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Why Inequality Is Bad for Whites as Well as Blacks

During the Reagan and Bush years, greed was glorified as a potent force in stimulating economic growth. Extravagance and overindulgence were the order of the day. The issue of income inequality was not a major concern. In fact it was encouraged. The open showcase of great wealth was seen as providing an incentive for others to work hard so they too could enjoy “the good life.”

But an important and perhaps revolutionary new book effectively shoots down the theory that income inequality is an effective tool for improving society. In The Spirit Level authors Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett present compelling evidence that the overall well-being of a society is determined not by wealth alone but, rather, through equitable distribution of wealth.

In a mammoth research effort the authors examined a wide range of social factors in 20 of the world’s wealthiest nations and compared these indices against the level of income inequality in these countries. They also conducted similar analyses for the 50 states in America. The results showed that in states and countries where there were the largest gaps in income, there were likely to be higher rates of crime, drug and alcohol abuse, obesity, homicide, and teenage pregnancy. Children’s educational performance and life expectancy were lower in the states and countries that had a high level of income inequality.

The study shows that Japan and Scandinavian countries have the lowest levels of income inequality but rank high on most social indicators. Britain, the United States, and Portugal ranked high in income inequality but fared the worst on social indicators such as crime and drug abuse.

These conclusions may not come as much of a surprise. It is obvious that countries with more poor people are likely to have higher rates of crime, drug abuse, and poor health. But the most revealing finding of the Wilkinson and Pickett study is that even the well-off people in countries with high levels of income inequality do not fare as well on social indicators as well-off people in countries where there is a low level of income inequality. For example, the authors note that in countries with high levels of income inequality, mental illness rates can be five times as great at all socioeconomic levels, compared to mental illness rates in nations where there is little income inequality. Also, life expectancy for people in upper-level socioeconomic groups is higher in countries where there is less income inequality. The authors conclude, “The effects of inequality are not confined just to the least well-off; instead they affect the vast majority of the population.”

The authors speculate that societal stress plays a role. Societies with greater inequality are more stressful than egalitarian societies. Stress causes anxiety, depression, and can have a significant impact on one’s health. People exposed to significant stress are more likely to die earlier, abuse drugs, or commit suicide. Even wealthy people in unequal societies become more stressed because of political turmoil, higher crime rates, and the greater spread of disease.

The Spirit Level is a highly controversial and even subversive book. This important work deserves widespread attention and should provoke a much needed debate on the damage on society from economic inequalities.

AIDS Is an Epidemic in the Black Community: How to Get African-American Scientists Involved in Finding a Solution

African Americans are 13 percent of the U.S. population but they make up nearly half of all new cases of HIV/AIDS reported in this country. At the same time, there are very few African Americans involved in AIDS-related research.

Scientists at the Center for Culture, Trauma, and Mental Health Disparities at the University of California at Los Angeles have recently published an article in the American Journal of Public Health outlining why there is a shortage of blacks involved in AIDS-related research and offering recommendations for rectifying the situation.

The authors recommend that universities and government entities involved in AIDS research form partnerships with science departments at historically black colleges and universities. They also urge the government to establish a program to retrain black scientists who want to become involved in AIDS research. They recommend that cash awards programs be set up as an incentive for black scientists to pursue research in the field.

Black Professor Files $200 Million Lawsuit Against Columbia University: She Claims an Academic Lynching Occurred

Madonna Constantine, a former professor of psychology at Columbia University’s Teachers College, has filed a $200 million lawsuit against the university. The introduction to the complaint filed with the court is titled “The Academic Lynching of Professor Madonna Constantine.”

In October 2007 a noose was found hanging on her office door at Columbia. Police still have no clue as to how the noose was placed on her door.

Four months later in February 2008, Columbia announced that Professor Constantine had been accused of plagiarizing the work of two students and one professor. According to Teachers College, there were “numerous instances in which she used others’ work without attribution in papers she published in academic journals over the past five years.” An investigation by a legal team found about two dozen instances of plagiarism.

Constantine denied the charges saying she was the victim of a “witch hunt” and that it was her work that had been plagiarized by her accusers. At that time Teachers College said that Professor Constantine would be disciplined but not dismissed.

Then in June 2008, with students mostly off campus for the summer, Columbia announced that Professor Constantine would in fact be dismissed from her tenured position.

Constantine, a graduate of Xavier University in New Orleans,  holds a Ph.D. from the University of Memphis. She is the coauthor of the book Addressing Racism: Facilitating Cultural Competence in Mental Health and Educational Settings.

Exit Examination in California Has Reduced the High School Graduation Rates of Black Students by Up to 20 Percentage Points

A study at the Institute for Research on Education Policy and Practice at Stanford University finds that high school graduation rates for minority students have fallen by 20 percentage points since the state of California required all students to pass an exit examination in order to be granted a diploma. The test, called the California High School Exit Examination, is first given to all California students in the 10th grade in order to identify those who are at risk of not graduating.

