HBCUs Are Producing a Smaller Share of All Bachelor’s Degrees Awarded to African Americans

Data from the National Science Foundation shows that the percentage of all bachelor’s degrees awarded to African Americans by the nation’s historically black colleges and universities declined significantly during the first decade of this century. In 2000, 24.5 percent of all bachelor’s degrees earned by African Americans were awarded by HBCUs. By 2008, only 19.0 percent of all bachelor’s degrees awarded to African Americans were from HBCUs.

The decline is even more pronounced when we consider degrees in the sciences. In 2000, 26.2 percent of all bachelor’s degree awarded to African Americans in scientific disciplines were given out by HBCUs. By 2008 the figure had declined to 20.5 percent.

It must be noted that about 13 percent of all African-Americans student in higher education are enrolled in HBCUs. But these institutions produce 19 percent of all African-American bachelor’s degrees.


University of Virginia Acquires Rare Abolitionist Pamphlet

The Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library at the University of Virginia has acquired one of only seven known copies of the 1829 pamphlet by African American David Walker entitled, Appeal in Four Articles, Together With a Preamble to the Colored Citizens of the World, But in Particular, and Very Expressly to Those of the United States of America.

Walker was born in North Carolina in 1785. His mother was free but his father was a slave. He operated a clothing store in Boston that catered to black sailors.

The 76-page work criticizes Thomas Jefferson’s stereotypical observations of Negroes in his Notes on the State of Virginia. (A copy of Jefferson’s treatise is also housed in the special collections unit of the University of Virginia Library.) Walker’s work called for the end of slavery by any means necessary including violence. At the early stage of the abolitionist movement when Walker’s work was published, it was not well accepted and the distribution of the text was suppressed throughout the United States.

Walker’s work now has been digitized and can be viewed online. The original work acquired by the university sits in an exhibition case in the lobby of the special collections unit. The work was bought for the University of Virginia by funds from the Robert and Virginia Tunstall Trust.


Widespread Racial Disparity Among the States on Advanced Placement Tests

Among the 50 states there are wide discrepancies on how well black high school students are performing on Advancement Place tests. In Hawaii, for example, blacks were 1.9 percent of all members of the 2010 high school graduating class. And blacks were 2.1 percent of all 2010 seniors who successfully passed an AP examination. Black students also fared well in South Dakota, Idaho, and New Mexico.

In contrast, blacks made up 13.9 percent of the 2010 graduating high school class in Pennsylvania. Yet only 2 percent of the students in the class of 2010 who were successful on AP tests were black. Black students also fared poorly on AP tests compared to their percentage of the graduating class in Michigan, Wisconsin, Missouri, Rhode Island, and New Jersey.


White House Cancels Conference at Historically Black Alabama A&M

The White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities has canceled the 2011 HBCU Technical Conference that was scheduled to take place next month on the campus of Alabama A&M University.

John Silvanus Wilson Jr., executive director of the White House Initiative, stated that the conference was canceled due to the political climate in Washington. He said that his office needed to “focus considerable energy, time, and other resources” to mount efforts to fight proposed budget cuts for the Pell Grant program. He also cited the failure of Congress and the Executive Branch to agree on a budget as a reason for not holding the conference. “We need to devote our limited funds to tighter, more cost-effective ways to strengthen the capacity of HBCUs,” Wilson said.

Wilson also made clear that the cancellation had nothing whatsoever to do with Alabama A&M University. He praised the university for its efforts in hosting last year’s event.



Thelma Thompson to Step Down as President of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore

Thelma B. Thompson, president of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, has announced her intention to retire on August 15. Dr. Thompson has led the historically black university for the past nine years. Prior to coming to UMES in 2002, she was vice president for academic affairs at Norfolk State University in Virginia. She has taught at Bowie State University, the University of the District of Columbia, and the City University of New York.

President Thompson, a native of Jamaica, is a 1970 graduate of Howard University. She holds a master’s degree in English and a Ph.D. in English literature from Howard University.


Appointments, Promotions, and Resignations

Annette Gordon-Reed, professor of law, professor of history, and the Carol K. Pforzheimer Professor at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, and a member of the board of trustees of Dartmouth College, was appointed to the board of the American Academy Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences.

