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Harvard Without Summers: A Note on How the New Choice Will Affect the Outlook for Blacks at America’s Leading Colleges and Universities

The presidency of Lawrence Summers at Harvard University never presented a favorable environment for black educational opportunities. It will be recalled that Summers backed affirmative action in Harvard admissions but only under intense faculty and public pressure.

From the beginning of his presidency, when K. Anthony Appiah and Cornel West left Harvard for Princeton, President Summers continued to have unfavorable relations with Harvard’s black studies effort. At the time he declared that the department would no longer have a “blank check” that it enjoyed under past Harvard presidents Derek Bok and Neil Rudenstine.

A couple of years ago Summers showed casual disregard for the damaging effect on Henry Louis Gates Jr.’s efforts to hire black faculty at Harvard when, as president, he made no attempt to retain the distinguished black sociologist Lawrence Bobo and his wife Marcyliena Morgan who both left Harvard for Stanford.

After Summers’ famous remarks on the possible inferior capabilities of women in science, many black academics concluded that he probably held the same views about the inherent capabilities of African Americans. In his first year as president Summers snubbed the Harvard black studies department by failing to make the customary courtesy call that all previous Harvard presidents had made on department heads.

The highly admired former Harvard president Derek Bok has agreed to serve as acting president of the university. Bok has always been a strong and influential supporter of affirmative action and greater educational opportunities for African Americans. Throughout the academy, readers will recall that Bok was author, together with former Princeton president William Bowen, of the widely praised book, The Shape of the River.  This book was cited by the Supreme Court when, in the 2003 Grutter decision, it finally gave the go-ahead for colleges and universities to continue with race-sensitive admissions policies.

Who finally wins the Harvard presidency will have a critical effect on black educational opportunities throughout the nation. Should Harvard in the future abandon or cut back on affirmative action, so will scores of other important educational institutions in our country. If Harvard, under its new president, ceases to attract and actively recruit black faculty, similar policies are likely to be followed by other highly ranked colleges. If Harvard abandons or dilutes its famed black studies effort, other colleges and universities will undoubtedly follow suit. And what racial policies Harvard sets in place will largely be determined by the racial attitudes of its next president.

It may be six months or more before we know who Summers’ successor will be. The Harvard faculty now appears to have much more power to influence the choice than was the case in previous presidential searches. The newfound power of the faculty of Harvard’s Arts & Sciences is likely to lead to the selection of a president who will operate in the Bok-Rudenstine tradition that always favored strong policies aimed at further racial diversity on the Harvard campus. Candidates mentioned in the press so far as possible successors are Lee Bollinger, president of Columbia and Nannerl Keohane, the former president of Duke University.

The Harvard Corporation, which has the sole authority to appoint the next president, continues to be a highly conservative club with little accountability to the public or disposition to make a bold choice in Harvard’s new president. In JBHE’s view, the appointment of a Hispanic or African American to the Harvard presidency is highly unlikely.

A Surge in Black Participation in Advanced Placement Courses

Over the past-quarter-century there has been a huge increase in the number of black students who are taking challenging Advanced Placement courses in high school. AP courses are equivalent to introductory courses in particular subject areas at the college level.  

In 1985 there were only 2,768 black students taking AP courses in the United States. At that time blacks made up only one percent of the more than 270,000 AP students. By 1990 black participation in AP programs had more than doubled. That year black students took more than 6,800 AP exams. Over the next five years, the number of blacks enrolled in AP courses more than quadrupled. In 1997 blacks took 34,514 AP exams, up more than fivefold from 1990. By 2005 the number of AP exams taken by black students had doubled again. Last year blacks took more than 80,000 AP exams. In 2005 blacks took 5.2 percent of all AP examinations administered in the United States, up from 1 percent a quarter-century ago.

But despite this major progress, blacks still lag far behind whites in participation in the AP program. In contrast, we note that African Americans now make up 11 percent of all SAT test takers and more than 13 percent of all high school students in the nation.

