Two African Americans Among the Shooting Victims at Virginia Tech

Cho Seung-Hui, a senior at Virginia Tech, was an equal opportunity murderer. Among his 32 victims were whites, blacks, Hispanics, Jews, Indians, and Asians. Two of the 32 victims were African-American students. They were:

Ryan Clark, 22 years old, a senior from Martinez, Georgia, majoring in biology and English. He was the resident adviser on the fourth floor of the dormitory where the shooting began. Clark, known as “Stack,” was a member of the marching band. He maintained a 4.0 grade point average and planned to obtain a Ph.D. in psychology.

Erin Peterson was an 18-year-old freshman from Centreville, Virginia. She attended the same high school as Cho Seung-Hui. Peterson was the captain of her high school basketball team. She planned to study either political science or international relations at Virginia Tech.

Nikki Giovanni, the African-American poet and professor at Virginia Tech, gave a spirited speech on campus the day after Cho Seung-Hui went on his rampage at the university. Professor Giovanni reassured the crowd of mourners that, “We will prevail. We will prevail. We are Virginia Tech.”


“I will not leave MIT, because racist individuals in the administration seek to deny me my right to fair treatment and due process. We must fight racism where we meet it.”

James L. Sherley, an associate professor of biological engineering at MIT, vowing to continue his fight to become the first African-American faculty member to win tenure in his department at the university  (See story below.)


No Progress in Increasing Black Enrollments at University of California Campuses at Berkeley and San Diego

Last week JBHE reported the impressive gain in the number of black students admitted to the University of California at Los Angeles. But blacks did not fare as well at the other two most selective campuses of the University of California system.

This year there were 308 black students admitted to the University of California at Berkeley, a slight increase of 3.4 percent. But due to an overall increase in students admitted, the black percentage of all students admitted to Berkeley remained at 3 percent.

In 1997, before the ban on affirmative action admissions went into effect in California, 562 black students were admitted to Berkeley. They made up 6.8 percent of all students admitted to Berkeley that year. Thus, the black presence at Berkeley is still less than one half of the level that prevailed when race-sensitive admissions were permitted.

Black enrollments at the University of California at San Diego are even lower than at UCLA or Berkeley. Blacks are 1.3 percent of the undergraduate student body at the San Diego campus. This year, despite an increase in black applicants, the number of black students admitted to this campus dropped slightly. In 2007 there were 386 African-American students admitted to the San Diego campus. They made up 2 percent of all students admitted.


Black Professor Who Went on a Hunger Strike at MIT Says University Is Not Complying With Agreement That Ended His Protest

In January 2005, James L. Sherley, an associate professor of biological engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was denied tenure. Sherley claimed that he was denied adequate laboratory resources and that the racism of his colleagues was a factor in the denial of tenure. After two internal reviews of the process failed to reverse the tenure decision, Sherley vowed to go on a hunger strike to bring attention to institutional racism at MIT.

Professor Sherley began his hunger strike on February 5. He drank water and other liquids but had no solid food. Each day he stood in protest outside the provost’s office for three hours before returning to his laboratory to continue his research.

Dr. Sherley kept up with the protest for 12 days. He called off his protest saying he had been successful because it had brought “attention to the issue of equity, diversity, and justice at MIT.”  MIT vowed to continue to negotiate with Professor Sherley over his grievances.

But now Professor Sherley tells JBHE “the president and provost at MIT are stalling on their agreement with me that was the basis for ending my hunger strike. They pledged to either conduct an external arbitration of my charges of racial discrimination and obstruction or to grant me tenure based on the admission of unfair racial discrimination. Yet the provost, who it was agreed would not participate in the deliberations because he himself is charged with obstruction of my grievance, has sought to intimidate me with threats of sending termination notices to members of my laboratory.”

Professor Sherley has vowed to fight on. Sherley told JBHE, “Those who say to me that MIT is not worth it miss the point. MIT is only the setting of my rejection of racism. My battle at MIT is the same as those who battle for equal opportunities and fair treatment in housing, education, employment, and on and on. We must fight racism where we meet it.”


