MIT Shuts Down Professor James Sherley’s Laboratory

James L. Sherley, an associate professor of biological engineering at MIT, had his faculty appointment terminated last week. The locks on his laboratory were changed and police were stationed outside the facility.

Professor Sherley was denied tenure in 2005. He contends that the decision to deny him tenure was driven by racist views among his departmental colleagues. He filed a formal complaint with the MIT administration seeking to reverse the department’s decision.

After two internal reviews failed to reverse the tenure decision, in February 2007 Professor Sherley went on a hunger strike protesting institutional racism at MIT. He called off the hunger strike 12 days later after MIT agreed to negotiate an end to the stalemate.

But no further progress was made in resolving the dispute and MIT decided that it would not extend Professor Sherley’s employment.


“The forced closure of my laboratory is an illegitimate injustice.”

James L. Sherley, after MIT changed the locks and stationed campus police outside his laboratory. (See story above)


States With the Most and Fewest Black Students Who Graduated From High School in 2006

In 2006 there were 371,649 black students who graduated from high school in the United States. They made up 13.3 percent of all students who received high school diplomas in this country that year.

The state of Texas produced the most black high school graduates in 2006 with 32,811. California and Florida had the next-highest numbers of black high school graduates.

There were only 40 black students who received high school diplomas in 2006 in the state of Montana, the fewest in the nation. The states of Wyoming, North Dakota, Vermont, Idaho, and South Dakota each had fewer than 100 blacks who graduated from high school in 2006.

In the District of Columbia, 85.5 percent of all students who graduated from high school in 2006 were black. In Mississippi, 46.5 percent of the 2006 high school graduates were black. In Louisiana, Georgia, Maryland, and Alabama, at least 30 percent of all 2006 high school graduates were African American.


Southern Methodist University Offers a Tour of Civil Rights Historical Sites for College Credit

Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, offers a unique course for students of civil rights history. Each spring the Civil Rights Pilgrimage Travel Seminar takes students on a bus tour of important historical sites of the civil rights movement.

This year’s tour took 40 students to eight sites in five states over an eight-day period. Included among the stops were Medgar Evers’ house in Mississippi and the National Voting Rights Museum in Selma, Alabama.

Students taking the course have to pay $275. Group discussions are held each night at the conclusion of the day’s tour. Students earn college credit for the course and are required to read material about each stop on the tour, keep a journal, and write a term paper about the trip.

Each year the itinerary for the tour changes. Next spring’s tour will focus on Mississippi with stops in the town of Money, where Emmett Till was slain, and in Philadelphia, where three civil rights workers were murdered in the Freedom Summer of 1964.

Glenn M. Linden, an associate professor of history at SMU who is white, serves as the tour guide. Many of the students who take the tour are white. Blacks make up 6 percent of the undergraduate student body at SMU.


Historically Black University Offers New Degree Program in Motor Sports Management

NASCAR stock car racing was founded in the South and for most of its history both its fans and its employees have been predominantly white. None of the current drivers on the NASCAR Nextel Cup circuit are black and very few members of the pit crews are African Americans. Hardly any of the sport’s administrators, car owners, marketing representatives, or support personnel are black.

Now Winston-Salem State University, the historically black educational institution in North Carolina, is teaming up with NASCAR to bring more blacks into management positions in motor sports. The university has received approval from the University of North Carolina board of governors to establish a bachelor’s degree program in motor sports management. Students who major in the subject will take courses in facility management, marketing, risk management, legal issues, sponsorships and endorsements, and organizational management. Students who major in this degree program will be eligible for internship programs with the NASCAR organization.


New Film Will Put Wiley College on the Map

Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, is a small, historically black educational institution with about 800 students. Most Americans, including most African Americans, probably have never heard of it. But this college, which was founded in 1873, will not remain unknown for long.

