUTV News contributors, and Lamar University Department of Communication chair Dr. Natalie Tindall discuss protesting and civil disobedience.

Be sure to like LUTV News on Facebook and subscribe to the “LUTV News and Media Online” channel on YouTube.

University Press Mission Statement

At the University Press, we welcome and encourage diversity in our newsroom and across our media platforms. A diverse environment encourages voices of all backgrounds to further the fundamental ideals of quality journalism. We strive to create an inclusive culture that does not discriminate against people regardless of race, ethnicity, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, religion, age, neurodiversity, disability status, citizenship, or any other aspect of their existence.

The University Press editorial staff

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LU President Evans to withdraw from consideration for SIU chancellor

LU President Kenneth Evans at an event dedicating a bench to his wife, former LU First Lady, Nancy Evans. UP file photo

LU President Kenneth Evans has announced that he has withdrawn from consideration for the Southern Illinois University Carbondale chancellor position, on April 27.

“Evans was one of three finalists for the position prior to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Shelly Vitanza, LU director of public relations, said. “However, now because of the pandemic and challenges yet unknown to all institutions of higher learning, Evans has a desire to assure Lamar University moves successfully and safely forward.”

Evans has served as the 15th president of Lamar University since July 2013 and has overseen several campus renovations and regional disasters that have impacted the students, faculty and staff, such as Hurricane Harvey in 2017, Tropical Storm Imelda and the TPC plant explosion in 2019, as well as the ongoing pandemic that caused classes to move completely online throughout the summer of 2020.

The university is continuing to monitor the current situation with updates provided regularly on the Lamar University website.

For more information, visit www.lamar.edu/coronavirus/index.

Olivia Malick, UP editor

LU President Evans finalist for SIU Carbondale chancellor

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LU President Kenneth Evans at an event dedicating a bench to his wife, former LU First Lady, Nancy Evans. UP file photo

LU President Kenneth Evans was announced as a finalist for the chancellor position at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, on April 10.

Southern Illinois University Carbondale is expected to hold virtual interviews with Evans and the two other candidates, Susan Stapleton, special assistant to the provost at Western Michigan University, and Austin Lane, former president of Texas Southern University.

“(Evans’) love for LU and the Southeast Texas community is great yet challenging since the loss of his wife, Nancy, in 2018,” Shelly Vitanza, LU director of public relations, said. “SIU is located closer to Evans’ son, Paul, and grandchildren and would allow him to visit more regularly with his family.

Dan Mahony, SIU system president, said in a SIU Carbondale press release that the entire interview process will be conducted remotely due to COVID-19.

Evans will have a public forum on Zoom from 9 to 10 a.m. on April 23 as a part of the interview process, according to the press release.

“Our goal is to use technological tools to engage as many people in the interview process at possible,” Marc Morris, chair of the search screening committee and director of the university’s School of Accountancy, said. “We want to be sure students, faculty, staff and others have an opportunity to engage with and hear from the candidates.”

More information on each candidate is available at chancellor.siu.edu/search. Information about accessing the open forums at least two days before the forums will also be available on the site. There will also be an online form where confidential feedback on each candidate can be provided.

Evans has served as the 15th president of Lamar University since July 2013 and has overseen several campus renovations and regional disasters that have impacted the students, faculty and staff, such as Hurricane Harvey in 2017, Tropical Storm Imelda and the TPC plant explosion in 2019, as well as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that caused classes to move completely online throughout the summer of 2020.

“Since joining LU almost seven years ago, Evans has focused on improving faculty quality in research and teaching, design and implementation of new programming and recruitment and retention needs,” Vitanza said. “He has created a more collegiate atmosphere at LU, overseeing major renovations of the Setzer Student Center, the Quadrangle and the construction of the 85,000 sq. ft. Science and Technology Building. Evans has established partnerships with the community, business leaders and other key stakeholders bringing prominence to the university and pride to its students and alumni.”

