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The Persisting Racial Digital Divide Limits Blacks’ Opportunities for Higher Education

College-bound students with a computer and Internet access can use the vast resources of the Web to find the college that best suits their needs. They can access practice tests for the SAT or ACT college entrance admission examinations. They can seek out college scholarships through the great number of databases that are maintained online. They can apply to colleges on the Internet, saving themselves time and money. And perhaps most important, as the Internet is a huge online library at one’s fingertips, it can be used to enhance learning that will better prepare a student for the rigors of a college education.

Thus any racial disparity in the ownership of home computers or access to the Internet is extremely important. A new Census Bureau report shows that significant racial gaps remain in computer use and Internet access in the home. In 2007, 45 percent of all African Americans over the age of 15 reported that they used a computer at home. For non-Hispanic whites the figure was 65 percent. Only 34 percent of blacks over the age of 15 said they connected to the Internet at home compared to 56 percent of non-Hispanic whites.

Hunter College Professor Wins Major Literary Award

Michael Thomas, a professor of creative writing at Hunter College in New York City, is the winner of the International Impac Dublin Literary Award for his novel Man Gone Down. The award, given out by the Dublin Public Library system, comes with a cash prize of 100,000 euros, or about $140,000. Man Gone Down was one of 146 books nominated for the award, which is generally considered to be the second most prestigious honor given in literature behind the Nobel Prize.

While a work of fiction, the novel’s main character has many similarities with the author. They both grew up in Boston, were college dropouts, married white women, had three children, and live in Brooklyn. Man Gone Down was rejected by many book publishers but finally appeared in paperback in 2007 on the imprint of Black Cat Press, a division of Grove/Atlantic. Thomas received a major boost when the book was featured on the cover of the New York Times Book Review. More than 65,000 copies have been printed and a rollout in Europe is taking place this summer.

The citation accompanying the Dublin Literary Award stated that the novel is a “drama of individual survival set against the myth of an integrated and racially normalized America. It shows, in unsentimental clarity, the way the future can close mercilessly on those marginalized by race and social circumstance.” Thomas was called a “writer of enthralling voice and startling insight.”

Thomas spent one semester at Connecticut College before dropping out to travel through Europe. He then went to New York and worked as a messenger, restaurant worker, and bar singer. During this period he went back and finished his bachelor’s degree at Hunter College. He later did graduate study at Brown University and earned a master’s degree in creative writing from Warren Wilson College in Asheville, North Carolina.

Thomas is currently working on a family memoir. He says he has three novels he has worked out in his mind but has not yet put on paper. With the Dublin Literary Award in his pocket, he undoubtedly will have little trouble finding a publisher.

Historically Black Voorhees College Reinstates English Degree Program

Voorhees College, a historically black liberal arts institution in Denmark, South Carolina, has offered majors in more than two dozen subjects from physics to music. But until now the college did not offer a degree program in English.

This coming fall, students will be able to declare an English major for the first time in many years. Voorhees president Cleveland Sellers stated, “Reinstating English as a major is a critical milestone. English is an invaluable preparation for many different career paths.”

The Higher Education of Miami’s First Black Fire Chief

Race relations in the city of Miami, Florida, have often been strained. In 1980 five white police officers were acquitted by an all-white jury of beating a black motorcyclist to death. Following the verdict a riot erupted in the Liberty City section of Miami resulting in 18 deaths.

Hispanics now make up more than 60 percent of the population. Blacks and non-Hispanic whites are slightly less than 20 percent of the city’s population.

Given the city’s current racial makeup, it is noteworthy that Miami’s new fire chief is an African American. Maurice Kemp, a 24-year department veteran who has served as deputy chief since 1999, was recently promoted to the top job. Kemp is a graduate of historically black Allen University in Columbia, South Carolina. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Nova Southeastern University.

Appointments, Promotions & Resignations

• Shadra D. Smith was appointed director of the Office of African-American Student Affairs at Northwestern University. She was assistant director of student activities for student services and involvement at the Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport.

Smith holds a bachelor’s and a master’s degree from Indiana University.

• Darren J. Hamilton was named director of athletics at Livingstone College in Salisbury, North Carolina. He held a similar position at Alcorn State University in Mississippi.

Dr. Hamilton holds bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. degrees, all from Penn State.

• Alma Cobb Hobbs, dean of agriculture at Virginia State University, was appointed deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Dr. Hobbs is a graduate of the University of North Carolina and holds master’s and Ph.D. degrees from North Carolina State University.

