Amherst Leads the High-Ranking Liberal Arts Colleges in the Percentage of Freshmen Who Are Black

For the previous 15 years JBHE has gathered black student admissions data on the highest-ranked liberal arts colleges. Over this long period, there have been five occasions in which Amherst College in western Massachusetts has reported the highest percentage of black freshmen.

This year Amherst once again leads the rankings. There are 49 black freshmen at Amherst College this year, making up 11.2 percent of the entering class. Amherst has maintained its top ranking from a year ago despite the fact that the number of black freshmen at the college is slightly lower than was the case in 2007.

Williams College, also in western Massachusetts, placed second with a freshman class that is 10.4 percent black.

This year blacks are 10.2 percent of the entering class at Swarthmore. This places Swarthmore third in our survey.



Historically Black University in Georgia Beefs Up Degree Program Offerings

Fort Valley State University, the historically black educational institution in Fort Valley, Georgia, has announced a wide range of new degree programs. The university is adding master’s degree programs in rehabilitation counseling and case management, plant biotechnology, animal biotechnology, applied biotechnology, and school counselor education.

The new bachelor’s degree programs are in the fields of computer information systems, computer science, electronic engineering technology, social work, special ed/early child education, and business administration.


Students Protest Mass Firings at Predominantly Black Martin University

Because it was founded only 31 years ago, Martin University in Indianapolis is not classified as a historically black educational institution. Yet its 600-member student body is 96 percent black. The university concentrates on nontraditional college students, many of whom are 40 years old or older.

Recently students at Martin University took to the streets to protest the firing of several faculty members. According to one student, as many as one half of the faculty has been dismissed since the appointment of Algeania Freeman as president of the university last December.

Dr. Freeman replaced Boniface Hardin, a Catholic priest who founded the university and served as its only president for 30 years. Freeman had previously served as president of Livingstone College in Salisbury, North Carolina.


Controversy Over Slave Cemetery on Land Owned by Virginia Commonwealth University

Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond bought a parking lot in a downtown area last February for $3 million. The university knew that the site was close to a 250-year-old cemetery which was used for the burial of slaves. The cemetery was used as late as 1816.

The university has agreed to donate a small piece of the parking lot for a memorial. But some in the African-American community are calling for the entire parking lot to be preserved for a memorial. There is a great deal of uncertainty of the boundaries of what was called the “Burial Ground for Negroes.” Some historians believe that the cemetery is not only near the parking lot but might extend into much of the property purchased by the university. The university has said that it would sell the property to a group that wants to preserve the site for a memorial but that it must recover the $3 million that it paid for the property.


The Persisting Myth That the Black Colleges Are Becoming Whiter

An article in Mother Jones magazine this past summer asked, "Are Whites Taking Over Black Colleges?" JBHE notes that nothing could be further from the truth.

The notion that whites are taking over black colleges comes about from the fact that two historically black institutions — Bluefield State University in West Virginia and West Virginia State University — are now more than 80 percent white. Another historically black educational institution — Lincoln University in Missouri — also has a student body in which whites are a majority.

But these schools are the exception, not the rule. Data from the U.S. Department of Education shows that whites make up 11.9 percent of all students at the nation’s historically black colleges and universities. A decade ago, whites were 12.7 percent of the total enrollments at the black colleges. So the truth of the matter is that the black colleges are becoming less white, not whiter.



Intramural Sports Center at Indiana University Renamed to Honor a Racial Pioneer and a Racial Segregationist

The Ora Wildermuth Intramural Center on the campus of Indiana University in Bloomington was built in 1971. It was named after a man who served as chair of the university’s board of trustees from 1938 to 1949. He died in 1964.

Last year some old letters written by Wildermuth were discovered. In a 1945 letter to a university administrator, Wildermuth wrote, “I am and shall always remain absolutely and utterly opposed to social intermingling of the colored race with the white.”

In a second letter Wildermuth wrote to university president Herman B. Welles in 1948, he stated, “The average of the black race as to intelligence, economic status, and industry is so far below the white average that it seems to me futile to build up hope for a great future.”

When the letters came to light, current university president Michael A. McRobbie asked the 25-member All University Committee on Names to consider changing the name of the intramural center. The committee concluded that although Wildermuth’s views were offensive, it would not be right to judge him by today’s standards.

As a compromise the committee voted to change the name of the building to the William L. Garrett-Ora L. Wildermuth Fieldhouse. Garrett was the first African American to play intercollegiate basketball for Indiana University. He died in 1974 at the age of 45.