“You’ve gotta do something about that flag. I know people say it’s representative of history. Well, so is the swastika.”

— Filmmaker Spike Lee, speaking at the University of Mississippi, February 9, 2006. Lee was calling for a change in the state flag of Mississippi which contains an image of the Confederate battle flag.

Making the Orangeburg Massacre a Part of South Carolina History Lessons

On February 8, 1968 three black students at South Carolina State University were shot and killed by state police during a civil rights demonstration against racial segregation at a local bowling alley. Twenty-seven other students were injured in the resulting panic. Nine white patrolmen were tried for excessive use of force in the incident. All were acquitted.  

Cleveland Sellers, an organizer with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, was charged with inciting a riot and spent a year in prison. A quarter-century later in 1993, Sellers, currently a professor of history at the University of South Carolina, was pardoned for his role in the protest.

Now the state of South Carolina is taking steps to educate its youth about the Orangeburg Massacre. It has purchased 500 copies of The Orangeburg Massacre, authored by newspaper reporters Jack Bass and Jack Nelson. The book will be distributed to libraries at middle schools and high schools throughout the state.


The Academic Performance of African-American College Students in Denver

Blacks make up about 6 percent of the 21,000 students at the Metropolitan State College in Denver, Colorado. Only 16 percent of entering black students earn a bachelor’s degree within six years compared to 25 percent of entering white students.  

Now a new study released by the administration at Metro State College offers a rare glimpse of the academic performance of different racial groups. The study found that the mean grade point average for black students at the college was 2.56. For whites, the mean GPA was 3.04. Nearly one third of the grades received by African-American students in core courses in mathematics, reading, and English are either Ds or Fs.

The study also found that blacks and whites with similar standardized test scores and high school GPAs performed less well once they entered college.


University of Minnesota Chips in With More Financial Aid for Low-Income Students

Blacks are only 4.3 percent of the student body at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus. But because there are nearly 33,000 undergraduate students on this campus, there is a solid group of more than 1,400 black students at the university.  

Many of these black students may be receiving a larger allocation of financial aid under a new policy passed by the state’s board of regents. Under Minnesota’s Founders Opportunity Program, freshman students from families with incomes under $50,000 have their full tuition and fees paid for by grants from the university after all other federal scholarship grants are exhausted. Now the board of regents is extending this program to all students who transfer into the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus. More than one quarter of all students at the university are transfer students who enter as juniors after completing studies at a community college.

The university expects that the new program will cost about $22 million a year and will benefit 4,500 students of all races.


Skinhead Professor at the University of Delaware

Robert T. Huber is currently completing a Ph.D. program in physics at the University of Delaware. He taught an introductory course in physics to undergraduates at the university during the winter term.  

But according to an investigation by reporters at the Wilmington News Journal, Huber is a white supremacist with long-term ties to the skinhead movement. The report says that Huber was inducted into the Skinhead Hall of Fame for his efforts to recruit other members into the movement.

While on campus, Huber is said to keep his racist views to himself. He reportedly wears long-sleeve shirts to cover up white supremacist tattoos on his arms. Some of Huber’s students were members of minority groups but the university reports that no complaints have ever been filed against him.


New Director Plans a New Direction for Black Studies at the University of New Mexico

Finnie Coleman came to the University of New Mexico this past fall to take over the African-American studies program. He holds a joint appointment in the English and American studies departments. Professor Coleman has ambitious plans to make over the black studies program to give it a global perspective. In negotiating the terms of his post, Coleman received a firm commitment from the university that he would be permitted to fill two new faculty positions in black studies.  

Professor Coleman also wants to strengthen cross-departmental ties within the university enabling students who pursue a black studies major to concentrate in areas such as economics, international studies, or law so that they will be more employable once they earn their degrees. He also would like to institute a study-abroad requirement as part of the black studies curriculum.

Blacks are nearly 3 percent of the student body at the University of New Mexico. According to the latest JBHE research, there are 45 black faculty members at the university, making up 1.7 percent of the total faculty.  