Denzel Washington and 2007 Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker have begun shooting a film entitled The Great Debaters, which is being produced by Oprah Winfrey. Scheduled for release in 2008, the film relates the story of the Wiley College debate team which from 1921 to 1936 lost only one of 75 debates. Along the way the team beat debaters from such highly respected educational institutions as Harvard, the University of Michigan, and Oxford University.

The Wiley College debate team was led by Melvin B. Tolson, a professor of speech and English. During this period Tolson, who will be played by Denzel Washington in the film, also was the director of the theater club and coached the junior varsity football team.

In 1947 Tolson, a graduate of Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, was named poet laureate of the nation of Liberia. He ended his academic career teaching at Langston University in Oklahoma and served two terms as the town’s mayor. Tolson died from cancer in 1966 at the age of 68.


Morgan State University Enters Into Dual Admissions Agreement With a Community College in Rochester, New York

Morgan State University, the historically black educational institution in Baltimore, has entered into a dual admissions agreement with Monroe Community College in Rochester, New York. The two-year college, part of the State University of New York system, has more than 17,000 students, and 16.5 percent of them are black.

Under the agreement, students who enroll at Monroe Community College and successfully complete the two-year associate’s degree program will automatically qualify for admission to Morgan State University as juniors.



The Unexpected Resignation of the President of the University of the District of Columbia

William L. Pollard has resigned his position as president of the University of the District of Columbia. His resignation came as a surprise because Pollard and the university’s board of trustees had come to terms on a new five-year contract for Pollard last October.

Dr. Pollard had made significant progress on many fronts including increased enrollments, improvements to the physical plant, and the accreditation of the university’s law school.

But sources at the university report that the board was not satisfied with the progress made on longstanding management problems, fundraising efforts, and the adherence to NCAA rules on student eligibility for the university’s athletic teams.

Dr. Pollard came to the University of the District Columbia in 2002. Prior to his appointment he was the dean of the College of Human Services and Health Professions at Syracuse University. A graduate of Shaw University, the historically black college in Raleigh, North Carolina, Dr. Pollard holds a master’s of social work degree from the University of North Carolina and a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.


New Life for LeMoyne-Owen College

LeMoyne-Owen College, the historically black college in Memphis, Tennessee, reported earlier this year that it would need to raise $3 million by June 30 in order to avert a major financial crisis. It appears that the immediate crisis has been averted.

Area churches pledged to contribute $500,000 in each of the next three years. Cummins Inc., the diesel engine manufacturer, pledged another $500,000. In June the Memphis city council voted 9-2 to award historically black LeMoyne-Owen College a cash infusion of $1 million over each of the next three years. This appropriation was challenged in court because a private institution was awarded public funds. But city attorneys told the court that the funds were from a budget surplus and the public funds would save jobs. They also noted that the college served an important role in the community and its loss would be a severe blow to all residents of the city of Memphis. The court permitted the first of the three $1 million payments.

With the city pledging its support, the United Church of Christ donated $600,000 and the Tom Joyner Foundation gave another $200,000. The Shelby County Commission is expected to contribute $500,000 which will trigger a matching grant from the state of Tennessee.



Gloria J. McNeal, associate professor and associate dean for community and clinical affairs at the University for Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey’s School of Nursing, received the 2007 Governors Nursing Merit Award.

McNeal is a graduate of the nursing program at Villanova University. She holds a master’s degree in nursing from the University of Pennsylvania and a doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education.



• The Smithfield-Luter Foundation is establishing a scholarship fund for the children or grandchildren of employees of Smithfield Foods who want to attend any of three historically black universities. The scholarships will be made available for students who have been accepted at Virginia Union University, Norfolk State University, or Fayetteville State University.

Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee, received a three-year, $60,000 grant from the Merck Institute for Science Education. The grant will be used to bring three students from historically black colleges and universities to the Rhodes College campus for an internship program in cancer research.

Clark Atlanta University, the historically black educational institution in Atlanta, received a $1 million grant from the AT&T Foundation. The grant money will be used to fund a scholarship program for graduate students at the university’s School of Business.

