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Wake Forest University Does Away with SAT Requirement June 6, 2008

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Note: The Black on Campus blog has now moved to blackoncampus.com. This is an excerpt. Read the entire post at Blackoncampus.com.

A shout out to the Schools Matter blog for it’s June 4, 2008 post on Wake Forest University’s recent decision to abandon its SAT Requirement.

In a post titled, “Only Bad Reasons Remaining to Require the SAT” Jim Horn, the Schools Matter blogger, sums up the problematic nature of the College Board’s “aptitude” test and its deleterious effect on educational equity:

Clearly, the SAT has outlived its reason for being in the first place, which was institutionalized ostensibly to create the basis for an objective measure from which to establish an intellectual meritocracy and to predict the success rates of incoming freshmen. With scores simply mirroring disparities in family income, and with women, who score lower than men, finishing college at a higher rate than their counterparts, the SAT has failed on both counts.

[Read the rest of this post at Blackoncampus.com]

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Quinn Rallins: Morehouse Grad Beats the Odds, Debunks Myth May 21, 2008

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I was poised to make this the first Wordless Wednesday on my blog. If you’re not familiar with this phenomenon, Wordless Wednesday is the day that some bloggers set aside to feature a particularly compelling photo that truly captures the mood of the moment.

Because this blog is education-oriented, however, it’s been a little more difficult to find relevant current photos than I had anticipated, especially given that the mainstream news sites seem a bit less than inclined toward publishing photos and stories about Black people graduating from college (the story that I wished to commemorate in today’s images).

Even more difficult was the task of locating pictures of the young man who I simply have to celebrate on this day. His name is Quinn Rallins, and he graduated from Morehouse College this past weekend. His story is compelling and inspiring, but while news outlets across the country have scrambled to cover the story of Joshua Packwood, his classmate and the first white student to be named as class valedictorian at the historically Black institution, only the Chicago Tribune has seen fit to cover the inspiring story of Quinn Rallins.

Read the rest of Rallins’s story HERE

Not All Western Scientists Think Like James Watson May 13, 2008

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Astrophysicist Stephen Hawking

Who can forget the disturbing comments made by James Watson about the incapacity of people of African descent to reach the same levels of achievement as white people? It is a genetic reality, suggested Watson, that Black people simply do not have the same intellectual capacity as their white counterparts. (Click HERE to read my blogpost on Watson’s comments)

How refreshing it is, then, to read of physicist Stephen Hawking’s comments upon visiting Cape Town, South Africa. Said Hawking, “The world of science needs Africa’s brilliant talents, and I look forward to meeting prospective young Einsteins from Africa in the near future.”

Hawking, 66, understands that academic performance is, in the end, more closely tied to opportunity than to some sort of genetic predestination; and this was evidenced in his statement that he would be “delighted” if his visit, as part of the African Institute for the Mathematical Sciences science talent search (“for the next Einstein”), opened up greater opportunities for young people on the continent to enter math and science fields.

You can read more about Stephen Hawkings on his African trip at THIS link.

Posted by Ajuan Mance

Black Doctorates Clustered in Education, Ed.D. at Risk May 13, 2008

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In Feburary a report on Black graduate students in the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education moved me to blog on the clustering of Black graduate students in the fields of Education and Business. You can read that blog post HERE. This issue made the news again just last week when the Baltimore Times published “Fewer Blacks Earning Degrees,” an analysis of the current state of African Americans and doctoral education, written by education advocate Jayne Matthews. Click on the highlighted title to read this article in its entirety.

