[ Update 2/24/2008 ] Amy Redenour's National Center Blog responds to this blog entry at this link in an addendum from Amy. In it she writes, among other things that I will respond to in a separate post:
The college presidents and DarkStar attacked Abigail Thernstrom, yet Abigail Thernstrom's essay was jointly written with her husband, Stephan Thernstrom. Isn't the man's input as worthy of note as the female's?
I used Abigail's name only because the presidents only used her name. Amy is right that it is written by Stephan Thernstrom as well. As such, I've updated this entry to go from just referencing Abigail to referencing both of them. That was my bad.
For those of you who are getting here via the National Center Blog, follow this link for my detailed response to Amy Redenour.
There is no debate that historically black institutions have been permitted to escape adherence to Title IV specifically because they are black. What's more, they have escaped penalty while their proponents viciously castigate other institutions for lacking diversity.
It displays hubris of gargantuan proportions when those chastising Ms. Thernstrom insist that the federal government support further violation of Title IV.
Advocating race-based privileges that favor blacks while vehemently opposing nonblack enterprises doing the same is having it both ways.
He is responding to a letter co-written by presidents of Morgan, Coppin, University of Maryland Eastern Shore, and Bowie:
Apparently, one such person is U.S. Civil Rights Commissioner Abigail Thernstrom, who suggested in a recent Wall Street Journal column that the object of the civil rights movement was to eliminate historically black colleges and universities and move the most talented black students into white institutions rather than providing both black and white students equal opportunities to a quality education at either an HBI or a traditionally white campus. Such mistaken interpretations of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the landmark 1992 Fordice Supreme Court case do a great injustice to historically black institutions and the students they serve. Most unfortunately, they threaten to open old wounds related to race and poverty.
Massie doesn't address their point concerning Thernstrom's "implication".
Fisk University is in such dire financial straits that it is considering selling off part of its valuable art collection. The Nashville, Tenn., school is one of the nation's 103 historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), and its money problems raise an obvious question: Half a century after Brown v. Board of Education, should we still support an institution of higher education that is less than 1% white?
But overwhelmingly white institutions are also eager for a significant black presence. If all educational doors are so wide open to black students and professors, should we really hope that schools such as Fisk survive? At the height of the civil-rights movement, some thoughtful observers expressed grave doubts. Research by Christopher Jencks and David Riesman concluded that these "by-products of the Southern caste system" were usually an "ill-financed, ill-staffed caricature of white higher education." The "great majority [stood] near the end of the academic procession in terms of student aptitudes, faculty competence, and intellectual ferment." And it seemed self-evident that the demise of Jim Crow would make these schools even weaker by exposing them to new competition. Their best students and teachers would have choices denied earlier generations of African-Americans, and few would choose even the better HBCUs like Howard over Harvard.
Massie doesn't deal with the issue the presidents of the Maryland HBCUs was addressing. Nor does he address other points like this:
Maryland's four historically black institutions account for 64 percent of African American undergraduates enrolled in the state's traditionally public four-year institutions. That enrollment includes many high-achieving high school graduates, as well as significant numbers of students not eligible for admission to more selective institutions. The best-prepared students enrolled at the HBIs graduate at the same rates or better than similar students at other public institutions. Other students may take longer or even discontinue their studies because of unmet financial need.
You see, the Thernstrom's wrote something interesting in their article. They wrote this:
In fact, a remarkable 40% of all African-Americans with a bachelor's degree in the physical sciences, and 38% of those who majored in math or the biological sciences, attended HBCUs. Conversely, almost no students at HBCUs gravitate to black studies, gender studies and the like. Moreover, among blacks who earned a Ph.D. in the late 1990s, 31% had done their undergraduate work at HBCUs.
If you just read for the statistics alone, that is a strong point to be made for the continued existence of HBCUs. However, reading as I do, I have to address the implication about "black studies, gender studies and the like." She is implying that in historically white colleges and universities (HWCU), the opposite is true. The fact is, this is not true. Most Black graduates are in other fields. The Thernstrom's knows this but chose to leave that out and imply otherwise.
Let me quickly deal with this sentence by the presidents of the HBCUs:
Other students may take longer or even discontinue their studies because of unmet financial need.
I made a post that showed the following which appeared in The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education:
According to a study by Nellie Mae, the largest nonprofit provider of federal and private education loan funds in this country, 69 percent of African Americans who enrolled in college but did not finish said that they left college because of high student loan debt as opposed to 43 percent of white students who cited the same reason.
The Thernstrom's don't deal with that because if they did, they would have to account for their opposition to affirmative action by using the "drop out rate" as "demonstrating" that Blacks are not prepared, but never accounting for 69 percent of Blacks dropping out because of finances not academics.
Let's look at something else the presidents of the HBCUs wrote:
Recent data show that Maryland's historically black institutions have been productive beyond their enrollment percentages, accounting for the lion's share of degrees awarded to African Americans by traditional public four-year colleges in 2006, even in the critical fields of the sciences, engineering, education and health. Yet, efforts to enhance Maryland's black institutions have been slow and exceedingly limited. All of the HBI campuses have serious capital needs for renovation or replacement of existing buildings as well as for new facilities and equipment. This hinders our efforts to compete and attract new students, widening the historical gap between HBIs and their public white peer institutions.
While I am not an automatic proponent of the model that to fix education you need to provide more funding, there is NO DOUBT that the lack of funding of HBCUs has hampered their ability to do the work that they do at higher levels. In fact, part of the settlement of the Mississippi case Thernstrom's mentioned, provided for more funding of HBCUs because it was agreed that the prior lack of funding of those schools, hurt the schools. The same is true for the historical funding provided to Morgan, Coppin, Bowie, and UM Eastern Shore. Former Gov. Ehrlich increased the funding of HBCUs because of the historical lack of funding to those schools and stated so on many occasions. Funding for the infrastructure is not the only way HBCUs have been damaged.
A few years ago, Florida A&M University fought a battle concerning the new tier system and what tier the school would be placed into. Based on the tier, the school would be allowed or disallowed to have certain degree programs AND receive or not receive funding. The tier the school would be placed, would be determined by the programs the school currently had. On its face, that would seem like a fair rating system EXCEPT the Florida school board that oversees all public colleges and universities, had previously determined what programs each school was allowed to have. In the case of FAMU, the governing body removed existing PhD programs from FAMU, denied new graduate and undergraduate programs at FAMU, and denied expansion of programs. Please tell me how that was not a stacked deck. Here is the outcome of that tier system proposal:
Research I universities will have no limits on program development except unnecessary duplication.
Research II universities, which include the University of Central Florida, Florida Atlantic University and Florida International University, also will have few limits on growth. But they will be expected to focus mostly on graduate and undergraduate education.
There are considerable restrictions on Comprehensive universities, which include the University of North Florida, the University of West Florida and Florida Gulf Coast University.
Their emphasis will be almost exclusively on undergraduate education.
The only exception is FAMU, which was placed in a Comprehensive/Doctoral subgroup. It will be expected to add doctoral- level programs in fields where minorities are underrepresented.
But, you see, the Thernstrom's didn't mention situations like this, did they? The presidents of the HBCUs mentioned it, but Massie didn't touch it. If he did, his reply would be seen as the ignorant piece of crap that it is.
Here is the bottom line to all of this, besides the disgust I'm feeling towards Massie's letter. Why is it that people like the Thernstroms and Massie say close down HBCUs because of their segregated history, instead of saying close down HWCUs, because of THEIR segregated history?
Close down the HWCUs, transfer the money and facilities to the HBCUs, and then let's see what happens.