• Danielle Kennedy-Lamar was named vice president of marketing and communications at Alabama State University in Montgomery. She was associate vice president for student affairs and enrollment management at Florida A&M University.

• Garikai Campbell was named acting dean of students at Swarthmore College. Campbell, an associate professor of mathematics and statistics, has been serving as associate dean for academic affairs at the college.

• Cleve L. Killingsworth, chair and CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, was elected to membership in the MIT Corporation, which serves as the board of trustees of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

A graduate of MIT, Killingsworth holds a master of public health degree from Yale University.

• Valerie Montgomery Rice was named executive director of the Center for Women’s Health Research at Meharry Medical College. She previously was dean of the School of Medicine.

A graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology, Dr. Rice received her medical training at Harvard Medical School.


• John Jay College of Criminal Justice received a two-year, $75,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to support research of the health-related behaviors of young African-American and Hispanic men.

The research will be conducted by Amy Adamczyk, an assistant professor of sociology at the college.

• Virginia Union University, the historically black educational institution in Richmond, received a $1.3 million grant from the Richmond Community Hospital Foundation. The grant money will be used to establish an internship program and a scholarship fund for students pursuing degrees in healthcare management.

For breaking news and previews of upcoming articles

Factors Impacting the Occurrence of Interracial Friendships at College

A study published in the journal Sociology of Education reports that white college students at predominantly white universities generally increase their number of interracial friendships during their freshman year whereas African-American college students at predominantly white educational institutions tend to have fewer white friends than they had before they entered college.

The authors believe that black students on predominantly white campuses tend to seek out other black students for social relationships. According to the authors, the black students “cocoon” with other blacks while they attempt to adapt to the university environment.

But for many white students, particularly those who come from predominantly white high schools, they are exposed to large numbers of black students for the first time and therefore have more opportunities for social interaction with African Americans than they had in high school.

The study also found that students who are involved in sports or other extracurricular activities and students who had a roommate of another race were more likely to form interracial friendships than other students. Conversely, students who joined sororities or fraternities were less likely to form friendships with students of other races.

“The choice the Court makes today breaks the promise that groups long denied equal opportunity would not be held back by tests fair in form but discriminatory in action.”

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, dissenting in Ricci v. DeStefano, June 29, 2009. The Court ruled in favor of white firefighters in New Haven, Connecticut, who were denied promotions despite scoring the highest on a departmental examination.

The Revival of the Affirmative Action Bake Sale

Affirmative action bake sales have been staged by conservative student groups on dozens of college and university campuses over the past several years. Typically the student group sets up a table in a public place and offers cookies and brownies for sale to passersby. Mischievously, there will be different price lists depending on race. At one event, cookies were $1 for white students, 95 cents for Asian students, 50 cents for Hispanics, and 35 cents for African Americans. Through this demonstration, the conservative students have established an effective analogy that expresses their views of the unfairness of racial preferences in college admission practices.

The latest incident occurred at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, a campus where blacks make up 3 percent of the student body. The Bucknell administration shut down the bake sale. A university official claimed that the issue was not one of free speech but, rather, one of “campus safety and fairness.”

In a second incident, conservative students at Bucknell handed out fliers to students as they entered or left the school’s dining facility. The fliers, which resembled U.S. currency, showed a picture of President Obama on one side with the headline, “The Socialist State of America.” On the reverse side were the words, “Obama’s stimulus plan makes your money as worthless as Monopoly money.”

When it became aware of this leafletting operation, Bucknell administration told the students to cease and desist the activity, claiming the students needed prior permission from the university.

The administration’s actions regarding the conservative students’ protests produced more than 100 complaints from alumni charging that the university was violating the students’ right to free speech.

The Conservative Club at Bucknell has vowed to stage similar events this coming fall.

University Study Finds that the “Obama Effect,” Producing Higher Self-Esteem for Black Children, Has Quickly Worn Off

In the 1940s psychologist Kenneth Clark demonstrated in a series of experiments that African-American children preferred white dolls to black dolls. His thesis that black children suffered from an inferiority complex was a key component in the evidence presented in the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case.

Over the past year Dorothea Braginsky, a psychologist at Fairfield University in Connecticut, has been replicating the Clark doll experiment. In May 2008 she showed black and white dolls to African-American children in the first and third grades. Only 8 percent of the children preferred the black doll and 46 percent of the children said the black doll “looked bad.”

Immediately after the election of Barack Obama an identical experiment was conducted. Then, 69 percent of the African-American children preferred the black doll and only 23 percent said the black doll “looked bad.”

