Proponents of Anti-Affirmative Action Measure in Missouri Get Their Way on the Language Used to Describe the Initiative on the Ballot

Ward Connerly’s American Civil Rights Institute is planning to introduce anti-affirmative action referendums in five states this coming November. Studies have shown that the words used in writing these referenda can make a huge difference in voter response.

For example, if the proposal is to “abolish affirmative action plans that provide greater access and opportunities and to increase diversity,” voters tend to vote “no.” But when the wording of the initiative is to “prohibit the government from giving preferences to particular racial groups,” voters tend to vote “yes.”

In Missouri, one of the five states Connerly is targeting this year, a judge has rejected the language used by the Missouri secretary of state to describe a ballot initiative and replaced it with language preferred by proponents of the affirmative action ban.

The description for the ballot now asks voters whether the state constitution should be amended to “ban state and local government affirmative action programs that give preferential treatment in public contracting, employment, or education based on race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin.”

Connerly has previously led successful efforts to pass similar initiatives in California, Michigan, and Washington State.


Five Percent of the Students Accepted Early at Williams College Are Black

Now that Harvard University, Princeton University, and the University of Virginia have abandoned their early decision admissions programs, many other highly selective colleges and universities have seen major increases in early applicants.

Williams College in northwestern Massachusetts is rated as the No. 1 liberal arts college in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. At Williams, in common with many other highly selective colleges and universities, blacks have been generally reluctant to apply early because, if accepted, they are bound to enroll and therefore would lose leverage with which to bargain for more substantial financial aid from two or more competing institutions.

This year Williams College received 600 early decision applications, an increase of 13 percent from a year ago. The college accepted 223 of its 600 early decision applicants. Of these, only 12 African Americans were accepted. Thus, blacks make up 5.4 percent of all students accepted early at Williams.

In the current academic year, blacks make up 9.3 percent of all freshman students.


Iowa State University Reports a Drop in Its Black Student Retention Rate

Iowa State University in Ames has a long history of educating African Americans. Its most famous black graduate is George Washington Carver, who went on to hold more than 300 U.S. patents in the agricultural sciences. Today blacks make up about 3 percent of the 20,000 undergraduate students at the university.

This year there was a sharp drop in the black student retention rate, the percentage of freshman students who return to the university for their second year. Last year the retention rate for black students was a healthy 86 percent. But this year only 73 percent of the black students who enrolled in the fall of 2006 returned to campus in the fall of 2007. For the student body as a whole, the retention rate  is 85 percent.

Iowa State believes that the drop in the black student retention rate is only a statistical anomaly. It does not plan any new programs to boost the black retention rate. However, the university says that it works hard to retain all students who are at risk of dropping out regardless of race or ethnicity.



Black Faculty Are Well Represented in Major Sociology Departments

The field of sociology includes issues of race, urban studies, and relations between different ethnic groups. So it should come as no surprise that the nation’s leading colleges and universities have hired a relatively large number of black scholars to teach the discipline at their institutions. In fact, blacks are a greater percentage of the total faculty in sociology than in perhaps any other discipline except African-American studies.

New data from Donna J. Nelson, an associate professor of chemistry at the University of Oklahoma, has found 152 blacks teaching sociology at the 100 departments with the largest research budgets in the field. All told, blacks are 8 percent of all sociology faculty at these institutions.

Among the 152 black faculty in sociology are 68 women and 55 scholars who hold the rank of full professor. There are seven black sociologists at Michigan State University, the most of any of the top 100 sociology departments. There are five black sociologists at Virginia Tech and four each at Texas A&M University, UCLA, and the University of Texas.


Kenyan Connection Makes University of Texas at El Paso a Powerhouse in Collegiate Cross-Country

Nationwide, blacks make up 28 percent of the student athletes who are on athletic scholarships for track or cross-country. Blacks make up a large percentage of the athletes who compete as sprinters and in various jumping events. White athletes are more prevalent in distance running and in cross-country.

But at the University of Texas at El Paso, all seven members of the cross-country team are black. But not one of them is an African American.

The team’s coach is Paul Ereng, who won an Olympic Gold Medal in the 800 meters for Kenya in 1988. Since taking over the cross-country program in El Paso, Ereng has recruited runners from his native Kenya, a country known for its distance runners. Ereng is a national hero in Kenya, which gives him a recruiting edge to attract the nation’s best young runners who want to pursue higher education in the United States.

Ereng, who is a graduate of the University of Virginia, was the first Kenyan to be named a head coach at an American college or university.

The Kenyan athletes live together in off-campus apartments. The seven Kenyan students have an average GPA of 3.16. At least one plans to become a medical doctor.

Dominic K. Tanui, a junior from Kenya, told the Chronicle of Higher Education, “In the United States people play football. Where I grew up, people run.”