SIU Carbondale looks to appoint a new chancellor by July 1, Mahony said.

Coronavirus: Our leaders are failing us

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This article was originally published on the Lamar University Press website.

Pandemics are inevitable. History has proven that time and time again. People like Bill Gates may have predicted a pandemic like the coronavirus, but it’s easy to see that our nation’s leaders were unprepared for COVID-19.

Within a matter of weeks, the United States (like the rest of the world) has gone from “business as usual” to a land of quarantined, unemployed, restless and sometimes careless people. It’s times like this that we look to our leaders for guidance and relief.

Some state leaders like New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and California Governor Gavin Newsom have been vigilant in shutting down public gathering spaces and putting stay-at-home orders in effect.

Then there’s Texas. Gov. Greg Abbott delayed a disaster declaration and delayed closing down restaurants, bars and other public gathering spaces — putting potentially millions of people at risk.

Texas has the highest rate of uninsured people in the country, according to healthaffairs.org, meaning that a lot of people cannot afford to get sick. Abbott has also opposed paid sick-leave ordinances, according to The Texas Tribune.

Monday night, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick suggested that he’d rather die than see the economy fail after President Donald Trump suggested that people would be able to return to “normal life” after just 15 days. Fifteen days!

The president did not say this to comfort Americans — he said it to appease corporate America.

In Texas alone, only about 10,000 people have been tested for the virus, according to Texas Monthly. Ten thousand out of 35 million people have been tested, and the president is saying that we need to return to work?

Here’s the thing — the president, senators, representatives, governors, etc. will be taken care of. They belong to the federal health care system and could get a test for themselves or their families whenever they needed it, as well as the subsequent care to treat the virus. They don’t have to worry about missing out on paychecks — they’ll be fine. The average American won’t be.

It’s disgusting that some of our elected officials are prioritizing the economy over the lives of their own constituents. If sacrificing “a couple of lives” is worth it to save “the American way,” then why don’t they offer themselves?

Average workers are what keep America going — not corporate executives or celebrities. That has been more than apparent these past few weeks. Think about your local grocery store cashier. Do you think they want to be putting themselves at risk? They have to in order to live.

The economy will survive — it always does. The worst of the coronavirus is yet to come for America. We need to wait it out.

Our government should be thinking about what’s best for us, not what’s best for businesses.

Olivia Malick, UP editor

Dickerson talks changing media, political landscape

This article was originally posted to the Lamar University Press website.

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John Dickerson speaks to local media about journalism, Monday, Rothwell Recital Hall. UP photo by Olivia Malick

The first time journalist John Dickerson had to interview people on the street, he was so nervous that it took him 45 minutes to ask a single question. Today, as a correspondent on “60 Minutes,” and a co-host of the Slate podcast, “Political Gabfest,” Dickerson reaches audiences of millions of people while interviewing some of the most famous people in the world such as President Donald Trump.

Dickerson said moments like those are some of the most memorable experiences of his career, even though they didn’t always go as planned.

“I very clearly remember sort of wondering whether I should ask a question that might be impertinent,” he said Monday night during a question and answer segment of the Judge Joe J. Fisher distinguished lecture series. “It was with Hillary Clinton, and it was during the (Monica) Lewinsky thing. We didn’t know what was really happening and they weren’t talking, so I said, ‘The best way to get your information out is to come answer questions out in public in front of everybody.’  It was not well received.

“I remember thinking, ‘I’m in the White House, I’m here to do a job on behalf of our readers.’ You can’t not do your job.”

Dickerson did not grow up wanting to be a journalist, despite his late mother Nancy being the first female correspondent for CBS News.

“I was not expecting to go into television because it was my mother’s profession and I thought there was a period of time where my relationship with her was, anything she did, I would have done the opposite,” he said. “But clearly all the stuff that I like about storytelling, about the news, about characters on the public stage, all of that came to me probably by osmosis.”