But the so-called Obama Effect quickly has worn off. Only a few months after Obama won the election the experiment was tried for a third time. This time only 10 percent of the African-American children preferred the black doll. Two thirds of the African-American children said the black doll “looked bad.”

Cheyney University to Lay Down the Law on Late Tuition Payments

Historically black Cheyney University is one of 14 universities that make up the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. In 2008 the state of Pennsylvania took over direct control of the university’s finances when the school was operating at a significant operating deficit.

One of the main reasons for Cheyney’s financial woes is that it held $7 million in unpaid student bills. Part of the problem is that the school did not send out bills on time. Also, the school did not provide adequate support to help Cheyney students apply for federal financial aid. Now about $3.7 million in outstanding bills remain.

Cheyney president Michelle Howard-Vital has gone on record saying that the university will be a lot tougher this year. Students who do not pay their bills will not be permitted to take classes. Dr. Howard-Vital stated that students struggling to pay their bills can reach a payment plan with the university.

The board of trustees appointed a five-member panel to make recommendations on how the university can reduce its operating deficit. The panel’s chair will be H. Patrick Swygert, the former president of Howard University who presided over a highly successful $250 million fundraising drive at that institution.

Also appointed to the advisory panel are:

Shirley A.R. Lewis, former president of Paine College in Augusta, Georgia;
Michael L. Lomax, president of the United Negro College Fund;
Frank G. Pogue, former president of Edinboro University of Pennsylvania; and
Leonard L. Haynes III, executive director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

NCAA Says That All College Athletes Should Be Tested for the Sickle-Cell Trait

The National Collegiate Athletic Association has announced that it will recommend to member colleges and universities that all student athletes be tested for the sickle-cell trait. This genetic disorder, which can affect persons of any race, is far more prevalent in African Americans than in whites. About one of every 12 African Americans have the sickle-cell trait.

During strenuous exercise the sickle-shaped red blood cells can clump together and block blood flow to vital organs. Seven college athletes have died since 2000 due to complications from sickle-cell disorders.

The NCAA decision is part of a settlement of a lawsuit filed by the parents of Dale Lloyd II, an African-American football player at Rice University. Lloyd died at a Rice football practice in 2006. The university had not tested the African-American athlete to determine if he had sickle-shaped red blood cells.

About two thirds of all NCAA member schools already test athletes for the sickle-cell trait.

Southern University System Names Interim President

Kassie Freeman was named interim president of the Southern University system. She had been serving as the vice president for academic and student affairs. Prior to coming to Baton Rouge in 2007, she was the dean for academic achievement at Bowdoin College in Maine.

A graduate of Tuskegee University, Freeman holds a master’s degree in counseling from the University of Tennessee and a doctorate in educational studies from Emory University.

A search for a permanent president of the system is currently under way.

44.5%  Percentage of all black males ages 25 to 29 in 2008 who had completed some college coursework.

56.7%  Percentage of all black females ages 25 to 29 in 2008 who had completed some college coursework.

source: U.S. Census Bureau

Honors and Awards

• Sean B. Seymore, assistant professor of law at Washington & Lee University, received a Law Alumni Faculty Fellowship for excellence in scholarship. Dr. Seymore holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Tennessee, a master's degree from Georgia Tech, a Ph.D. in chemistry and a law degree, both from the University of Notre Dame.

• Valerie Smith, the Woodrow Wilson Professor of Literature and director of the Center for African-American Studies at Princeton University, received the President’s Award for Distinguished Teaching at the Princeton University commencement.

• John Edgar Wideman, the novelist and Asa Messer Professor of Africana studies and English at Brown University, was named the 2009 Janet Weiss Fellow in Contemporary Letters at Bucknell University. Professor Wideman will receive the award and give a lecture at Bucknell this September.

• Edwin C. Marshall, vice president for diversity, equity, and multicultural affairs and professor of optometry at Indiana University in Bloomington, was elected into the National Optometry Hall of Fame. He is the 48th optometrist who has been so honored.

• Sid H. Credle was the recipient of the 2009 National Achievement Education Award from the National Association of Black Accountants. Dr. Credle is dean of the School of Business at Hampton University.

• Henry McCoullum, director of science diversity initiatives and an instructor in kinesiology at the Eberly College of Science at Pennsylvania State University, won the 2009 Forum on Black Affairs Humanitarian Award. The award is given annually to a person who has provided outstanding service to African Americans in Pennsylvania.

McCoullum holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Penn State.

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