The Stanford research also found that students who failed the examination in the 10th grade were not motivated to work harder to pass the test in either 11th or 12th grade.

Readers may download the complete report by clicking here.

Duke University Press to Publish a Book With an Edited Version of the Doctoral Dissertation of President Obama’s Mother

Duke University Press has announced that it will publish the Ph.D. dissertation of S. Ann Dunham, the mother of President Barack Obama. Dunham, who died in 1995, wrote her anthropology thesis at the University of Hawaii on her research among rural metalworking craftsmen in Indonesia. The dissertation, written in 1992, has been revised and edited for book form by Alice G. Dewey, Dunham’s graduate adviser, and Nancy I. Cooper, who was a graduate student colleague of Dunham’s. The book will be titled Surviving Against the Odds: Village Industry in Indonesia.

1,095  Number of African-Americans who earned a bachelor’s degree in ethnic or gender studies in 2007.

4,486  Number of white Americans who were awarded a bachelor’s degree in ethnic or gender studies in 2007.

source: U.S. Department of Education

Honors and Awards

• Henry Lewis III, dean and professor at the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences at Florida A&M University, received the 2009 Hugo H. Schaefer Award from the American Pharmacists Association. The award is presented for contributions to the organization, the profession, and society.

Dr. Lewis is a graduate of Florida A&M University and holds a doctorate in pharmacy from Mercer University.

• Molefi K. Asante Jr., who teaches creative writing and film at Morgan State University in Baltimore, received the Langston Hughes Award from the Langston Hughes Society. Asante, whose father is the Afrocentric scholar who heads the Ph.D. program in African-American studies at Temple University, is the author of three books and has produced several films.

Asante is a graduate of Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania. He holds a master of fine arts degree from UCLA.

• Uche Ewelukwa, a professor of law at the University of Arkansas, won the 2009 Human Rights Essay Award from the Academy on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law at the American University College of Law in Washington, D.C. Her winning essay was entitled, “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the African Child Today: Progress or Problems?”

• Reinette F. Jones, diversity and multicultural activities librarian at the University of Kentucky, shared with a colleague the 2009 Gale Cengage Learning Award for Excellence in Reference and Adult Library Services from the Reference and User Services Association. Jones was honored for her work establishing the Notable Kentucky African Americans Database.

• Carmen A. Jordan-Cox, vice president for student affairs at Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey, received the Pillar of the Profession Award from the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators.

Dr. Jordan-Cox is a graduate of Indiana University. She holds a master’s degree from Pennsylvania State University and her doctorate from Boston College.

For breaking news and previews of upcoming articles

Black Bachelor’s Degree Awards Hit an All-Time High

According to the U.S. Department of Education, in the year 2007 blacks earned 146,653 four-year bachelor’s degrees from American colleges and universities. The number of blacks winning bachelor’s degrees increased nearly 3 percent from the previous year, 2006.

In 2007 the number of African Americans earning bachelor’s degrees was the highest in this nation’s history. The figure was nearly 2.5 times the number of bachelor’s degrees won by blacks in 1990.

However, a great deal of progress remains to be achieved. Blacks are now nearly 13 percent of total enrollments in higher education, but in the 2006-07 academic year they earned only 9.6 percent of all bachelor’s degrees awarded. The African-American college dropout rate is 20 percentage points higher than the rate prevailing for whites.

“If you want to be part of something rare and noble, something that the world has not often seen — a community of educated, ethical, disciplined black men more powerful than a standing army — then you’ve come to the right place.”

Robert M. Franklin, president of Morehouse College in Atlanta, speaking at a town hall meeting on campus

Survey Finds That African-American College Students Are Reluctant to Use Mental Health Services on Campus

New research from the Center for the Study of Collegiate Mental Health at Pennsylvania State University finds that blacks are less likely than whites to access mental health services on campus. The study analyzes data from more than 28,000 clients of mental health clinics at 66 colleges and universities nationwide. None of the institutions surveyed was a historically black college or university. But many of the institutions included in the survey were highly selective colleges and universities or flagship state universities.

While blacks make up about 13 percent of all students enrolled in higher education in the United States, only 7.7 percent of all students who used mental health services on campus in the fall of 2008 were black.

The study also found that 11.5 percent of black women who visited mental health clinics had moderate to high levels of eating disorders. For whites, the figure was 16 percent.

What’s Good for Larry Summers Was Bad for Cornel West

Lawrence Summers, former president of Harvard University, is now the director of the National Economic Council in the Obama administration. Many political observers believe that he effectively controls the government’s economic policies.

Hark back to the fall of 2001 when Lawrence Summers, then-president of Harvard University, summoned black studies professor Cornel West to his office. Summers took Professor West to the woodshed for moonlighting and paying too much attention to activities that had nothing to do with Harvard University. Summers accused West of neglecting his teaching, frowned upon his recording a rap CD, and expressed disapproval of his engaging in “inappropriate” off-campus political activities.

