Harvard Reports Record Number of Applicants: Black Applications Also Surge

Harvard University reports a record number of applicants for the class that will enter college in the fall of 2009. More than 29,000 students applied to the university this year, up from 27,462 applicants a year ago. In 2007 there were 22,955 applicants to Harvard College.

The university believes that Harvard’s attractive financial aid program is the main reason for the surge in applications. Harvard requires no parental contribution for students who come from families with incomes below $60,000 a year. And students whose families have income up to $180,000 a year pay no more than $18,000 each year to attend Harvard.

In most years, Harvard does not publicize the number of applications from blacks. But the university does report that the number of black applicants has exceeded last year’s total by a significant margin.


African-American Scholar at the University of Illinois Examines Consequences of Exposure to Online Racism

In a unique study, Brendesha Tynes, an assistant professor of educational psychology and African-American studies at the University of Illinois, has found that young blacks face a significant amount of racist material when they are online. This exposure to racism, according to Professor Tynes, is a form of cyber-bullying that increases stress, anxiety, and depression among many young blacks.

Her study, published in the December 2008 issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health, attempts to quantify online race-related victimization. Her research found that nearly three quarters of both young blacks and young whites reported that they observed racism while online in chatrooms, instant messaging, while playing online games, or at social networking sites such as Facebook or MySpace. But 29 percent of blacks and only 20 percent of whites reported online racism that was directed specifically at them.

Dr. Tynes’ research found that regardless of race, adolescents who were victims of online racial abuse were more likely to be depressed.

Professor Tynes is a 1997 graduate of Columbia University. She holds a master’s degree in education and social policy from Northwestern University and a Ph.D. in psychological studies from UCLA.



Study Declares That Black Enrollments at Selective Colleges Would Plummet by 35 Percent If Affirmative Action Admissions Programs Were Eliminated

Scholars at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Florida have conducted an analysis showing the probable impact a ban on affirmative action would have on admissions at the nation’s most selective undergraduate colleges and universities. The study, published in the Journal of Public Economic Theory, estimated that black enrollments at these schools would plummet by at least 35 percent if race-sensitive admissions were curtailed.

The study was based on a detailed analysis of student scores on the SAT and ACT college entrance examinations and the admissions histories of selective colleges and universities.


New Online Forum for Faculty at Black Colleges and Universities

The Thurgood Marshall College Fund has launched a new website called HBCUProfessor.org that will serve as a forum for faculty at the nation’s black colleges and universities to share information on scientific research.

The website offers faculty at the black colleges an online forum to post working papers and commentary in the fields of economics, science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and higher education. Faculty peers will have the opportunity to offer critical analysis, comments, and suggestions on posted works.

W.E.B. Du Bois’ Image Appears on $5 Local Currency

Federal law prohibits states from issuing their own currency. But there are no prohibitions against cities, towns, counties, or other local jurisdictions from printing their own money.

The Berkshire Mountain region of western Massachusetts now has what are called Berkshares. People can buy $100 of Berkshares for $90. They can then use the Berkshares at participating local businesses. In effect, Berkshares users get a 10 percent discount at local businesses that accept the currency. The idea is to keep the money in the community rather than spend actual dollars at national chain stores and restaurants that do not participate in the Berkshares program.

The currency is printed by Crane & Co., the company that supplies paper to the U.S. Mint. Berkshares come in denominations of $5, $10, $20, and $50. Pictured on the $5 Berkshare is W.E.B. Du Bois, the eminent black scholar who was born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, a town in the Berkshire region.


College-Related Programming to Debut on Black Entertainment Television

Black Entertainment Television is airing two shows in coming weeks that have a higher education theme. In March the sixth season of the reality show College Hill will feature a group of college students living together in Miami Beach. Students who will be living in the College Hill house are enrolled at the University of Miami, Florida International University, Florida A&M University, Florida Atlantic University, Broward Community College, the University of Florida, and Florida Memorial University.

Also, BET will be premiering a show called Harlem Heights. This reality show will feature college-educated urban professionals who live and work in New York City.


More Black Students Are Taking SAT II Subject Tests, But There Is a Persistent Racial Scoring Gap

In 2008, 291,896 high school seniors nationwide took at least one of the advanced SAT II subject tests. Within this group there were 15,169 black students who took one or more SAT II tests. Therefore, blacks made up only 5.2 percent of all students who took at least one of the SAT subject tests.

