MIT Releases Preliminary Report on Efforts to Increase Black and Other Minority Faculty

Just weeks after MIT terminated the employment of James L. Sherley and padlocked his laboratory, the university released a report on underrepresented faculty at the institution. Sherley, an associate professor of biological engineering, was denied tenure. However, he claimed that the decision was tainted by racism and so he waged an unsuccessful two-year campaign to reverse the decision. His efforts included a 12-day hunger strike this past winter.

The new MIT study, entitled Preliminary Report: Initiative for Investigation of Race Matters and Underrepresented Minority Faculty at MIT, outlines the plans for an extensive study of faculty recruitment and hiring procedures at the university. But the study also includes what it calls “early recommendations for immediate implementation.” Among those recommendations is an immediate review of the specific recruiting efforts that are used to attract minority faculty. This review includes all current searches being conducted by academic departments at MIT. The report also calls for the creation of a template for departments to follow in order to ensure that minority candidates will be sought out during the search process. The study also recommends that the university establish a database of minority graduate students and postdoctoral fellows who might be recruited for faculty positions in the future.

The report was issued in the summer when there were few faculty or students on campus. Furthermore, news of the report was buried in the archives of the press section of the MIT Web site. There was no mention of the Sherley incident or the tenure process in the report.


“We want more students going to college, not less.”

Hannah Brown, president of the Urban Chamber of Commerce in Las Vegas, commenting on a plan to raise admission standards at the University of Nevada, after a new study revealed that an earlier increase in admission standards resulted in a decrease in black enrollments, in the Las Vegas Sun, July 16, 2007 (See story below.)


Carnegie Mellon Reports 30 Percent Increase in Black Freshmen

Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh reports that it expects 77 black students to enroll this fall. This is up from 59 first-year students a year ago, an increase of more than 30 percent. Blacks will be 5.3 percent of the freshman class this fall compared to 4.1 percent a year ago.

Michael Steidel, director of admission at Carnegie Mellon, told JBHE that the university didn’t do anything different this year. But they did receive a 17 percent increase in applications from blacks, and the black student acceptance rate and the black student yield were both slightly higher than was the case a year ago.


Black Male Students Whose Parents Took an Active Role in the College Choice Process Do Better Academically Once They Enroll in College

A new study by Terrell L. Strayhorn, an assistant professor of higher education at the flagship campus of the University of Tennessee, finds that parental involvement in the college choice process can play a significant role in the success of black males once they have entered college. Dr. Strayhorn studied data from 5,400 black and other minority men and found that students who had parents who were actively involved in the college decision-making process performed better once they were in college than students who did not have as high a level of parental involvement.

Professor Strayhorn urges black parents to actively engage their black male children about their educational expectations. Taking their sons on college visits while in high school and talking about college choices in the home are both productive activities that should be encouraged.

The research also found that black male students who are involved in summer bridge programs or pre-college outreach programs do better in college than black males who did not participate in such programs.


Tightening of Admission Standards Leads to Drop in Black Enrollments at the University of Nevada

Beginning next year, admissions officials at the University of Nevada had planned to require that high school seniors who apply to either of the university’s main campuses at Reno or Las Vegas will have achieved at least a 3.0 or B average while in high school.

But new data released by the university shows that black and Hispanic enrollments have declined since 2006, when the minimum grade point average for students who were considered for admission was raised from 2.5 to 2.75. At the Las Vegas campus, black enrollments dropped by a whopping 26 percent after the first increase in admission standards.

Officials believe that a further increase in the minimum grade point average will further reduce ethnic diversity on each campus. Administrators at both campuses are calling for the board of regents to postpone the increase in entrance requirements for at least one year.


Former Student Sues Alabama A&M University After She Was Injured Escaping a Fire in Her Dormitory

A former student at Alabama A&M University, the historically black educational institution in Normal, has filed a $1.2 million lawsuit against the university because of injuries she sustained in a fire on campus. According to the lawsuit, Renada Lee, a student from St. Louis, and her roommate in Terry Hall on the A&M campus were forced to jump from their fourth-floor window to escape a fire that had started in the hallway outside their dormitory room. Lee broke her back and ankle from the fall.

Lee claims that the university failed to maintain the building’s fire alarm system and was negligent in enforcing fire codes. The university maintains that the fire alarm system functioned as designed.


University of Chicago to Offer Certificate Program in Diversity Management

The Graham School of General Studies at the University of Chicago has announced the establishment of a certificate program in diversity management. The university plans to offer the program to corporate leaders, human resource personnel, and managers who implement policies dealing with diversity issues. The certificate program will include required courses on equal opportunity law, strategic recruitment, employee retention, workplace communication, and resolving disputes in a diverse work environment. Elective courses will also be offered on such specialized topics as diversifying supply chain contractors, benefits and compensation issues in diversity management, and statistical analysis for measuring diversity program effectiveness.