Coleman came to the University of New Mexico from Texas A&M University where he was a professor of African-American literature. A native of Pensacola, Florida, Coleman is a Gulf War veteran. While in the Army he graduated from the Virginia Military Institute double-majoring in economics and English. He went on to earn a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Virginia.

In Memoriam

William Augustus Jones Jr. (1934-2006)

William A. Jones Jr., civil rights leader and pastor of Brooklyn’s 5,000-member Bethany Baptist Church for 43 years, died earlier this month from kidney disease. He was 71 years old.  

Dr. Jones was a native of Louisville, Kentucky, and was one of the first black students at the University of Kentucky. While there he was prohibited from playing on the university’s basketball team because of his race. After graduation he went on to Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania, where he earned a doctorate.

After serving in the Army, Jones became a minister in Philadelphia and in 1962 moved to Bethany Baptist. Along with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Jones broke with the national Baptist Church to form the Progressive National Baptist Convention. This breakaway group now is affiliated with more than 2,000 churches which have about 2.5 million members.  

While pastor at Bethany Baptist, Jones led several civil rights protests and demonstrations in the New York area. Always controversial, Jones associated himself with City College professor Leonard Jeffries, the Rev. Al Sharpton, and Tawana Brawley, a black girl who alleged she had been raped by white racists.

William L. Lester (1944-2006)

William L. Lester, provost at Tuskegee University for the past two decades and a member of the university faculty for nearly four decades, died earlier this month. He was 61 years old.

Lester was first hired at Tuskegee in 1968 as an instructor of mathematics. After earning his Ph.D. at Southern Methodist University, in 1974 Lester was named chair of the department of mathematics. He became university provost in 1984.



Alonzo Ashley, the retired employee relations manager at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, received the university’s Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring. Ashley had established a summer research program for black and other minority students at the center. At least 10 African-American students completed the program and went on to earn Ph.D.s in physics.

The Largest Black College Endowment Funds Show Slower Growth Than Those of Their White Peers

Despite a relatively stagnant market in blue chip stocks during the July 1, 2004 to June 30, 2005 period, college endowment funds did remarkably well. According to a report by the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO), the typical college endowment fund increased its value by 9 percent in the period from July 1, 2004 to June 30, 2005.  

The largest college and university endowment funds tended to perform better than smaller funds. Among these large funds Stanford posted the most impressive gain of 23 percent. Harvard University, with the nation’s largest endowment of $25.5 billion, enjoyed a 15 percent increase.

The historically black colleges and universities with the largest endowment funds all posted smaller than average growth. Howard University continues to have the largest endowment of any black college or university. As of June 30, 2005, its endowment stood at $397,657,000. This was up 7.1 percent from a year earlier.  

Spelman College, with an endowment of $258,054,000, had the second-largest fund among the black institutions. For the year ending June 30, 2005, Spelman’s endowment fund was up 5.7 percent from a year earlier.

Hampton University in Virginia had endowment resources of $199 million as of June 30, 2005. Hampton’s endowment grew by 7.1 percent from the earlier year.  


Morehouse College is the only other historically black institution with an endowment greater than $100 million. In 2005 the Morehouse College endowment was valued at slightly more than $112 million. It showed an increase of 4.6 percent from a year earlier.

Gender Differences in African-American College Graduation Rates

Nationwide the black student college graduation rate stands at a very low 42 percent. This is 20 percentage points below the graduation rate for whites.  

But there are sharp differences in the college completion rates of black men and black women. The current data shows that only 35 percent of black men who enter college go on to earn a diploma within six years. This is 24 percentage points below the graduation rate for white men, which stands at 59 percent.

For black women the current college graduation rate is 46 percent. This is 18 percentage points below the rate for white women. The good news is that both black men and black women are making progress. In each of the past four years the graduation rate for black men improved by one percentage point. Over the past 15 years black men have improved their graduation rates from 28 percent to 35 percent.

