Black American Males in Higher Education: Research, Programs and Academe: Volume 7

Cover of Black American Males in Higher Education: Research, Programs and Academe

Table of contents

(21 chapters)

This volume, Volume 7 – Black American Males in Higher Education: Research, Programs and Academe, is the sequel to Volume 6 – Black American Males in Higher Education: Diminishing Proportions. Volume 7 continues the examinations and discussions initiated in Volume 6. Volume 7 is a collection of 16 chapters where the contributing scholars examine the situation or state of Black American/African American males in higher education, particularly as pertains to higher education environments and those programs and policies that affect them. Additionally, there are discussions of research findings and theoretical concepts that seek to provide explanations for observed outcomes pertinent to African American males in higher education settings.

Everyone is vulnerable. The degree of balance (or not) between protective factors present (i.e., supports available and accessible) and risk factors present (i.e., cumulative challenges confronted) in an individual's life is always relative and linked to inevitable perceptual processes (see Spencer, 2006, 2008). That is, individuals’ perceptions of risk and protection are just as important as the actual presence of risk and protective factors. Thus, it is inescapable that human beings – particularly Black males in the United States – will experience some level of vulnerability at every point across the life course. In fact, a persistent dilemma has been the narrow focus of social science literature on the risks and persistent challenges confronted by Black males. Unfortunately, the successes achieved or manifested resiliency of Black males remains under-analyzed. Thus, a resiliency theme is generally not integrated into the training of those intended to provide and contribute to the building of protective factors which maximize the accessibility to and use of sources of support. Accordingly, independent of the fact that all humans are vulnerable, for some who experience a disproportionate share of risks and challenges given particularly constructed social conditions (e.g., African American males), the mechanisms which promote the obtainment of good outcomes as expressed resiliency are frequently under-examined either conceptually or theoretically.

Should the higher education pipeline be viewed as a kind of geospatial production function? In this chapter, factors influencing the higher education pipeline for African-American males will be briefly examined. A specific focus will be on potential geospatial factors associated with educational attainment and life course outcomes.

In The Toolbox Revisited, Clifford Adelman puts forth a compelling case for student responsibility when considering differences in educational attainment. Focusing on student postsecondary school search, in this chapter the author evaluates the way in which young Black men spend their discretionary time whether in extracurricular activities or in unstructured settings. Using the National Educational Longitudinal Survey of 1988, she finds that it is not the amount of time that matters, but the fact of participation in extracurricular activities that are positively associated with the engagement of young Black men in the postsecondary education search process. While the magnitude of this positive influence varies by type of activity, young men who are not engaged in any extracurricular participation in grades 10 and 12 are significantly less likely to engage the post-search process. The difference is so stark that she suggests that independent of scholastic performance indicators, the absence of extracurricular participation for young Black men may be a signal of a lack of propensity toward postsecondary education.

There is an African proverb that says, “I am because we are, and, because we are, therefore, I am.” One aspect of this blended perspective is that one's identity is tied to a larger body than the self. This proverb not only characterizes the wisdom and philosophy of African people, it serves as a point of reference in how one might begin to understand the self and one's distinct group identity or consciousness (Cross, 1995; Jackson, 2001; Kambon, 1992). In this lies the dilemma, unfortunately, of oppressed people whose identity have been racialized and suppressed by derogatory epithets, who have been labeled and called by a variety of racial and cultural categorizations – notoriously branded as Negro, nigger, Colored, Black, African, Afro-American, African American, etc. (Jackson, 2001; Kennedy, 2002).

Since the first enslaved Africans arrived in America, there has been a dialogue about if, how and what “the Negro” should be taught. This discussion became more important with the emancipation of approximately 3 million slaves, more than 90 percent of whom are believed to have been illiterate. The general sentiment of Southerners about the education of blacks is evident in The Southern Planter and Farmer, where a Virginian named Bebbet Puryear, writing under the pseudonym “Civis,” wrote:I oppose [education for blacks] because it is a policy that is cruelty in the extreme to the Negro himself. It instills in his mind that he is competent to share in the higher walks of life, prompts him to despise those menial pursuits to which his race has been doomed, and invites him to enter into competition with the white man for those tempting prizes that can be won only by a higher order of administrative talent than the negro has ever developed. (Lucas p. 159)

In 2003, Howard surveyed African Americans with emphasis on academic identities and college aspirations. This investigator interviewed African-American students at two urban high schools to gain insight relative to their college ambitions, educational capabilities, and academic identities. According to the students interviewed one specific area that affected their academic identity and college aspirations was perceived racism and discrimination, including counselors’ and teachers’ perception of their intelligence, unfair placement in special needs courses, and teachers’ attitude and behavior toward students (Howard, 2003).

HBCUs are significant in their number and in the number of minority students they graduate annually. They are located across Alabama, Arkansas, California, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia. They make up approximately 3% of the nation's institutions of postsecondary education. In 2001, they enrolled more than 14% of all Black students in higher education, and more than 30% of Blacks graduated with a baccalaureate degree, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (2004). There are 40 four-year public institutions, 49 four-year private institutions, 11 two-year public institutions, and 5 two-year private institutions. North Carolina has 11 HBCUs, more than any other state. Alabama has nine HBCUs, and Georgia and South Carolina have eight each. Both Mississippi and Texas have seven HBCUs. The first HBCU, Cheyney University, was founded in 1837. It was followed by two other historically Black institutions, Lincoln University in Pennsylvania (1854) and Wilberforce University in Ohio (1856).