Early in her piece, Matthews cites the familiar statistic, that 36.5 percent of African Americans with doctorates hold those degrees in the field of education. She then goes on to explore some of the more disturbing implications of Black clustering in that field. Matthews reveals that the pursuit of the Ed.D. as a professional degree (commonly used as a stepping stone into principalships, school superintendent positions, and certain college administrative posts) has prompted a reconsideration of the necessity of pre-administrative training at the doctoral level, noting that Arthur Levine, president of the highly influential Columbia Teacher’s College, has suggested removing the dissertation component of the Ed.D., which would effectively eliminate it as a doctoral degree option, and replacing it with a professionally-oriented M.Ed. Matthew’s writes:

Arthur Levine, president of the Teachers College at Columbia University, has proposed that Ed.D. degrees be abolished and be replaced with a master’s degree in educational administration. He believes that people who aspire to be school superintendents or college administrators are wasting their time doing a research dissertation on a topic that will have little or no bearing on the job that they plan to hold.

The effect on the numbers of Black doctoral numbers would be dramatic:

Should the Levine view prevail, the black percentage of all doctoral awards would fall dramatically. If we eliminate educational doctorates from the 2006 statistics, we find that blacks earned only 4.8 percent of all doctorates in fields other than education.

While the sharp downward shift in black percentage of doctoral awards would be troubling on many levels, it would not have much of an effect on the real-life experiences of Black faculty and students on college and university campuses, where the clustering of Black doctoral degree holders in primary and secondary school administrative posts has had little or no direct impact on the number of Black instructors that undergraduate and graduate students encounter in their college classrooms.

It is possible to argue that there should already have been an M.Ed. oriented specifically toward to aspiring administrators, possibly along the lines of an M.B.A., but for education professionals rather than business professional. Then, as is the case in the field of business, the doctorate in education would be a Ph.D., oriented specifically toward those who have an interest in college-level teaching and research.

As a Black academic I have to wonder, though, whether or not the popularity of the Ed.D. among African Americans has anything to do with some institutions’ willingness to consider doing away with it. This very question may seem fraught with racial paranoia; but given the history of Black people in the academy, to ignore such a possibilty would be foolish.

Posted by Ajuan Mance

Black Firsts, May 2008: Lt. Cmdr. Wesley A. Brown May 9, 2008

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“There’s no greater honor, obviously, for an alumni to have a building named for him, one that he hasn’t donated the money for.” — Ret. Lt. Cmdr. Wesley A. Brown in the Baltimore Sun

Ret. Lt. Cmdr. Wesley A. Brown

A number of institutions are celebrating this commencement season by naming Black scholars to leadership positions that African Americans have never previously held or by honoring their institution’s Black pioneers. Over the next few days, I will be posting news of some of these exciting milestones under the heading “Black Firsts, May 2008.”

The series continues with this brief report on the U.S. Naval Academy and its upcoming dedication of the new Wesley Brown Field House, named for its first African American graduate.

The dedication will take place this coming Saturday (May 10, 2008 ) and Ret. Lt. Commander Wesley A. Brown, the 81 year-old guest of honor, will be in attendance, along with a number of family members and friends. A member of the Academy’s class of 1949, Brown was the sixth African American to enter the Naval Academy, but only the first to graduate. Like previous Black enrollees, Brown endured isolation and harrassment but, he is not bitter. The Baltimore Sun reports that, “Brown has said in previous interviews that he did not recall many of the bad experiences at the academy and prefers to talk about the friends he had there.”

Midshipman Wesley A. Brown, ca. 1949

The Sun reports that Brown, “entered the Navy’s civil engineer corps after graduation. He retired from the Navy in 1969.” Brown feels fortunate to be alive to experience this dedication and to share it with his family. The Sun explains the health crisis that nearly prevented him from reaching this moment:

Brown said he was taken aback several years agowhen someone from the academy called to say officials planned to name an athletic complex after him. Brown said he initially thought the caller was a prankster or a telemarketer.

Two months later, he suffered a heart attack at his home, and doctors told his wife that he would likely die before morning. Their four children flew in from other parts of the country to be at his side.

Brown said he is simply thankful to be alive for Saturday’s ceremony.

He has spent recent weeks finalizing the guest list, which has grown to 70 family members and more than 300 friends.