A Whopping 15 Percent of All Accepted Students at Swarthmore College Are Black

Swarthmore College announced that it accepted 890 students for the Class of 2011 who will enter this fall. More than 5,200 students applied to Swarthmore this year.

Blacks make up a whopping 15 percent of all accepted students. In 2006 blacks were 13.9 percent of all students accepted at Swarthmore. Only one third of all black students accepted at the college decided to enroll. However, blacks still made up 11.6 percent of this year’s freshman class, the highest percentage among the nation’s 30 highest-ranked liberal arts colleges. It was also the highest percentage of black students in an entering class of the nation’s top liberal arts colleges since JBHE first started tracking these results in 1993.

With an even larger percentage of accepted students this year, Swarthmore looks like it will once again be the top performer in recruiting black students among the nation’s leading liberal arts colleges. It seems likely, too, that the black percentage of this year’s entering class at Swarthmore may set an all-time record for the nation’s leading liberal arts colleges in the JBHE survey.


Dartmouth Also Posts an Impressive Number of Admitted Black Students

There are 210 black students who have been admitted to Dartmouth this spring. They make up an impressive 9.7 percent of all admitted students.

Last year Dartmouth declined to divulge how many black students were admitted to the college. But when all the numbers were in, it was determined that blacks make up 7.4 percent of the current freshman class. Depending on Dartmouth’s black student yield, this fall the college stands a good chance of enrolling its largest class of black freshmen in many years.



All Freshmen at Alabama A&M to Receive Personal Financial Management Software

Beginning this fall, Alabama A&M University, the historically black educational institution in Normal, will furnish all incoming freshmen with TimeMAPS Money Management and Life Skills Software. The computer program will give students tips on budgeting, banking, credit, saving, investing, and retirement planning. The software will be incorporated into the university’s two-term freshman seminar on financial survivor skills that focuses on preparing students for life after college.


Emory University Scholar Wins Pulitzer Prize for Poetry

Natasha Trethewey, associate professor of English at Emory University in Atlanta, was awarded the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for poetry. Professor Trethewey was honored for her collection of poems entitled Native Guard (Houghton Mifflin, 2006). The poems in the collection reflect on her experiences growing up as a biracial child in Mississippi.

Professor Trethewey is a graduate of the University of Georgia. She holds master’s degrees from Hollins University and the University of Massachusetts.

Three other scholars, all white, also won Pulitzers for books dealing with issues of race. Debby Applegate, a summa cum laude graduate of Amherst College, won the Pulitzer Prize for biography for The Most Famous Man in America: The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher. Beecher was a Brooklyn preacher who was an abolitionist leader.

University of Maryland professor of journalism Gene Roberts and Hank Klibanoff, the managing editor of the Atlanta Constitution, won the Pulitzer Prize for history for their book The Race Beat: The Press, the Civil Rights Struggle, and the Awakening of a Nation.



• Alvin Schexnider, executive vice president of Norfolk State University, has announced his retirement. Twice over the past three years Schexnider served as interim president of the university. He will continue on as a consultant to the university until the end of the year while Norfolk State’s new president, Carolyn Meyers, adjusts to her position.


Honors and Awards

• Deryl F. Bailey, associate professor of counseling and human development in the College of Education at the University of Georgia, received the Mary Smith Arnold Anti-Oppression Award from the Counselors for Social Justice of the American Counseling Association.

Bailey has been on the university faculty since 1999. He holds a doctorate in counselor education from the University of Virginia.

• Saundra McGuire, director of the Center for Academic Success, associate dean of the university college, and adjunct professor of chemistry at Louisiana State University, received the 2006-07 Diversity Award from the Council for Chemistry Research.

• Grady H. James, professor emeritus of broadcasting at Norfolk State University in Virginia, was inducted into the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame. Professor James taught at Norfolk State for 40 years until his retirement in 2000.