Dickerson said his relationship with his mother was quite bad from when his parents divorced when he was 14, until he moved to New York, where his mother was living.

“It’s why I ended up writing a book about her life (‘On Her Trail’) because after she died, which was 22 years ago, she left me all of her papers, which include her journals going all the way back to when basically she’d first started writing,” he said. “This fascinating person emerged, who I had not known both in real life, but also I obviously hadn’t been alive. Her television career, the most well-known part of it was from 1960 until 1974, so at the end of that I would have been six years old, and when you’re six years old, you don’t know anything.”

Dickerson said when he entered college, he didn’t know what he wanted to do.

“I thought I might go into law,” he said. “I thought I might write fiction. I thought I might be an English professor. I just went to New York because I knew I wanted to live in New York.”

Dickerson got a job as a secretary at TIME Magazine, where he soon figured out his admiration for political storytelling.

“It was the 1992 (presidential) election, and I wanted to be around that story because it was exciting,” he said. “It was an exciting story. I realized that all the stories of TIME Magazine were stories that I thought were exciting. I spent the next basically two years trying to find a way from my position as secretary to weasel my way into the magazine, which ultimately happened.”

While working for TIME in New York, Dickerson covered issues ranging from the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993, to the baseball strike of 1994, to the separation of twins that were joined at the chest.

Dickerson then moved to Washington D.C., where he’s been reporting on politics for the last 25 years. Dickerson said he’s noticed how the two main U.S. political parties — Democratic and Republican — have changed over the years.

“The two parties fought with each other a lot, but they more or less found occasions where they could actually work together and cooperate and do things together, which doesn’t much happen anymore in Washington,” he said.

Dickerson said that journalists are often trained to present both sides of a story, but this can lead to a false equivalency.

“The question of false equivalency has become a problem in particular with our current environment where the penalty for saying something that isn’t true, has diminished,” he said. “This is particularly true with the president, but it’s true with all politicians. If something’s gone way over, your normal job as a journalist, which is to give both sides of an argument, you doing so is actually an injury to the truth, because it suggests that the thing that was said way over here has an alternative, it doesn’t.”

The power dynamic between politician and constituent has changed as well, Dickerson said.

“There was a view in politics that it was a politician’s responsibility to answer the questions that were asked of them because they’re public servants and the people pay their salary and that the members of the press are essentially there on behalf of the people,” he said. “The power dynamic was different because the politicians owed an answer to their constituents — that’s changed a little bit.

“What forced them to answer correctly was not just a good feeling about democracy, but they knew if they didn’t do it right, they would get voted out of office. Now because of the way things have become so partisan, giving an answer that fires up your team, is, in some cases, more important than giving an answer that is helpful to everybody. When you’re trying to rile up your team, you’re arguably misinforming the larger group of people.”

Dickerson said it’s imperative for journalists to do a lot of research before any interview, so that they can keep pushing for an answer to their questions even if their subject tries to deflect it.

“Know your facts and then you can’t be tricked by them claiming something that isn’t the case,” he said. “You have to be prepared for them creating entirely new facts that you couldn’t study because it turns out, it’s all made up.

“Study and then be as respectful as possible, in asking your question and in following up. Do it in a way that’s just with the goal of trying to find information to inform people. I found that in life and in journalism, there are a lot of people who do it differently — there are a lot of people who are very aggressive, I’m not so good at that, and I don’t actually think it’s that useful.”

Dickerson has become known for his interview style, referred to as “Dickersonian” by his colleagues, which is characterized by catching his interviewees off guard.  He said he did not intentionally develop it, he just wanted to ask questions other reporters weren’t.

“I must have gotten it from my mother,” Dickerson said. “When I worked at TIME Magazine, I had to ask questions that were outside of the immediate news cycle because the wires and television people would ask those questions, and then it’ll be on the news that evening. By the time your story comes out the next Monday, everybody has lived it, so you’re not exactly asking anything that’s new. You have to ask, ‘Where’s this going? What’s the larger context of this story? What’s really at the heart of the story?’”

