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Harvard Ends Early Admission: What Will Be the Impact on Black Higher Education?

In a stunning surprise Harvard College has decided to end its early admissions program. For the class entering in the fall of 2008, all students will be considered in the same pool. The application deadline will be January 1 and all students will be notified of Harvard’s decision in early April.

In announcing the decision, Harvard interim president Derek Bok stated that one of the major reasons the university took this step was to remove the advantage that early decision admissions offers to the more affluent applicants who are not concerned about financial aid. “Students from more sophisticated backgrounds and affluent high schools often apply early to increase their chances of admission, while minority students and students from rural areas, other countries, and high schools with fewer resources miss out,” Bok said. “Students needing financial aid are disadvantaged by binding early decision programs that prevent them from comparing aid packages.”

Harvard is the trendsetter among American institutions of higher education. If Harvard is willing to forgo the advantage of admitting as much as 50 percent of its entering class through early admissions, it will likely create a domino effect where other highly selective universities will also eliminate or curtail early admissions programs. Indeed, Princeton University announced this week, that it too would end its early admissions program.

Having all students compete in one admissions cycle when black students can “play the field” and negotiate their financial aid package with several competing institutions undoubtedly will be a positive development in African-American higher education.

For a more detailed analysis of Harvard’s decision to end early admissions, click here.

“Early admission programs tend to advantage the advantaged.”

Interim Harvard president Derek Bok, announcing that Harvard College will no longer have an early admissions program, September 11, 2006

Big Drop in Black Enrollments at the University of Virginia

According to JBHE’s annual survey of black first-year students at the nation’s highest-ranked universities, there was a large drop in black first-year enrollments at the University of Virginia. There are 260 black freshmen on the Charlottesville campus this fall, down from 319 a year ago. This is a decline of more than 18 percent. Blacks make up 8.4 percent of the first-year class.

A decade ago, in 1996, there were 351 black freshmen at the University of Virginia. They made up 12.3 percent of the entering class that year. Over the past decade, black first-year enrollments at the University of Virginia are down 26 percent.

The steep drop in entering black students at the University of Virginia is puzzling considering the fact that the university’s AccessUVA program provides students from families in the lowest income brackets a generous financial plan which is made up entirely of scholarship grants with no student loans.

Berkeley Creates a New Diversity Czar

Despite posting slightly better numbers than UCLA, the administration at the University of California at Berkeley is not happy with the state of racial diversity on its campus. Chancellor Robert Birgeneau recently announced the creation of the position of vice chancellor of equity and inclusion. The new administrator, whose responsibilities will include outreach and mentoring programs for black and other minority students as well as overseeing faculty hiring initiatives to increase diversity. will have a large staff and will participate in university cabinet meetings.

A nationwide search to find the first person to fill the new post is currently under way.

The Racial Digital Divide Among Adults Remains Very Large

As reported in last week’s edition, the gap in computer use between black students and white students in the K-12 years appears to be narrowing, particularly when they are in school. Yet the racial digital divide remains very large for the population as a whole. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that 69 percent of the adult white population use computers compared to 52 percent of adult blacks. Some 65 percent of adult whites use the Internet compared to 46 percent of adult blacks.

Black Studies Director at University of Missouri-Kansas City Leaves His Post in Frustration Over Administrative Inaction on Racial Diversity

Don Matthews, director of the African-American studies program at the University of Missouri in Kansas City, abruptly resigned his position at the beginning of the academic year in frustration over the administration’s efforts to increase racial diversity on campus.

After five years of teaching at the university, Matthews said his complaints about the small number of new black faculty on campus, the administration’s failure to promote existing black faculty, and a climate on campus that was not friendly to blacks, went unheeded. “I left because I felt that it had become a personal issue between me and the university,” Matthews told The Kansas City Star. “I was seen as the whistle blower and it was hurting the African-American studies program.”

Blacks are about 12.5 percent of the 9,500-member undergraduate student body at the university.

Niagara University Opens New Museum Exhibit on the Underground Railroad

The Castellani Art Museum at Niagara University in Niagara Falls, New York, opened a new exhibit this past week on the Underground Railroad in the Greater Niagara community. The exhibit, entitled Freedom Crossing, tells the story of how local residents helped thousands of escaped slaves cross the international border into Canada. Harriet Tubman is known to have escorted escaped slaves across the river at Niagara Falls.

The exhibit includes photographs, artifacts, artwork, and maps of key sites of the Underground Railroad in the Niagara Falls area. The exhibit is open seven days a week and is free of charge.

Dark Cloud of Hurricane Katrina Still Hangs Over Black Colleges in New Orleans

While final enrollment numbers are not in, it is apparent that the two privately operated black colleges in New Orleans are having a difficult time in recruiting students one year after Hurricane Katrina resulted in the flooding of the city. At Xavier University, the number of students from outside of New Orleans who have put down deposits for this fall’s entering class is 293. In 2005 there were 1,240 students from outside of New Orleans who enrolled before Hurricane Katrina hit the city.