Black women have also posted a one percentage point gain in their graduation rate in each of the past four years. Over the past decade and a half the graduation rates for black women have shown strong and steady gains. Turning in a powerful performance, black women have improved their college completion rate from 34 percent in 1990 to 46 percent in 2005.


Law Schools May Lose Accreditation If They Fail to Show a Commitment to Racial Diversity

Over the past decade, overall enrollments in law schools nationwide has increased by about 6 percent. But during the period, black enrollments have declined by about 2 percent. Furthermore, the number of blacks who applied to law school this past year dropped by 8 percent. A year ago, the number of black applicants to law school decreased by 6 percent.  

In response to the decrease in racial diversity at the nation’s law schools, a unit of the American Bar Association has approved new guidelines that would require member law schools to demonstrate they are taking steps to increase the racial diversity of their student bodies and faculties. If they fail to take these steps the law schools would risk losing their accreditation from the ABA. The new guidelines will be presented to the ABA’s House of Delegates for approval at the annual meeting this summer.

The new guidelines require law schools to take “concrete action to provide full opportunities for the study of law and entry into the profession by members of underrepresented groups, particularly racial and ethnic minorities. Law schools must demonstrate a commitment to having a student body that is diverse with respect to gender, race, and ethnicity.”  

The guidelines also state that law schools located in states where race-sensitive admissions are banned are not exempt from the standards. Law schools in these states will be expected to participate in outreach programs to black and other minority students, advertise faculty openings in black-oriented publications, offer scholarships geared to disadvantaged groups or conduct other programs to increase racial diversity of their faculties and student bodies.

University of New Hampshire Bans Playing “Theoretically Racist” Song

The University of New Hampshire has banned the playing of the 1977 song “Black Betty” during the school’s interscholastic hockey matches. The song has been played at the start of the second and third periods at UNH hockey games for more than a decade.   The song, made popular in the late 1970s by the group Ram Jam, is “theoretically racist,” according to UNH athletics director Marty Scarano. “UNH is not going to stand for something that insults any segment of society.”

The lyrics supposedly were composed by Huddy “Leadbelly” Ledbetter, an African-American musician popular in the 1920s. When the song was recorded by Ram Jam in the 1970s, the NAACP and the Congress of Racial Equality both urged consumers to boycott the song, claiming that it was demeaning to African-American women.   Readers can decide for themselves. Here are the complete lyrics to the song:

Whoa, black betty (bam-ba-lam)
Whoa, black betty (bam-ba-lam)
Black betty had a child (bam-ba-lam)
The damn thing gone wild (bam-ba-lam)
She said, "I'm worryin' outta mind" (bam-ba-lam)
The damn thing gone blind (bam-ba-lam)
I said oh, black betty (bam-ba-lam)
Whoa, black betty (bam-ba-lam)

Oh, black betty (bam-ba-lam)
Whoa, black betty (bam-ba-lam)
She really gets me high (bam-ba-lam)
You know that's no lie (bam-ba-lam)
She's so rock steady (bam-ba-lam)
And she's always ready (bam-ba-lam)
Whoa, black betty (bam-ba-lam)
Whoa, black betty (bam-ba-lam)

Get It!

Whoa, black betty (bam-ba-lam)
Whoa, black betty (bam-ba-lam)
She's from Birmingham (bam-ba-lam)
Way down in Alabam' (bam-ba-lam)
Well, she's shakin' that thing (bam-ba-lam)
Boy, she makes me sing (bam-ba-lam)
Whoa, black betty (bam-ba-lam)
Whoa, black betty (bam-ba-lam)

Smile! Black Dental School Enrollments Are on the Rise

In last week’s edition, JBHE reported the persistence of racial segregation at U.S. dental schools. More than 40 percent of all black dental students are enrolled at just two of the 56 dental schools in the United States. Howard and Meharry, two historically black institutions, continue to educate a large segment of all black dental students.  

