A stirring video
A headline in the Chronicle of Higher Education caught my eye. I read the story and clicked the link to a YouTube video created in 2013 by Sy Stokes, when he was a junior at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). Stokes dramatically and powerfully conveys the failure of UCLA to attract, support and retain black male students. As the Chronicle article states, maybe Stokes’ numbers are off a bit, but that should not detract from the main message. Not enough black males are being recruited to university campuses. And we’re not adequately supporting those who come. As a result, these students feel invisible, marginalized and undervalued. Stokes is angry, and he has a right to be. I’m sad to think that the names of many other great public and private universities, including ours, could be substituted for UCLA’s. None of us are doing well enough.
As a dean who wants to do better, I’m frustrated—that our federal grant to support underrepresented students was terminated only a year after we were funded; that because of the Supreme Court’s 2003 decisions regarding admissions at the University of Michigan, we can’t use philanthropy to attract funding to recruit underrepresented males; and that, while previously we could use about one-third of our school-based tuition increase for financial aid, now it’s capped at 25 percent. Money isn’t everything, and recruitment isn’t the end of our responsibility, but money is necessary. I’m frustrated also that we too often can’t and won’t look beyond the usual markers of successful applicants (scores, grades and prestige of colleges attended) and be willing to take some chances on applicants and provide the support needed to produce success in graduate school. If I look at the situation and myself critically, I must conclude that I too could do more. Barbara