Among the Flagship State Universities, the University of Virginia Maintains a Huge Lead in Black Student Graduation Rates

JBHE calculations show that by a large margin the University of Virginia has the highest black student graduation rate of any state-chartered institution in the nation. The black graduation rate at the university is 88 percent. The next-highest black student college completion rate at a flagship state university is at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. There, the black student graduation rate is 74 percent, 14 percentage points below the black student graduation rate at the University of Virginia. The University of Michigan, the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of Texas all had a black student graduation rate of 71 percent.

Twelve other states have flagship universities that post a black student graduation rate of 60 percent or higher. These are the state universities in Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Hampshire, Maryland, Florida, New York, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Washington, Alabama, and New Jersey.

Six states and the District of Columbia have flagship state-chartered universities at which the African-American student graduation rate is 34 percent or below. In addition to the University of the District of Columbia, the states that have flagship universities with a black student graduation rate below 34 percent are Alaska, South Dakota, North Dakota, New Mexico, Montana, and Nevada.


The Higher Education of Roland W. Burris

Although under indictment for attempting to sell Barack Obama’s seat in the U.S. Senate to the highest bidder, Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich recently named Roland W. Burris to fill the position.

The Illinois secretary of state has vowed not to certify the appointment, and the Democratic leadership in the U.S. Senate has vowed not to seat any appointee named by Blagojevich. Politically, the Senate is between a rock and a hard place. While standing firm against the alleged corruption of Blagojevich, the 99 white senators do not want to be placed in a position where they appear to be denying a seat to a man who would be the chamber’s only black member.

But the Senate leadership gained some cover when President-elect Obama went on record as saying, “Roland Burris is a good man and a fine public servant, but the Senate Democrats made it clear weeks ago that they cannot accept an appointment made by a governor who is accused of selling this very Senate seat.”

If he wins the seat, Burris will be the sixth African American to serve in the U.S. Senate.

Roland Burris is a native of Centralia, Illinois. In 1959 he graduated from Southern Illinois University where he played football and was on the wrestling team. After studying international law at the University of Hamburg, Burris received his law degree in 1963 at Howard University.

Burris was the first African American to be named a federal bank examiner for the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency in the U.S. Treasury Department. Later, as an officer of the Continental Illinois National Bank, now part of Bank of America, he headed a commercial division that dealt with minority business development.

In 1979 Burris was elected comptroller of the state of Illinois. He was the first African American elected to statewide office. After serving for 12 years in this position, Burris was elected attorney general of Illinois. He has been an unsuccessful candidate for governor, mayor of Chicago, and the Senate seat to which he has now been appointed.

He now practices law and is CEO of Burris & Lebed Consulting. He is also an adjunct professor at Southern Illinois University.

Burris is one member of a highly educated family. Burris’ wife and daughter both hold educational doctorates. His son is a lawyer.



Census Bureau Reports That the Percentage of Black Children Being Raised in Two-Parent Families Is on the Rise: What Does This Mean for Education?

It is widely believed that children who are raised in two-parent families do better in school and are better prepared for college. Two-parent families tend to have higher incomes. With two parents in the home, discipline is more easily enforced and there is a greater likelihood that a parent will be available to help children with homework and to participate in school activities. The presence of a male role model in the home can also help with the upbringing of young male children.

If two-parent families are favorable for fostering educational opportunities for young black children, then we have some good news to report. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that the percentage of black children living in two-parent homes may be at the highest level in nearly 30 years. The data shows that 40 percent of black children now live in two-parent homes, up from 35 percent in 2004. In 1970, nearly 60 percent of black children lived with two parents.

The Census Bureau says that an increase in black families from Africa and the Caribbean may explain some of the increase. But it also says that a rise in middle-class black families may be a contributing factor.

Despite this good news, a large racial gap remains. Some 77 percent of white children now live in two-parent homes, nearly double the rate for blacks.


Hampden-Sydney College Names Its First Black President

Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia has named Christopher B. Howard as its 24th, and first black, president. He will assume his position this summer. The selective liberal arts college has about 1,100 students. Only 5 percent are African Americans.

Dr. Howard has been vice president for leadership and strategic initiatives for the University of Oklahoma. He is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy where he served as president of his class. He was a running back on the academy’s football team. Selected as a Rhodes Scholar, Howard completed a master’s degree and a Ph.D. at Oxford University. He also holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School.

Still active in the Air Force Reserve, Howard was called to duty in 2003 to serve as an intelligence officer in Afghanistan, where he won the Bronze Star.


In Memoriam

Cyprian Lamar Rowe (1934-2008)

Cyprian Rowe, a religious leader and university professor, died recently at a hospice facility from Alzheimer’s disease in Towson, Maryland. He was 74 years old.

A native of Dalton, Georgia, Rowe was a graduate of Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York. He went on to earn a master’s degree at Hunter College in New York City. He taught at Marist until 1968, when he began doctoral studies at Howard University in Washington. During this period he taught classes at Federal City College, which later was reorganized as part of the University of the District of Columbia.

