Very Few African-American College Students Choose to Major in Black Studies

The stereotypical view of the African-American college student as forgoing mainstream academic pursuits to concentrate on black studies is totally false.

New data from the Department of Education shows that only 1,167, or 0.8 percent, of all African-American bachelor’s degree recipients received their degree in any type of ethnic or gender studies. Therefore, only one out of every 120 bachelor’s degrees awarded to blacks was in ethnic or gender studies.

In fact, there are more blacks who majored in the physical sciences — a field in which there are very few African Americans — than African Americans who earned their degree in black studies. There are more than five times as many blacks majoring in computer science and more than four times as many blacks majoring in the biological sciences than in black studies.

Furthermore, African Americans make up only 14.8 percent of all college students who earn bachelor’s degrees in ethnic or gender studies.


Princeton University Creates New Diversity Council

Princeton University has announced the formation of a 28-member diversity council to advise the administration on issues related to campus diversity. The new council is co-chaired by Lianne Sullivan-Crowley, vice president for human resources, and Terri Harris Reed, vice provost for institutional equity and diversity.

When announcing the formation of the council, Provost Christopher Eisgruber stated that, “Princeton’s mission requires that we create a community that is diverse, inclusive, and equitable.”

The new council will focus on three goals:

• Recommending and promoting policies, practices, and programs that foster effective participation in a diverse and inclusive community;
• Examining structures and processes that impede or facilitate progress toward diversity goals; and
• Identifying strategies and approaches to raise awareness and sustain dialogue.


UMass Rescinds Honorary Degree Awarded 22 Years Ago to Robert Mugabe

The board of trustees of the University of Massachusetts has voted unanimously to rescind an honorary degree bestowed in 1986 on Zimbabwe president Robert G. Mugabe. At the time the award was given, Mugabe was considered a fresh face on the African political scene and a powerful force against the apartheid regime in neighboring South Africa.

Now Mugabe has become an international pariah. His administration has been accused of widespread corruption and ineptitude in managing the country’s economy. He has made homosexuality a crime punishable by 15 years in prison. Mugabe has been accused of Mafia-like strong-arm practices to keep his hold on power.

President of the University of Massachusetts Jack E. Wilson stated, “In the two decades that have passed since the honorary degree was awarded, Robert Mugabe has pursued policies and taken actions that are antithetical to the values and beliefs of the University of Massachusetts.”

This is the first time in its history that the University of Massachusetts has rescinded an honorary degree.



13 Scholars Named to Research Board at the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund

The Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund, established in 1987, represents 47 public black colleges and universities in 22 states and has provided more than $80 million in scholarships to students at these schools.

Now the organization has established the Research Advisory Council which will oversee research that contributes to the national discourse on the role of HBCUs in American higher education. The board will also assist scholars at historically black universities in establishing research collaborations with scholars at predominantly white universities.

The Research Advisory Board will consist of 13 scholars and administrators:

Florence Bonner, professor of sociology and anthropology at Howard University
Brian Bridges, associate director, Center for Advancement of Racial Ethnic Equity
Clifton Conrad, professor of educational leadership and policy analysis at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
Laura Perna, associate professor of policy, management and evaluation division at the University of Pennsylvania
Shaun Harper, assistant professor of education at the University of Pennsylvania
James Minor, assistant professor of higher education at Michigan State University
Gregory Price, Charles E. Merrill Professor of Economics at Morehouse College
Marybeth Gasman, assistant professor of higher education at the University of Pennsylvania
Sheila Kearney, executive director of the Gallup Institute for Global Well-Being
Paul Butler, Carville Dickenson Benson Research Professor of Law at George Washington University
N. Joyce Payne, founder of the Thurgood Marshall College Fund
Terrell Strayhorn, assistant professor and special assistant to the provost at the University of Tennessee
Tryan L. McMickens, assistant director of the National Black Male College Achievement Study at the University of Pennsylvania


68.5%  Percentage of all white high school graduates in 2006 who went on to enroll in college that fall.

55.5%  Percentage of all African-American high school graduates in 2006 who went on to enroll in college that fall.

source: U.S. Department of Education


Three Finalists for Presidency of LeMoyne-Owen College

The board of trustees has announced three finalists for the presidency of LeMoyne-Owen College, the historically black educational institution in Memphis. The college, which had experienced severe financial difficulties in recent years, was saved by grants from local businesses and state and local government.

The three finalists are:

Charles Beady, who served as vice president for advancement at the Foundation for Independent Higher Education in Washington. He holds bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees from Michigan State University.

Lester Newman is the former president of Mississippi Valley State University. He is a graduate of Southern University and holds a master’s degree and a doctorate from Atlanta University.

Patricia Ramsey is provost and vice president for academic affairs at Bowie State University in Maryland. She is a graduate of Norfolk State University and holds master’s degrees from Howard University and Harvard University. She earned a Ph.D. in biology from Georgetown University.