• Ives Clark, professor of administrative support technology at Tidewater Community College in Virginia, received the Martin Luther King Jr. Distinguished Service Award from the college for her community service and volunteer work. A graduate of Elizabeth City State University with a master’s degree from North Carolina Central University, Professor Clark joined the faculty at Tidewater Community College in 1977.

• Arvarh E. Strickland, who in 1969 became the first black scholar to gain tenure at the University of Missouri at Columbia, will have the General Classroom Building at the university named in his honor. Strickland, a historian, retired from teaching a decade ago but remains a professor emeritus at the university and sits on the board of trustees of the State Historical Society of Missouri.

Professor Strickland is a graduate of Tougaloo College. He holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois.



Stanford University received a $2.5 million grant from the Raikes Family Foundation of Seattle for the university’s Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity. The grant will be used to hire an administrative director for the center, create faculty positions, and establish six graduate fellowships at the center.

Grambling State University, the historically black educational institution in Louisiana, received a $15,000 grant from the state university system for a program to promote the state’s musical legacy to high school students in New Orleans. Approximately 200 Grambling students went to New Orleans for the two-day program which consisted of concerts and workshops.



Looking for Black Faculty at the Nation’s 50 Flagship State Universities

According to JBHE research, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the University of Maryland, Ohio State University, the University of Michigan, Pennsylvania State University, the University of Georgia, and the University of Florida are the only flagship state universities that have more than 100 black faculty members.

At the other extreme, in 2007 the University of South Dakota and the University of Maine had only three black faculty members. The University of Idaho, the University of New Hampshire, the University of Montana, the University of Wyoming, and the University of North Dakota had fewer than 10 black faculty members.  In 2007, five blacks were teaching at the University of Montana. In the year 2001, there were no black faculty at the university.

The University of North Carolina has the highest percentage of black faculty among the flagship state institutions at 5.9 percent. The only other flagship state universities where blacks make up at least 5 percent of the total full-time faculty are the University of Georgia, the University of Michigan, the University of Maryland, and the University of Mississippi.


Northeastern University Opens Ujima Scholarship Program to Whites

In past years, the Ujima Scholars program at Northeastern University in Boston was used to admit about 65 students of African descent who had academic potential but did not meet traditional criteria for admission into their intended majors. The program provided financial aid; course advising; academic instruction in reading, writing, and study skills; tutorial assistance; and other resources for black students whom the university believed were at risk of dropping out of college.

Now the Ujima Scholars program is open to students of all races. Despite the fact that Northeastern University is a privately operated institution, its legal counsel appears to be of the opinion that the blacks-only scholarship program could present legal problems for the university. Now the Ujima Scholars program will target urban students of all races.

In addition to opening the program to whites, the number of students accepted into the program will be reduced to a maximum of 40. But those students who are accepted into the program will receive additional financial aid.

Many black students at Northeastern fear that opening the program to whites will decrease the number of African-American students on campus. At the present time, about 6.1 percent of the 18,000-member undergraduate student body at Northeastern University is black.



Two Books by Black Authors Make List of the 25 Most Influential Books of the Past Quarter Century

This spring marks the 25th anniversary of USA Today, Gannett’s national newspaper. To mark the occasion, the editors of the newspaper picked the 25 books that have made the greatest impact since the newspaper began publishing in 1982.

Top on the list was J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, which redefined the meaning of best sellers and reinvigorated reading among children and young adults.

Ranking ninth on the list was Toni Morrison’s Beloved. The 1987 book won the Pulitzer Prize and Morrison went on to win the Nobel Prize in literature in 1993, the last American to do so.

Also on the list of the 25 most influential books of the past quarter century is Waiting to Exhale by Terry McMillan. USA Today’s editors say that the book was a wake-up call for the publishing industry that made them realize the vast untapped market for novels about contemporary African Americans.


Milestone in College Sports: Blacks Now Hold Head Coaching Position of All Three Revenue-Generating Sports at the University of Washington

College sports are amateur competition but there is no doubt that there is a huge amount of money involved in college athletics. While there are dozens of sports played at the collegiate level from squash to bowling to water polo, the three major sports that generate revenue for a college or university are football and men’s and women’s basketball.

