University of Texas to End Its Participation in the National Merit Scholarship Program: Financial Aid Will Be Redirected Toward Low-Income Students

In a stunning but welcome announcement, the University of Texas at Austin has ended its participation in the National Merit Scholarship Program. The university will redirect funds used for merit scholarships into need-based programs.

When announcing the decision, the university issued a statement that read, “The financial constraints brought about by the economy on families and the university require the redirection of resources to ensure accessibility to the university by all qualified students, regardless of ability to pay.”

For many years, JBHE has been critical of the scholarship program because student scores on the PSAT standardized tests are used as the preliminary qualifier for consideration. Very few black students score at the highest levels on the PSAT and therefore are not eligible for National Merit Scholarships. In an attempt to correct for the inherent racial inequality, the National Merit Scholarship Corporation established a separate program for African-American students. These National Achievement Scholarships come with a built-in stigmatization, “You are smart . . . for a Negro.”

The decision by the University of Texas is particularly noteworthy considering the fact that in 2008 the university enrolled 281 National Merit Scholars. This total was second only to Harvard University.

The University of Texas reports that only one fourth of its National Merit Scholars applied for any type of federal financial aid. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that much of the money used for National Merit Scholarships goes to students who don’t need help in paying for college.

The University of Texas decision may prompt other educational institutions that participate in this program to reconsider their financial aid policies.


On the SAT College Entrance Examination, Blacks, on Average, Score Lower Than Every Other Major Ethnic Group in the United States

As reported earlier, 2009 results for the SAT show that the racial scoring gap between blacks and whites is the largest it has been in the past 20 years. The overall average score for black test takers declined slightly from 2008 to 2009 and remains 17 percent below the average white score.

Not only are African-American scores on the SAT far below the scores of whites, but they also trail the scores of every other major ethnic group in the United States including students of Puerto Rican and Mexican backgrounds. In fact, few people realize that American Indian and Alaska Native students on average score 124 points, or 10 percent, higher than the average score of African-American students. Mexican-American students score 61 points, or 5 percent, higher than blacks. On average, Asian-American students score 248 points, or 21 percent, higher than African Americans.



New Transfer Scholarships in Alabama Will Funnel Community College Graduates to Historically Black Universities

As part of a settlement of a 1981 lawsuit that challenged the Alabama state system of higher education with continuing racial segregation and inequality, thousands of students at any of Alabama’s two-year community colleges will be able to transfer to historically black Alabama A&M University or historically black Alabama State University and have all tuition and fees paid by the state for the next two years as they complete their bachelor’s degrees.

Five hundred “transfer scholarships” will be awarded in 2010. For the years 2011 to 2017, 1,000 transfer scholarships will be available, 500 to both Alabama A&M and Alabama State. Then, in 2018, the final year of the program, 500 scholarships will be given out to seniors completing their final year at one of the historically black four-year institutions.


Racism Results in Conservative Student Group at Oxford Being Stripped of Its Right to Use the University ’s Name

The Oxford University Conservative Association, a student group affiliated with the British Tories, has been stripped of its right to use the university’s name in its title. The decision to deny the group the use of the university’s name was made after it was revealed that at a party this summer, leaders of the group were asked to tell the most offensive joke they had ever heard. The group’s publications officer offered the following riddle: “What do you say when you see a television moving around in the dark?” The punchline: “Drop it nigger, or I’ll shoot you.”

The disaffiliation is not permanent and the group can apply for reinstatement at any time. The president of the association at the time of the incident stated, “I cannot reiterate strongly enough that the Oxford University Conservative Association has no place for racism and abhors and rejects all racial prejudice.”


Gregory Williams to Lead the University of Cincinnati

Gregory H. Williams was named the 27th president of the University of Cincinnati. Since 2001 he has been president of City College of New York. Prior to that appointment, Dr. Williams was dean of the law school at Ohio State University.

Dr. Williams is the author of three books including the critically acclaimed 1995 book, Life on the Color Line: The True Story of a White Boy Who Discovered He Was Black.

Dr. Williams holds both a law degree and a Ph.D. from George Washington University.

He will assume his new position on November 1.


In Memoriam

Marie Louise Primas (1913-2009)

Marie Louise Primas, who taught languages at Howard University in the 1930s and 1940s, has died at her daughter’s home in Tallahassee, Florida. She was 96 years old.

Primas was a native of Wilson, North Carolina. When she was a young girl, her family moved to Washington, D.C., where she attended the racially segregated Dunbar High School. She went on to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Howard University. She taught English, French, and Spanish at Howard University and at high schools in the District of Columbia.

