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New York University Backs Off Its Mission to Become More Diverse

A year ago it was a college admissions officer’s dream: stacks of applications from low-income students with solid test scores, terrific grades, and rigorous academic preparation.

But today it seems the rules may be changing. The nation’s recession appears to have finally eroded the enrollment policies of one of America’s great educational institutions.

An item in last week’s New York Post surprised the academic world in its report that New York University, one of the nation’s most prestigious and selective universities, has been calling accepted students who qualified for financial aid with the evident purpose of discouraging them from matriculating at NYU this coming fall.

NYU made telephone calls to more than 1,800 of the 7,300 students who the university had accepted for admission. Students who were called tended to be those with parents who had not gone to college and students whose needs were not fully met by the financial aid packages that the university was offering. The calls were designed to get these students to think hard before accepting NYU’s offer of admission because they were likely to assume large debt if they chose to enroll. About 75 percent of all students at NYU receive financial aid and a large amount of this aid is in the form of student loans.

NYU has a relatively small endowment per student compared to many of America’s leading research institutions. The university is subject to greater financial pressures than many of its peer institutions. The telephone calls are evidently intended to make space at the university for more affluent and full tuition paying students.

Blacks make up only 4 percent of the 21,000 undergraduate students at NYU. This is much lower than such places as Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, where the black percentage of total enrollments tends to be more than double that at New York University.

Undoubtedly, many of the black students who had been accepted at New York University were among those who received telephone calls.

University officials claim that they were not trying to dissuade low-income students who qualified for financial aid from coming to NYU. Rather they were simply making efforts to make sure families knew about the financial situation that they would be facing over the next four years. We are not sure this is a candid statement of purpose.

In the national picture, NYU’s actions are important. A highly prestigious institution such as NYU legitimizes efforts by other colleges and universities to back off from need-blind admissions and efforts to become more diverse. It is likely that other selective educational institutions will now join NYU in seeking out more affluent students who can pay full fare. These actions are likely to reverse decades-long efforts to increase the socioeconomic diversity of the student bodies at our nation’s highest-ranked universities. And if more affluent students are given an advantage in admissions at these schools, the percentage of blacks in the student bodies at these institutions is also likely to decrease.

Updated 5/28/09: NYU has responded to this article

About 1,700 Scholars From Black African Nations Are Teaching at U.S. Colleges and Universities

In the 2007-08 academic year, there were 106,123 foreign scholars teaching at American colleges and universities. Only 2,730, or 2.6 percent, are from Africa. More than one third of the African scholars teaching in the United States are from the Arab nations of North Africa. Today there are about 1,700 scholars from black African nations teaching at U.S. colleges and universities.

Scholars from 43 black African nations taught at U.S. colleges and universities during the 2007-08 academic year. South Africa sent 273 scholars to teach in the U.S., more than any other black African nation. But it is not known how many of these South African scholars teaching in the U.S. are white and how many are black.

Among other black African nations, Nigeria sent 256 scholars to teach in the United States. Kenya was close behind with 253. Ghana, Ethiopia, Cameroon, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Uganda, and Senegal were the only other black African nations to send as many as 50 scholars to teach at U.S. universities.

Chicago State University Seeks Greater Racial Diversity in Its Student Body

Enrollments at most state-operated colleges and universities in Illinois have skyrocketed in recent years. But at Chicago State University enrollments have dropped by 33 percent since 2004. Current enrollments of about 6,800 students are at a 20-year low.

University officials believe that the key to increasing enrollment is to enhance the racial diversity of the student body. Today about 85 percent of all undergraduates at the university are African Americans.

Admissions officers are planning to mount new recruiting drives at predominantly white suburban high schools in the Chicago area. Additional recruitment efforts will be made to attract foreign students to Chicago State. The long-term goal is to increase total enrollments to 12,000 students.

Notre Dame Isn’t the Only Catholic University With a Commencement Controversy

The University of Notre Dame has been criticized by some leaders of the Catholic Church for inviting Barack Obama to speak at its commencement ceremonies. Mary Ann Glendon, a professor at Harvard Law School who is a former U.S. ambassador to the Vatican, has declined to receive an award at the Notre Dame commencement. She believes that Obama’s stance on abortion should preclude him from being honored at Notre Dame.

Now Alfred Hughes, the archbishop of New Orleans, announced that he would boycott this Saturday’s commencement ceremonies at Xavier University, the historically black educational institution in Louisiana which is affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church. The archbishop, who is white, is protesting the awarding of an honorary degree to political strategist Donna Brazile because of her support for abortion rights.