NCAA to Give Financial Support to the Laboratory for Diversity in Sport at Texas A&M University

The National Collegiate Athletic Association has entered into a partnership with the Laboratory for Diversity in Sport at Texas A&M University. Under the agreement, the NCAA will provide financial support for the laboratory to research and identify member colleges and universities that have made a concerted effort to bring greater racial, gender, and ethnic diversity to the athletic departments. The research will include surveys on recruitment and selection of employees in college and university athletic departments, management of the departments’ culture of diversity, and efforts to promote diversification in the marketing and promotion of athletic events.

The group will present an annual Diversity in Athletics Award to deserving colleges or universities in eight separate categories. The award will eventually be presented to at least one educational institution in each of the three NCAA divisions.


Ohio State University Reports Success in Boosting Retention Rates for Black Men

The percentage of men among African-American college students has been declining in recent years. Today black women make up nearly two thirds of all African Americans enrolled in college. In past issues of JBHE we have highlighted successful programs aimed at increasing black male participation in higher education at the City University of New York and at the University of Georgia.

Ohio State University is also reporting success in its efforts to retain black male students. The university says that more than 90 percent of the black men who matriculated in the fall of 2006 returned for their sophomore year. This is a record level and surpasses the retention rate for African-American female students at the university.

The Bell Resource Center on the African-American Male was founded three years ago. The center establishes contact with all black men as soon as they arrive on campus. The center provides one-on-one interaction, access to campus resources, and enrichment and leadership programs for black males.



Susan Hester was promoted to executive assistant to the chancellor at North Carolina Central University in Durham. Hester has been an administrator at the university for more than a decade, most recently as associate vice chancellor for institutional advancement.

Wayne J. Riley, president of Meharry Medical College, was appointed to the board of directors of Pinnacle Financial Partners.

A graduate of Yale University, Riley holds an MBA from Rice University, a master’s degree in public health from Tulane University, and a medical doctorate from Morehouse School of Medicine.

Eric Williams was appointed director of the Multicultural Academic Opportunities Program at Virginia Tech. He was director of student support services at Radford University.

Williams is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University. He holds a master’s degree in student personnel from Kent State University and an educational doctorate from Virginia Tech.


Spelman College, the historically black educational institution for women in Atlanta, received a five-year, $4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to fund a new Center for Health Disparities Research and Education. Beverly Daniel Tatum, president of Spelman College, is the principal investigator of the project.

Virginia State University, the historically black educational institution in Petersburg, received a five-year, $4 million grant from the National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities of the National Institutes of Health. The grant, the largest in the university’s history, will be used to increase educational opportunities for students in the biomedical sciences.

In Money for College, Middle-Class Black Families Are at an Extreme Wealth Disadvantage Compared to Their White Peers

Although some of the nation’s most prestigious colleges and universities have substantially increased their financial aid budgets, many middle- and upper-middle-class families must still rely on savings and other forms of wealth in order to pay for their children’s higher education.

Here black families are at a major disadvantage compared to their white peers. Less than half of all black families own their home as opposed to three quarters of all white families. Home equity loans are a frequent means of paying for college.

The latest Black Investor Survey, conducted by Ariel Capital Management and Charles Schwab, finds that the percentage of black families with incomes of at least $50,000 that are invested in the stock market dropped from 74 percent in 2002 to 57 percent in 2007. Black middle- and upper-middle-class families have average savings of $48,000 compared to more than double that figure for whites. White families, on average, have triple the assets of black families in 401(k) retirement accounts.


“Universities hold at least $340 billion in endowments. The donations to those endowments and the endowments themselves are all tax exempt. American taxpayers are subsidizing that tax exemption and they deserve public benefit in return.”

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, in a January 7, 2008 statement calling for universities to spend a greater percentage of their endowment income on student financial aid or to enhance academic programs


Generous Financial Aid Attracting British Students to the Ivy League

The financial aid programs established by Princeton, Harvard, and other Ivy League universities have virtually eliminated the family contribution for students who come from families with incomes of less than $60,000. The new financial aid programs also are attracting large numbers of applicants from Britain and other European nations. The average student who graduates from a British university has more than $60,000 in debt. Therefore, many students are applying to top-flight American universities that offer substantial financial aid.

In 2002 there were 197 applicants to Harvard from the United Kingdom. In 2006 there were 290 British applicants to Harvard. At Yale the number of applicants from the United Kingdom increased from 74 in 1997 to 234 in 2006.


High-Ranking Colleges and Universities That Graduate Black and White Students at Nearly Identical Rates

A strong case can be made that a better way of comparing the performance of the nation’s highest-ranked colleges and universities in successfully graduating black students is to examine the difference in the graduation rates between their black and white students.