The need to maintain global competitiveness makes it clear that the United States must increase the participation in STEM fields by African Americans males. Historically, national security and economic status in a global economy has relied primarily on technological superiority; however, U.S. dominance in this regard is eroding. Data from the National Science Board (NSB) show that in the United States, from 1950 to 2000, the number of people in the science and technology workforce has dramatically increased approximately 200,000 to 5.5 million or more (Galama & Hosek, 2008). During that period, the average annual growth rate for S&E occupations was consistently higher than that for all U.S. workers. Further, employment needs for all S&E fields grew faster than U.S. degree production over the same period. As reported by the NSB, while the number of workers in S&E occupations in the United States grew at an average rate of 4.2% from 1980 to 2000, the S&E degree production in the United States grew only at a rate of 1.5%. To offset the shortage of supply versus demand, the S&E marketplace responded to that difference between degree production and occupation growth by employing individuals in S&E jobs who did not have S&E degrees. Additionally, some of that void was filled by employing foreign S&E workers.

Countless pundits have referred to young African American males as an “endangered species.” While this description of the state of African American male youth between the ages of 18 and 25 years can be said to apply in many different circumstances, nowhere is it more apt than in engineering education. Their rates of matriculation, persistence, and graduation in engineering trail not only those of their white, Latino, and Asian counterparts but those of African American females as well.

Traditionally, the pool from which the United States (US) drew its US-born science and engineering talent has been relatively homogeneous – consisting mostly of non-Hispanic white males. Because science and technology drive the economy worldwide, it is imperative that the US develop, nurture, and utilize the talent of all its citizens. Yet, efforts to diversify the US science talent pool often focus on non-Hispanic white females and much less often on African American males and, of course, African American women.

The number of Black men earning doctorate degrees and teaching in the academy is dwindling. This chapter focuses on the relevance and existence of Black males in doctoral programs and in the professoriate as full-time tenured, tenure-tracked, assistant, associate, and full professors, and presents analogous data on the demography of these two groups. The author, a Black male professor at a majority White research institution, uses introspection as a foundational theme to illuminate this national data. Such self-analysis will serve to move readers beyond the statistics to the challenges that belie the meager numbers of Black male doctoral students and professors.

Prior to the 1970s, the enrollment of black students in U.S. medical schools was less than 3%. One-third of these students attended the three historically black medical schools that existed at that time. In 1970, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), representing the nation's medical schools, made a commitment for reaching parity of black medical student enrollment to that of the proportion of blacks in the U.S. population. The goal was that the enrollment of black students should reach 12% of total medical school enrollment. Within four years the enrollment of black students more than doubled to 7.5% by 1974. This greater than 100% enrollment increase was attributed to medical schools’ change in their commitment to affirmative action (Petersdorf, Turner, Nickens, & Ready, 1990; Cohen, Gabriel, & Terrell, 2002).

The number of African American males entering the legal profession continues to remain stagnate, with only marginal increases during the past 15 years. Even though the intentional exclusion of African Americans from state law schools was declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court more than 50 years ago, other “neutral” institutional policies and requirements have stifled the growth and development of African American males attending law school and advancing in the legal profession. Even with a number of legal victories, African American males have lost the battle to end institutional practices, which continue to exclude them from admission to law school.

The severe underrepresentation of African American males in counseling and psychology is significant, especially in light of these fields’ mandates as health professions. In this chapter, I will use a within-race intersectionality paradigm (gender, class, skin color) to inform my analysis of factors that affect the presence of African Americans males on counseling and psychology faculties. I will briefly elucidate factors that, early on, effectively “weed out” African American males from the pool of aspirants for higher education, and thence, from counseling and psychology programs and faculties. I will apply cooperative inquiry – a radical peer-to-peer research method regarded as a well-developed action research approach – to explore Black males’ experience along a range of narratives.

The Computing Research Association (CRA) was formed in 1972 as the Computer Science Board (CSB), which provided a forum for the chairs of Ph.D.-granting computer science departments to discuss issues and share information (CRA, 2009). Since 1989, women have never accounted for more than 24% of the computer science faculty at any given rank (e.g., assistant, associate, or full professor). Currently, women represent 21.7%, 15.4%, and 11.7% of computer science faculty at the assistant, associate, and full professor ranks, respectively. Women have been as much as 24% of the Ph.D. graduates in computing in a single year. Since 1998, African Americans have never accounted for more than 2.0%, 1.4%, and 0.7% of the assistant, associate, and full professors, respectively, in computer science. Furthermore, African Americans have never accounted for more than 2% of the Ph.D. graduates in computer science in a single year over that same time period. It appears women and African Americans overall are underrepresented among the ranks of computer science faculty, but to what extent?

There are a sufficient number of African American males in higher education that could shape the foundation of scholarship which addresses African American society (Cook & Cordova, 2007). This foundation could be further strengthened through the reliance on African American faculty members. Whether they arrive as athletes, TRIO or multicultural program participants, or the sons and daughters of alumni, the key factor is forging a common understanding. The models and proposals that the authors are addressing have implications for broadening the pool of African American males to include those who are untapped and neglected through the educational process. This is consistent with the historical comments of educators, sociologists, and historians such as William Julius Wilson, who challenged the American educational system to become more inclusive and not reliant on the system to be perpetual, expecting the growth and productivity of African Americans to evolve solely from those who have prominent roles in society.

Cover of Black American Males in Higher Education: Research, Programs and Academe
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Diversity in Higher Education
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Emerald Publishing Limited
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