After Carby Ruckus, Yale Gives Black Studies Department StatusNEW HAVEN, Conn. — Yale University officials announced last month that they will give departmental status to their African-American studies program.The decision comes on the heels a rescinded resignation by the program’s chairwoman, Dr. Hazel Carby, who submitted her pink slip early last month. She had said that, among other concerns, she questioned the university’s commitment to Black studies in light of the fact that the program had not yet received departmental status. But she announced her resignation just days after the university’s president, Dr. Richard C. Levin, had publicly praised Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and the African-American studies program he built at Harvard University (see Black Issues, March 2).Carby later withdrew her resignation after Levin apologized.Meanwhile, Yale officials say the move to make the program a department — which means that they now can hire their own faculty — had nothing to do with the Carby brouhaha.For her part, Carby says she’s pleased.“To be designated a department is to gain university recognition for our substantial scholarly achievements and intellectual leadership in the field,” she says. “It will enable us to expand and grow in new and exciting directions. We are delighted.”
Ole Miss Elects First Black Student Body PresidentJACKSON, Miss. — Nearly 38 years after James Meredith struggled against racism to enter the University of Mississippi, students have elected the school’s first Black student body president. Nic Lott, a political science major, beat his White opponent by more than 100 votes in a campus election last month, says Casey O’Shea, student election commissioner. Lott, a self-described conservative, says race played no role in the election, which drew an estimated 20 percent of Ole Miss’ more than 10,000 students to the polls. “I haven’t made an issue of it (race),” Lott, president of the Mississippi College Republicans, said before the final tally. “I’m running to represent all Ole Miss students.”Ole Miss gained notoriety in 1962 when students rioted in protest of the registration of Meredith, the school’s first Black student. The university in Oxford has a Black student population of about 12 percent. The university lags behind Mississippi State University and the University of Southern Mississippi in electing Black student representatives. Additionally, a Black female also was chosen as editor-in-chief of the Daily Mississippian, the student newspaper. Pamela Hamilton, a sophomore journalism major, was chosen last month over two other candidates. Black student leaders say Lott’s election, coupled with Hamilton’s appointment, could help mend campus race relations, which became strained recently with a series of racially charged incidents. Earlier this month, a White dormitory hall director had a brick thrown through his window with a note tied to it containing racial epithets (see Black Issues, March 2).
American Indians Say Harvard Reluctant to Give up RemainsCAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Harvard University officials say they are doing their best to comply with laws governing American Indian remains and ceremonial artifacts. American Indians around the country, however, say the university is reluctant to give up its collection. The 1990 federal Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, requires federally funded museums and universities to return human remains and sacred objects to the tribes. Harvard’s David Schafer says the university is doing its best to comply with the law. But he says the statute is vague and full of loopholes. Schafer, project manager of North American Archaeological Collections at Harvard’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, notes that the museum has already consulted with more than 200 tribes, and has agreed to repatriate at least 5,000 remains to more than 50 tribes across the United States. “There is always contention on some fronts,” Schafer told the Boston Herald. “But for every case of someone who is upset, there is another situation that has been successful.” The Harvard museum has almost 12,000 American Indian remains, the largest collection outside the Smithsonian. Under the graves protections and repatriation act, museums and universities decide if remains should be affiliated with current tribes, based on the age of the bones and whether accompanying artifacts exist that would link remains to modern tribes. Older remains or remains about which scant information is available are classified as culturally unidentifiable. “Harvard is using their clout as the premier education institution in the United States to bog [the repatriation act] down and they have been very good at it,” says John Brown, a repatriation act officer for the Narragansetts of Rhode Island.