Texas Sets Goals to Increase Black Enrollments and Degree Attainments in Higher Education

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board recently released a report drafting a plan for the future of higher education in the state. The report, entitled Closing the Gaps: The Texas Higher Education Plan 2015, calls for an increase in black student enrollments by more than 56,000 students by 2015. At the present time, 4.6 percent of all African Americans in Texas are enrolled in higher education. The target goal is for 5.7 percent of all African Americans in the state to be enrolled by 2015.

The report also sets a goal of increasing the number of African Americans earning degrees in Texas from 9,000 to 16,000 by 2015. The report also recommends increased funding for the historically black Texas Southern University and Prairie View A&M University.


In Memoriam

Devin Thomas Gaines (1985-2007)

Devin T. Gaines, a young man who had just graduated this spring from the University of Connecticut, drowned while swimming late at night in an abandoned quarry in Deep River, Connecticut. He was 22 years old.

Gaines graduated with degrees in five different majors. He is believed to be the only student in the university’s history to major in five subjects. His majors were computer science and engineering, cognitive science, linguistics, theater studies, and an interdisciplinary program which he designed in cinema, culture, and cognition. Gaines is reported to have taken more than 100 courses and graduated with a 3.2 grade point average. He earned more than twice the credits needed to meet graduation requirements.

Gaines lived in Stamford, Connecticut, with his mother. His father died when he was 12. He had planned to begin study for a master’s degree in educational communication in technology this fall at New York University. He hoped to make teaching a career.



Evelyn A. Ellis was named first associate dean for academic support services at the United States Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut. She was dean of University College and director of the Honors Center at Alabama A&M University.

Dr. Ellis is a graduate of the University of Texas at El Paso. She holds two master’s degrees. She earned her educational doctorate at the University of Southern California.

Tammi Thomas was named director of university relations and marketing at Bowie State University. She was director of marketing and business development at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

Thomas is a graduate of Alabama State University and holds an MBA from the University of Baltimore.

Solomon L. Badger was appointed to the board of trustees of Florida A&M University in Tallahassee. In 2000 he retired as dean of student affairs at Florida Community College in Jacksonville.

Dr. Badger holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Florida A&M University. He earned an educational doctorate from Nova Southeastern University.

J. Kevin Lear was named director of physical facilities at Alabama A&M University. He was the chief operations officer for the public school system in Guilford County, Alabama.

Lear holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering from Auburn University and a master’s degree in international relations from Troy State University.

Sterling L. Bland, an associate professor of English at Rutgers University, was named chair of the African and African-American studies department at the university. Professor Bland was on sabbatical during the 2006-07 academic year. Prior to that he was the associate dean of the graduate school at the Newark campus of Rutgers University.

Gayle Colston Barge was appointed assistant vice chancellor for university advancement and chief marketing and communications officer at Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina. She was director of marketing and communications at Texas Southern University in Houston.

Barge is a graduate of Minot State University in North Dakota and holds a master’s degree in strategic communication and leadership from Seton Hall University.



Black Enrollments Down Slightly at Two Ivy League Universities

Brown University and Cornell University have both reported slight declines in the number of entering black students this year compared to 2006.

At Brown, preliminary data shows that there will be 105 black freshmen on campus this year. This is down from 115 black first-year students in 2006. Blacks will make up 7 percent of this fall’s entering class. This is down from 7.8 percent a year ago.

At Cornell University, there will be 172 black freshmen this fall. That is down about 10 percent from the 192 black students who enrolled in the fall of 2006. Blacks are 5.6 percent of the incoming class at Cornell this year compared to 5.9 percent in 2006. This breaks a string of four consecutive years in which black freshman enrollments have increased at Cornell.


Study Recommends Abandoning SAT Scores or Lowering Their Weight in Admissions Decisions at the Nation’s Elite Colleges and Universities

A new report published by the American Sociological Association offers a simple and easy approach to increasing racial diversity on campus without using race-sensitive admissions policies. The solution: Do away with the SAT and the ACT as factors in the admissions process.

In the current issue of the American Sociological Review, sociologists Sigal Alon of Tel Aviv University and Marta Tienda of Princeton University recommend that universities concentrate on high school grade point average and class rank in admissions decisions. They feel these measures of academic success have been shown to be as good as, if not better than, standardized test scores as predictors of success in college.

According to the authors, “Test scores seem to be an increasingly important barrier for minorities’ chances to attain a bachelor’s degree, restricting their opportunities to become leaders in all walks of life.”

The authors’ data shows that by eliminating or reducing the weight of test scores in admissions decisions, the nation’s most selective colleges and universities can achieve the goal of enrolling a diverse student body while not compromising excellence.


Respected African-American Leader Steps Down From Fundraising Position to Protest Lack of Racial Diversity at the University of South Alabama

J. Gary Cooper, a retired Marine Corps general, bank president, and former ambassador to Jamaica, resigned his position as a fundraiser for the University of South Alabama in Mobile to protest the institution’s lack of effort to promote racial diversity. Cooper is a highly respected black leader in Mobile. He was the chairman of the Commonwealth National Bank and is a board member of the Alabama State Port Authority. In 2002 he became the first black member of the Country Club of Mobile.

