Blacks Are Frequently Elected Student Body President at the Nation’s Highest-Ranked Universities

Ordinarily, few whites vote for blacks. Consider that all black members of the U.S. House of Representatives come from districts in which black voters hold the balance of voting power.

But African Americans are quite commonly elected student body presidents at the nation’s highest-ranked universities, all of which are predominantly white. In fact, a recent JBHE survey finds that blacks have served as student body president at 25 of the nation’s 28 highest-ranked universities. Over the past 130 years, at least 88 blacks have served as head of the student government at these schools.

Duke, the University of Virginia, and the University of California at Los Angeles have had at least eight blacks elected to head the student body. There have been five black student body presidents at Brown, Northwestern, Columbia, Princeton, Tufts, the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The first African American to be elected student body president at a high-ranking university was Inman Page at Brown University in 1877. Overall, 10 blacks were elected to lead the student government at the high-ranking universities during the 1970s. Eleven were elected in the 1980s. Forty black student body presidents served in the 1990s and 21 blacks have been elected student body president in this decade. Blacks are currently serving as student body president at the University of Chicago, Princeton University, Wake Forest University, Columbia University, and the University of Virginia.

As far as JBHE can determine, no black student has served as student body president at CalTech, Carnegie Mellon, Johns Hopkins, or Yale.

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