Illustration by Victor Juhasz

Lani Guinier Going to Columbia Law School?

Sources at Columbia University have confirmed to JBHE that an offer has been made to Harvard Law School professor Lani Guinier to join the faculty at the Columbia Law School. The planned establishment of a new civil rights law center at Columbia is seen as a development that would be extremely attractive to Professor Guinier whose scholarship focuses on the politics of race and gender.

Professor Guinier joined the Harvard Law School faculty in 1998. She had previously taught at the law school of the University of Pennsylvania.


Southern Illinois University On the Verge of Agreement to Eliminate Minority-Only Fellowships

Last November the U.S. Department of Justice threatened to sue Southern Illinois University for discriminating against white students by denying them access to three fellowship programs. The programs are:

  • Proactive Recruitment of Multicultural Professionals for Tomorrow
  • Graduate Dean's Fellowships
  • Bridge to the Doctorate

Now the university appears ready to accept an agreement with the Department of Justice to make the fellowship programs available to students of all races. However, under the proposed revisions to the programs, which were prematurely posted on the school's Web site and later removed, the university says that the fellowships will continue to target "underserved student populations" and "students from families which traditionally have not had access to the opportunities of higher education."

JBHE research shows that at the nation's colleges and universities there are hundreds of private scholarships earmarked for blacks and minority students. So far, these programs have not been legally challenged. (See, "What's to Become of College Scholarships Earmarked for Blacks?" JBHE, Number 43, Spring 2004, p. 91.)


“You’re going to relegate my history to a month? I don't want a Black History Month. Black history is American history.”

Morgan Freeman, on 60 Minutes, CBS Television

The Large and Expanding Racial Scoring Gap on the Graduate Management Admission Test

Students seeking admission to graduate schools of business are in most cases required to take the Graduate Management Admission Test. In 2005, 8,448 African Americans took the GMAT test. They made up 7.9 percent of all GMAT test takers that year.

The mean black score on the GMAT was 425. (The test is scored on the familiar 200 to 800 scale used for each section of the SAT test.) For whites, the mean GMAT score was 532. This is 107 points or 18 percent higher than the mean score for blacks.

The racial scoring gap on the GMAT test has increased in recent years. In 2003 the scoring gap was 101 points. The next year the gap increased to 104 points. And now the gap has increased further to 107 points.

The average GMAT score for admitted students at the nation's leading business schools is over 700. Perhaps only 1 or 2 percent of all black GMAT test takers score at this level. Therefore, without continuing affirmative action admissions programs at Harvard, Penn, Stanford, Northwestern, MIT, and other top MBA programs, the nation’s leading business schools will have very few black students.

The latest JBHE survey shows that blacks make up about 5 percent of the students at the nation's leading business schools. If affirmative action admissions programs were to be discontinued, black enrollments at these schools might drop by 75 percent.


Alumni Group Calls for the Ouster of the President of Grambling State University

Grambling State University president Horace Judson

James Bradford, head of the Grambling State University National Alumni Association, is calling on the University of Louisiana system of higher education to dismiss Grambling president Horace Judson. The alumni group claims that Judson has mishandled fundraising operations and had not consulted with other campus constituencies on spending initiatives.

The alumni group states that Judson created a new Black and Gold Foundation where donations to the university are funneled. But the foundation has not filed the appropriate federal taxation paperwork required of a nonprofit entity. And the alumni association contends that there is no accounting for how funds from the foundation are being spent.


Dean at Black Business School Institutes Strict Dress Code

Sid Credle, dean of the business administration program at Hampton University, believes that if African Americans are going to make it in the business world after they leave college, they must look the part. Dean Credle hosts a weekly reception for students and business leaders. In order to attend the receptions, Hampton students are required to dress conservatively and to come without what he calls "extreme hairdos." Students may not have multi-tinted hair, and cornrows are strictly prohibited. Afros must be nicely tapered. "When we look at the top 75 African Americans in corporate America," Dean Credle told the Virginian-Pilot, "we don't see any of them with extreme hairdos."

Male students are encouraged to wear business suits, and earrings are not permitted. The dean prefers women to wear skirts as long as they are not too short.

