UCLA Law Professor Richard Sander Launching New Assault Against Affirmative Action in Law School Admissions

In 2004 Richard H. Sander, a professor at the UCLA School of Law, published an article in the Stanford Law Review stating that affirmative action admissions programs at the nation’s high-ranking law schools were placing blacks in schools at which they could not compete with their white peers.

JBHE research determined that the Sander thesis did not hold water. Our data, obtained directly from law school deans, showed that black students at the nation’s leading law schools graduated at a very high percentage rate, and in most cases had graduation rates equal to or very near the graduation rate of white students.

An independent analysis disputing the Sander study can be read by clicking here.

Now, Sander is attempting to add further fuel to the fire. Sander is heading the Scale and Effect of Admissions Preferences in Higher Education (SEAPHE) project. The group has submitted Freedom of Information Act requests to about 80 public law schools and 100 undergraduate colleges and universities. Sander is collecting information by race on student scores on the Law School Admission Test, the caliber of law school at which students are accepted, and the extent to which law schools offer racial preferences to applicants. He also seeks information on students’ grade point averages once they are in law school and on law school retention and graduation rates.

Professor Sander is also planning to file a lawsuit seeking data from the California Bar Association on how students who were accepted to law school under affirmative action guidelines performed on the state bar examination.

Sander’s group hopes to conduct 18 different studies over the next year and to present their findings at a symposium sometime in 2009.

In view of JBHE’s data, it is unfortunate and damaging to law school-bound black students that new efforts are being made to use data to download high-performing black students into second- and third-tier law schools.



New Postdoctoral Fellowship Program at Harvard for Black Chemists

Blacks make up less than 2 percent of all chemistry department faculty at the nation’s major universities. In an effort to increase the number of minority chemists in the academic world, Harvard University has announced the establishment of 12 new postdoctoral research fellowships for women and minority chemists. The fellows will work for one year in the university’s chemistry or chemical biology departments. Fellows will have the opportunity to apply for a second year of funding.

The university has allocated $2.6 million for the program, which has been named in honor of Mary Fieser, a 1930s graduate of Radcliffe College who worked in her husband’s chemistry laboratory at Harvard for many years. Fieser died in 1997, leaving much of her estate to Harvard’s chemistry department.


The Landscape of Slavery

On Friday, January 25, the University of Virginia Art Museum is opening a special exhibit entitled “Landscape of Slavery: The Plantation in American Art.” The exhibit, which will run through April 20, includes 75 paintings, photographs, and other exhibits relating to life on southern plantations during the slavery era.

A companion book, edited by Angela D. Mack and Stephen G. Hoffus, is being published by the University of South Carolina Press. The book includes 92 color plates, 16 black and white images, and six essays.


Shakeup at the Nursing School at Florida A&M University

Ruena Norman was named interim dean of the School of Nursing at Florida A&M University. This is the second time Norman has been called upon to take over the responsibilities of dean.

The former dean, Mary Ella Graham, received a letter from university president James Ammons just before Christmas, telling her, “You are hereby notified of a change-in-assignment and removal of administrative duties as dean effective immediately.” She was assigned as a full professor at the school. Her employment contract expires on July 1.

University officials would say only that the move was a “personnel action.” JBHE attempted to contact Professor Graham, but she was unavailable for comment.


A Racial Skeleton in the Closet of the New Head Football Coach at West Virginia University

Bill Stewart was recently promoted to head football coach at West Virginia University. He had been serving as an assistant coach to Rich Rodriguez, who left to take the head coaching job at the University of Michigan.

Stewart was hired to the West Virginia coaching staff in 2000, four years after a racial incident with one of his players in 1996 when he was the coach at the Virginia Military Institute. Kelly Cook, a player at VMI at the time, was celebrating a touchdown in the end zone during practice. Cook says that Stewart ran at him from 50 yards away and yelled, “You’re acting like a nigger from Petersburg. You don’t go to Virginia Union. You don’t go to Virginia State.”

Virginia Union and Virginia State are two historically black universities.

West Virginia University officials said that they discussed the incident with Stewart when he was initially hired as an assistant coach in 2000 and that they were comfortable with his explanation.

According to the latest data from the National Collegiate Athletic Association, blacks make up 54 percent of the football players on athletic scholarship at West Virginia University. Less than half of the black football players in the program go on to earn a bachelor’s degree.



Texas Southern University Chooses a New President

The regents of Texas Southern University have selected John Rudley as the next president of the university. For the past seven months, Rudley has served as the interim president of the University of Houston. Previously, he was the vice president for administration and finance at the University of Houston.