The Wesley Brown Field House is a state-of-the-art athletic facility. HomeTownAnnapolis.com describes the $52 million, 140,000 square foot sports complex:

The facility includes track and field areas, such as sand pits for broad jumps, that can be covered by a retractable artificial turf football field.

When being put in place or retracted, the 76,000-square-foot, 100,000-pound carpet floats on a bed of forced air created by fans hidden in the floor. The goal is to reduce friction and make the turf last longer, said retired Cmdr. Tom McKavitt, an associate athletic director at the academy.

Cmdr. McKavitt said the facility will house the men and women’s cross country and track teams, the women’s lacrosse team and the sprint football team, as well as supporting 16 club sports.

“The facility will contribute to the overall physical mission at the Naval Academy,” he said.

Cmdr. McKavitt said the building’s wall overlooking the Santee Basin is designed to serve as dike in case of severe flooding.

The wall is mostly blast-resistant glass and is designed to reduce the need for artificial lighting. It is tinted toward the top to make the building easier to cool, according to Lt. Bob Kendall, the project supervisor.

The building has its own storm water management system that includes channeling run-off into flower beds, he said.

Posted by Ajuan Mance

Black Firsts, May 2008: Rev. Brian K. Blount May 8, 2008

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“The seminary’s task, then, is to sear the promise of God’s protective power and transformative capability so deeply into your hearts and minds that when you step out into the lead of God’s people, your shepherding, driving focus will always be more on what can be than on what is.” –Rev. Brian K. Blount

Rev. Brian K. Blount (left) during his inauguration as the president of Union Theological Seminary.

 

 

A number of institutions are celebrating this commencement season by naming Black scholars and administrators to positions that they have never previously held or by honoring their institution’s Black pioneers. Over the next few days, I will be posting news of some of these exciting milestones under the heading “Black Firsts, May 2008.”

The series begins with this brief report on Union Theological Seminary and its installation of Rev. Brian K. Blount as the first ever Black person to lead the institution.

5/07/09 — Rev. Brian K. Blount was inaugurated as the first African American president of Union Theological Seminary & Presbyterian School of Christian Education. As the first Black president in its 196-year history, Rev. Blount also became the first African American “to head a seminary of the Presbyterian Church (USA).” Rev. Blount holds was educated at the College of William and Mary (B.A.), Princeton Theological Seminary (M.Div.), and Emory University (Ph.D). He has authored and co-authored several books, including: Making Room At The Table: An Invitation to Multicultural Worship, edited with Lenora Tubbs Tisdale (D.Min.’79), Westminster John Knox Press, 2000;  Cultural Interpretation: Reorienting New Testament Criticism, Fortress Press, 1995; Then The Whisper Put On Flesh: New Testament Ethics in An African American Context, Abingdon Press, 2001; Can I Get A Witness? Reading Revelation Through African-American Culture, Westminster John Knox Press, 2005; True to Our Native Land: An African American New Testament Commentary, general editor, Fortress Press, 2007; and several others.

Posted by Ajuan Mance

“Acting White” Myth: Code Orange Advisory May 7, 2008

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Algernon Austin

Algernon Austin is director of the Thora Institute. Austin is a 1990 graduate of Wesleyan University. He earned his M.A. (1995) and Ph.D. (2001) in sociology from Northwestern University.

The myth that Black students equate getting good grades in school with “acting white” took a major hit last week. In a piece published on the “The Daily Voice” Black news site, author Algernon Austin took the rising campaign against this dangerous myth one step further in his May 2 post, “Are Black Students Really Afraid of Acting White.”

