Voters Approve Referendum Calling for End of Race-Sensitive Admissions at the University of Michigan

By a margin of 58 percent to 42 percent, voters approved a public referendum in the state of Michigan which will ban the use of racial preferences by any agency of the state government. The referendum mandates that the University of Michigan and other state-operated colleges and universities abandon the use of race as a positive factor in the admissions process.

The effort in Michigan was led by Ward Connerly, the African-American businessman from California who led the successful effort in that state to end race-sensitive admissions at the University of California.

Most African Americans hoped that Michigan voters would put an end to the hypocritical political ambitions of this black man whose personal attainments in life are due to the benefits of affirmative action in government contracting. But his victory in Michigan will undoubtedly cause him to take his crusade against race-sensitive admissions to other states.


"Barack Obama should run for president. Obama is a new kind of politician."

David Brooks, a conservative columnist, writing in The New York Times, October 19, 2006


Most African Americans Believe That the Poor Quality of Public Education Is the Major Impediment to Black Economic Progress

A survey of African Americans in the state of Maryland by the polling firm Ariel & Ethan found that a clear majority of blacks believe that poor and unequal public schools are a major hurdle to further black economic advancement in the United States. Less than one half of all African Americans surveyed said that a lack of economic opportunities, racial prejudice, or discrimination were major obstacles to black advancement in today’s society. Some 88 percent of blacks below the age of 35 believe that the poor quality of education is the single most important hurdle for blacks to overcome in order to make further progress in closing the economic gap with whites.


University of Michigan Researcher Finds Alarming Increase in Suicide Among Young Blacks

Many studies have shown that suicide is less common among blacks than among whites. It is thought that blacks’ strong religious traditions have played a major role in making suicide a taboo in the black community.

But a new study conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan School of Social Work finds that suicide rates among young blacks are actually higher than previous estimates.

The nationwide study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that 70,000 young blacks try to commit suicide each year and that 1.4 million African Americans have tried to kill themselves at some point in their lifetime. The study found that the suicide rate among young blacks was very similar to the rate for young whites and nearly 50 percent higher than the rate found in earlier studies.

Sean Joe, lead author of the study, is an assistant professor of social work at the University of Michigan. He is a 1991 graduate of the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He holds a master’s of social work degree from SUNY-Stony Brook and a Ph.D. in social work from the University of Illinois.

Not to be overlooked is the value of higher education in suicide prevention for African Americans. Professor Joe told JBHE that his research shows that “blacks with less than a high school education are 3.6 times more likely to attempt suicide than those who are college graduates.”


Black Undergraduate Enrollments at the Nation’s 30 Highest-Ranked Universities

New data on total undergraduate enrollments was recently released by the U.S. Department of Education. The statistics, which give a breakdown on students by race, show that in the fall of 2005 there were 17,931 black undergraduate students enrolled at the nation’s 30 highest-ranked universities. Similar data for the fall of 2004 showed 17,787 black students at these universities. Thus, there was less than a one percent increase in black enrollments at these institutions.

In the fall of 2005 there were 1,834 black students at the University of Michigan, the largest number among the 30 highest-ranked universities. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill came in a close second with 1,811 black undergraduate students. The University of Virginia and the University of Southern California were the only other high-ranking universities with more than 1,000 black undergraduates.

Among the Ivy League schools, the University of Pennsylvania led its peers with 822 black undergraduates. Dartmouth, with 279 black undergraduates, had the smallest number of black students in the Ivy League.

The University of Chicago and CalTech were the only institutions among the nation’s 30 highest-ranked universities that had fewer than 200 black undergraduate students. There were 192 black undergraduates at the University of Chicago and only seven at CalTech.

JBHE’s data on black freshman students at the nation’s 30 highest-ranked universities for the fall of 2006 suggests that when data for all undergraduates in 2006 is released, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will surpass the University of Michigan as the leader in enrolling black undergraduate students. There are 470 black freshmen at Chapel Hill this year. Black freshman enrollments at the University of Michigan were down sharply this year to 330.



California Scholars Seek to Change the State’s Master Higher Education Plan to Provide for More Equal Access to Minority Students

In 1960 the California master plan for higher education restricted entrance to the University of California to the students who ranked in the top 12.5 percent in the state based on their grade point averages and scores on standardized tests. Students who were not part of this group would be steered toward either the California State University system or to the state’s extensive community college network. Because of the reliance on grade point averages and test scores, black students were always a disproportionately small share of the group that qualified for admission to the University of California system.

Then, in 1996 further pressure was placed on black educational opportunities when voters passed Proposition 209 which prohibits state universities from using race in their admissions decisions. This made it extremely difficult for black students to gain admission to the two most selective campuses of Berkeley and UCLA. This fall, blacks are 3.3 percent of the entering students at Berkeley and 2 percent of the freshman class at UCLA.