Huston-Tillotson University Names Six New Trustees

Huston-Tillotson University, the historically black educational institution in Austin, Texas, has named six members to its board of trustees. The new members are:

Donna Carter, CEO of the architectural firm Carter Design Associates;
Chuck Harvey, a member of the board of the National Conference for Community Justice;
Louis Henna Jr., CEO of Henna Chevrolet in Austin;
Zan Holmes Jr., pastor emeritus of St. Luke Community United Methodist Church in Dallas;
Ruth Robinson, a recent retiree of the special education department for the public school system in Dallas; and
John Scroggins, executive vice president and chief lending officer of Unity National Bank.


Honors and Awards

• Valerie Cunningham, coordinator of the Community Black Heritage Partnerships at the University of New Hampshire, was honored as a Restore America Hero by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Cunningham was honored for her work restoring the first black church in Portsmouth and Rock Rest, a boarding home for African-American tourists in Kittery, Maine, dating back to the 1940s.

• Hananie Albert, a student at the University of Florida, was awarded a $34,000 Beinecke Scholarship for graduate study. Hananie, who will graduate next spring with a triple major in anthropology, English, and French, plans to study for a doctorate in African-American studies.

• Jerry Williams, associate professor of horticulture at Virginia Tech, received the 2008 Teaching Fellow Award from the North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture.

• Nagatha Tonkins, assistant professor of journalism at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, received the Journalism Educator of the Year award from the National Association of Black Journalists.



Tuskegee University, the historically black educational institution in Alabama, received a $60,000 grant from the Southeastern Library Network. The grant will be used to preserve historical photographs stored at the university’s library.

Winston-Salem State University, the historically black educational institution in North Carolina, received a $1.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. The grant money will provide scholarships for juniors and seniors in mentored research programs in the biomedical and behavioral sciences.


Scholars Spending the Summer Unearthing Early African-American History

Now that classes at many universities have finished for the academic year, many university scholars are out in the field conducting research. In several instances, archaeologists are currently undertaking projects to unearth African-American history.

In Illinois, researchers are examining farmland, which is the site of New Philadelphia. This archaeology dig began in 2002 and continues this summer. The settlement was founded in 1836 on prairie land in western Illinois by former slave Frank McWhorter. At its height, there were 29 families in New Philadelphia with a total population of about 160 people. Archaeologists from the University of Maryland and the University of Illinois have been involved in the dig.

Scholars from the University of Maryland and Elizabeth City State University are hoping to document the history of the Underground Railroad in the area around New Bern, North Carolina.

In Richmond, Virginia, archaeologists are digging up a parking lot in an attempt to find the remnants of Lumpkin’s Jail. The jail was a holding pen for slaves awaiting auction. The research is being conducted by the James River Institute for Archaeology in Williamsburg.


“Black fathers are missing from too many lives and too many homes. They have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. And the foundations of families are weaker because of it.”

Barack Obama, giving a Father’s Day address at Apostolic Church of God in Chicago, June 15, 2008


Racial Preferences in University Admissions in South Africa

White students are charging that they are discriminated against in admissions for places at the University of Cape Town. The white students allege that they are required to have higher grades than black students in order to be considered for admission.

The Higher Education Act passed by the black-controlled South African parliament requires universities to increase admissions of blacks and other underrepresented groups.

The University of Cape Town states on its Web site, “In order to move beyond the issue of race alone, we shall seek ways of differentiating between applicants on the basis of varying degrees of disadvantage flowing from social class and educational experience or a combination of these.”


No Blacks Among the 72 New Members of the National Academy of Sciences

Recently the National Academy of Sciences announced the election of 72 new members. Scholars selected for membership are honored for their contributions to scientific research. The National Academy of Sciences does not disclose data on the race of new inductees or of its total membership. But JBHE research has determined that not one of the 72 new members of the National Academy of Sciences is an African American.

All told, the National Academy of Sciences now has 2,041 members. JBHE’s count shows that seven of the academy’s 2,041 members, or 0.3 percent, are black.


A Community College Proposed for the District of Columbia

The University of the District of Columbia is the only publicly operated institution of higher education in the nation’s capital. But many political leaders in Washington share the view that there should be a community college in the District to provide entry-level college education and job training to non-traditional students. A report by the Brookings Institution found that one third of the available jobs in the District require more than a high school diploma but not a bachelor’s degree. These positions include paralegals, medical support personnel, and technicians.

The administration of the University of the District of Columbia is wholeheartedly in support of the effort and may even consider housing the community college within the UDC structure. Students at UDC already can take classes toward a two-year associate’s degree but the university has not had the money to provide the two-year programs necessary to fill the area’s employment needs. The university would like to have administrators and faculty dedicated solely to two-year programs.

A majority of the population in the District of Columbia is black and a huge percentage of the students graduating from the public school system in Washington are black. Therefore, a community college in the District would disproportionately benefit African Americans.