Now it turns out that Larry Summers was doing a little moonlighting of his own. Reporter Louise Story of The New York Times revealed recently that from 2004 to 2006, while Summers was still president of Harvard, he was a paid consultant to the hedge fund Taconic Capital Advisors.

Apparently, Summers saw no conflict in his moonlighting while president of Harvard. Yet Cornel West’s activities were, according to Summers, a serious infraction and a neglect of his official duties.

In 2006 Summers stepped down as president of Harvard University after making disparaging comments about the innate abilities of women in mathematics and the sciences.

In 2008, after he left Harvard, Summers earned $5.2 million from the D.E. Shaw hedge fund working one day a week. Summers earned another $2.7 million in speaking fees at meetings of the nation’s major financial institutions such as Goldman Sachs and Citigroup.

Quaker Documents Relating to the Abolition Movement Housed at Two Pennsylvania Colleges Will Be Made Available Online

The Quaker Collection at Haverford College and the Friends Historical Library at Swarthmore College will soon be available online. The collection of documents and other materials relating to slavery and the abolition movement dating from the early 1600s will be digitized and made available to scholars over the Internet. More than 4,000 document pages will be included in the online collection. A Web site will be developed that will contain links to the documents and articles about the collection by noted scholars.

The Web site is scheduled to debut in the summer of 2010. The project is funded by a Library Services and Technology Act grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

The New President of Wilberforce University

Patricia Lofton Hardaway was named the 18th president of Wilberforce University, the historically black educational institution in Ohio. She is the second woman president of the university. Hardaway has been serving as interim president for the past year. Previously, she was provost and vice president of academic affairs.

Dr. Hardaway is a graduate of Wilberforce University. She holds a master’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh and a J.D. from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.

College of William and Mary to Research Its Ties to Slavery

The academic affairs committee of the board of visitors at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, has approved an eight-year research project that will investigate the college’s ties to slavery. The effort will be titled “The Lemon Project: A Journey of Reconciliation.” Lemon was the name of a slave who was owned by the college in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

The project will chronicle the history of blacks at the college and in the greater Williamsburg area.

In Memoriam

Marlene E. Greer-Chase (1934-2009)

Marlene E. Greer-Chase, a longtime faculty member at two historically black universities in Maryland, died of chronic pulmonary obstructive disease at a hospice facility in Randallstown, Maryland. She was 74 years old.

Professor Greer-Chase was a native of South Carolina but moved to Baltimore as a young girl. She graduated from Morgan State University in 1956, a year after she had married an Air Force officer. She went on to earn a master’s degree from the University of North Dakota and a doctorate from Florida State University.

After divorcing her husband, in 1984 Greer-Chase joined the faculty at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Eight years later in 1992, she joined the faculty at Morgan State University and remained there until her retirement last year.

Appointments, Promotions, and Resignations

• Derek A. Carter was appointed director of athletics at Delaware State University in Dover. Since 2003 he has been the athletics director at Bowie State University in Maryland. Prior to that appointment, Carter was athletics director at Virginia State University.

Carter is a graduate of Virginia Tech and holds a master’s degree in sports management from the University of Tennessee.

• James C. Renick was named executive assistant and senior adviser to the president of Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio. Renick was a senior associate at the consulting firm Penson and Associates. Formerly he was chancellor of North Carolina A&T State University.

Dr. Renick is a graduate of Central State University. He holds a master’s of social work degree from the University of Kansas and a doctorate from Florida State University.

• Dell Robinson was appointed commissioner of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. He was the associate commissioner for legislative and compliance services for the Mid-America Conference.

Robinson is a graduate of Ohio University. He holds a master’s degree in sports administration from Iowa State University.

• Michael Leo Owens was awarded tenure and promoted to associate professor in the department of political science at Emory University in Atlanta.

A graduate of Syracuse University with a Ph.D. from the State University of New York at Albany, Dr. Owens is the author of God and Government in the Ghetto: The Politics of Church-State Collaboration in Black America (University of Chicago Press, 2007)


• Elizabeth City State University, the historically black educational institution in North Carolina, received a four-year, $1,625,700 grant from the National Institutes of Health. The funds will be used to support wages for student research assistants in the department of chemistry, geology, and physics.

• Tufts University received a three-year, $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation for research on how to attract more women to the field of engineering. The research is under the direction of Christopher Swan, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Tufts.

• Indiana University received a $400,000 grant from the Ernst & Young Foundation to create the Ernst & Young Foundations for Leadership Program. The goal of the program is to increase diversity in the student body.

• The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill received a $210,000 grant from the Jessie Ball DuPont Fund for a program that employs recent college graduates as counselors in high schools that have large numbers of minority and low-income students. The goal of the program is to increase the number of minority and low-income students who go on to college.

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