The High and Rising Cost of College Textbooks Is Disproportionately Burdensome to African-American College Students

A study by the Government Accountability Office finds that the cost of college textbooks has risen at twice the rate of inflation over the past 20 years. Now the average college student is asked to spend about $900 per year on books.

The high cost of college textbooks often puts students in a dilemma: Do they spend the money for the text or try to get by borrowing a friend’s copy, using an old and perhaps outdated version, or trying to make do with copies of the textbook that are in the university library? A survey by the Virginia State Council of Higher Education found that 40 percent of all college students in the state did not purchase the required course materials.

The high cost of textbooks may be a special problem for most African-American students. Many black students receive financial aid for tuition and other fees but must use their own money for books. For black students who make up a disproportionate percentage of college students from low-income families, college textbooks, which can be $200 or more, are simply unaffordable.


In Memoriam

Coretta Scott King  (1927-2006)

AP/John Bazmore

Corretta Scott King, a civil rights activist and wife of Martin Luther King Jr., died early this week at a holistic health center in Mexico where she was receiving rehabilitation treatment after suffering a stroke this past summer. She was 78 years old.

A native of Marion, Alabama, she was valedictorian at her high school and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in music at Antioch College in Ohio. She continued her studies at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. While there she met Martin Luther King Jr., the young Boston University divinity student whom she would later marry.

During the civil rights era Coretta Scott King marched hand in hand with her husband on the front lines of the struggle. After her husband's assassination in 1968, Coretta Scott King remained an outspoken voice for equality and human rights throughout the world.

Nellie McKay (1930 - 2006)

Nellie McKay, one of the nation's leading authorities on African-American literature and a professor of English and Afro-American studies at the University of Wisconsin for nearly 30 years, died after a long battle with cancer of the liver. She was 75 years old.

Professor McKay was perhaps best known for her work as coeditor with Harvard's Henry Louis Gates Jr. on the highly regarded Norton Anthology of African-American Literature. McKay's 1988 book Critical Essays on Toni Morrison is largely credited with establishing the critical acclaim for the writings of the Princeton University professor as worthy of the Nobel Prize.

McKay was a graduate of Queens College, part of the City University of New York system. She went on to earn a master's degree and Ph.D. in literature from Harvard University.

In 1972 McKay began her academic career as an instructor at Simmons College in Boston. After gaining tenure in 1977 she left for an untenured post at the University of Wisconsin. After six years in Madison, she was promoted to associate professor with tenure. She became a full professor in 1989 with dual appointments in English and Afro-American studies. She served as the chair of the Afro-American studies department.

It is not generally known that in 1991, when the Harvard University Afro-American studies program was in vast disarray, McKay was offered the position to head the department. She turned down the offer and instead recommended her friend Skip Gates, who was then at Duke, for the post. Professor Gates took the position and is widely regarded as having built the nation’s premier black studies program.

Marjorie Holloman Parker (1916-2006)

Marjorie Holloman Parker, former chair of the board of trustees and professor of history and philosophy at the University of the District of Columbia, died at her home in Washington late last month from heart disease. She was 89 years old.

A native of North Carolina, Parker moved with her family to Washington, D.C., when she was a young girl. She attended the highly regarded Dunbar High School and did her undergraduate work at Miner Teachers College in the District. She later would earn a master's degree in history and a Ph.D. in philosophy of education from the University of Chicago.

After teaching for a decade in the public school system in Washington, in 1949 Parker joined the faculty of Miner Teachers College. From 1959 to 1965 she taught at Bowie State University in Maryland before returning to her alma mater, which had been renamed the District of Columbia Teachers College and later the University of the District of Columbia.

Parker also served as a member of the Republican National Committee and was appointed to the D.C. City Council by President Richard Nixon. She also served as president of Alpha Kappa Alpha, the nation’s oldest black sorority.

Her husband Barrington D. Parker Sr., who died in 1993, was a federal district court judge in Washington.

SUNY Opens Minority-Only Scholarships to Whites

Illustration by Eleanor Mill

The board of trustees of the State University of New York system has voted to open up to low-income whites two scholarship programs that had been reserved for minority students. This past year the $6.2 million Graduate Fellowship program provided financial aid to about 500 minority students at 24 SUNY campuses. The Empire State Minority Honors Scholarships benefited 898 students. Since 1987 the two scholarship programs have been exclusively for black, Hispanic, and American Indian students.

