More Evidence That the Mismatch Theory Is Hogwash

Over the past several years there have been a number of scholars including Thomas Sowell of Stanford’s Hoover Institution, Richard Sander of UCLA, and Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom who take the position that black students admitted to college or graduate school under affirmative action admissions plans are unable to compete with their white peers.

This so-called “mismatch” hypothesis holds that these black students would be better off at lower-tier institutions where they could better compete with whites and be more likely to achieve academic success.

Now comes a new article from the National Bureau of Economic Research authored by four professors at Duke University. The authors examined two classes of Duke University undergraduates. The researchers received cooperation from the university administration and they were given access to data that normally does not see the light of day.

For example, the paper notes that black students who enrolled at Duke had a mean combined reading and mathematics SAT score of 1281. For whites, the mean score was 1417, about 11 percent higher. Seventy-one percent of white students who enrolled had family income of more than $100,000 compared to 37 percent of black students. Entering black students at Duke tended to overestimate how well they would perform academically at Duke, much more so than whites.

The average first-year grade point average of white students at Duke was 3.33. For blacks, the average GPA was 2.90. Despite these differences, white students graduated at a rate of 90 percent, only slightly higher than the black rate of 88 percent. Thus, the authors conclude that they do not have any evidence to support the hypothesis that a mismatch has occurred.

But the authors raise an interesting question: Would black students who are admitted to Duke be likely to enroll somewhere else if they were notified of their probable academic performance at the university? If these students were provided with data on the grade point average of black students with similar backgrounds and standardized test scores who came to Duke before them, would they conclude that they were in fact mismatched and decide to go to a less selective college? 

The authors propose that admissions officers consider releasing more data so that students admitted under affirmative action would be able to make an informed decision on whether they can succeed academically at a particular institution. If black students with a particular test score knew that black students with similar test scores who attended the school previously had an average GPA of 2.5, they may consider enrolling at a less challenging college.



Music Department at the University of Texas Stages Duke Ellington’s Unfinished Comic Opera

In the early 1970s the Public Broadcasting Corporation reached an agreement with Duke Ellington to produce a one-hour musical special for television. Ellington began work on Queenie Pie, a comic opera with a jazz theme about a fictional beauty contest for hairdressers in Harlem. Ellington only finished about 75 percent of the music for the piece before his death in 1974.

The music that Ellington wrote for Queenie Pie has been performed in concert many times. But now three music professors at the University of Texas, in collaboration with 89-year-old Betty McGettigan who worked with Ellington on writing the lyrics for the original music, have completed the opera. It was performed recently at the university with students from the University of Texas and Huston-Tillotson University, the historically black college in Austin.

The three music professors attempted to produce a final version of the opera in the style they believe Ellington would have used.

A recording of the live production is scheduled for release on CD.


The Success Story of Black Engineering Students at Kettering University

Nationwide only about 40 percent of the African-American students who enter undergraduate engineering programs go on to graduate. But at Kettering University in Flint, Michigan, the graduation rate for black engineering students is 80 percent.

The National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) recently honored Kettering University for its success in educating black engineers. The society singled out Kettering because black engineering students at Kettering have the highest grade point average at any university that has an NSBE chapter.

Once owned and operated by General Motors, since 1982 Kettering has been an independent, private university. The university offers a five-year co-op engineering degree program with students alternating classroom and workplace experience. The university retains strong ties to General Motors. About 15 percent of the students at the university hold co-op jobs at GM. About 5 percent of the student body at Kettering University is black.


Harvard Addresses Accusations of Racial Profiling by Campus Police

In 2004 S. Allen Counter, a professor of neuroscience at Harvard University, was stopped by campus police when they mistook him for a suspect in a robbery. Several other incidents have occurred in recent years in which the mostly white university police force was accused of racial profiling. Last fall a black high school student who worked at Harvard claimed that campus police pointed a gun at him while he was trying to unlock his bicycle.

Now a committee, which was appointed by Harvard president Drew Faust to look into the practices of the campus police, has recommended that the university appoint an independent public safety ombudsman to investigate complaints against the police. The committee also called for the establishment of an advisory committee made up of students, faculty, and administrators who would meet quarterly with public safety officials to discuss police/community relations.


Claude Steele Named Provost at Columbia University

In what was a major surprise to most observers, Columbia University announced that the esteemed psychologist Claude Steele will become its provost this September. Steele is currently Lucie Stern Professor in the Social Sciences and director of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. Steele has been at Stanford since 1991.

Steele is a widely cited scholar for his work on drug and alcohol abuse as well as for his theory that black students are subjected to “stereotype vulnerability.” According to this theory black students fear that their performance on standardized tests will reflect on their race as a whole. The resulting anxiety causes them to underperform on these tests.

Steele is a graduate of Hiram College. He holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in psychology from Ohio State University. Prior to coming to Stanford he taught at the University of Michigan, the University of Utah, and the University of Washington.