In a letter to university president Gordon Moulton announcing his resignation, General Cooper wrote, “It is my firm belief that the university is not meeting its obligation to the African-American community.”

General Cooper said he has several major concerns. Among them are:

• Lack of tenured black faculty;
• No program to retain current black students;
• No black upper-level administrators;
• Little effort to incorporate minority businesses as university contractors; and
• No outreach programs to blacks in the community.

Blacks make up nearly 18 percent of the undergraduate students at the university. But only 4 percent of the faculty is black. There is one African American among 21 top-level administrators at the University of South Alabama.


The Most Recent Class of Fletcher Fellows

In commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, in 2004 Wall Street tycoon Alphonse “Buddy” Fletcher Jr. announced a $50 million endowment to fund institutions and individuals who are working to further racial equality. The Fletcher Fellowships offer $50,000 grants to people of any race whose work seeks to further better race relations in this country. The Fletcher Scholarship program is administered by the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African-American Research at Harvard University. Henry Louis Gates Jr., director of the institute, is the chair of the Fletcher Fellows selection committee.

Recently the third class of Fletcher Fellows was announced. The following are the new Fellows:

Hilton Als is a staff writer for The New Yorker who is working on a book about James Baldwin and his involvement in the civil rights movement.
Cheryl Finley is an assistant professor of art at Cornell University. Her current research involves the history of the civil rights and black power movements as captured in American film.
Joy James is John B. and John T. McCoy Presidential Professor of Africana Studies and College Professor in Political Science at Williams College. She is assembling a historical directory of black women in national politics entitled Winnowing Democracy — Black Women in National Politics: 1964-2004, Fannie Lou Hamer to Condoleezza Rice.
Kenneth W. Mack is a professor at Harvard Law School. He is working on a book examining civil rights law in the decades prior to the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling. The study is titled, Representing the Race: The Transformation of Civil Rights Lawyering and Politics, 1920-1955.
Charles M. Payne recently left Duke University to accept the position of Frank P. Hixon Distinguished Service Professor in the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. He is working on a book project with the title Fragile Victories: Improving Urban Schools at Scale.


Study Finds That Black Males Who Graduated From Black Colleges Have Higher Lifetime Earnings Than Black Males Who Graduated From Predominantly White Colleges and Universities

A new study by researchers at Virginia Tech shows that black men who graduated from historically black colleges and universities in the late 1970s and early 1980s have higher incomes today than black men who graduated from predominantly white institutions in that period.

The study found that in the years immediately after college there was no earnings advantage for graduates of the black colleges. But over time, the earnings of male graduates of black colleges increased 1.4 to 1.6 percent more than for black males who graduated from predominantly white institutions.

The authors conclude, “HBCUs are particularly effective in matriculating black males from relatively poor areas with disadvantaged backgrounds and providing them with the tools to overcome their initial disadvantage in the skilled labor market.”

The authors did not find a similar benefit for women who graduated from black colleges. These women earned about the same over the course of their lifetimes as black women who graduated from predominantly white four-year institutions.

The study, entitled “Wage Earnings Impact of Historically Black Colleges and Universities,” has been accepted for publication in an upcoming issue of the Southern Economic Journal.

Other recent studies have shown that the earnings of graduates of black colleges have declined relative to black graduates of primarily white universities. See article in the May 3, 2007 JBHE Weekly Bulletin by clicking here.



James E. West, a research professor at the Whiting School of Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, was awarded the National Medal of Technology by President Bush. While working at Bell Labs in the 1960s, West developed the microphone that today is used in most of the world’s telephones.

Gladys Smiley Bell, Peabody librarian at Hampton University in Virginia, received the 2007 Equality Award from the American Library Association. Bell was named director of the Hampton University library in 2005.

Bell is a graduate of Howard University and holds a master’s degree in library science from Long Island University.

Oluwaferanmi O. Okanlami, a recent graduate of Stanford University, was presented with the J.E. Wallace Sterling Award from the Stanford Alumni Association. The award is given to a student leader each spring. Okanlami, who was a track star at Stanford, plans to have a career in medicine.


33.7%  Percentage of all white American adults in 2006 who engaged in regular physical activity.

25.3%  Percentage of all African-American adults in 2006 who engaged in regular physical activity.

source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention



Morgan State University, the historically black educational institution in Baltimore, received a $1 million grant from the Research and Innovative Technology Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation. The funds will be used to conduct research on national and regional transportation problems.

Howard University, the historically black educational institution in the nation’s capital, was awarded a $400,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Transition to Teaching program. The program aims to increase the number of public school teachers serving in high-poverty areas.



Copyright © 2007. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. All rights reserved.