After receiving his doctorate in African studies at Howard in 1972 Rowe joined the faculty at the University of Rhode Island, where he helped develop the black studies program. He later taught at Temple University in Philadelphia, Loyola University of Chicago, and the University of Maryland. In 1984 he earned a master’s of social work degree from Catholic University of America.

Rowe was executive director of the National Office for Black Catholics and the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus. Criticizing the small number of black clergy and leaders in the Catholic Church, Rowe left the church in 1997 but returned three years later.

Beautine Hubert DeCosta-Lee (1913-2008)

Beautine DeCosta-Lee, longtime educator and civil rights activist, died at a retirement community in Memphis, Tennessee, from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. She was 95 years old.

The granddaughter of slaves, she was raised near Savannah, Georgia, by parents who were both teachers. She graduated from Spelman College high school in 1930 and went on to what is now Savannah State University. She later earned a master’s of social work degree from Atlanta University.

DeCosta-Lee was dean of women at South Carolina State University and taught sociology at Alabama State University. In Alabama she participated in the Montgomery bus boycott led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

In 1957 she moved to Baltimore when her husband Frank DeCosta was named founding dean of the graduate school at Morgan State University. During this time, Beautine was a social worker for the public school system in Baltimore.


82%  Percentage of whites with incomes of $50,000 or more who owned stocks or mutual funds in 2008.

62%  Percentage of blacks with incomes of $50,000 or more who owned stocks or mutual funds in 2008.

source: Ariel/Schwab Black Investor Survey, 2008



• Daniel A. Wubah was named vice president and dean for undergraduate education at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. He will also be a professor of biological sciences. He was associate provost for undergraduate academic affairs and professor of zoology at the University of Florida.

Dr. Wubah is a graduate of the University of Cape Coast in Ghana. He holds a master’s degree from the University of Akron and a Ph.D. from the University of Georgia.

The title of vice president emeritus was bestowed on Melvin C. Terrell by Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago. Dr. Terrell recently retired from the position of vice president for student affairs.

• Carlton C. Brown was appointed first career and internship adviser at Aurora University in Aurora, Illinois. He was a graduate assistant in the Office of Ethics and Student Conflict Resolution at Miami University of Ohio.

• Valerie D. White, an assistant professor of mass communications at Florida A&M University, was named an adjunct professor of mass communications at Fort Valley State University in Georgia.

A graduate of Hampton University, Dr. White holds a master’s degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Missouri and a Ph.D. in mass communications from the University of Georgia.

• Brenda Allen was named professor of psychology, provost, and vice chancellor for academic affairs at Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina. She will take her new position on July 1. She is currently associate provost and director of institutional diversity at Brown University.

Dr. Allen is a graduate of Lincoln University. She holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in developmental psychology from Howard University.

• Quintin B. Bullock was selected as the sixth president of Schenectady County Community College in New York. He will assume office in July. He is currently provost of the Virginia Beach campus of Tidewater Community College.

Dr. Bullock holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Prairie View A&M University. He also holds a doctoral degree in dental surgery from the University of Texas Health Science Center.

Is Harvard’s Black Studies Now Likely to Lose Ground to Those at Princeton and Yale?

It is often said that Harvard is governed by a rule of exceptions. This means that Harvard announces a lot of rules but it actually makes its decisions according to its exceptions.

For example, Harvard may announce a “hiring freeze” but if it turns out that Princeton and Yale are recruiting a scholar who Harvard desperately wants on its faculty, Harvard will compete for the scholar under its “rule of exceptions.”

Harvard has recently announced a freeze rule in new faculty hirings. But everyone awaits the “exceptions.”

Now what about Harvard’s black studies? Under former president Lawrence Summers, it is clear that Harvard would apply the present freeze rules to black studies. But now the question is, will the exception rule be applied to Harvard’s black studies by current president Drew Faust?

Harvard already has the strongest black studies effort in the world. Will Faust rest on the university’s laurels and suspend faculty hirings in black studies?

We think not. But if it does, the great beneficiaries will be Princeton and Yale. Never has there been a time when so many highly qualified young black scholars are entering the academic job market. Will Harvard allow them to drift to Yale and Princeton?

JBHE asked several black scholars at Harvard to comment on the hiring freeze. It is a delicate issue. We received no responses.


“People say voting doesn’t matter. I say that is crazy.”

George Francis, an African American who at the time of his death in December was the oldest living American, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. Francis, who was 112 years old, lived in Sacramento, California. He voted for Franklin Roosevelt in 1932 and Barack Obama this past November.


Pomona College to Keep Its Alma Mater Despite Its Connection to a Blackface Minstrel Show

This past May, Pomona College, the highly selective liberal arts institution in Claremont, California, canceled the singing of the college’s alma mater — “Hail, Pomona, Hail” — at its commencement exercises.

The reason for the cancellation was because the song had been composed in 1909 as the closing number of a blackface minstrel show. The college wanted time to investigate whether it was proper to continue to use the song.