7  Number of African-American men who were awarded a professional degree in optometry in 2007.

35  Number of African-American women who were awarded a professional degree in optometry in 2007.

source: U.S. Department of Education

Appointments, Promotions & Retirements

• Melanie Ragin was named assistant professor and coordinator of the public health program at Fort Valley State University in Georgia. She was the health commissioner for the city of Chester, Pennsylvania.

Dr. Ragin is a graduate of Whittier College in California. She holds a doctorate from Pennsylvania State University.

• Johnny Taylor III was named president of the Black Alumni Council at the University of Tennessee. A 2007 graduate of the university, he is employed as a commercial relations officer for SunTrust Bank.

• Jimmie James Jr., chair of the department of music at Jackson State University, has announced his retirement after service of 43 years to the university. He was the assistant director of the university’s marching band.

James is a 1959 graduate of Jackson State University. He joined the faculty in 1966 as an assistant professor of music. He was the first African American to earn a doctorate in music education from the University of Southern Mississippi.

• Sunni Green Tolbert, dean of multicultural affairs and associate dean of the college at Haverford College in suburban Philadelphia, has announced her retirement. She has been an administrator at the college for the past decade.

• Freddie L. Richards was appointed dean of the College of Agriculture and Human Sciences at Prairie View A&M University in Prairie View, Texas. He has been an administrator at the university since 1976.

Richards is a graduate of Alabama A&M College. He holds a master’s degree from Tuskegee University and a doctoral degree in agricultural education from Pennsylvania State University.

• Stacyann P. Russell, a student at Ohio State University, was elected national chair of the National Society of Black Engineers. She is majoring in industrial and systems engineering and plans to pursue a master’s degree in engineering management. A native of the Bronx, New York, Russell will serve as chair through April 2010.


• Florida A&M University, the historically black educational institution in Tallahassee, received a five-year, $1.2 million grant from CampusEAI, a nonprofit provider of technology and consulting services. The grant money will be used for hardware, software, installation, and training and support services for a new campus portal for the university to interact with students, faculty, staff, and other constituencies.

• Morehouse College, the historically black educational institution for men in Atlanta, received a 10-year, $1 million grant from the Delta Airlines Foundation to establish the Joseph E. Lowery International Scholarship fund.

The organization Higher Education for Development, in cooperation with the Agency for International Development, is awarding $50,000 grants to 20 colleges and universities in the United States to work with partner institutions of higher education in Africa to develop national economic priorities for the nations where the African universities are located.

It is noteworthy that none of the participating American colleges and universities are historically black educational institutions. The American colleges and universities receiving the grants include Calvin College, Cleveland State University, Colorado State University, Durham Technical Community College, George Mason University, and Georgia State University. Also receiving HED grants are Michigan State University, North Dakota State University, Oklahoma State University, Texas A&M University, George Washington University, and Ohio State University. Troy University, Tufts University, the University of Alabama Birmingham, the University of Connecticut, the University of the Pacific, Virginia Tech, West Virginia University, and Wheelock College-Boston also received $50,000 grants.

Mount Holyoke College Establishes a Freshman Orientation Program for Whites

Mount Holyoke College, the highly selective women’s college in Massachusetts, has announced a new freshman orientation program that is exclusively for white students from the United States.

For many years, the college has held a voluntary orientation program for minority students. Foreign students of all races are required to attend a freshman orientation program.

Under the new program, white students can volunteer to spend four days at the college prior to freshman orientation. They will hold discussions about race and other topics among themselves. And at times, the white students will participate in activities with students from the minority orientation program.

“She never sought recognition. She simply sought justice for all.”

Juan C. Gonzalez, vice president for student affairs, speaking at the unveiling of a statue of Barbara Jordan on the campus of the University of Texas. The statue is the first on campus to honor a woman. Jordan taught at the university for 17 years after leaving Congress. Jordan died in 1996.

Virginia Tech Put on the Hot Seat by FIRE

In March, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, known by the acronym FIRE, sent a letter to the president of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University expressing concern about the university’s tenure review process. The guidelines for tenure review state that “university and college committees require special attention to be given to documenting involvement in diversity initiatives.” The policy further states that all candidates for tenure should “demonstrate active involvement in diversity.”

FIRE urged university president Charles W. Steger to remove the diversity language saying that it amounted to a requirement that a certain political orthodoxy be followed by faculty members seeking tenure. FIRE stated that the diversity requirement “intrudes upon the private thought and conscience of free individuals in a free society. This truly does violate the university’s constitutional obligation of content neutrality, and it truly is a ‘loyalty oath’ inimical to academic and intellectual freedom.”

FIRE further stated that it hoped to resolve the dispute amicably but it threatened to use all means at its disposal to pursue its objective.

This veiled threat of litigation prompted Virginia Tech to back down. The university announced that it was removing the diversity requirement. It stated that a faculty member’s effort to increase campus diversity would be seen as a plus in tenure review decisions. But such efforts would no longer be required of faculty members in order to be considered for tenure.