Daryll J. Pines was named dean and Nariman Farvardin Professor of Engineering at the A. James Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland. He has been on the university’s faculty since 1995, and since 2006 has served as chair of the department of aerospace engineering.

Dr. Pines is a graduate of the University of California at Berkeley. He holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from MIT.

• Evelyn Anderson was appointed internal audit director at South Carolina State University in Orangeburg. She was a senior business consultant for International Profit Associates in Chicago.

Anderson is a graduate of the University of Houston and is a certified public accountant.

• Randy Groomes was named director of diversity relations and recruitment for Terry College at the University of Georgia. He was the director of multicultural programs for the university’s alumni association.

• Descatur Potier was named associate director for diversity recruitment at the undergraduate admissions office of the University of Georgia. He was an administrator for the Upward Bound program at the University of Massachusetts.

• Paul Edward Rowe was appointed to a two-year term as diplomat-in-residence on the campus of Spelman College in Atlanta. He has served in the State Department for 25 years, most recently as deputy director of the Bureau of Overseas Building Operations.

A graduate of Morehouse College, Rowe holds a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University.

• James P. Adams Jr. was named dean of the College of Social Work at the University of Kentucky. He was dean of the School of Social Work at the University of Alabama.

A graduate of Tougaloo College, Adams holds a master’s degree from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and a Ph.D. in social work policy from the University of Minnesota.

• Lin Dawson was named director of athletics at Grambling State University in Louisiana. He was an athletics administrator at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Dawson played for 10 years in the National Football League. He played college football at North Carolina State University but did not earn a degree there. He later finished his degree work at Northeastern University and went on to earn an MBA from Walden University.


Honors and Awards

Isaac Crumbly, associate vice president for collaborative programs and director of the Cooperative Developmental Energy Program at Fort Valley State University in Georgia, was named a National Role Model by Minority Access Inc.

• Horace Hodge, the United States Department of Agriculture liaison officer at Prairie View A&M University in Texas, received the Secretary’s Honor Award from the USDA. The award is the Department of Agriculture’s highest honor.

• Rochelle Ford, professor and associate dean for research and academic affairs at the School of Communications at Howard University, received the D. Parke Gibson Pioneer Award from the Public Relations Society of America.

A graduate of Howard University, Dr. Ford holds a master’s degree from the University of Maryland and a Ph.D. from Southern Illinois University.

African-American Voters Put Barack Obama in the White House

At JBHE we have been doing some calculations on the importance of the black vote in the 2008 presidential election. If Obama kept all the Hispanic vote that he won but lost all of the black vote that he won, Obama would have lost Florida, Ohio, Indiana, Virginia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Florida.

This would have shifted 107 electoral votes to John McCain. This would have resulted in a 280-258 victory for McCain in the Electoral College.

Clearly, African-American voters were responsible for electing the nation’s first black president.


Education Department Issues New Rules to Calculate Racial Disparities in High School Graduation Rates

In the past, states have used a wide variety of ways to calculate their high school dropout rates. Now, the U.S. Department of Education has issued new regulations that require states to calculate “a uniform, accurate high school dropout” rate and to collect data on racial differences. Under the new rules, the dropout rate will be calculated by comparing the number of students who graduate to the number who entered the school in ninth grade. Minor adjustments will be made for students who moved in or out of the school district.

Under these guidelines, the Education Department estimated that nationwide, 80.6 percent of white students in public high schools go on to graduate compared to 59.1 percent of black students.


“A century ago it was Lincoln who emancipated the Negro. A generation hence, we may very well recognize that it was the Negro who helped emancipate the nation.”

Lyndon Baines Johnson, as quoted by Nicholas deB. Katzenbach in Some of It Was Fun: Working With RFK and LBJ (W.W. Norton, 2008)


University of South Carolina Scientists Measure the Stress of Racism in Brain Activity

Tawanda M. Greer and Jennifer Vendemia, two psychologists at the University of South Carolina, have completed a landmark study that examines brain activity of people who are exposed to racism or race-related stress. The conclusion is that racism impacts brain activity in a way that other stress does not.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging, the study examined images of the brains of 20 adult subjects. The images focused on the area of the brain that controls emotional reactions and decision making. The subjects, about evenly distributed between blacks and whites, were shown photographs of blacks and whites whose expressions were either happy, hostile, or neutral. The test subjects were asked whether they thought the person in the photograph could be trusted to give them good directions.

The brains of both black and white test subjects responded the same way to photographs of black and white faces that displayed either happy or hostile expressions. White subjects did not have different brain reactions when shown photographs of whites or blacks with neutral expressions.