Now a group of scholars in California is seeking to revise the master plan for higher education to allow for the inclusion of more black and minority students in the pool of candidates eligible for admission to the University of California system. What is envisioned is a major overhaul whereby all students would be evaluated in a holistic approach which would examine a student’s background, leadership abilities, community service, and a wide range of other factors to decide who would be the most likely candidates to succeed at the university.

This “comprehensive review” proposal would cost a great deal of money. The university system would need to hire substantial numbers of admissions officers to conduct the comprehensive examination of each applicant’s record.

Another approach being discussed in higher education circles is the possibility of a public referendum to overturn Proposition 209. In a more progressive political climate and with the changing demographics of the California population, some experts believe that the time is right to mount a challenge to the decade-long ban on affirmative action.

However, this week’s successful effort in Michigan to ban affirmative action will almost certainly put a damper on efforts in California to roll back Proposition 209.


New Master’s Degree in Teaching Program to Begin at Winston-Salem State University

Winston-Salem State University, the historically black educational institution in North Carolina, has received approval to begin a new master’s degree in teaching program. The new graduate program, housed in the university’s School of Education and Human Performance, will start this coming January. The program will give students who did not major in the education field during their undergraduate years the ability to become certified teachers.


New Prize to Honor African Leadership

Mo Ibrahim, a native of Sudan who became a billionaire in the cellular telephone business, has established the Award for Achievement in African Leadership. The $5 million prize, which will be paid out over a period of 10 years, will be given to an African leader who has shown the greatest commitment to “democracy and good governance.” A leader will become eligible for the prize only after leaving office. The prize could be given out as early as next year.

Ibrahim also left open the possibility of subsequent prizes for additional leaders once the initial prize has been awarded. It is hoped that the prospect of winning the prize will act as an incentive so that African leaders will turn away from corruption while in office.




North Carolina A&T State University, the historically black educational institution in Greensboro, received a grant from the American Cancer Society to establish a College Against Cancer chapter on campus. The grant funds will be to train students to conduct health awareness programs such as the Great American Smokeout and the Relay for Life on campus. The grant is under the direction of Phoebe Butler-Ajibade, assistant professor of human performance and leisure studies at North Carolina A&T.

Dillard University, the historically black educational institution in New Orleans, received a $1 million grant from the estate of singer Ray Charles. When he was alive Charles had donated $1 million to Dillard to establish an endowed chair in black culinary studies. The current gift will be used to help Dillard in its continuing efforts to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina flooded much of the campus in August 2005.

• The Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund, an organization providing scholarships to students at 47 of the nation’s publicly operated black colleges and universities, received a three-year, $1 million grant from the Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club Foundation. The grant will be used to fund scholarships for students in any discipline at any one of the 47 member institutions.

Nearly Four Million African Americans Now Hold a Four-Year College Degree

According to the census statistics, there are 2,806,000 blacks in this country who hold a bachelor’s degree only. And there are an additional 856,000 African Americans who have a four-year college degree plus also hold a master’s degree. An additional 138,000 blacks hold a professional degree in fields such as law, business, or medicine. Another 101,000 African Americans have obtained a doctorate. Overall, 3,901,000 African Americans possess a four-year college degree or higher.

In 2005, 17.6 percent of all African Americans over the age of 25 held a four-year college degree. This figure has increased significantly from 13.8 percent in 1996 and 11.3 percent in 1990.

Despite the good news, the figures still show that blacks continue to have a long way to go before they reach higher educational parity with white Americans. Overall, 30.6 percent of the white population over the age of 25 holds a four-year college degree compared to 17.6 percent of adult blacks.

It is also important to note that in the past few years the racial gap in degree attainments between whites and blacks has actually grown worse. In 2003, 27.6 percent of all adult whites held a four-year college degree. The latest data shows that 30.6 percent of all adult whites have obtained a bachelor’s degree, a three percentage point increase in just two years. During the same period, the percentage of adult whites with a four-year college degree increased only slightly from 17.3 percent to 17.6 percent. Thus, in two years the racial gap has grown from 10.3 percentage points to 13 percentage points.


College of Charleston Researchers Find Grave of Early Black Trustee of the University of South Carolina

In a recent ceremony, a stone marker was placed on the recently rediscovered grave of Lt. Stephen Swails, one of the first African Americans to be commissioned an officer in the U.S. Army. Researchers at the Avery Institute for African-American History at the College of Charleston in South Carolina discovered records indicating that Swails was buried in the city’s old black cemetery across the street from Magnolia Cemetery, where more than 1,700 Confederate soldiers are buried.

Swails was born in Columbia, Pennsylvania, in 1832. He enlisted in the 54th Massachusetts regiment which fought in Charleston during the Civil War, a battle that was immortalized in the film Glory.

Swails survived the battle. After the war he became a lawyer, state senator in South Carolina, mayor of the town of Kingstree, and a trustee of the University of South Carolina.