Looking at the racial gap another way, we find that in 2008, 8.7 percent of all black students who took the standard or regular SAT also took one or more of the SAT II tests. In contrast, 16.4 percent of the white students who took the SAT I also took one or more SAT II tests. The black percentage of all SAT II test  takers has inched higher in recent years.

However, despite the fact that only the most academically talented students of all races take SAT II subject tests, there is a persistent scoring gap between whites and blacks. Of all the widely taken SAT II tests in 2008, the black-white racial scoring gap of 104 points, or approximately 18 percent, was the greatest on one of the two mathematics tests. There were also large racial gaps on the other mathematics test and the SAT II tests on English literature, biology, American history, and world history.




• Dana Terry is the new director of communications at Mississippi College School of Law in Clinton. She was an outreach specialist at the Education Services Foundation in Jackson, Mississippi.

Terry is a graduate of Dillard University. She holds a master’s degree in communication from Mississippi College.

• Elsie Burkhalter, president of the St. Tammany Federation of Teachers and School Employees and a vice president of the American Federation of Teachers, was reelected chair of the board of supervisors of the University of Louisiana system.

• Carol Ann Johnson, an associate professor of family and consumer sciences at Fort Valley State University in Georgia, retired this past week. She served on the university faculty for 22 years.

Professor Johnson is a graduate of South Carolina State University. She holds a master’s degree in institutional management from Kansas State University and a doctorate in home economics education from Florida State University.

• Eurmon Hervey was named chief executive officer of the newly formed community college at the University of the District of Columbia. He previously served as acting provost and vice president for academic affairs at the university.

Dr. Hervey is a graduate of Edward Waters College. He holds master’s degrees from Clark Atlanta University and Harvard University and an educational doctorate from Vanderbilt University.


• Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut, received a $100,000 grant from the William Randolph Hearst Foundation. The money is earmarked for scholarships for poor or needy students.

The business school at Hampton University, the historically black educational institution in Virginia, received a $476,000 grant from the Wachovia Foundation. The funds will be used to create a virtual trading room on the Hampton campus and to provide scholarships for students who want to pursue a career in financial services.


The Highly Selective Liberal Arts Colleges That Have Shown the Greatest Improvements in Black Student Graduation Rates

Last week JBHE reported that 26 of the nation’s 27 highest-ranked universities have shown an improvement in their black student graduation rates over the last decade. Now we turn to the nation’s most selective liberal arts colleges.

JBHE data shows that of the 22 high-ranking liberal arts colleges for which we have 10-year data, 15 have shown an improvement in their black student graduation rates.

At Oberlin College in Ohio there was a huge 22 percentage point improvement in the decade, from 56 percent to 78 percent. At Macalester College in Minnesota there was a 20 percentage point gain since 1998. At Smith College the black student graduation rate improved by 19 percentage points over the past decade. At Trinity College, Davidson College, Bates College, Wellesley College, and Claremont McKenna College the black student graduation rate over the past decade improved by at least 10 percentage points.


“Everyone knows there is a problem. We have to figure out how to fix it.”

Brenda Stevenson, professor of history and chair of the African-American studies department at UCLA, commenting in the San Francisco Chronicle on the unanimous decision by the state board of education to form an African-American advisory committee to examine why black students in the state’s public schools perform so poorly


Study Contends That a White Roommate Helps African-American College Students Achieve Higher Grades

A study published in the October 2008 issue of the journal Group Processes and Intergroup Relations found that African-American college students do better academically when they have a white roommate than when they are paired with another African American.

The study said that one in every six pairings of black and white roommates failed during the first semester on campus resulting in one student’s moving out. But black students who remained with their white roommate on average had a 0.3 point increase in their grade point average compared to their African-American peers who had a black roommate.

Natalie J. Shook, the lead author of the study and currently an assistant professor of psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University, concluded that African-American students at predominantly white universities may become better adjusted to college life if they can room with a student who may be better able to help them cope with an unfamiliar environment.


Student Sleuth Discovers the Middle Name of Black College Benefactor Johnson C. Smith

For decades, historians at Johnson C. Smith University, the historically black educational institution in Charlotte, North Carolina, did not know what the middle initial of its founder’s name stood for. Now a security guard and part-time student at the university, who is an experienced genealogist, has solved the mystery. By contacting a distant relative, the student determined that Smith’s middle name was Crayne.

The school was founded as the Biddle Institute in 1867 by the Presbyterian Church. A $1,900 contribution from the widow of Henry Biddle provided the start-up money. Biddle was a white man who died in 1862 fighting for the Union Army.