At Dillard University, enrollments are expected to be down 55 percent from a year ago. When final numbers are in, fall enrollment at Dillard is expected to be about 1,000. Dillard officials believe it will take from three to five years to build enrollments back to pre-Katrina levels.

In Memoriam

Esther Merle Jackson (1923-2006)

Esther Merle Jackson, a longtime professor of drama at the University of Wisconsin, died recently in Brooklyn, New York, from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. She was 83 years old.

Professor Jackson was born and raised in Arkansas. She attended racially segregated schools where both of her parents were teachers. Jackson graduated from high school at age 16 and enrolled at Hampton Institute in Virginia. She graduated at age 19 and got a job teaching speech and drama at what is now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, a historically black educational institution. She later earned a master’s degree and a doctorate in drama from Ohio State University. After teaching at several black colleges and universities, in 1969 she was hired as a full professor with tenure at the University of Wisconsin. She later authored the book The Broken World of Tennessee Williams.

Victoria Jackson Gray Adams (1926-2006)

Victoria J.G. Adams, civil rights activist, political pioneer, entrepreneur, and longtime campus minister at Virginia State University in Petersburg, died from lung cancer at her son’s home in Baltimore. She was 79 years old.

Adams was born in Palmers Crossing, Mississippi. She attended Wilberforce University in Ohio before dropping out because of financial difficulties. After marrying she began a career selling cosmetics. In 1962 she became a field organizer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee teaching literacy and voter education to sharecroppers. In 1964 she challenged Mississippi’s segregationist U.S. Senator John Stennis in the Democratic primary. With blacks largely denied the vote in Mississippi, Adams ran to make a statement about voting rights. Later that year, she helped form the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party which unsuccessfully challenged the credentials of the all-white Mississippi delegation to the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City.

Adams was elected to the national board of directors of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference. After King’s assassination, Adams moved to Virginia. A lay leader of the Methodist Church, Adams served for 30 years as campus minister at the historically black Virginia State University.


Richard L. “Doc” Price, an associate professor of mathematics at Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, has announced his retirement. In 1970 Price was one of 16 African Americans who racially integrated the faculty at Lamar University.

After initially enrolling at Morehouse College, his pursuit of higher education was put on hold by the Korean War. After the war, Price earned a bachelor’s degree at Prairie View A&M University. He then was among the first group of African Americans to enroll at the graduate school of the University of Texas at Austin. He went on to earn a Ph.D. at Ohio State University.


Reginald Weaver, president of the National Education Association, received the Great Point of Light Award from the Congressional Black Caucus Education Braintrust.

In addition, the organization 100 Black Men of America honored Weaver with its Chairman’s Award for Educational Leadership.


The University of Alabama at Birmingham received a $600,000 grant from the National Science Foundation for its Minority Participation Bridge to Teaching Fellowship Program. The program’s goal is to increase the number of black and other minority students teaching mathematics, engineering, technology, and science.





Princeton University to Enhance Its Black Studies Program

Princeton University announced this week a major build up to its already strong black studies program. The new Center for African-American Studies will have the authority to hire the equivalent of six new full-time faculty members. In the past, faculty of the Princeton black studies program held appointments in other academic departments. The new Center’s ability to hire its own faculty dedicated to teaching African-American studies is a major advance for black studies at Princeton. In addition to permanent faculty, a new visiting professors program in blacks studies will bring scholars from around the world to teach at Princeton for a semester or an entire academic year.

The black studies curriculum will also be expanded. It is expected that within a five year period, Princeton undergraduates will be able to major in African-American studies. At the present time only a an interdisciplinary certificate in black studies is offered. This is equivalent to a minor at other universities.

The new center will undoubtedly give a boost to Princeton’s effort to attract more black students.

With Black Enrollments Dropping to New Lows, UCLA Adopts a “Holistic” Admissions Model

According to the 2006 JBHE survey of black freshmen at the nation’s 30 highest-ranking universities, there are 99 black first-year students at the University of California at Los Angeles this fall. They make up only 2 percent of all first-year students at UCLA. The black presence on the UCLA campus is lower now than at any time since the 1960s.

Admissions officers are restricted by state law from using race as a factor in the admissions process at UCLA. This year, only 11 percent of the 2,166 black applicants were admitted to UCLA. The university’s overall admittance rate is nearly 26 percent.

In an effort to increase diversity in the student body, the UCLA administration has adopted a new admissions model that will follow a “holistic” approach which looks at academic merit in the context of a student’s position in society. Under the new plan, a student of any race who comes from a low-income family and attends high school in an inner-city school district that has a poor record in sending kids on to college might be seen in a more favorable light by admissions officials than a student with slightly higher academic credentials who grew up in an upper-middle-class family and attended high school in a wealthy suburban district.

Officials at UCLA hope to use the new admissions model for the class entering the university in the fall of 2007. The new plan is patterned after the “comprehensive review” admissions model used at the University of California at Berkeley.