27  Number of nonfatal violent crimes per 1,000 students ages 12 to 18 in 2006 in which the victim was white.

32  Number of nonfatal violent crimes per 1,000 students ages 12 to 18 in 2006 in which the victim was black.

source: U.S. Department of Justice


Black Scholar Is One of Two Finalists to Lead the University of Hawaii

Robert Jones, senior vice president for system academic administration at the University of Minnesota, is one of two candidates for the presidency of the University of Hawaii. Dr. Jones is a graduate of Fort Valley State University in Georgia. He holds a master’s degree from the University of Georgia and a Ph.D. in crop physiology from the University of Missouri.

The other candidate, a white woman named M.R.C. Greenwood, is a professor of nutrition and internal medicine at the University of California at Davis. She previously served as chancellor of the University of California at Santa Cruz.

A decision on who will be hired could come as soon as next week.


Honors and Awards

• Shirley Ann Jackson, president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, will receive the 2009 A Better Chance Award from the nonprofit organization A Better Chance. The organization prepares black and other minority youth for college.

The former chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Jackson was the first African-American woman to earn a Ph.D. at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

• Marvalene Hughes, president of Dillard University in New Orleans, received the Women Leadership in Higher Education Award from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Dr. Hughes hold bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Tuskegee University. She earned her doctoral degree at Florida State University.

• Donald West, a history instructor at Trident Technical College in Charleston, South Carolina, received the Martin Luther King Jr. Outstanding and Distinguished Service Award from the Black History Intercollegiate Consortium.

• George A. Pruitt, president of Thomas Edison State College in Trenton, New Jersey, received the 2009 President’s Award from the New Jersey State Nurses Association. The award is given to an individual who is not involved in nursing but whose actions have benefited the nursing profession.

Dr. Pruitt is a graduate of the University of Illinois. He holds a master’s degree from Illinois State University and a doctorate from the Union Institute in Cincinnati, Ohio.

• William H. Turner, National Endowment for the Humanities Chair in Appalachian Studies at Berea College in Kentucky, received the Cratis D. Williams/James S. Brown Service Award from the Appalachian Studies Association.

Professor Turner is a 1968 graduate of the University of Kentucky. He holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. from the University of Notre Dame.

• Freeman A. Hrabowski III, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, is the 2009 winner of the Virginia B. Smith Innovative Leadership Award from the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education and the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning.

A graduate of Hampton University, Dr. Hrabowski holds a master’s degree in mathematics and a doctorate in higher education administration and statistics, both from the University of Illinois.



For breaking news and previews of upcoming articles


Derek Walcott Pulls Out of Competition for Post at Oxford

Nobel laureate Derek Walcott withdrew his name from consideration for election as Professor of Poetry at Oxford University. Walcott was one of three candidates for the post. Graduates of the university cast ballots for election to the position.

About 100 scholars at Oxford received photocopies of pages of a book which included details of sexual harassment claims that had been made against Walcott when he was a visiting professor at Harvard University in 1982 and in 1996 when he was teaching at Boston University.

In withdrawing his name for consideration, Walcott issued a statement which stated that the election “had degenerated into a low and degrading attempt at character assassination. I do not want to be a part of it.”


“Obama’s got to get poor and needy people on his economic team. Right now his economic team consists of people who never cared about poor people.”

Cornel West, Class of 1943 Professor of Religion at Princeton University, speaking at the Male Youth Summit in Camden, New Jersey


Budget Crisis Takes Its Toll on Black Students at California Community Colleges

Due to the budget crisis and cuts in appropriations the University of California and California State University systems are reducing enrollments. This has produced a surge in enrollments at California community colleges, where enrollments cannot be capped. This year enrollments are up 10 percent. The state budgeted for a 2 percent enrollment increase.

As a result, the demand for places in the most popular courses is overwhelming capacity. It has become extremely difficult for many students at these colleges to get into the courses they need to obtain their two-year associate’s degrees or to meet the qualifications to transfer to a four-year state university. At some community colleges in California, the waiting list for entrance into some of the most popular classes is three times the number of students who are allowed to enroll.

The California Community College system is the largest higher education system in the United States. The system includes 109 colleges statewide. It serves more than 1.8 million students. More than 130,000 of these students are African American. It is likely that the community college crunch in California will prevent tens of thousands of African Americans in the state from achieving their dreams of higher education.


The Gender Gap in Bachelor’s Degree Awards Among African Americans

In the 2006-07 academic year, black women earned 96,968 bachelor’s degrees, almost double the number earned by black men. Black women now earn two thirds of all bachelor’s degrees obtained by African Americans.

Do not be mistaken, black men too have made progress. Over the past decade, the number of bachelor’s degrees earned by black men is up more than 47 percent. But the result for black men pales in comparison to the huge gains posted by black women. Over the same 10-year period, the number of bachelor’s degrees won by black women has increased by nearly 60 percent.