In the early 1920s the school received a $700,000 donation from the widow of Johnson C. Smith, who died in 1919. Smith was the owner of the Hiawatha Drug Store in McKeesport, Pennsylvania. He made a fortune as a designer and builder of street railway, or trolley, systems. He was also a co-founder of the McKeesport Tin Plate Company and a director of a local bank.


Chapel Hill Reports Blacks Make Up 9 Percent of Students Admitted Early

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has reported admissions results for students who applied before its early deadline of November 3. Chapel Hill’s first decision admissions program is not binding.

The university reports that it received a record 13,692 applicants for its first deadline program. Last year there were more than 21,500 total applicants during the entire admissions cycle.

About 35 percent of all applicants were accepted for admission. Among the accepted group, 9 percent are African Americans. Blacks make up 10.8 percent of this year’s freshman class.

A student who applied before the second deadline of January 15 will be notified of the university’s admission decision in March.



Minnesota Looks to Increase Racial Diversity at Its 32 State Colleges and Universities

The Minnesota Colleges and Universities system has mounted an effort to increase racial diversity at its 25 two-year colleges and seven state four-year universities. The system is placing advertisements in buses and light rail cars in the Twin Cities area. New brochures and posters will be made available to high schools. Probably most important, a new website has been established as a recruiting tool. The site is geared toward students in the eighth to tenth grades and encourages them to take a challenging curriculum. The website is available in nine different languages including Somali. There is a large Somali population in the Twin Cities area.


Black University in Texas to Award Faculty Bonuses Based on Student Evaluations

Prairie View A&M University, the historically black educational institution in Texas, is one of three universities in the Texas A&M University system that is now awarding faculty bonuses on the basis of student evaluations. Bonuses of $2,500 to $10,000 will be given to professors who score in the top 15 percent of the faculty on the student evaluation surveys.

Chancellor of the Texas A&M University system Mike McKinney said the bonus system “doesn’t have to do with tenure, promotion, or status. It has to do with students having the opportunity to recognize good teachers and reward them with some money.”

Critics of the system say that the bonuses are likely to go to teachers of popular electives and to professors who are prone to give out high grades.

The controversial nature of the program has made the bonus system unpopular with the faculty. Only 21 percent of the Prairie View A&M University faculty signed up to be eligible for the bonuses.


Court Upholds Ban on Consideration of Race in Admissions at State Colleges and Universities in Nebraska

In November, voters in Nebraska voted overwhelmingly to ban the consideration of race in hiring or contracting by the state government. The public referendum also banned the use of race in admissions decisions at any state-operated institution of higher education.

Opponents of the new law took the issue to court claiming that individuals collecting signatures to gain ballot access for the referendum used fraud, deception, and other illegal procedures. However, a judge ruled this past week that there was no evidence of fraud and that the rules were followed by the supporters of the referendum.


Television Movie to Tell the Story of African-American Neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins University

This coming Saturday, Oscar-winner Cuba Gooding Jr. will star in a made-for-television movie based on the life of Dr. Benjamin Carson Sr., who is director of pediatric neurosurgery at the Johns Hopkins University Children’s Center. The movie, entitled Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story, will be shown on the TNT cable network.

A special screening was held on the campus of Johns Hopkins University this week where attendees had the opportunity to meet Carson and his wife. Proceeds from ticket sales for the event were donated to the Carson Scholars Fund, which since 1994 has awarded college scholarships to more than 3,400 students.


In Memoriam

Thomas James Massey (1947-2009)

Thomas Massey, associate dean of multicultural education at Stanford University, died from an apparent heart attack at his campus home. He was 61 years old.

Massey was a 1969 graduate of Stanford University, where he played intercollegiate football and was a member of the track team. He earned a master’s degree from Stanford in 1972.

Over his long career at Stanford, he held such positions as assistant dean of student affairs, assistant director of the Office of Graduate Life, and resident fellow.


23,467,000  Total number of African-American adults in the United States in 2005.

10,878,000  Total number of African-American adults in the United States in 2005 who were enrolled in adult education courses.

source: U.S. Department of Education


Honors and Awards

• Sylvia Asante, associate dean for intercultural advancement at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania, received the Living the Dream Award from the Gettysburg and Adams County YWCA. Asante was honored for her work as director of a hunger relief program for local children.

• Brian L. McGowan, residence life coordinator at Rutgers University, was named Outstanding New Professional of the Year by the regional chapter of the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators.

McGowan is a graduate of Old Dominion University. He holds a master’s degree from Ohio State University.

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