However, for black test subjects there was little brain activity when shown photographs of blacks with neutral expressions. But there was heightened brain activity when they observed photographs of whites with neutral expressions. In addition to increased activity in the area of the brain dealing with emotional reactions, there was increased activity in the area of the brain associated with assessing threats.

Professor Greer noted that “African-American participants pored over the photos of neutral white faces looking for visual clues that would suggest that they could trust the person. The more intently they looked, the more their stress level increased. The MRIs recorded significant blood flow in social evaluative regions of the brain.”


Report Finds That Historically Black Universities in Maryland Continue to Suffer From Vestiges of Racial Segregation and Discrimination

Since 2001 the state of Maryland has given more than $400 million to its four historically black universities in an effort to alleviate the past effects of racially segregated higher education. The effort has been to bring the black universities up to par with the state’s predominantly white public universities.

However, the academic standards and graduation rates at the historically black universities remain far below those at the predominantly white schools. The black universities do not have the same quality of laboratory space and equipment, nor do they have the campus infrastructure that exists at the predominantly white institutions.

A panel of higher education experts was asked by the Maryland State Legislature to come up with a plan to improve the historically black institutions. The report, which was recently released, concluded that “substantial additional resources must be invested to overcome the competitive disadvantages caused by prior discriminatory treatment.”

But Maryland is in the midst of a severe budget crisis. It is doubtful that the legislature will take the advice of the panel it enjoined. One Democratic legislator conceded, “They need so much that we’re not going to get there.”



Many Universities Now Stage Black Homecoming Events

Many universities hold separate graduation ceremonies for black students in addition to the regular commencement exercises. Some colleges and universities have special orientation programs for minority students.

Now some universities are holding separate black homecoming events. At the recent homecoming weekend at the University of Illinois there was a gathering for black alumni that was attended by 1,700 former students. Similar black homecoming events are scheduled at Ohio State University and the University of Minnesota. These events include step shows, jazz, hip-hop, or R&B music, dance recitals, fashion shows, and pageants with the election of an African-American homecoming king and queen.

Organizers of black homecoming events believe that social events geared toward black alumni have been successful in boosting overall attendance at homecoming weekends. In the past, it has been difficult to attract black alumni to attend traditional homecoming events.


In Big-Time College Football, It’s Black Players and White Coaches

The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida recently issued a report on the status of African Americans in coaching and management positions at colleges and universities that participate in big-time college football. The report found that in the 2008 season there were only six blacks among the 120 head coaches at the schools that make up the NCAA’s Division I-A. Two of these six black head coaches have been dismissed and will not return to the same universities in 2009.

The report also found that African Americans serve as president of three of the 120 colleges and universities that participate in major college football. There are 11 African Americans who serve as athletics director at these 120 schools.

Blacks make up more than one half of the football players on athletic scholarships at these 120 colleges and universities.


6  Number of the 30 highest-ranked universities that showed a 30 percent or more increase in the number of black first-year students from 2006 to 2007.

0  Number of the 30 highest-ranked universities that showed a 30 percent or more increase in the number of black first-year students from 2007 to 2008.

source: JBHE Research Department


A Unique Major at Florida Memorial University

Seven students at Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens are majoring in the school’s accredited church music degree program. Students seeking admission to the program must go through an audition with the university’s music department faculty. Students majoring in church music must become a member in one of the university’s musical ensembles. Students in the program must prepare at least one selection per semester for performance on campus. They must also participate in an internship program at a local church. Before they graduate, students in the program must pass a piano proficiency examination.



North Carolina Central University, the historically black educational institution in Durham, received a $902,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The university will develop courses relating to homeland security, terrorist threats, and first-response emergency services.

• Tennessee State University received a $1 million donation from Edith McGuire Duvall and her husband. The gift, the largest in the university’s history, will be used to establish a scholarship program to support women’s athletics. Ms. Duvall, a graduate of Tennessee State, won a gold medal at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics in the 200-meter dash.

• Tuskegee University, the historically black educational institution in Alabama, was awarded a three-year, $1.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The grant will be used to increase opportunities in nursing for black students.

• Washington University in St. Louis received a five-year, $8.6 million grant from the National Cancer Institute. The research will develop communication and education strategies aimed at reducing racial health disparities.

• North Carolina A&T State University, the historically black educational institution in Greensboro, received two grants totaling $1,250,000 from the U.S. Department of Education for a program to increase the number of students training to be rehabilitation counselors.

Copyright © 2008. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. All rights reserved.