Now, for the first time, there are African Americans coaching all three major revenue-generating sports at one NCAA Division I university. The University of Washington recently named Tia Jackson as head coach for women’s basketball. She joins Tyrone Willingham, coach of the football team, and Lorenzo Romar, head coach of the men’s basketball program.

Jackson is a graduate of the University of Iowa and later played in the Women’s National Basketball Association. She previously held assistant coaching positions at Virginia Commonwealth University, Stanford University, UCLA, and Duke University. She will receive a base salary of $180,000 with performance incentives that could push her compensation above $300,000.


Governor Asks for Resignations of All Members of the Texas Southern University Board of Regents

Governor Rick Perry of Texas has asked members of the board of regents of Texas Southern University to resign. Governor Perry wants to appoint a conservator who would have broad powers over the university’s budget and spending as well as over administrative personnel.

The university has been beset with financial problems in recent years culminating with the firing of university president Priscilla Slade last year.

In proposing the plan, which must be approved by the legislature, Perry said, “The systematic problems at Texas Southern University run deep, and now is the time to take swift and decisive action to reform a proud but broken university administration.”

Three members of the board have said they will not resign. Governor Perry's plan also faces stiff opposition from some powerful black politicans in the Houston area.


Intramural Recreation Center at Indiana University Was Named After a Man Who Held Extreme Racist Views

Students at Indiana University are calling on the administration to change the name of the intramural recreation center which currently honors Ora Wildermuth, who served as president of the university’s board of trustees from 1938 to 1949.

The student newspaper on campus reported that in 1945 Wildermuth wrote a letter to an administrator in which he said, “I am and shall always remain absolutely and utterly opposed to social intermingling of the colored race with the White.” In a 1948 letter to the president of the university, Wildermuth wrote, “The average of the black race as to intelligence, economic status, and industry is so far below the white average that it seems to me futile to build up hope for a great future. Their presence in the body politic definitely presents a problem.”

The Wildermuth Intramural Center was dedicated in 1971, seven years after his death.


24.8%  Percentage of all black adults over the age of 25 in the western United States in 2006 who had at least a four-year college degree.

16.4%  Percentage of all black adults over the age of 25 in U.S. midwestern states in 2006 who had at least a four-year college degree.

source: U.S. Census Bureau


In Memoriam

Elliot Percival Skinner (1924-2007)

Elliot Percival Skinner, the renowned anthropologist and the first black scholar to win tenure at Columbia University, died earlier this month in Washington, D.C. He was 82 years old.

Skinner, the Franz Boas Professor of Anthropology Emeritus, was a native of Trinidad and Tobago. He immigrated to the United States and became a citizen, serving in the U.S. Army during World War II. After the war he studied anthropology at Columbia, earning a Ph.D. in 1955. His dissertation explored the group dynamics of ethnic minorities in a rural area of British Guiana.

Professor Skinner joined the New York University faculty in 1963 but moved uptown to Columbia in 1966. He was named to the endowed Boas chair in 1969 and served as department chair from 1972 to 1975. He took a leave of absence from Columbia to serve for three years as U.S. ambassador to Upper Volta.

Professor Skinner was the author of the 1975 book African Urban Life: The Transformation of Ouagadougou. He later wrote Beyond Constructive Engagement: United States Foreign Policy Toward Africa.

In 1985 the African Studies Association presented him with their highest award. The citation stated that, “On the African continent, the field of African studies in America is as much identified with Elliot Skinner as with any other American scholar.”

James D. Foster (1938-2007)

James D. Foster, a former faculty member and administrator at the University of Dentistry and Medicine of New Jersey, died earlier this month after a long illness. He was 69 years old.

Foster was a graduate of Hampton Institute and went on to earn a master’s degree from Farleigh Dickinson University. He served as a probation officer in Newark before being hired as an instructor of preventive medicine at UDMNJ. He was later named assistant dean of minority affairs at the university. Foster retired in 2001.


Copyright © 2007. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. All rights reserved.