Swails was one of the first African Americans to vote in the Electoral College for the presidency of the United States. He also served as a delegate to the Republican National Convention on three occasions.



The Higher Education Credentials of the First Black Woman Drag Racer

Candyce Marsh, a 25-year-old black woman, made history late last month when she became the first African-American woman known to have participated in professional drag racing. Marsh is a graduate of Elon College and holds a master’s degree in industrial technology from North Carolina A&T State University. She is currently studying to become a certified public accountant.


African-American College Basketball Coach Gets a Second Chance

In 1996 Todd Bozeman, head men’s basketball coach at the University of California at Berkeley, was considered one of the rising stars in his field. In three seasons, he had achieved a 63-35 record. At age 29 he was the youngest coach to ever take his team to the final 16 of the NCAA basketball tournament.

But then, a parent of a player who was disgruntled about the amount of playing time his son was getting on the court blew the whistle on Coach Bozeman. The parent charged that the University of California coach had made $30,000 in illegal payments to them in order to get their son to come to Berkeley.

After the allegations were publicized Bozeman stepped down. He was assessed an 8-year “show cause” penalty by the NCAA, which required any college or university that wanted to hire him to go through a lengthy process to justify the hiring decision. Not one college or university was willing to go through the process.

Bozeman worked as a scout for National Basketball Association teams and did commentary on basketball telecasts. He also worked as a salesman for a pharmaceutical company.

But now that his NCAA suspension is over, Bozeman has landed the head coaching job at Morgan State University, the historically black educational institution in Baltimore. He has a three-year contract to turn around a team that never has had much success and that posted a 4-26 record last season.


20.2%  Percentage of all whites over the age of 65 in 2005 who held a four-year college degree.

11.0%  Percentage of all African Americans over the age of 65 in 2005 who held a four-year college degree.

source: The College Board


Money Talks! Duke University Having Trouble Adding Black Faculty After Recruitment Fund Dries Up

From 1988 to 1997 the number of tenured or tenure-track black faculty at Duke University more than doubled from 31 to 66. Following up on this dramatic progress, the Black Faculty Strategic Initiative was established. This program included a fund which department heads at Duke could draw on to recruit black faculty members.

The effort proved to be a success. From 1997 to 2001 the number of blacks teaching at Duke increased from 66 to 77. But then, in 2003, the funding for the Black Faculty Strategic Initiative ended. In its place Duke established the Faculty Diversity Initiative. But this program was less generous than the Black Faculty Strategic Initiative and the funds from the new program were often allocated to recruit women faculty rather than blacks or other minorities.

As a result, the number of blacks teaching at Duke has dropped back to 68 this year. Most notable was the departure of Houston A. Baker and his wife Charlotte Pierce-Baker who left Duke last spring to take teaching posts at Vanderbilt University.



In Memoriam

Enolia Pettigen McMillan (1904-2006)

Enolia P. McMillan, an educator for 42 years and the first female president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, died late last month in Stevenson, Maryland. She was 102 years old.

McMillan’s father was born a slave. Raised in Baltimore, she wanted to become a physician but such opportunities were very rare for a black woman. Instead she decided to pursue a career in education. After graduating from Howard University with a bachelor’s degree in education in 1927, McMillan went to Columbia to win a master’s degree.

She then returned to Baltimore to teach in the city’s racially segregated schools. In 1971 she was named head of the Baltimore chapter of the NAACP where she served for nearly two decades. She later served for six years in the largely ceremonial position of president of the national NAACP. But McMillan was a major force in bringing the NAACP national headquarters to Baltimore. The street outside the headquarters building is now named Enolia P. McMillan Way.



• Godfrey Gayle, a professor of biological engineering at North Carolina A&T State University, was elected to the Engineering & Technology Accreditation Committee of the American Association of Agricultural and Biological Engineers.

• Berlethia J. Pitts was named interim chair of the department of English and foreign languages at the College of Arts and Sciences at Fort Valley State University in Georgia. Dr. Pitts joined the faculty in 2003. She is a graduate of the University of Georgia. Pitts holds a master’s degree in English from Clemson University and a Ph.D. in African-American studies from Temple University.



• Andrew Aheart, an 85-year-old professor of mathematics at West Virginia State University, will be given an honorary degree commemorating his 58 years on the university’s faculty. The trustees of the university voted unanimously to waive a rule which states that no faculty member can receive an honorary degree until three years after he or she retires from teaching.

Aheart is a graduate of Virginia Union University, the historically black educational institution in Richmond. He went on to Harvard University to win a master’s degree in mathematics. After serving in World War II, Aheart joined the faculty of West Virginia State University, which at that time was a predominantly black institution. Today, only 15 percent of the student body is black.

Throughout his 58 years on campus, Aheart has never missed a home football game and has attended every away football game since 1966. Aheart has accomplished this remarkable attendance record despite the fact that he had his left leg amputated 10 years ago.


Copyright © 2006. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. All rights reserved.