Nursing Program at Fayetteville State University Suspended

Plagued by poor pass rates on the state licensing examination, the nursing school at Fayetteville State University, the historically black educational institution in North Carolina, will be suspended. No new students will be enrolled in the four-year nursing program until current students graduate and the school can be overhauled.

In 2008 only 24 of the 61 Fayetteville State nursing students passed the state licensing examination, a pass rate of 39 percent. Statewide the average pass rate is 88 percent.


The King Family’s Shameful Grab for Cash

The family of Martin Luther King Jr. is determined to cash in on the legacy of the civil rights icon. In the past the family has sued news outlets that reprinted King’s “I Have a Dream Speech” without their permission and without compensation. The family later sold the rights to use the speech in television commercials for cellular telephone companies. Recently the King family threatened to sue a company that made T-shirts that displayed the side-by-side images of Barack Obama and Dr. King. Newton Farris, King’s nephew, stated it bluntly when he defended the family’s actions by saying, “We cannot allow our brand to be abused.”

Now it has been revealed that the nonprofit Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation has paid the King family more than $800,000 for the rights to use King’s image and words on the national monument to King on The Mall in Washington, D.C. The U.S. government has contributed $10 million in taxpayer money to the memorial.

Americans should judge the King family by the “content of their character not by the color of their skin.” But the character of the family appears to be defined mostly by greed.


Historically Black North Carolina Central University Sees Huge Drop-Off in Donations

The economic downturn has taken its toll on virtually all university endowments. But in addition to the decrease in endowment value, many colleges and universities are seeing drops in alumni contributions. This puts even more strain on the educational institutions’ financial health.

Just how bad is it? North Carolina Central University reports that total donations were down 62 percent in the nine-month period from July to April compared to the same period a year ago. Donations dropped from $7.1 million to only $2.7 million. Alumni gifts were off by 36 percent. Corporate giving declined by nearly 80 percent and donations from foundations were off by 99 percent.


Black Woman Named Publisher of The Chronicle of Higher Education

Mireille Grangenois was recently appointed publisher of The Chronicle of Higher Education, the weekly newspaper that is widely read by college faculty and administrators across the United States. Grangenois was a managing director in multicultural advertising, marketing, branding, and public relations at the Washington, D.C., office of Burson-Marsteller, a leading public relations firm. Previously, she was vice president for advertising at the Baltimore Sun. She started her career as a reporter for the newspaper. Grangenois is a graduate of New York University.


Northwestern University Makes Strides in Student Diversity

Northwestern University reports that its entering class this fall will have the best academic qualifications of any class in history in terms of average SAT scores and class rankings. The university also reports that the entering class will be more racially and socioeconomically diverse than in past years. Blacks will make up 5.5 percent of the incoming class, compared to 3.7 percent a year ago. This year, 9.6 percent of entering students qualify for federal Pell Grants for low-income students. In 2008, 5.9 percent of entering students received Pell Grants.

Even with this improvement, it is likely that Northwestern will rank in the bottom half of the 30 highest academically ranked research universities in terms of black and low-income students.


Appointments, Promotions, and Resignations

• Matthew C. Whitaker, associate professor of history at Arizona State University, was elected president of the board of directors at the George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center in Phoenix.

Dr. Whitaker holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Arizona State University and a Ph.D. in history from Michigan State University.

• Valerie P. Wilson was promoted to associate provost and director of institutional diversity at Brown University. She has been serving as associate dean of the graduate school and clinical professor of community health.

Dr. Wilson is a graduate of Xavier University in New Orleans. She holds a Ph.D. in molecular biology and genetics from Johns Hopkins University.

• Barbara A. Lofton, director of diversity programs for the business school at the University of Arkansas, was elected vice president/president-elect of the American Association of Blacks in Higher Education. She will serve as the association’s president from 2011 to 2013.

• Said L. Sewell, an associate professor in the department of history, geography, political science, and criminal justice at Fort Valley State University in Georgia, was named executive director of the university’s Academic Success Center.

Dr. Sewell is a graduate of Morehouse College. He holds a master’s degree from Texas Southern University and a Ph.D. in political science from Clark Atlanta University.

• William Bynum Jr. was appointed vice president for student services at Morehouse College in Atlanta. He was vice president for student affairs and enrollment management at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania.

A graduate of Davidson College, Dr. Bynum holds a master’s degree and a doctorate from Duke University.



• Bowie State University, the historically black educational institution in Maryland, received a $1.1 million grant from the Maryland State Department of Education for a program to help increase the mathematics skills of public school students in Prince George’s County.

• The University of California at Los Angeles was awarded a four-year, $3.89 million grant from the American Heart Association. The funds will be used to establish a new research center at the university focusing on improving the health status of minority patients at risk for heart attack and stroke.

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