The 1909 minstrel show was produced to raise money to buy new uniforms for the college’s baseball team. There is nothing in the song itself that can be construed as being racially derogatory.

Pomona president David Oxtoby appointed a committee to look into the matter. Now, in a compromise, President Oxtoby has reinstated “Hail, Pomona, Hail” as the college’s official alma mater but has also decided not to have the song used as part of the college’s annual commencement ceremonies. In making his decision, Oxtoby said, “There is the troubling idea that all things associated with an imperfect past should be considered tainted even if there is nothing inherently objectionable about them.”


The Persisting Racial Shortfall in Tenure Rates

Last week JBHE reported that in 2007 blacks made up 5.4 percent of all full-time faculty at degree-granting educational institutions in the United States.

Blacks are less successful when we look at tenured faculty. In 2007 there were 13,388 blacks holding a tenured faculty post at degree-granting educational institutions in the United States. They made up 4.6 percent of all tenured faculty. Thirty-five percent of all black full-time faculty members in 2007 held tenure. For all white full-time faculty members, 44.6 percent had obtained tenure.


Washington and Lee University Shows Major Improvement in Black Student Graduation Rates

In the latest data from the U.S. Department of Education, Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, showed an average black student graduation rate of 69 percent. This is 20 percentage points below the graduation rate for white students at the university.

Kenneth P. Ruscio, president of the university, told JBHE that he was well aware of the problem and that the university was working hard to correct it. He said great progress has already been made, which is not reflected in the latest data available from the Department of Education. President Ruscio notes that the six-year graduation rate for black students who entered the university in 2002 was 95 percent. The five-year graduation rate for black students who entered in 2003 is 84 percent and the four-year graduation rate for black students who entered in 2004 is 93 percent. These numbers mean that the official black student graduation rate at Washington and Lee as compiled by the Department of Education should rise sharply in the years ahead.

President Ruscio told JBHE that in 2003 new procedures were implemented aimed to increase the retention and graduation rates of African-American students. “African-American students at Washington and Lee meet individually with the associate dean of students on a regular basis to monitor progress and to provide both personal and academic support. This early alert system allows any issues or concerns to be addressed quickly and effectively.”


Scholars at the Black Colleges and Universities Shut Out in Election of New Fellows to the American Association for the Advancement of Science

The nation’s historically black colleges and universities are the Rodney Dangerfields of American science. They get no respect.

The black schools get only a few crumbs of the billions of dollars in federal science grants. And black scholars at these educational institutions are rarely honored for their achievements by mainstream science organizations.

Case in point: Recently the American Association for the Advancement of Science announced the election of 486 new fellows. The new electees to the honorary society came from colleges and universities across the United States. But not one of the scholars elected to the AAAS was on the faculty of any historically black college or university.


What’s Next for Condoleezza Rice?

In less than two weeks Condoleezza Rice will turn over the leadership of the State Department to Hillary Clinton. Rice is the second African American and the second woman to be secretary of state. Unlike many members of the Bush administration, Rice remains highly regarded in foreign policy circles. Although she has shown no inclination to run for political office, many observers believe she would be a formidable candidate for president or vice president in the future. Only 54 years old, Rice will be considered for a high-ranking position in any future GOP administration.

The question is, What will Rice do now? After leaving the State Department, Rice will return to her tenured position at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. In an interview with a French newspaper, Rice said, “When I’m done, I’ll go home to California and teach students about this experience. I’m an academic at heart.” In the 1990s, Rice was provost at Stanford. Her performance there met with uneven appraisals. She lost considerable support because of her lukewarm attitude toward affirmative action.

The Hoover Institution is a conservative think tank on public policy issues. It is supported by donations from foundations, corporations, and individuals. It has an endowment of more than $200 million and an annual budget of $25 million. About 100 academics and 80 researchers are affiliated with the Hoover Institution.

Rice plans to write two books. One book will be on American foreign policy in the post-9/11 era. She also wants to write a book about her parents, who were both educators.

Rice has always maintained that her dream job would be commissioner of the National Football League. Undoubtedly, she will be asked to serve as president of a major foundation or a major research university. She will probably serve on a number of corporate boards of directors, as she did before joining the Bush administration. As a director of Chevron in the mid-1990s, the oil company named a large tanker after her.

It is safe to say that we have not heard the last of Condoleezza Rice.


Honors and Awards

• Leonard A. Slade Jr., professor of African studies and Collins Fellow at the University of Albany, was named Citizens Academic Laureate by the University Foundation for his “distinguished service to the university.”

• Stephen C. McGuire, professor and chair of the department of physics at Southern University in Baton Rouge, was elected a fellow of the American Physical Society. Election as a fellow is the highest honor bestowed on APS members.


• Florida A&M University, the historically black educational institution in Tallahassee, received a three-year, $30,000 grant from Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores for scholarships for students at the university’s business school.

The business school at North Carolina Central University received a $30,000 grant from the Independent Insurance Agents of North Carolina. The money will be used for student scholarships.



Copyright © 2009. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. All rights reserved.