The action by the SUNY trustees came after the university, along with 200 other institutions of higher education, received a letter from the right-wing Center for Equal Opportunity. The letter strongly hinted that legal action or the filing of a complaint with the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights would be made if the programs remained exclusively for minority students.


The Anointment of Saint Thurgood?

Last week the Episcopal Diocese of Washington approved the nomination of Thurgood Marshall, the Supreme Court Justice who died in 1993, as a saint of the church. Elevating Marshall to sainthood now must be approved at consecutive meetings of the national Episcopal Church. The church holds a national convention this summer and the next meeting will be in 2009.

If designated a saint, Marshall's feast day would be May 17, the day in 1954 that the Supreme Court handed down its ruling in Brown v. Board of Education.

In 2005 a major controversy occurred, before all parties agreed, over the renaming of the Baltimore Washington International Airport in Marshall's honor. It can be expected that a similar uproar will occur in any effort to designate Marshall a saint. Marshall was not outspoken about matters of faith but did belong to several Episcopal churches.

During his younger days, Marshall also had a reputation as a lady's man and a person who indulged in excessive partying. In his 1998 biography of the Supreme Court Justice, author Juan Williams quotes one of Marshall's high school classmates: "Thurgood was full of the devil." On his college days at Lincoln University, Williams says of Marshall, "He was a connoisseur of comic books and was always bumming cigarettes. He kept a party going in his room most nights." One classmate called Marshall "a harum-scarum youth, the loudest individual in the dormitory and the one least likely to succeed." Langston Hughes, a fellow Lincoln University student, remembered Marshall as "rough and ready, loud and wrong, good natured and uncouth."

But sainthood for Thurgood Marshall in the Episcopal Church is not out of the question. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a leader in the women's suffrage movement, was named an Episcopal saint despite the fact that she was opposed to any organized religion.


The Continuing Legal Battle Over the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative

University of Michigan president Mary Sue Coleman strongly opposes the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative

The proposed Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, if approved by voters, would ban the use of race as a positive factor in the admissions process at the University of Michigan and other state-operated universities. Last fall the Michigan Court of Appeals ordered the election board to certify the initiative for the ballot this coming November. Last month hundreds of college students from the University of Michigan attended the state's election board meeting to demonstrate their opposition. Shouting, "They say Jim Crow, we say hell no!" the demonstrators surged toward the front of the room, knocking over a table. Police were called in to restore order. After a recess, the election board voted along strict party lines not to certify the ballot position.

The judges on the Court of Appeals were not amused. Six days later they again ordered that the initiative be placed on the ballot, threatening to hold the board in contempt if it did not comply. On January 20 the election board finally approved the measure for the November ballot.

However, opponents of the referendum have not given up the legal fight. The Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action By Any Means Necessary, or BAMN, plans to challenge in the courts the wording used in the initiative. Shanta Driver of BAMN says that the use of the term "preferential treatment" in the initiative will unfairly prejudice voters. "It's a rallying cry for the segregationists and the far right wing," says Driver.

If legal efforts fail, BAMN plans an all-out education program to convince voters that the passage of the measure will not be in the interests of a majority of Michigan voters.


The Old-Boy Network Stacks the Deck Against Black Football Coaches

This past football season, there were only three black head coaches among the 119 colleges and universities that play in the National Collegiate Athletic Association's Division I. About one half of all football players in Division I are African Americans.

A new report from the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida suggests that the lack of blacks in head coaching positions is the direct result of an "old-boy" network in which the ones making the hiring decisions are primarily white men. According to the study, of the 119 colleges and universities in Division I, 112 institutions have a white president and 82 percent have a president who is a white man. Nearly 90 percent of the athletic directors at these institutions are white and 85 percent are white men.

There are 11 football conferences that field teams for the NCAA’s Division I. All 11 of the conferences have a white male as president.