New Degree Program in Port Management at Historically Black Texas Southern University in Houston

Texas Southern University is launching a new maritime transportation management and security degree program. The program will train students in port security, logistics, and the environment. The program was made possible with a two-year commitment of $2 million from the Port of Houston Authority which seeks to increase the number of students who will be available for management positions at the port.

The program is the only one of its kind at a historically black college or university.

The Search for the African Einstein

Each year 50 college students from all over Africa are invited to enroll at the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences. The institute was founded by Neil Turok, a white man who is a professor at Cambridge University. A native South African, Turok’s parents were anti-apartheid activists during his formative years.

The goal of the institute is to train high-achieving African students in the mathematical sciences. Students are invited to the school after they have graduated from college for a one-year program of intense training in mathematics and computer science. Turok holds the view that Africa will not develop until it can produce its own experts in 21st-century technologies.

The school, located on the beach in Cape Town, is financed primarily by the South African government. Faculty from all over the world come to Cape Town to participate with only a stipend to pay their expenses.

Vanderbilt University Research Finds Significant Growth in Black Church Attendance

Sandra Barnes, professor of human and and organizational development at Vanderbilt University, has conducted a new study showing that African-American church attendance in urban and suburban areas has increased at an average of 5 percent. The research, published in the journal Sociological Spectrum, found that the black churches experiencing the greatest growth are the ones that are using television and the Internet to market their services. Churches with larger congregations tended to grow faster than churches with small congregations.

Number of Blacks Earning Two-Year Associate’s Degrees Reaches an All-Time High

Blacks have made significant progress in the attainment of two-year associate’s degrees. In 2007 more than 90,000 African Americans were awarded two-year degrees. This is up more than 50 percent from the year 2000.

Liberal arts, business, and health services were the most popular fields of study for African Americans in two-year degree programs.

Two-year associate’s degree awards are important. Census data shows that blacks with some college or a two-year associate’s degree significantly increase their earning power over blacks with only a high school diploma.

In 2007 black women earned more than 69 percent of all two-year degrees awarded to African Americans.

Mystery Donor Includes One Historically Black University

Over the past several weeks an anonymous donor has given more than $70 million to at least a dozen universities with the stipulation that they use most of the money for student scholarships and that they make no attempt to determine who gave the money. The donations have ranged from $1 million to $10 million.

The one common thread is that all the universities that have received funds from the mystery donor are led by women.

Norfolk State University is the only historically black college or university that has received a gift from the mystery donor. The university received $3.5 million. Carolyn W. Meyers is the fourth president of the university. A graduate of Howard University, Dr. Meyers holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in engineering from Georgia Tech.

In Memoriam

William Neal Brown (1919-2009)

William Neal Brown, a Tuskegee Airman who was the first African American hired to the faculty of Rutgers University, died at his home in Millburn, New Jersey. He was 90 years old.

Dr. Brown grew up near Pittsburgh where his father worked in a steel mill. The valedictorian of his graduating class, he had no money for college and joined the Civilian Conservation Corps, a New Deal public works program. He eventually joined a program at Hampton University where he worked during the day and took college classes at night. He later earned a master’s degree from Columbia University and a Ph.D. from the City University of New York.

In November 1961 Brown held a one-on-one debate with Malcolm X on the Newark campus of Rutgers University. The topic was integration versus black separatism.

Dr. Brown served on the Rutgers University faculty for 41 years. He also served as a visiting professor at Cornell University, the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Wisconsin, and Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Honors and Awards

• Haroleen Ray, dean of student services at Tidewater Community College in Portsmouth, Virginia, was presented with the college’s Martin Luther King Jr. College Distinguished Service Award. In 1970 Ray was the first black faculty member in the psychology department at the college.

• Samuel F. Coppage Jr., associate professor of information technology at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia, received the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Distinguished Service Award from Tidewater Community College.

• Isaac Crumbly, professor and director of the Cooperative Developmental Energy Program at Fort Valley State University in Georgia, received the Lifetime Achievement in Academia award from the National Society of Black Engineers.

• Shirley Larkins Green, a board-certified anesthesiologist in California, received the Founders Spirit Award from Spelman College. Dr. Green is a graduate of Spelman College and Meharry Medical College.

• Candice M. Jenkins, professor of English at Hunter College in New York City, received the William Sanders Scarborough Prize from the Modern Language Association of America. Professor Jenkins was honored for her book Private Lives, Proper Relations: Regulating Black Intimacy.

The Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at historically black Florida A&M University in Tallahassee won the 2009 Engineering Award for Connecting Professional Practice and Education from the National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying. The award was given for the department’s work on two restoration projects in the Florida Everglades.





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