Professor Gordon-Reed is a 1981 graduate of Dartmouth College and she earned a law degree at Harvard. She is a past winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Humanities Medal and is a current MacArthur Foundation Fellow.

Victor Anderson was named John Fredrick Oberlin Alumni Professor of Christian Ethics at the Vanderbilt University Divinity School.

Dr. Anderson is a graduate of Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, Illinois. He earned a master’s degree at Calvin Theological Seminary and a master’s degree and Ph.D. in religion at Princeton University.

Darrell A. Brown was named director of the Small Business Development Center at Howard University. He was counsel to U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island.

Brown is a graduate of American University and the Howard University School of Law.

Natalie L. Mason-Kinsey was appointed director of diversity and equity programs at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York. She was director of the Office of Affirmative Action, Compliance and Diversity at the City College of New York.

Mason-Kinsey is a graduate of the University of Washington and the Howard University School of Law.

Olufunmilayo F. Olopade, Walter L. Palmer Distinguished Service Professor of Medicine and Human Genetics at the University of Chicago, was appointed by President Obama to the National Cancer Advisory Board. Dr. Olopade has been on the University of Chicago faculty since 1991.

John W. Land was named trustee emeritus at Delaware State University. He has sat on the university’s board of trustees for the past 19 years.

A 1966 graduate of the university, Land played professional football for 10 years. He later served as an executive for Xerox and Delmarva Power.

Sidney A. Ribeau, president of Howard University in Washington, D.C., was named to the board of directors of the Association of American Colleges and Universities.




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The Serious Racial Disparity in College Retention Rates

There are nearly 3 million African Americans enrolled in higher education in the United States. But enrolling students is one thing and graduating them is another.

New data from the U.S. Census Bureau illustrates the problem. In October 2009 there were 880,000 African Americans enrolled as freshmen in college. There were 686,000 sophomores. There were 566,000 juniors and only 278,000 seniors. The number of seniors was 68 percent lower than the number of freshmen. This shows a very large attrition rate of black students who start college but do not finish.

For whites there were 3,144,000 college freshmen in 2009. There were 2,715,000 white sophomores and 2,528,000 white juniors. That year there were 1,865,000 white seniors. There were 41 percent fewer white seniors than white freshmen.



Virginia State University Is Now Located in a Different City

Virginia State University, the historically black educational institution in Petersburg, has a new address. The institution is now officially located in Virginia State University, Virginia. Thomas E. Reed, director of university relations, explained that the address change “was an attempt to create a more individual identity for the university.”


One African American Among the Ten New Members of the American Academy of Arts and Letters

The American Academy of Arts and Letters was founded in 1904 as a highly selective group of 50 members within a larger organization called the National Institute of Arts and Letters. Over the years the two groups functioned separately with different memberships, budgets, and boards of directors. In 1993 the two groups finally agreed to form a single group of 250 members under the name of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Members are chosen from the fields of literature, music, and the fine arts. Members must be native or naturalized citizens of the United States. They are elected for life and pay no dues. New members are elected only upon the death of other members.

As is the case with the other honorary societies, there are no official statistics on the current racial makeup of the AAAL membership. However, independent analysis of the membership list by JBHE concludes that, at the present time, blacks make up about 5 percent of the total. Among the black members of the society are Henry Louis Gates Jr., Toni Morrison, and Jamaica Kincaid.

This year 10 new members were elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Rita Dove, Commonwealth Professor of Poetry at the University of Virginia, is the only new black member. Professor Dove, former poet laureate of the United States and Pulitzer Prize winner, is a summa cum laude graduate of Miami University of Ohio. She holds a master of fine arts degree from the University of Iowa.

Tennessee State Nixes TSUnami the Tiger

In the wake of the terrible disaster that struck Japan, historically black Tennessee State University decided to change the name of its tiger mascot. Recently the tiger had been named TSUnami. University president Portia H. Shields stated, “While TSUnami was a most creative and clever idea, we believe it is now an inappropriate nickname.”