Mo. Appeals Court Denies Klan’s RightTo Underwrite University Radio ShowST. LOUIS — The University of Missouri at St. Louis’ radio station doesn’t have to take the money or air the message of the Ku Klux Klan, a federal court ruled last month.In upholding a district judge’s decision, the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed economic motives, not political ones, prompted KWMU-FM to turn down the Klan’s offer to be a donor. If the group were allowed as an underwriter, it would have been entitled to a 15-second promotional announcement after the National Public Radio program, “All Things Considered.” The Klan wanted to use that time to proclaim its role as a “White Christian organization, standing up for the rights and values of White Christian America since 1865.” Ku Klux Klan national director Thomas Robb, who wasn’t directly involved in the case, called the ruling blatant discrimination. “If I own a restaurant, I can’t decide who can and who can’t eat there,” he says. “I think this is another example of how White people are being discriminated against and betrayed by the courts.”The Klan sued the university, which owns the radio station, after Dr. Blanche Touhill, the university’s chancellor, rejected the underwriting request in October 1998. In an earlier hearing, Touhill testified that the school could lose millions of dollars in gifts and student tuition if the Klan’s message were allowed (see Black Issues, Oct. 29, 1998).
Conn. Officials Say Record Number Of Minorities Among GradsHARTFORD, Conn. — The number of Black and Hispanic students graduating from Connecticut colleges has more than doubled in the 14 years since the state began targeting low-income students under its Minority Advancement Plan. A report released last month by the state Department of Higher Education shows that the number of Black and Hispanic students graduating reached record numbers last year. Minority students earned a record 4,288 degrees last year, 14 percent of the total, compared with about 7 percent in 1984-85. The number of degrees for minority students was nearly 12 percent more than the previous year, compared with an increase of less than 2 percent among White students. The report found that Connecticut colleges are doing a better job attracting, training and keeping minority students. “That would indicate to me more that more minority students are adequately prepared for work at the university level,” says Arthur Poole, director of the Office of Educational Opportunity for the higher education department. Among minority students, much of the growth in the number of degrees occurred at two-year community colleges, but those students also made gains in earning degrees at four-year colleges and universities. “I’m pleased and excited it has happened,” says Dr. David G. Carter, president of Eastern Connecticut State University. “For many years, people didn’t believe (going to college) was something they could do.”Since 1986, the number of Blacks and Hispanics attending public and private colleges in the state has risen nearly 80 percent. White enrollment has declined by almost 20 percent during the same period.
Oregon Students Demand Action After Racial IncidentCORVALLIS, Ore. — A Latino freshman at Oregon State University, who says another student taunted and threw candy at him, contends the incident amounts to racial harassment — and that the school isn’t doing enough to prevent racism. Erubey Olvera wants university officials to find the person who made the remarks — not necessarily to punish that person but to make sure the incident never happens again. “I’m not the only one this has happened to,” Olvera, speaking through a translator, told more than 45 students who gathered at the student union last month to discuss the incident. Olvera says he was walking past a dormitory on Jan. 25 when a student threw candy at him from a fourth-floor window. When Olvera stopped and asked why, he says the student mockingly called out: “Oh, oh … he speaks English.” University officials say they are investigating the incident. Others questioned the university’s handling of an incident last year in which a Black engineering student, Derrick Harris, said White students tossed firecrackers and yelled a racial slur as he walked past a fraternity. The students involved in the harassment faced punishment, but minority students had demanded the university take several further actions, including expulsion or suspension for the students involved and compensation of the victim’s tuition. Instead, the university decided to include in its admissions materials a statement explaining racial harassment and how the university addresses such incidents. Some students complain that’s not enough.Kyon Saucier, a Black liberal-arts student, is asking students to stop participating in activities that promote enrollment. “Nothing has changed, so it’s time to start hitting them in their pocketbooks,” Saucier says. Bill Oye, coordinator for the university’s student conduct and mediation program, says the university must follow a formal process in investigating Olvera’s complaint.
Texas’ Freshman Applications Pouring inAUSTIN — Freshman applications at the University of Texas at Austin have hit an all-time high, with more minority students trying to get in. More than 20,800 applications have come in for just slightly more than 7,000 spots for the new freshman class, the Austin American-Statesman reported last month. Texas A&M officials also say applications are nearing record levels. “We’re excited about this,” says Dr. Bruce Walker, admissions director at the University of Texas at Austin. “The next part will be the hard part, making our enrollment decisions and dealing with the students who don’t get an offer — their parents.” Last year, the school received about 18,200 applications and Walker says he expects this year’s figures to surpass 21,000. At Texas A&M, the school has tallied 18,069 applications for its 6,300-seat freshman class. “If it isn’t a record, it’s pretty close to one,” says A&M’s admissions director, Dr. Joe Estrada.
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