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UNC Officials Concerned About Enrollment, Test Scores at HBCUs

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Declines in enrollment and test scores at the University of North Carolina system’s five historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) may signal a change in the attitudes of Black students, a UNC administrator says.
“Ten years ago, there was a widespread conviction that Black students were better served” by HBCUs, says Gary Barnes, vice president for UNC’s program assessment. He wonders whether “that movement just ran out of steam.”
Meanwhile, administrators at predominantly Black schools are trying to figure out why more Black students are choosing traditionally White institutions (TWIs) and why Whites are shying away from the HBCUs.
A record 44 percent of Black students who go to UNC schools are at TWIs, compared to 35 percent in 1981 — the year UNC reached an integration agreement with the federal government. White enrollment at the HBCUs peaked at 19 percent in 1993 and has since fallen to 14 percent.
“I don’t have any explanation for the decline,” said Alvin Schexnider, chancellor at Winston Salem State University, where White enrollment has dropped 24 percent in the past five years.
UNC administrators say the loss of students probably accounts for a decline in SAT scores at HBCUs. Some say Black institutions are losing bright prospects to TWIs. The average SAT score among the state’s five HBCUs rose to 932 in 1994, but fell to 879 this year. While the five-year graduation rate at Black colleges has improved in recent years to 39 percent, it still lags behind the 54 percent rate at TWIs.
Much of the White enrollment at UNC’s historically Black schools is made up of adult commuters and community college transfers. Schexnider speculates that a strong economy in the past few years may have prompted those students to enter the labor force instead.
But leaders at the state’s Black institutions see an expected surge in UNC system enrollment as an opportunity to revitalize their schools. The UNC Board of Governors met last month to discuss how system schools will handle an extra 38,000 students, a 31 percent increase from current enrollment, by 2008.
A consultant hired by the system has suggested that growth over the next decade be spread out among all schools, especially the HBCUs. The system likely would have to spend millions on new academic programs and construction to make the universities more attractive to students.
“It’s a great concept,” says the consultant, Eva Klein. “How you actually get there is not exactly obvious. I think it will be difficult. It will take creative thinking and a lot of hard work.”

Jackson State Faculty Complain About Funding

JACKSON, Miss. — Jackson State University needs to hire more professors and scale back its growing administration, the president of the JSU Faculty Senate says, claiming that “excessive administrative expansion” since 1992 is draining dollars needed to hire instructors.
“There is a lack of money to hire instructors in biology, math, history, and English,” Ivory Phillips says.
For the past seven years, administrative expansion under JSU’s president, Dr. James E. Lyons Sr., has taken away funds needed for library books, computers, and other high-tech tools, according to Phillips. He also criticized a recent report on class size that could be used to reduce faculty at the historically Black institution.
The report says the student/teacher ratio at JSU was 19 to 1. But Phillips says the report was “erroneous.” He calculates a ratio of  6 to 1.
Lyons says, in a one-page written statement, there are no plans to trim faculty or administrators: “We may eventually look at some reallocation of faculty as certain departments grow and others decline, but overall, we will not reduce faculty.”
JSU’s dean of the School of Business, Dr. Glenda Glover, says funding shortages are a longstanding concern.
“We are woefully underfunded in many areas,” she says. “We are short of faculty in the business school. We are trying hard to rectify it.”
Biology professor Vernon Archer says JSU should invest more on the academic side: “We’re on a shoestring budget now. We can’t get microscopes fixed.”

Black, Brown, and White Student Enrollment Dips at UT-Austin

AUSTIN, Texas — Enrollment of Black, Hispanic, and White students has dipped at the University of Texas-Austin compared with last spring, according to preliminary figures of those choosing to disclose ethnicity. The number of Asian American students, meanwhile, has risen.
“With the top-10-percent rule, a number of them are taking advantage of that and getting into the university,” says Marsha K. Moss, assistant vice president and director of the Office of Institutional Studies, of the rise in Asian American students.
Students in the top 10 percent of high school graduating classes automatically are admitted under a law meant to encourage diversity despite a court ruling that ended consideration of race in college admissions.
Moss says the university is continuing its outreach to public schools in an effort to ensure students know about the top-10-percent factor, and they hope to see that pay off with increasingly diverse student bodies.
“I think there’s a little lag time for high school students to be fully educated about the top-10- percent rule,” she says, adding, “We think some good progress was made last fall…. We hope to see even more improvement next fall.”
Total enrollment at the university this spring is 46,386, an increase of 31 from last spring, the university announced. That figure is down from last fall, which is typical due to such factors as students graduating mid-year. The total includes 35,106 undergraduates, 9,911 graduate students, and 1,369 law students.
By ethnicity, the enrollment includes 29,864 White students, compared with 30,332 last spring. Black students number 1,529, a drop from last spring’s 1,660. Hispanic enrollment has fallen from 5,829 last spring to 5,636.
The number of Asian American students has increased from 5,084 to 5,335; American Indians, from 217 to 227; and foreign students, from 3,233 to 3,641. The increase in foreign students reflects a decision to begin including exchange students in the tally, Moss says.
Ethnicity was not known for 154 students. That’s up from about 30 last spring.
Final enrollment figures will be available in March.