According to Austin, the “acting white” myth grew out of a single study, published in 1986. Anyone who has even a passing familiarity with contemporary debates on Black academic achievement can affirm that, 22 years later, the “acting white” myth continues to figure prominently in discussions of all issues related African American educational attainment. Austin describes the study, it’s limited scope, and the problematic nature of the researchers conclusions:

In 1986, in an Urban Review article, two scholars studying a Washington D.C. high school claimed that black students did not achieve academically because of a fear of being perceived as “acting white.” People pounced so quickly on this idea that they failed to realize that the researchers did not actually present any black students who said they were afraid of being called “white” [emphasis mine].

Of the eight students discussed in the article, four indicated that they were worried about being called “brainiacs.” The other four raised other issues. A fear of “acting white” was the researchers’ highly debatable interpretation of what was going on, but it was not a direct quotation.

Many white students have been called “brainiac,” “nerd,” “geek,” and similar names by other white students. It is unfortunate that students tease and bully each other. But this is not “a black thing.” The real question therefore is whether academically-oriented teasing is more common among black students than among whites. There is no convincing evidence that this is the case. A 2003 study by the Girl Scout Research Institute, for example, found equal levels of concern about school-related teasing among black and white girls.

Austin’s juxtaposes the considerable attention given 1986 Urban Review findings with the limited exposure given to those studies whose findings suggest that African American youth place a high value on education. This throws into relief the sad fact that, when it comes to African Americans, research is rewarded, not for the validity of its conclusions or for the quality of its analysis, but for the degree to which it reinforces familiar stereotypes.

Just below, I have included three of my favorite passages from Algernon Austin’s “Are Black Students Really African of ‘Acting White'” ; or click on THIS link to read the entire piece:

Contrary to the popular stereotype, much of the evidence suggests that black students value education more than whites. The same year the Urban Review article was published, the Monitoring the Future survey found that 74 percent of black high school seniors believed that getting good grades was of “great” or “very great importance,” but only 41 percent of white seniors felt as strongly. Half of black seniors reported that knowing a lot about intellectual matters was of “great” or “very great importance,” but only one-fifth of white seniors felt the same […] and more recent surveys have had similar results. A 2006 survey by Public Agenda found that black students were more likely than white students to believe that “increasing math and science education would improve high school.” The Higher Education Research Institute’s 2006 survey of college freshmen found that the majority-black students at historically black colleges were more likely to aspire to obtain a Ph.D. than college freshmen generally.

Since the 1970s, the best standardized tests have shown a greater increase in black students’ scores than in white students’ scores. The long-term trend National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) math test for eight graders, for example, shows a 14 point gain for white students but a 34 point gain for black students. There remains a large gap in scores on this test, but it was 20 points larger in the 1970s.

What the current academic research shows is that much of the black-white achievement gap exists prior to first-grade, many years before academic teasing begins. This gap is due to broad social and economic disadvantages among black families in comparison to white families. The gap grows during school years because these disadvantaged black students then attend schools of lower quality than white students.

Posted by Ajuan Mance

Wall Street Journal Tackles Racial Climate on Duke Campus May 4, 2008

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Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal includes a fascinating article on relations between Black and white students on integrated campuses. The piece, titled “Race on Campus: Beyond Obama the Unity Stops” and written by Jonathan Kaufman, moves beyond the familiar complaints about Black students’ self-segregation, to explore some of the real reasons that students of all ethnicities remain reluctant to reach beyond the comfort of their same-race social circles.

Kaufman is interested in the way that tBlack and white college students have together in support the Obama campaign, and yet,

[…]after classes — and after the occasional Obama rally — most black and white students on college campuses go their separate ways, living in separate dormitories, joining separate fraternities and sororities and attending separate parties.

Most intriguing is what Kaufman’s interview with Duke sociologist Eduardo Bonilla-Silva reveals about the different ways that Black and white students perceive even the minimal amount of social contact that these two groups have on campus. Kaufman writes,

Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, a Duke sociologist, asked his white students how many had a black friend on campus. All the white students raised their hands.

He then asked the black students how many of them had a white friend on campus. None of them raised their hands.