Elba Cleland (1953-2009)

Elba Cleland, a professor of social work at Simmons College, died last month from uterine cancer at a hospital in Boston. She was 56 years old.

Professor Cleland was born in Costa Rica. She came to the United States after finishing high school in 1971. She enrolled in Northeastern University but transferred and in 1976 earned a bachelor’s degree in social work at Boston University. She later earned master’s degrees in social work and African-American studies at Boston University.

In addition to teaching at Simmons College, Cleland taught at Boston University, Regis College, and Bridgewater State College. She also served as director of managed care at the South End Community Health Center in Boston.


Honors and Awards

• Richard Iton, associate professor of African-American studies at Northwestern University, received the Ralph J. Bunche Award from the American Political Science Association. The award is given to the best scholarly work in political science in the field of ethnic or cultural pluralism. Dr. Iton was honored for his book In Search of the Black Fantastic: Politics and Popular Culture in the Post Civil Rights Era (Oxford University Press).

• Ethel Jones, chair of the department of family and consumer sciences at South Carolina State University in Orangeburg, received the Outstanding Family and Consumer Sciences Professional Award from the National Coalition for Black Development.

• Morehouse College, the historically black educational institution for men in Atlanta, was named Advocate of the Year by the U.S. Commerce Department’s Minority Business Development Agency for its work to promote entrepreneurship in the black community.

• The University of Arkansas has given its Silas Hunt Legacy Award to three black scholars. The award honors African Americans for their significant contributions to the community, state, and nation. Silas Hunt was the first black student at the University of Arkansas. The three black scholars who were honored this year are:

Johnetta Cross Brazzell, who recently retired as vice chancellor for student affairs at the University of Arkansas;

Gerald Jordan, an associate professor in the department of journalism at the University of Arkansas; and

Lonnie Williams, associate vice chancellor for student affairs at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro.


Grants and Gifts

• Florida A&M University, the historically black educational institution in Tallahassee, received a $2.3 million grant from the federal government to establish an environmental science center on campus.

• Hampton University, the historically black educational institution in Virginia, was awarded three grants totaling $3.2 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The grants will be used for a program aimed at increasing enrollment and retention among nursing students. One of the grants will fund a program to prepare doctoral students in nursing for national certification.

• Vanderbilt University received a $784,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education to increase the number of black and other minority students pursuing graduate study in physics and astronomy.

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The Huge Bloc of Nonvoting, Highly Educated African Americans

In the 2008 hotly contested presidential election in which a black man won the presidency of the United States, 8.8 million eligible adult African Americans decided not to vote. More than one third of all adult African Americans did not show up at the polls.

Of these 8.8 million nonvoting blacks, nearly 700,000 African Americans with a college diploma did not bother to vote. Another 317,000 African Americans with a graduate degree did not vote.

In an era in which the nation is split down the middle politically, a huge bloc of more than 1.3 million educated blacks who do not participate in the electoral process can have a determining impact on the outcome of any presidential election and on the future of American democracy. But if the presence of a black man on the ticket running for the nation’s highest office was not incentive enough to get these educated African Americans to the polls, it is difficult to imagine what other factor would encourage African Americans to assume a compelling role in the democratic process.


“The circumstances of your life — what you look like, where you come from, how much money you have, what you’ve got going on at home — that’s no excuse for neglecting your homework or having a bad attitude. That’s no excuse for talking back to your teacher, or cutting class, or dropping out of school. That’s no excuse for not trying.”

President Barack Obama, speaking to the nation’s schoolchildren, September 8, 2009


Committee Calls for Affirmative Action in Colombia Higher Education

Slavery was abolished in the South American nation of Colombia in 1851. Today official figures show that Afro-Colombians make up 11 percent of the total population. But the actual percentage of the population that is black may be as high as 26 percent, according to some demographic experts. They note that many Colombians with mixed heritage do not choose to identify themselves as black because they fear they will be discriminated against.

An investigative committee set up by the Colombian government has found that black Colombians face significant “structural discrimination.” Life expectancy, education levels, and income are lower for Afro-Colombians than for those of other ethnic groups in the country.

The committee recommended that quotas be established so that blacks are guaranteed places at Colombia universities, in the armed forces, and in government jobs. The committee also urged that the government institute incentives for private firms to hire black managers and for political parties to field black candidates.


A Celebrity Instructor at Texas Southern University

This fall, students at the School of Communications at Texas Southern University in Houston have the opportunity to study with one of the icons of the music industry. Mathew Knowles, CEO of Music World Entertainment and father of actress and recording artist Beyonce Knowles, is teaching a course on the entertainment industry.