Under New Race-Neutral Admissions Policy at the University of Michigan, Minority Applicants and Admittances Are Down

In 2006, voters in Michigan overwhelmingly passed a public referendum which banned race-sensitive admissions at the University of Michigan. Because many of the applications for the class entering in the fall of 2007 were processed before the ban took effect, this is the first admissions cycle where all applicants have been judged under the new race-neutral admissions policy.

Preliminary data shows that applicants for the 2008 entering class have reached an all-time high. But applications from underrepresented minority students have declined slightly. The university reports that 2,771 minority students applied for admission this year and 1,310 were admitted. The admission rate for minority students was 2.3 percentage points lower than the case the year before.

The University of Michigan did not offer a breakdown of minority students for African Americans, Hispanics, or American Indians. First-year enrollment figures will not be released until October.


The Remarkable Success Story of the PhD Project

The PhD Project was founded in 1994 with the goal of bringing more blacks and other minorities into the faculty ranks in American business schools. The organization informs and educates minorities about all aspects of a business doctoral program and provides a nurturing support network for minorities once they have enrolled in a business doctoral program of study.

The PhD Project has a large group of corporate sponsors who fund the group’s efforts and partnering universities that recruit minority students who joined the project.

The PhD project has been a remarkable success story. Since its inception 14 years ago, the number of minority professors at U.S. business schools has more than tripled from 294 to 903. There are currently another 400 minority students in the Ph.D. pipeline in business disciplines.


Reverend Gomes Celebrates a Milestone

Peter J. Gomes, Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and pastor of Memorial Church at Harvard University, recently celebrated his 40th anniversary in the ministry. The celebration, which was held at his home church in Plymouth, Massachusetts, was attended by Governor Deval Patrick and 400 other well-wishers.

Gomes, known as the “Conscience of Harvard,” is a graduate of Bates College and Harvard Divinity School. He holds honorary degrees from 36 colleges and universities.


Black Mathematician Comes Full Circle at the University of Mississippi

Donald R. Cole was admitted as a freshman student at the University of Mississippi in 1968. This was just six years after James Meredith had first racially integrated the university. At the time of Cole’s enrollment, many whites on campus were still openly hostile to black students on campus. White students muttered racial slurs under their breath when Cole passed them on campus. White girls waved tiny Confederate flags as they passed him.

But the most severe insult came when it became time for Cole to select a major. He went to the office of the chair of the mathematics department to declare his major. The department chair refused to meet with Cole as he was a black student. Cole was only able to communicate with the department chair by way of the chair’s secretary acting as an intermediary. The secretary went back and forth between the reception area and the chair’s inner office to relay verbal messages between the black student and the white faculty member. At the end of this bizarre encounter, Cole was told simply he would not be permitted to major in mathematics.

Cole protested this decision and was asked to leave the university. He went on to graduate from Tougaloo College, a historically black educational institution in Mississippi. He subsequently earned two master’s degrees, one from the State University of New York and the other from the University of Michigan.

As time passed, the University of Mississippi became more accepting to black students. Cole returned to the university to pursue his doctorate in mathematics. He is now an associate professor in the mathematics department that refused to accept him as a student. He also serves as assistant provost and assistant to the chancellor for multicultural affairs.



• Lumus Byrd Jr. was elected chair of the board of trustees of South Carolina State University. A graduate of the university, he has served on the board since 2001.

• George M. Langford was named dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Syracuse University. He was a professor of biology and dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He previously served as the Ernest Everett Just Professor of the Natural Sciences at Dartmouth College.

A graduate of Fayetteville State University, Dr. Langford holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in cell biology from the Illinois Institute of Technology.

• Denise Bailey Clark was promoted to executive director of human resources at the College of Southern Maryland in La Plata. She was the college’s executive director of diversity and equal opportunity.

A graduate of Towson State University, Clark holds a master’s degree in human resources development from Bowie State University.

• Betty J. Roberts, vice president for administration and finance at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg, was elected to the board of trustees of Cazenovia College in upstate New York.

Roberts holds an associate’s degree from Cazenovia College and is a graduate of Tusculum College in Greeneville, Tennessee. She holds a master’s degree in education from the University of Louisville and a doctorate from the University of Missouri.

• Larry P. Thomas was promoted to director of the Collegiate Science & Technology Entry Program at Syracuse University. He had been serving as the associate director of the program.

Thomas holds a master’s degree from Syracuse University and is currently studying for an MBA at the university.

• Lance Franklin was appointed director of environmental health and safety services at Virginia Tech. He was director of the Office of Environmental Health and Safety in the division of research at Wayne State University.

Dr. Franklin holds a bachelor’s degree, two master’s degrees, and a Ph.D., all from Wayne State University.

• Janice Haynie was named vice chancellor for student affairs at Fayetteville State University in North Carolina. She was vice president for student affairs at the State University of New York at Old Westbury.

Dr. Haynie holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in applied experimental psychology from Saint Louis University.

Copyright © 2008. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. All rights reserved.