Dr. Rudley is a graduate of the University of Toledo. He holds a master’s degree and an educational doctorate from Tennessee State University. His wife, Docia, is a professor at Texas Southern University’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law.


UNCF Unveils New Logo

The United Negro College Fund unveiled a new logo this past week which uses the acronym UNCF instead of the organization’s full name. Included in the new logo is the UNCF’s signature slogan, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”

Michael L. Lomax, president of the UNCF, admitted that the use of the word “Negro” in the organization’s name is problematic. In announcing the change, Dr. Lomax said, “We want to hold on to our heritage, but we also want to find a way to say who we are that speaks directly and positively to a younger generation.”

The UNCF represents and provides financial support to 39 historically black colleges and universities. In 2007 it received donations of $195 million.


In Memoriam

Francis Merrill Foster Sr. (1921-2008)

Francis Merrill Foster Sr., dentist, historian, and educator, died earlier this month at his daughter’s home in Richmond, Virginia, after a battle with cancer. He was 86 years old.

Dr. Foster was a native of Richmond. He graduated from Virginia Union University in 1942 and then enrolled at the Howard University School of Dentistry. In 1948 he began a more than 40 year practice of dentistry in Richmond. He became an authority on black history in Richmond and served on the board of the Historic Richmond Foundation. He also was chair of the Richmond Public Library Board and sat on the Richmond School Board.

For many years, Dr. Foster was also an assistant professor of general-practice dentistry at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Lulu Robinson (1922-2007)

Lulu Robinson, a longtime professor of religion and philosophy at Saint Augustine’s College in Raleigh, North Carolina, died late last month. She was 85 years old.

Robinson was the wife of Prezell Robinson, who served for nearly 30 years as president of Saint Augustine’s College before his retirement in 1994.

After earning a master’s degree from Atlanta University, Robinson began her teaching career at Voorhees College in South Carolina, where she met her husband. Prezell was the registrar at Voorhees College at that time.



Carol M. Swain, a professor of political science and a professor of law at Vanderbilt University, was appointed by President Bush to the 23-member National Council on the Humanities. The council reviews grants by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Tamara L. King, director of judicial programs at Washington University in St. Louis, was named president-elect of the Association for Student Judicial Affairs. When she assumes office in 2009, she will be the first African-American president of the organization.

King, who has been at Washington University since 1999, is a graduate of Pennsylvania State University and the New York University School of Law.

• Ronald Holmes was appointed superintendent of the Developmental Research School at Florida A&M University. Holmes was an assistant principal at Banneker High School in College Park, Georgia.

Dr. Holmes holds a bachelor’s degree and an educational doctorate from Florida A&M.



• Arlie O. Petters, professor of mathematics and physics at Duke University, was honored with an appointment by Queen Elizabeth II to the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. The award cited Professor Petters’ “services to science and education.”

Petters is a native of Belize, formerly known as British Honduras. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the City University of New York and a Ph.D. in mathematics from MIT.

Here’s Some Good News: Black Student Graduation Rates at Almost All High-Ranking Universities Are on the Rise

Of the 27 high-ranked universities for which JBHE has long-term college completion data, the black graduation rate has improved at 25 institutions. This is very solid news.

The greatest improvement in the black student college graduation rate occurred at the California Institute of Technology. There, the black student graduation rate improved from 60 percent to 93 percent. But it must be mentioned that there are so few black students at CalTech, usually one or two in each class, that the graduation rate figure can fluctuate to a large degree based on the performance of just one or two students. Far more impressive is the 25 percentage point increase in the black student graduation rate at Carnegie Mellon University, where the four-year average black graduation rate rose from 47 percent in 1998 to 72 percent in 2006. For this year alone, there was a five percentage point gain at Carnegie Mellon.

Similarly impressive gains in black student graduation rates occurred at the University of Pennsylvania, Rice University, UCLA, Columbia University, and Vanderbilt University. Each university has seen its black student graduation rate improve by at least 13 percentage points over the 1998 to 2007 period.


“When 70 percent of our students do not graduate, we have made some promises we did not keep. We have built up some dreams that we have shattered.”

John L. Hudgins, an associate professor of sociology at Coppin State University in Baltimore, commenting on the historically black university’s low graduation rate in The Baltimore Sun, January 6, 2008


Predominantly Black University Enters the Textbook Business

South Carolina State University, the historically black educational institution in Orangeburg, has delivered 165,000 high school biology textbooks to students on the island of Zanzibar off the eastern coast of Africa. The biology textbooks are the first installment of an effort to produce 10 different science volumes for students on Zanzibar. The program is funded by a $5 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development.