Fraternity Suspended at Mississippi State for Hazing Incident

STARKVILLE, Miss. — The Omega Psi Phi fraternity at Mississippi State University (MSU) has been suspended after a student pledge paddled in a hazing incident required medical attention.
Two MSU students, both upperclassmen, “administered the beating,” while a few others looked on, Dr. Roy Ruby, vice president for student affairs, says. The incident occurred in the Omega Psi Phi campus residence.
“It was a serious beating. Obviously, nobody would approve of it. It was unacceptable behavior. [The fraternity is] out of business at MSU,” Ruby says, adding that the suspension of operations of the fraternity will be for “at least a year or two.”
Hazing is prohibited by university policy and state law.
The student was slapped “severely” on the buttocks with a heavy wooden paddle, according to Ruby. The victim was treated for injuries and released from the campus’ student health center.
Names of the students involved in the hazing incident will not be released, Ruby says. Omega Psi Phi has about a dozen members in the MSU chapter, which began in 1977.
MSU plans to conduct disciplinary hearings for the two students accused of doing the beating. Students who witnessed the episode could be considered as accessories to the incident.
Student members of the fraternity who administered the beating could be suspended or expelled from the university.

Former Student Guilty of Making Ethnic E-Mail Threats

LOS ANGELES — A Chinese American college student who e-mailed a death threat to Hispanic professors, students, and officials across the country agreed last month to plead guilty to seven misdemeanor crimes and likely will serve 30 months in prison, federal officials say.
Kingman Quon, 22, pleaded to seven misdemeanor counts of interfering with federally protected activities. He was accused of threatening to use force against his victims with the intent to intimidate or interfere with them because of their national origin or ethnic background. It was the second federal civil rights prosecution involving e-mailed threats.
U.S. Attorney Alejandro N. Mayorkas says Quon used a fictitious address to send racially derogatory e-mails to professors at California State University-Los Angeles; students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, National Aeronautics and Space Administra-tion; and employees at Indiana University, the Xerox Corp., and the Internal Revenue Service.
The former California State Polytechnic University-Pomona student “put a great deal of pressure on himself in terms of his class standing,” says his attorney, Joseph T. Gibbons Jr. “He seemed to snap under all the pressure he was placing on himself.”
Outside the courthouse, Quon, a marketing major, said he sent the messages because he couldn’t stand the pressures of being “a high-achieving college student.” He apologized and asked the victims to forgive him.
He could face up to seven years in prison at his April 26 sentencing, although he is expected to receive a 30-month sentence under a plea bargain.

Teaching the Literature of Toni Morrison the Focus of Princeton Conference

PRINCETON, N.J. — Award-winning author Toni Morrison offered scholars and fans a rare glimpse into her writing life at a Princeton University conference last month where scholars from around the country gathered for a critical examination of her works.
The seminar, “Envisioning Paradise: A Conference on Toni Morrison’s Art and Imagination,” was sponsored by the Toni Morrison Society and Princeton’s Center for African-American Studies. The society was created by scholars who are devoted to the critical study of Morrison’s work.
Several scholars talked about the difficulty some people have reading the author’s novels.
“Several of us have been talking about the challenge of teaching her work,” says Dr. Marilyn Mobley  McKenzie, a professor at George Mason University and president of the Morrison Society.
“There’s a lot of resistance to her work.”
But McKenzie adds that Morrison creates spaces for the reader, and her writing engenders  ” a more careful way of reading that has its rewards for the reader.”
Others praised Morrison’s ability to take on uncomfortable subjects. “She has the ability to look into America’s heart of darkness,” says Arnold Rampersad, professor of English at Stanford University.
Morrison, Princeton’s Robert F. Goheen Professor of Humanities, sat through the conference as scholars presented papers on her novels and discussed the future of African American literature.
“I am always interested in what has been written about my work because tracking that has always been a way for me to gauge what was going on in the world of criticism,” she says.
In an interview conducted by Duke professor and author Paula Giddings, Morrison discussed what it was like to write her critically acclaimed novel Beloved.
Writing the novel was “a little scary,” she says.  “I used to go into a space — a world of writing — and it was so vivid. That goes on for months. And you worry that you’re not going to come back up.”
 Morrison says she had to constantly fight the desire not to write the book. Moreover, because the story is so painful, many of the characters, she says, kept telling her, “I don’t want to remember.” Finally, she told them, “If you want this story told, then you have to help. And they said, ‘Look, we live it. All you have to do is write it.’ “

UH Students Seek Tuition Waivers for Native Hawaiians

HONOLULU — Approximately 100 Hawaiian studies students from the University of Hawaii (UH) rallied at the state Capitol last month in support of tuition waivers for Native Hawaiians.
Haunani Kay Trask, former director of the Center for Hawaiin Studies, says her group feels it can legally argue in support of the tuition waivers because the university sits on 16,000 acres of ceded land.
The students said they are upset that the Senate has refused to hold a hearing on a similar bill. But Senate leaders say the issue of tuition waivers should be left up to the university regents.
About 5,000 Hawaiian students are enrolled at the various campuses of the UH system.
University regents are concerned that other ethnic groups also could seek tuition waivers if Hawaiians are granted free tuition.
The House Higher Education Committee was to hold a hearing later in the month on a Native Hawaiian tuition waiver proposal.   

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