New Center for Urban Research Established at the University of Chicago

Mario L. Small, professor of sociology at the University of Chicago, has created a new research center at the university to study urban issues. The University of Chicago Urban Network will seek to “spur innovation in the study of urban processes and interdisciplinary discourse in urban research, theory, and policy.”

The network will hold an annual conference and will operate a Web site to “provide researchers, practitioners, journalists, and the general public access to the latest research and resources on urban social science.”

Professor Small has been at the University of Chicago since 2006. Previously, he taught at Princeton University. A 1996 graduate of Carleton College, Dr. Small holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in sociology from Harvard University. He is the author of Unanticipated Gains: Origins of Network Inequality in Everyday Life (Oxford University Press, 2009) and Villa Victoria: The Transformation of Social Capital in a Boston Barrio (University of Chicago Press, 2004).


Cornell University Reorganizes Diversity Efforts

Cornell University, the Ivy League educational institution in Ithaca, New York, has announced a reorganization of its student diversity program with the goal of “raising the priority given to concerns of underrepresented and minority students.”

The current Office of Minority Educational Affairs will be renamed the Office of Academic Diversity Initiatives. A new assistant vice provost for academic diversity initiatives will be hired to head the new office.

The university has also created a new position with the title, associate dean of students for intercultural programs. This official will oversee the African Latino Asian Native American (ALANA) group and other multicultural programs on campus. The university also plans to hire an associate dean for inclusion and professional development for the university’s graduate schools.


Honors and Awards

• Leslie Burl McLemore, professor of political science and former interim president at Jackson State University in Mississippi, received the W.E.B. Du Bois Award from the Association of Social and Behavioral Sciences.

Dr. McLemore is a 1964 graduate of Rust College in Holly Springs, Mississippi. He holds a master’s degree in political science from Atlanta University and a Ph.D. in government from the University of Massachusetts.

• Cheryl S. Taylor, director of nursing research at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was inducted into the Louisiana State Nurses Association Nightingale Hall of Fame.

Dr. Taylor earned her bachelor’s of science degree in nursing from Dillard University of New Orleans. She holds a master’s degree in systems-oriented community mental health nursing from the University of Washington at Seattle and a Ph.D. in nursing from Texas Woman’s University.

• Angela M. Davis, special assistant to the vice president and chief student affairs officer at the University of Virginia, received the university’s John T. Casteen III Diversity-Equity-Inclusion Leadership Award. Davis has been at the University of Virginia since 1975.

• Kenneth D. Lewis, dean of the College of Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology at South Carolina State University, received the Arthur Holly Compton Award from the American Nuclear Society. Dr. Lewis is the first African American to win the award.

Dean Lewis holds a master’s degree in applied mathematics and a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering from the University of Illinois.



Grants and Gifts

• Fort Valley State University, the historically black educational institution in Georgia, received a $1.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to hire staff, purchase textbooks, and computer software for its Academic Success Center. The goal of the center is to increase student retention and graduation rates. The center is under the direction of Said Sewell, associate professor of political science.

The University of Arkansas received a three-year, $288,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to support its George Washington Carver Program. The funds will support a summer program of biotechnology research for 10 students from historically black colleges and universities.

Three historically black universities will join with eight other universities in a $20 million grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The research project will study the effects on climate change on southern pine forests. Participating HBCUs are Alcorn State University, North Carolina A&T State University, and Virginia State University.

• Central State University, the historically black educational institution in Wilberforce, Ohio, received a $3.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense to create the University Center of Excellence in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.

Juliette B. Bell, provost and vice president of academic affairs at Central State, will serve as principal investigator of the project.

The University of Michigan, Rutgers University, and North Carolina State University will share an $18.5 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development to rebuild the higher education system in the African nation of Liberia.

• Emory University in Atlanta received a three-year, $170,000 grant from the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Save America’s Treasures program to preserve 34 scrapbooks compiled by African Americans during the 1883 to 1975 period. The funds will also be used to create digital archives of the contents of these scrapbooks. Among the scrapbooks are those assembled by author Alice Walker, playwright Flourney Miller, and W.S. Scarborough, a classics scholar who served as president of Wilberforce University.

Copyright © 2011. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. All rights reserved.