Final Nail in the Coffin for Engineering Program at Clark Atlanta University

A group of students and faculty members of the engineering department at Clark Atlanta University, the historically black educational institution in Atlanta, Georgia, went to court in an effort to stop the university from shelving its engineering programs at the end of the academic year in 2008. But last week a judge in Fulton County threw out the suit ruling that the private university was within its rights to discontinue the academic program. The judge ruled that because all students currently enrolled in engineering programs at the university would be able to complete their degree programs prior to the elimination of the department, they would not be subjected to "irreparable harm" as alleged in the lawsuit.

Medical Research Intensifies the Debate Over Race and Genetics

Geneticists have shown that there is very little difference in the biological composition of people with a white skin compared to those with a darker pigment. Nevertheless, some research suggests that even minor differences can have significant consequences.

For example, last summer the Food and Drug Administration approved the drug BiDil. The so-called "black heart drug" was shown to dramatically reduce hospitalization and death rates for black patients with heart disease but did little to improve similar cardiac conditions in whites. The decision to approve the drug raised controversial issues because the effects of the drug were seen to support the racist thesis that blacks and whites are genetically different. This is an extremely sensitive issue in academic research. Some scholars believe that pursuing such avenues of research gives credence to the theories of the academic racists who claim blacks are inherently less intelligent than whites.

The debate is surely going to intensify because of a study published in last week's edition of the New England Journal of Medicine. The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Southern California and the University of Hawaii, examined smoking behavior and disease rates of more than 180,000 people. More than one half of the subjects were members of minority groups.

The study found that blacks who smoke a pack of cigarettes a day are significantly more likely to develop lung cancer than whites who smoke at similar levels. Whites who smoked a pack a day were up to 55 percent less likely to develop lung cancer than blacks who smoked a pack a day.

While the study did not attempt to explain the differences between the races, an editorial which ran in the same issue of the New England Journal of Medicine suggested that the results from the USC and University of Hawaii study were due to genetic factors. The editorial cites another study which showed that black smokers tend to absorb more nicotine and tobacco carcinogens than white smokers.


Howard University Joins in a Major Effort to Preserve a Significant Piece of Black History

The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration has embarked on a five-year effort to preserve the records of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedman and Abandoned Lands, commonly known as the Freedman's Bureau. The bureau was established by Congress on March 3, 1865, as a division of the Department of War. The bureau's responsibilities included feeding and clothing former slaves and establishing hospitals and schools for blacks.

As the restoration project gets under way, the massive volumes of paper documents are being preserved on microfilm and in digital format for display on the Internet. Howard University will soon be setting up a Web site where historians and people looking to trace their genealogy will be able to browse Freedman's Bureau records.


• Fitz Hill is the new president of Arkansas Baptist College, a small historically black educational institution in Little Rock. Hill was the executive director of fundraising operations at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas.
  Previously, Hill served as head football coach at San Jose State University and as an assistant football coach at the University of Arkansas.
  Hill is a graduate of Ouachita Baptist University. He holds a master's degree in student personnel services from Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana, and a doctorate in higher education leadership from the University of Arkansas.

• James Lawson, pastor emeritus of the Holman United Methodist Church in Los Angeles, will serve as the Visiting Distinguished University Professor for the 2006-07 academic year at Vanderbilt University. Lawson was expelled from the Vanderbilt University Divinity School in 1960 for participating in civil rights protests in Nashville. Although he was later reinstated he chose to transfer to the divinity school at Boston University.

• Cathy Kea, professor of curriculum and instruction at North Carolina A&T State University, was appointed to the advisory council of the National Association for the Education of African-American Children With Learning Disabilities.

• Tsegaye Habtemariam was named dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Tuskegee University. Since 1999 he has served as the associate dean for research and graduate studies. A native of Ethiopia, Dean Habtemariam holds a doctor of veterinary medicine degree from Colorado State University and a Ph.D. in epidemiology from the University of California at Davis.


• Rebecca Walker Steele, a professor of music at Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona Beach, Florida, received the Martin Luther King Leadership Award presented by Florida A&M University. Professor Steele was director of the university choirs and chair of the choral division of the music department at Florida A&M from 1947 to 1976.

The public relations department at Johnson C. Smith University, the historically black educational institution in Charlotte, North Carolina, received the Special Merit Award from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education. The award was presented in recognition of the department’s magazine, The Bulletin.



Copyright © 2006. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. All rights reserved.