South Carolina State University will market the textbooks to school systems in other African countries and, if purchased, the university will receive a 5 percent royalty for sales to those schools.


Blacks in Academic Psychology

African Americans have a greater presence in faculty positions in the discipline of psychology than they do in most other scientific fields. Research by Donna J. Nelson, an associate professor of chemistry at the University of Oklahoma, has found 107 black faculty members teaching at the 100 universities with the largest research budgets in the field. Blacks make up 3.4 percent of all psychology faculty at these 100 universities.

According to Professor Nelson’s research, there are six black psychologists teaching at the University of Michigan, the most of any predominantly white educational institution in this group of 100 universities. There are four black psychologists each at the University of Virginia, Michigan State University, Virginia Commonwealth University, the University of South Carolina, and Columbia Teachers College.

Of the 107 black psychology faculty, 56 are women. There are 39 full professors of psychology who are black, but only 12 of them are women.



Huge New Reference Work Contains Thousands of Biographies of Notable African Americans

The eight-volume African-American National Biography will be officially released in early February by Oxford University Press. The reference books contain more than 4,000 biographies of notable African Americans in multiple fields of interest from sports and entertainment to education, law, and business. Notable black people from history as well as African Americans alive today are included in the new reference work.

Each biography is 900 to 3,000 words in length and is written by a team of accomplished scholars. The entire eight-volume set has more than 5,500 printed pages and carries a list price of $795. The online edition of the African-American National Biography will be continually updated with biographies being added when warranted.

The project has been in the works for a decade under the direction of general editors Henry Louis Gates Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and Director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University, and Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, professor of history and African-American studies at Harvard University.


26.6  Number of births per 1,000 white females ages 15 to 19 in 2006.

63.7  Number of births per 1,000 black females ages 15 to 19 in 2006.

source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Wayne State University to Launch New Center Studying the Academic Achievement Gap Between Black and White Children

Wayne State University in Detroit is currently raising funds to start up the Institute for the Study of African-American Children. The goal of the new research center is to study the racial gap in academic achievement of children and to find ways to eliminate it. The institute will be administered by the College of Education at Wayne State University but will be funded by contributions from private and corporate sources.

The new institute is under the directorship of Janice Ellen Hale, a professor of early child development at the university. Dr. Hale is a native of Fort Wayne, Indiana, but grew up in Columbus, Ohio. She is a graduate of Spelman College in Atlanta. Professor Hale holds a master’s degree from the Interdenominational Theological Center and a doctorate in early childhood education from Georgia State University.


Major Celebrations Planned to Mark the 50th Anniversary of the Publication of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart

Fifty years ago, Nigerian author Chinua Achebe published his first novel, Things Fall Apart. The book ushered in a new era of Africans writing literature in English. The book explores the impact of colonialism and the advent of Christianity to Nigeria at the beginning of the twentieth century. The book has been translated into more than 50 languages and has sold more than 12 million copies.

Major celebrations are scheduled around the world to commemorate the publication of Things Fall Apart. The University of London’s School of Advanced Study is holding a two-day conference this coming October. Osmania University in Hyderabad, India, is holding a similar event. Major conferences will be held in several European cities, in Rio de Janeiro and in Canada. In the United States, conferences are planned in Houston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and other cities.

Princeton University is urging all members of the campus community to read the novel during the month of March. The university will hold lectures, seminars, poetry readings, and art exhibits relating to the book. The celebration will culminate with a visit by Professor Achebe to campus on March 26.

Chinua Achebe is currently Charles P. Stevenson Jr. Professor of Languages and Literature at Bard College in Annandale, New York. Bard will also hold a major international conference on the book later this year.




The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in conjunction with the FPG Child Development Institute received a $12.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to continue their study on how rural life affects child development.

The Family Life Project, which was started in 2002, focused on 1,292 newborn children in Appalachia and in rural, African-American communities in the South. This second phase of the project will examine how these same children will make the transition to school.

The National Science Foundation is providing $2 million over the next three years to support the Advancing Robotics Technology for Societal Impact Program. The program is an alliance between 11 research universities and eight historically black colleges and universities aimed at increasing the number of black students in the field of robotics.

The program will provide funds for robotics research at the black universities and also for internships for black students at predominantly white research institutions. Participating HBCUs are Spelman College, Hampton University, Morgan State University, Norfolk State University, Florida A&M University, Winston-Salem State University, the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff, and the University of the District of Columbia.

The grant is under the direction of Andrew Williams, an associate professor of computer science at Spelman College.


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