The more he probed, Mr. Bonilla-Silva says, the more he realized that the definition of friendship was different. The white students considered a black a “friend” if they played basketball with him or shared a class. “It was more of an acquaintance,” recalls Mr. Bonilla-Silva.

Black students, by contrast, defined a friend as someone they would invite to their home for dinner. By that measure, none of the students had friends from the opposite race. Mr. Bonilla-Silva says when white college students were asked in series of 1998 surveys about the five people with whom they interacted most on a daily basis, about 68% said none of them were black. When asked if they had invited a black person to lunch or dinner recently, about 68% said “no.” He says his own research and more recent studies show similar results.

Bonilla-Silva’s findings suggest a trend that has also been identified in other settings, in which white Americans and Black Americans have very different perceptions of the amount of contact that constitutes acceptable integration. On average, Black people’s expectations for what real integration and real cross-racial connections should feel like are much higher than most white people’s.

This all reminds me of a study done back in 1978 and described more recently in Douglas Massey and Nancy Denton’s American Apartheid (Harvard UP, 1993 [see pages 92-93]). In the 1978 Detroit Area study, a Black population of 21% was the threshold at which a neighborhood became unacceptable to a critical mass of whites. Once a neighborhood became 21% Black, 50% of whites surveyed would be unwilling to move in; despite being less than a quarter of the overall population, 21% was simply too intergrated for half of the white survey respondents. For the Black people surveyed, on the other hand, integration meant a racial mix of somewhere between 15% and 70%, “with 50% being most desirable” (Denton and Massey 93).

The disparity between Black and white perceptions of integration, despite both populations’ common committment to integration, is not limited to Detroit in the late 1970s. Many studies carried out since 1978, in cities across the nation have recorded a similar divide between Black and white perceptions of this this concept (integration). A 1988 Harris Poll sums up the divide between Black and white feelings on this subject quite succintly. In this survey a full 69% of Black respondents believed that the different races in the U.S. were better off living side by side, while only 50% of white respondents expressed this belief.

In 2008, the divide between Black and white perceptions of cross-racial friendship that Kaufman found on the Duke University campus tells a similar story to that which was documented in these earlier studies about the divide between Black and white perceptions of neighborhood integration. Stated simply, many in the white majority are comfortable with considerably less contact with Black people and in considerably more superficial ways that Black people are, and thus Black and white expectations for what true integration would look like are very much in conflict with one another.

For college campuses to reflect the type of racial and ethnic connections that the Obama campaign seems to foreshadow, then Black and white students (and Asian, Native American, and Latin American students) will have to move toward a common understanding of what true integration would look like. On majority white campuses, the racial climate is largely be dictated by the preferences of the white majority. If a cordial high five with a Black guy after an intramural basketball game feels like a true cross-racial connection to students in the white majority, then cross-racial friendships will, for the most part, remain stalled at that point.

Posted by Ajuan Mance

5 Black Students Among This Year’s Truman Honorees April 24, 2008

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On 4/24/08 aJournal of Blacks in HIgher Education report highlighted the 5 young Black men and women who are among this year’s Truman Scholars.

The Harry S. Truman scholarship foundation provides this description of its scholarship awards:

The Truman Scholarship provides up to $30,000 in funding to students pursuing graduate degrees in public service fields. Students must be college juniors at the time of selection. The Foundation also provides assistance with career counseling, internship placement, graduate school admissions, and professional development. Scholars are invited to participate in a number of programs: Truman Scholar Leadership Week, The Summer Institute, The Truman Fellows Program, and the Public Service Law Conference. Please visit the For Scholars section of the website for an overview of the programs the Foundation currently offers for Scholars.

This year’s Black Truman scholars, as described on the Jbhe wesbite, are as follows:

• Danielle Maria Allen is a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is majoring in public policy and economics with a concentration in urban studies. She plans to go to law school and to focus on education law. Allen, from Monroe, North Carolina, has worked as a volunteer for a U.S. Department of Commerce research study on the effects of racial discrimination on economic relations.