Many academics and administrators will be surprised to hear that there are in fact a few selective colleges in the United States that report a higher graduation rate for blacks than for whites. Six of the nation’s highest-ranked colleges and universities actually have a higher graduation rate for black students than for white students. According to JBHE’s latest statistics from Mount Holyoke College, Pomona College, Smith College, Wellesley College, Wake Forest University, and the California Institute of Technology, a black student on these campuses is more likely to complete the four-year course of study and receive a diploma than is a white student.

Also encouraging is the fact that the black student graduation rate is identical to the rate for white students at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. This is good news because Vanderbilt has been able to reach racial parity in student graduation rates during a period in which it has greatly increased black enrollments.

At some other high-ranking educational institutions the difference in black and white graduation rates is very small. Washington University in St. Louis has a 90 percent graduation rate for black students, just one percentage point below its rate for whites. At Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, the white student graduation rate is only one percentage point higher than the rate for blacks, which stands at 88 percent. At Harvard University, Claremont McKenna College, and Macalester College, the racial difference is only two percentage points.


Seven Top-Ranked Universities Show a Decline in Black First-Year Enrollments Over the Past Decade

In the 1997 to 2007 period, seven of the nation’s 25 highest-ranked universities showed a decrease in black first-year enrollments. At some of the universities such as Stanford and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the declines were quite small. Nevertheless, considering that the vast majority of high-ranking universities showed impressive advances during the period, the declines at these universities are discouraging.

Three of the seven universities that have seen a decline in black first-year enrollments are now banned by law from using race as a positive factor in their admissions decisions. In 1997 affirmative action was permitted at all three campuses.

The most severe decline was at the University of California at Berkeley. In 1997, the last year in which race was considered in admissions decisions, there were 273 black freshmen at Berkeley. In the current academic year, only 133 black freshmen enrolled at Berkeley.


15%  Black percentage of all school students in the United States ages 6 to 21.

29%  Black percentage of all students in special education classes for those who have been classified as emotionally disturbed.

source: U.S. Department of Education


New Jersey Professor Mounts Massive Book Drive Aiming to Eradicate Illiteracy in His Native Kenya

Philip Thiuri is a professor of geography and urban studies at William Paterson University in Wayne, New Jersey. But in addition to his teaching duties, Professor Thiuri is engaged in a massive effort to eradicate illiteracy in his native land of Kenya.

Professor Thiuri has mounted a drive to collect thousands of books which he sends to Kenya to create reading centers in rural areas. Six centers have been established and Thiuri has requests from 20 more villages that want to establish libraries.

His non-profit group Rural Reading Centers, Africa has collected more than 18,000 books. With the help of inmates at the Passaic County prison who are required to do community service work, Dr. Thiuri has packed and shipped more than 8,000 books to Kenya. Thousands more need to be boxed and shipped, and the piles of donated books grow each day.

Professor Thiuri accepts all types of books for donation, but he says the greatest need is for how-to and self-help manuals. His nonprofit group also accepts donations of money which he hopes to use to buy elementary and secondary school textbooks for each reading center. Money is also used to pay the cost of shipping the books to Kenya.

Professor Thiuri is a graduate of St. Michael’s College. He earned a master’s degree in agricultural economics at Cornell University and a Ph.D. in geography  from Syracuse University. He later earned a master’s degree in divinity from Seton Hall University. Thiuri is currently on sabbatical and will travel to Kenya in March to help build the reading centers.



In Memoriam

Walter Oswald Bradley Sr. (1919-2007)

Walter O. Bradley Sr., former chair of the division of natural sciences and mathematics at Virginia Union University, died late last month at a hospital in Richmond. He was 88 years old.

Professor Bradley joined the Virginia Union faculty in 1952 as an assistant professor of biology. He remained on the Virginia Union faculty for 33 years until his retirement in 1985.

A native of Florida, Bradley went to Florida A&M University on a tennis scholarship. After graduating from Florida A&M, he went on to earn a master’s degree in zoology from Howard University and a Ph.D. from Catholic University of America.

Madeline Stratton Morris (1906-2007)

Madeline Stratton Morris, a prominent black historian, teacher, and university consultant, died late last month at her home in Hyde Park, Illinois. She was 101 years old.

A teacher in the Chicago public school system for 35 years, Morris introduced a curriculum on black history to her students in the 1940s. She later authored the textbooks Strides Forward: Afro-American Biographies and Negroes Who Helped to Build America.

Morris held a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Northwestern University and did further graduate work at the University of Chicago. She began her teaching career in 1933. After retiring from the Chicago public school system in 1968, she remained active as a consultant to colleges and universities seeking to establish black studies programs.



Copyright © 2008. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. All rights reserved.