Admissions officials at UCLA hope that their new plan will result in an increase in the number of black students at the university. But it must be noted that under the comprehensive review plan used at Berkeley, blacks make up only 3.3 percent of the first-year students on campus this fall. This is higher than the black percentage of freshmen at UCLA but still well below the level of black enrollments that existed prior to the enactment of the ban on race-sensitive admissions.

Minority Orientation Program at Brown University Is Now Open to Whites

Soon after the 2003 Supreme Court ruling in the Grutter case, right-wing litigating groups sent letters to scores of colleges and universities notifying them that they would be subject to legal challenge if they continued to operate fellowships, orientation programs, and other activities that were restricted to blacks or other minority groups.

In response, many universities either abandoned programs that were restricted to blacks or opened the activities to students of all races.

Since its inception in 1969 Brown University restricted participation in its four-day Third World Transition Program (TWTP) for incoming students to blacks and other students of color. The program seeks to help students adjust to life on campus and holds seminars on racism, oppression, sexism, and other issues

After the Grutter ruling, Brown opened the program to all students. This year 229 first-year students participated. Three of these students are white. The inclusion of a handful of white students has not altered the content of the program to any degree.

All incoming students received a letter inviting them to attend the four-day program. Students of color received a second letter and some incoming black students received telephone calls encouraging them to attend.

In sum, opening up the TWTP program to all students alleviated the university’s legal counsel of fears of litigation but did nothing to alter a program that is viewed by the Brown administration as being extremely beneficial to incoming minority students.

Parties Agree to End Higher Education Desegregation Case in Tennessee

In 1968 Rita Geier, an instructor at Tennessee State University, the historically black educational institution in Nashville, filed a federal lawsuit charging that the state maintained a racially segregated dual system of higher education. The case was finally settled in 2001 with an agreement by the state to allocate $75 million toward efforts to diversify the student bodies and faculties at all state-operated colleges and universities in Tennessee.

Under the 2001 consent decree the parties agreed to end the litigation and court oversight of the higher education system if the spending goals were met. This past week the parties to the suit agreed that “Tennessee has reached its goal of operating a unitary system of public higher education.” The parties will now ask the federal courts to end the litigation.

Despite the agreement, it appears that some degree of racial segregation prevails in Tennessee higher education. Blacks continue to make up more than 80 percent of the student body at Tennessee State University. Blacks are only 9 percent of the undergraduate enrollments at the flagship campus of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville.

31.8%  Percentage of all non-Hispanic white households in the United States in 2005 that had annual incomes of at least $75,000.

15.2%  Percentage of all African-American households in the United States in 2005 that had annual incomes of at least $75,000.

source: U.S. Bureau of the Census

The Huge Gender Gap in Black Enrollments in Graduate School

In a new report, the Washington, D.C.-based Council on Graduate Schools reports that in the fall of 2005 there were 135,020 African-American students enrolled in graduate programs in the United States. Blacks made up nearly 12 percent of the 1,154,534 students enrolled in graduate programs nationwide.

Among all African-American students enrolled in graduate school in 2005, 70.7 percent were women. There were 95,000 black women enrolled in graduate programs compared to only 38,500 black men.


W. Franklin Evans was appointed associate vice chancellor for academic affairs at Elizabeth City State University in North Carolina. He was the academic dean at J.F. Drake State Technical College in Huntsville, Alabama. A graduate of the University of Georgia, Dr. Evans holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. from Georgia State University.

Fred D’Aguiar was named Gloria D. Smith Professor of Africana Studies at Virginia Tech. The endowed professorship is awarded for a two-year term to a faculty member “who contributes significantly to the growth and development of minority students, student athletes, and scholarly pursuits.” D’Aguiar, a novelist, playwright, and poet, has served on the Virginia Tech faculty as a professor of English. He previously was on the faculty at the University of Miami.

Eddie Washington was named associate vice president for human resource programs at California State University Channel Islands. He formerly was a member of the legal team for the office of the chancellor of the California State University system.

Washington is a graduate of Howard University and earned his law degree at the Hastings College of Law of the University of California.

Jennifer Keane-Dawes was named dean of the School of Arts & Humanities at Elizabeth City State University. She has been serving as interim dean since 2004. Previously, she was director of the graduate studies program at Norfolk State University in Virginia. She is a graduate of the University of the West Indies and holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. from Howard University.

Abena Busia was named acting director of the Center for African Studies at Rutgers University. Dr. Busia, who is an associate professor of English at Rutgers, holds a bachelor’s, a master’s, and a Ph.D. from Oxford University.

Charles George was named chair of the board of trustees of Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens, Florida. He is the first alumnus of the university to serve as board chair. A former police officer, George operates a family construction and trucking business in South Florida.

Helen Easterling Williams is the new dean of the School of Education at Azusa Pacific University in Azusa, California. She was the senior assistant dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Delaware. A graduate of Jersey City State College, Dean Williams holds a master’s degree from Towson State University and an educational doctorate from the University of Delaware.


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