Jennifer Collette Bailey is a native of Illinois. She is a political science major at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. At Tufts, she is the president of the local chapter of Emerging Black Leaders and codirector of the Tufts Social Justice Arts Initiative. After graduation, Bailey wants to pursue master’s degrees in both public policy and divinity.

Aysha Reniece Gregory was born and raised in St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. She is currently a student at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. Gregory is pursuing a double major in political science and Africana studies. She has served as an intern for Congresswoman Donna M. Christensen. Gregory plans to obtain a master’s degree in public policy and then go on to law school.

Jarvis Conell McInnis is a native of Gulfport, Mississippi. He is currently an English major at Tougaloo College, a historically black educational institution in Mississippi. He was honored as National Youth of the Year by the Boys and Girls Clubs of America for his effort in raising $25,000 to rebuild clubs devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

McInnis plans to seek a master’s degree in African-American studies and a Ph.D. in English literature.

Thomas Hayling Price, from New Rochelle, New York, is a student at the University of Pennsylvania. He is pursuing a double major in urban studies and Africana studies. He spent a summer abroad in Ghana researching economic development. He plans to go to law school and to concentrate on public interest law.

Congratulations to these and the other 65 Truman scholarship recipients. May you have success in your future studies. May reach all of your intellectual and political goals, and may you work within your nation and beyond, to improve the lives of all people.

Posted by Ajuan Mance

Black Milestones in Higher Education: Columbia Lions Edition April 18, 2008

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In honor of primary season I’ve decided — at least momentarily — to focus my Black Milestones in Higher Education series on the undergraduate alma maters of the major presidential candidates up for nomination.

I began the series with the U.S. Naval Academy, alma mater of Republican front-runner John McCain. Next up in the series wasWellesley College, the alma mater of Democratic presidential hopeful. I am ending with Columbia University, the undergraduate alma mater of Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama.

History and Overview: Columbia University was founded and began offering classes in 1754, called King’s College at the time, it was founded, “by royal charter of King George II of England” (Source: Columbia University Website). At the time, the enrollment consisted of eight students, all of whom were male. The College was forced to shut down in 1776, as a result of the upheaval of the Revolutionary War in the colonies. When it reopened in 1784, the institution had a new name, Columbia.

In 1983, Columbia became the last of the Ivy League schools to enroll women. Today woman make up a full 49.3 percent of the student body. As of the fall of 2007, University’s undergraduate programs enrolled 7,377 students, of whom 435 were Black.

Black Milestones at Columbia University:

  • 1908 — Pixley ka Ikasa Seme of South African becomes the first black student to earn a B.A. from Columbia. In 1928 he would go on to earn an LLD from Columbia, and would eventually become the founder of the African National Congress (ANC).
  • 1928 — Louis Wilson, Jr. becomes the first African American graduate of Columbia’s architecture school.
  • 1968 — Armed with guns, Black students take over Hamilton Hall to protest both the building of a gym whose entrance policies were considered racist and the University’s involvement in weapon’s reserach.
  • 1969 — M. Moran Weston (CC’30, GSAS’40, GSAS’69) becomes the first African American to serve on the Columbia University Board of Trustees.
  • 1972 — Kellis E. Parker becomes the first full-time African American professor at Columbia Law School.
  • 1976 — The Black Students’ Organization (BSO) is founded.
  • 1983 — The Institute for Research in African American Studies is established at Columbia University.
  • 1999 — The Winter 1999/2000 issue of the Journal of Black in Higher Education reports that Columbia has the higher percentage of Black faculty (7.2 percent) “among the nation’s 27 highest ranked universities.
  • 2004 — On October 26th of this year, Columbia University a plaza on its Morningside campus in the name of it’s first Black trustee, the late Rev. Dr. M. Moran Weston, a graduate of the class of 1930.

Posted by Ajuan Mance