But there is some good news to report. Overall, black enrollments in dental school are up a whopping 33 percent from 2001. In 2001 blacks were 4.9 percent of all dental school enrollments. Today the figure is 6.1 percent.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Connecticut, and the University of Mississippi have all seen at least a five percentage point gain in black enrollments since 2001. Overall 33 of the 54 predominantly white dental schools for which we have data have posted an increase in their percentage of black enrollments. Only three dental schools have seen the percentage of blacks in their student bodies drop by more than 2 percentage points. They are the University of Illinois at Chicago, the University of Maryland, and the University of Missouri at Kansas City.


28.9%  Percentage of white adults in 2002 who bought a piece of artwork.

35.9%  Percentage of black adults in 2002 who bought a piece of artwork.

source: National Endowment for the Arts

New Home for The Negro Educational Review

The Negro Educational Review, an important quarterly academic journal published for more than half a century, will now be housed at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro. Previously, this refereed journal was published at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee. The journal will maintain a national editorial board. Lelia Vickers, dean of the School of Education at North Carolina A&T, will oversee operation of the publication.

Panel Recommends Sweeping Changes in University of Colorado’s Diversity Efforts

A 60-member commission made up of students, faculty, and administrators has recommended sweeping changes in admissions policies at the University of Colorado in order to increase the number of black and Hispanic students. The commission was formed by university president Hank Brown after a series of racial incidents occurred on campus.  

Under the current admissions standards, students need to achieve an index score of 103 points in order to be admitted to the Boulder campus. The index is based on high school class rank, standardized test scores, and a student’s high school grades. Statewide in 2005, only 272 black students achieved a score of 103 on the admissions index and only 66 matriculated at the university this past fall.

The commission made a point to say it does not want to lower academic standards to admit more minority students. But it recommended that the index be made more flexible to take into account a student’s background, leadership abilities, and community work.  


The commission also recommended that a zero-tolerance policy be instituted for hate speech on campus, that more money be set aside for minority scholarships, and that the university spend more money on diversity training for faculty and staff.

Two Black Colleges Name New Presidents

Larry E. Rivers was named president of Fort Valley State University, a historically black educational institution in Georgia. He will assume his new duties on March 14.  

For the past four years, Rivers, who is a 1973 alumnus of Fort Valley State, was the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Florida A&M University.

Rivers holds a master’s degree in American history and political science from Villanova University. He earned his first doctorate in American history and curriculum development from Carnegie Mellon University. In 2001 he earned a second doctorate from the University of London in African-American and cultural studies.  


Jimmy R. Jenkins was named president of Livingstone College in Salisbury, North Carolina. Jenkins previously served as president of Edward Waters College in Jacksonville, Florida. He previously was president and a professor of biology at Elizabeth City State University in North Carolina. He took office at Livingstone College immediately after the announcement of his appointment.


Bernadette Gray-Little was promoted to executive vice chancellor and provost at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She was serving as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the university.  

A professor of psychology, Dr. Gray-Little has been on the Chapel Hill faculty for the past 35 years. She is a graduate of Marywood College in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from St. Louis University.

Karen Green was named vice president for student affairs at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Green was the dean of students at Wells College in Aurora, New York. Green is a graduate of Agnes Scott College and holds a master’s degree in divinity from the Candler School of Theology at Emory University.


North Carolina A&T State University, the historically black educational institution in Greensboro, received a $150,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education for a program to increase the number of rehabilitation counselors qualified to practice in the state.

Morgan State University, the historically black university in Baltimore, received a $500,000 grant from Tina and Calvin Tyler. The funds will be used to bolster an endowed scholarship fund previously set up by the Tylers. Calvin Tyler is an alumnus of the university and before he retired was an executive for United Parcel Service.


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Past Issues - JBHE Weekly Bulletin

February 16, 2006
February 9, 2006
February 2, 2006
January 26, 2006
January 19, 2006
January 12, 2006
January 5, 2006
December 29, 2005
December 22, 2005