Arkansas Baptist College, the historically black educational institution in Little Rock, received a $1,493,934 grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The grant will be used for improvements to the college’s infrastructure and for academic programs.






Two Major Black Scholars Leave Penn

The nation’s leading colleges and universities compete fiercely for the nation’s most noted black scholars. In this ongoing competition, Penn has suffered two major losses and Yale University and Georgetown University have each landed “a big fish.”

Elijah Anderson, a sociologist and one of the nation’s leading authorities on issues of urban inequality, was named William K. Lanman Jr. Professor of Sociology at Yale University. Dr. Anderson was the Charles and William L. Day Distinguished Professor of the Social Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania, where he has been a faculty member since 1975.

Professor Anderson is a  graduate of Indiana University. He holds a master’s degree from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. from Northwestern University.

Anderson is the author of the award-winning books A Place on the Corner: A Study of Black Street Corner Men and Code of the Street: Decency, Violence, and the Moral Life of the Inner City.

Michael Eric Dyson, who was Avalon Foundation Professor in the Humanities at Penn, is now a University Professor at Georgetown University. Holding high rank as a University Professor, Dr. Dyson is not tied to any one department and will teach courses in English, theology, and African-American studies.

Professor Dyson is a prolific writer and is popular on the college lecture circuit. His latest book, Know What I Mean? Reflections on Hip-Hop, has just been released by Basic/Civitas.

An ordained Baptist minister, Professor Dyson is a graduate of Carson-Newman College in Jefferson City, Tennessee. He holds a master’s and Ph.D. from Princeton University.


Black College Looking to Swing Into the Golf Resort Business

Fort Valley State University, the historically black educational institution in Georgia, has ambitious plans for a 360-acre parcel of farm property adjoining its campus. While no decision has been made on whether the project will go forward, it has been proposed by members of the administration that the university build a 250-room hotel/conference center with two 18-hole golf courses on the site. An additional nine-hole, par-3 course with lighting is also part of the plan. The university would lease the land to a developer with the outside firm bearing the brunt of the construction costs.

The proposed development is not just a commercial venture. If built, the university would add new degree programs in golf course management, turf management, and hotel management. Lease fees from the developer for the university’s land would help pay for the faculty needed to staff the new academic programs.

Under the proposed plan, the university would also add men’s and women’s golf teams to its roster of interscholastic sports.



Southern University of New Orleans to Build the First Dormitories in Its 51-Year History

Prior to Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, the Southern University campus in New Orleans was strictly a commuter college. After the hurricane devastated its campus and enrollments dropped due to an overall loss in the city’s population, officials at the university devised a plan to boost enrollments by offering residence halls for out-of-town students.

These plans are a step closer to reality now that the university has secured a $44 million low-interest loan from the U.S. Department of Education. The funds will be used to construct dormitories that will house up to 600 students on campus. The residence halls, which will be the first in the university’s 51-year history, are expected to be completed for the 2008-09 academic year.


Blacks Make Gains in South African Higher Education, But Whites Still Earn a Majority of the Degrees in Science, Engineering, and Mathematics

A new report from the South African Qualifications Authority shows that since the end of apartheid, greater educational opportunities for blacks have increased the number of students earning degrees. In 1994 there were 542,398 people in South Africa with a college degree. About one quarter of these were black. In 2004 the number of people with a college degree climbed to nearly 1.2 million, and about half of them were black.

Blacks now make up solid majorities in most academic disciplines. But whites, who make up about 9 percent of the total population in South Africa, earn a majority of the degrees in mathematics and engineering. In fact, the racial gap in degrees earned in mathematics has actually increased since 1994.


African-American Enrollments in U.S. Medical Schools Are Down But Cuban Medical Schools Are Taking Up Some of the Slack

In 1994 there were 1,519 first-year black students at U.S. medical schools. By 2006 the number of first-year black students dropped to 1,176. This is a decline of nearly 23 percent. Furthermore, there is evidence that a large number of black medical school students are foreign-born Africans. As many as one half of all black students at some U.S. medical schools are foreign born or are the children of parents who were born abroad.