Throughout his career, Dickerson has worked across multiple media platforms — print, television broadcast and radio (podcasting) while also maintaining a presence on social media such as his Twitter account. He said many students today are taught that it’s important to be versatile, but burnout can be a side effect of doing so many things at once.

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John Dickerson gives an interview to Channel 6 and LUTV News, Monday, in the Rothwell Recital Hall. UP photo by Olivia Malick

“Burnout happens in a bunch of different ways, not only the low share, which has just been all the stuff you have to do in a given day — you basically shred your attention across several different things,” he said. “That’s no good because then you’ve done all this work and you feel kind of thinned, like butter spread over too much bread.”

Dickerson said the best way to combat burnout is by finding a core goal, which makes applying it to different mediums easier.

“Your job is to be there and cover the story,” he said. “As journalists, our job is to be a windowpane through which people see what’s going on. If you start thinking too much about your brand, then you’re thinking about, you know, the wood that goes around the windowpane, and nobody’s seeing anything.

“For me, I came to social media through something I was doing in my day job. It’s a byproduct of the core work we do. The core thing is what nourishes you. It’s what makes you have a career that you enjoy, and then the other stuff sprouts off from that. That’s the way in the end that you end up appearing in all these different (mediums). Then you just have to find a balance.”

Throughout the past 30 years of his career, Dickerson has hosted a major news broadcast, explored the world of podcasting, written numerous articles for the nation’s most well-known publications, written three books and more. He said he has noticed a lot of change in politics, journalism and the world surrounding them, but he always tries to remember one thing.

“Did I respond with grace?” Dickerson said. “I’d like to respond with grace more. If you look at politics today, in our conversations, some are pretty quick to question everyone’s motives or put the worst casts on something that somebody said.

“There’s been good reason for this in politics and in the media. The media have disappointed a lot of (people), for a variety of reasons. Certainly politicians have disappointed us, but they have always disappointed us because they are fallible people. They have sometimes disappointed us and we have been disappointed in the media because the jobs are too difficult and the picture is moving and the incentives in the business are slightly misaligned.

“In public conversation, particularly in social media which is built on the idea that it will pull from us our most passionate emotions, if you look and spend any time on social media, the people who say, ‘Life is complex, and it is gray, and it is full of messy alternatives,’ they don’t get that many followers. But if you say something really mean about some politician or some other figure, you are elevated in the process, and this causes — and can ruin a number of careers — people to basically act out.

“What if every time you have that impulse, you try to just automatically respond with grace? If public conversation is causing us all to react so negatively, instantaneously and there is a business where people raise money for campaigns by playing on that idea or they get you to watch their television or buy their newspaper or sign up for their newsletter based on that idea that everybody on the other side is acting in bad faith, it’s incredibly corrosive. So, can you at the end of every day say, ‘Did I respond with grace?’”

Dickerson said the world is complex and full of gray, and even things that seem definitive have more complexity to them, which is important to keep in mind. He said he has one piece of advice for journalists who are trying to understand their audiences.

“Let them talk and listen to them,” he said. “Don’t go into the interview with a kind of slot that you want them to fit in, and then kind of constantly poke them to get them to say the thing you need to fit into that slot. It’s an act of human communication that makes people feel respected as opposed to used. Nobody wants to feel used.”

Dickerson’s third book, “The Presidency: The Hardest Job in the World” will be released on June 9. Follow him on Twitter @jdickerson.

Olivia Malick, UP editor

Financial aid policy shifts stress student

After six semesters of attending Lamar, there is one thing that never fails to happen each term — I get a call or an email from the financial aid office telling me that there is some issue with my account, FAFSA or refund.

Every semester I get overwhelmed and have a panic attack because of this.

On Jan. 22, I received a call from the financial aid office and was told that some of the money I had received as a refund needed to be returned. Apparently, it is against Lamar scholarship policy to receive a refund of scholarship monies that come from the Lamar University Foundation.