Mathew Knowles is a 1974 graduate of Fisk University. He double majored in business administration and economics.


University of Missouri Making Great Strides in Black Enrollments

In 2008 the University of Missouri at Columbia reported that black enrollments increased by 27.5 percent from the previous year. The number of black freshmen on campus was the highest in university history.

Now even greater progress is reported. There are 484 black freshman students on campus this year, up 14.7 percent from 2008. Blacks make up 8.6 percent of the incoming freshman class. Last year, blacks were 7.3 percent of the freshman class.

The university also reports that the average score on the ACT college entrance examination for incoming freshmen was the highest in eight years. Ann Korschgen, vice provost for enrollment management, stated, “Not only is our enrollment increasing, but the quality and diversity of our students is increasing as well.”


The University Librarian Who Assembled One of the World’s Largest Collections of Black Memorabilia

Mayme A. Clayton served as librarian at the University of Southern California. She also was instrumental in the establishment of the African-American Studies Center Library at the University of California at Los Angeles. Clayton was a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley. She held a master’s degree in library science from Goddard College and a doctorate in the humanities from Sierra University. Over the years, Clayton was an avid collector of any artifact that had to do with African Americans. Clayton died in 2006 at the age of 83.

Now her son Avery Clayton has taken on the task of cataloging the collection his mother left behind. The collection will be housed and available to researchers at The Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum of African-American History and Culture in Culver City, California. The museum is expected to open in 2011.

The collection is massive. It has seven main components: rare and out-of-print books, manuscripts, documents, films, music, photographs, and memorabilia.

The book collection includes more than 30,000 volumes. Included in this collection is a copy of Phillis Wheatley’s Poems on Various Subjects Religious and Moral, signed by the author in 1773. There are also signed first editions of books by Oscar Micheaux, Booker T. Washington, Eartha Kitt, George Washington Carver, W.E.B. Du Bois, Martin Luther King Jr., Paul Laurence Dunbar, and Countee Cullen.

The audio music collection contains 9,500 recordings. The archive also includes more than 75,000 photographs.

Her collection of black films is believed to be the largest in the world with more than 1,700 titles. The film collection will be housed at the UCLA School of Film and Television, which is better equipped to store and maintain the originals.



Howard University Students Take to the Streets

No sooner did the new academic semester start at Howard University in Washington, D.C., than did about 350 students hold a protest march and compose a long list of grievances with the university’s administration. The students were angered by the slow processing of financial aid and with inadequacies in campus housing.

Howard University employees who are members of the service workers union joined the protest, claiming unfair labor practices by administration officials.


15%  Percentage of all American children who are African Americans.

32%  Percentage of all American children in foster care who are African Americans.

source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


Appointments, Promotions, and Resignations

• Adriel A. Hilton was appointed executive assistant to the president of Upper Iowa University in Fayette. He was a public policy fellow for the Greater Baltimore Committee.

Dr. Hilton is a graduate of Morehouse College. He holds a master’s degree in applied social science from Florida A&M University and an educational doctorate from Morgan State University.

• Anita B. Walton was named director of alumni relations at North Carolina Central University in Durham. She has been an administrator at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, most recently serving as homecoming and affinity reunion manager.

A graduate of Chapel Hill, Walton holds a master’s degree in higher education administration from North Carolina State University.

• Julia Y. Best joins the faculty at Bridgewater College in Virginia as an assistant professor of education. Dr. Best is a graduate of Spelman College. She holds a master’s degree from Valdosta State University and a doctorate from Virginia Tech.

• Viola L. Acoff was named chair of the department of metallurgical and materials engineering at the University of Alabama. She has been on the department’s faculty since 1994.

Dr. Acoff holds bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in materials engineering, all from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

• Misha J. Charles is the new senior executive assistant and legislative liaison to the president of Keene State College in New Hampshire. She was director of planning and board relations for Phelps Stokes, the Washington, D.C.-based charitable foundation.

Charles is a graduate of Princeton University. She holds a second bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from the University of Cape Town. She earned a second master’s degree in international education at George Washington University.

• Bryan Hicks was appointed associate athletic director for academics and student development at Missouri State University in Springfield. Hicks was the assistant director of athletics for academics at the University of Louisville.

A graduate of Alabama A&M University, Hicks holds a master’s degree in public administration from Portland State University.

• Howard C. Johnson was appointed interim senior vice president and provost at Medgar Evers College, a division of the City University of New York. Dr. Johnson was a professor of mathematics at the University of North Texas in Denton.

Dr. Johnson holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Chicago State University. He earned a second master’s degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago and holds a Ph.D. from Northwestern University.


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