While African-American enrollments in U.S. medical schools have declined over the past decade, there are about 50 African-American students currently studying medicine in Cuba. Low-income students receive free medical education in return for a promise to go back to their medically underserved neighborhoods in the United States to practice medicine.

In 2004 the Bush administration toughened regulations on travel to Cuba which would have restricted visas for U.S. students participating in the program. But the Congressional Black Caucus sought and won an exemption from the new rules for the African-American medical students.

The first students who participated in the Cuban program are graduating this summer. They must pass U.S. licensing examinations and be accepted into U.S. residency programs.


New Literary Journal Highlighting the Works of Blacks From Appalachia

Frank X Walker, a visiting professor of writing, rhetoric, and communications at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky, has coined the word “Affrilachian.” The term refers to people of African descent who live in the Appalachian Mountain region of the United States.

Professor Walker has just launched Pluck!, a magazine dedicated to highlighting the literary works of Affrilachians. The new magazine includes fiction, poems, essays, and art, music, and theater reviews. The literary journal will be published three times a year and is available by subscription only. Subscriptions are $30 for individuals and $100 for businesses.

Professor Walker is a graduate of the University of Kentucky. He holds a master’s of fine arts degree from Spaulding University. He is the author of two books of poetry and was the 2003 winner of the Lannan Foundation Literary Award for poetry which came with a $75,000 cash prize.


8,376,855  Total number of black students enrolled in K-12 public schools in the United States in 2006.

17.2%  Black percentage of all students enrolled in K-12 public schools in the United States in 2006.

source: U.S. Department of Education



Shirley Ann Jackson, president of Rennsselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, has been elected to membership in the American Philosophical Society.

Rodell Lawrence is the new director of development at Fort Valley State University in Georgia. After a successful business career, Lawrence devoted his life to raising funds for black colleges and universities with positions at Claflin College, Stillman College, Meharry Medical College, and most recently at Georgia Southern University.
Henry Vance Davis was named university dean for recruitment and diversity at the City University of New York. He was dean of the School of Social Science and Human Services and a professor of history at Ramapo College in New Jersey.

Dr. Davis is a graduate of Western Michigan University and holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in African-American history from the University of Michigan.

James A. Fletcher was named vice president for finance and administration at Idaho State University in Pocatello, Idaho. Fletcher was vice chancellor of administration for the Texas A&M University system.

A graduate of MIT, Fletcher holds a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Fairleigh Dickinson University and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Carlton Cooper was appointed director of athletics at Texas A&M University at Commerce. He was the senior associate athletics director at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Cooper is a graduate of Texas A&M Commerce where he played basketball.

Leon McClinton was appointed director of residence life at Virginia Tech. He was the associate director of undergraduate and graduate programs in residential life at Clemson University in South Carolina.

McClinton holds bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees from Clemson University.

Richard K. Dozier was appointed chair of the department of architecture and construction science and associate dean of the College of Engineering, Architecture, and Physical Sciences at Tuskegee University.

Professor Dozier was a professor of architecture at Florida A&M University. He holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Yale University and a doctorate in architecture from the University of Michigan.

K. Dawn Rutledge Jones was named assistant vice president for marketing and communications at Tennessee State University in Nashville. She was the director of communications for the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development.

John Willis, professor of Near Eastern studies at Princeton University, has assumed emeritus status. Professor Willis, whose main research interest is on African Islamic history, has been on the Princeton faculty since 1972. He is a graduate of the University of Arizona and holds a master’s degree from Boston University and a Ph.D. from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London.

Olive Sephuma was named director of development in the Office of Foundation Relations at Syracuse University. She was a program officer for the Central New York Community Foundation. Sephuma is a graduate of the University of Botswana.





Copyright © 2007. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. All rights reserved.