I was taken aback by this news because I had never heard of this policy before — it was never stated in any of my application forms or acceptance terms. In fall of 2019, I did receive Lamar scholarship money as a refund.

I applied for three scholarships in the spring 2019 semester and received all of them in the summer. I gave all of this information to financial aid in July.

After talking to different staff members in the financial aid and scholarships department, I was told I had nothing to worry about because they hadn’t heard of this policy either. They told me they believed someone had called me in error or with incorrect information.

Later the next morning, I was told something completely different — that yes, I did have to give some scholarship money back.

One fundamental issue with the office of financial aid is that it seems like one can’t get the same answer twice from anyone in the office. If employees in the financial aid and scholarships office don’t know about this policy, how can they expect students to?

I had a meeting with the director of financial aid with my department chair present. I was told that it was a mistake that I had received scholarship money as a refund in fall. A mistake that I have to pay for.

According to the financial aid office, scholarships are “competitively awarded to applicants having demonstrated abilities and prior successful participation in such areas as music, writing, art, dance, or athletics. Factors in the awarding of competitive skill-based scholarships include evaluation by faculty and/or staff in each specific area. Evaluations may include but are not limited to video, film, audio-tape, auditions, student submitted works, or personal observations.”

What’s the point of applying for scholarships if you can’t take advantage of their benefits? What is the point of meeting the qualifications if I get nothing for it?

The financial aid director asked me why I depended on the money I needed to pay back so much after I told her that I had budgeted my whole year around my refund.

I told her I depended on that money to help pay bills in addition to paying for school supplies such as textbooks.

She then told me that I should not be using my financial aid money for anything other than school needs and living expenses, while stating that rent is not a living expense. I live with my dad and brother, but I am charged rent and help with other bills.

For me, living at home is the best option for my family financially.

I work two jobs (including one on this campus) just to make ends meet.

If I get evicted from my house, what does it matter that my school is paid for? Many students depend on financial aid refunds to pay for things other than textbooks or notebooks. That’s the reality of the average American student.

She told me that I could sit down with her and look at other financial aid options like loans. I took out a loan from Lamar a couple of years ago and it almost destroyed my life. I don’t need to look at other options because the money I earned was already given to me.

I worked hard for each one of those scholarships that I earned and received and I deserve those benefits — as all students do.

She asked me what she could do to make the situation better. I told her she could let me keep my money. She told me that couldn’t happen because then it would be taking money away from other students.

How can keeping money that was exclusively dedicated to a specific scholarship award hurt other students who did not earn that scholarship? If I give the money back, where does it go?

If I had known from the start that LU Foundation scholarships could only be used for tuition and fees, I never would have applied for or accepted them. But Lamar never disclosed that policy with me.

They only seem to tell students about these policies after something goes wrong. They are incredibly hard to find on the website, and that’s if you even know what you’re looking for.

I do a lot for this school — I’m involved in several organizations and do a lot of recruitment for the department of communication and media. I want to be proud to be a Cardinal.

But how am I supposed to encourage students to be involved in this school when all I feel is beaten down and betrayed by it? My experiences with the financial aid office have made me wary of this campus’ administration and I have contemplated leaving school over it.

If it weren’t for my personal commitments to the faculty, staff and other students on this campus, I would leave.

This policy is not federal — it is a campus policy described to me by the financial aid director.

The explanation given to me about financial aid at Lamar is that other schools have similar policies — Lamar should be the exception to this rule and set a better example. This policy should be changed, but at the very least, be made extremely clear to every student that applies for an LU Foundation scholarship.

At this moment, I’m not proud to be a Cardinal. I feel trapped in a broken system. And I’m willing to bet I’m not the only one.

If you have experienced issues with the financial aid office that you’d like to share, please email editor@lamaruniversitypress.com with the subject line “financial aid.”

Olivia Malick, UP editor