For decades, there has been what was considered to be an impalpable barricade encrusting the halls of academia from the embrace of Black scholars. These defenses, per se, that have hypothetically guarded the gates of the institution from Blacks and people of color were developed with a definitive aim of upholding the prestigious culture of the academy and the vision from which it was created. Black scholars who desired roles as tenured-faculty and admission into doctoral programs were out selected by their counterpart and colleagues. However, more recently positions have been filled by these scholars only to be greeted by a new barrier, which ultimately has the potential to also constrict achievement.
Novel obstructions such as those mentioned above are perceived as a higher expectation of performance, accompanied by a bounty of duties that might impose on their ability to meet the requirements for tenure if the faculty member is not attentive to her/his own research agenda and career fruitions. From mandatory meetings and leadership roles on committees to scholarly works that do not necessarily coincide with their own investments. Inadvertently, Black faculty may lose focus and end up with quantity versus quality. This idea of quantity versus quality might be an attempt to prove themselves worthy for admittance in the halls, but is not necessarily an area of evaluation when it comes to successfully obtaining tenure.
While some argue this idea of manipulation of Black faculty to be absurd, around the United States you may hear sidebar conversations of issues that are often referred to as the unmentionables. These taboo topics include feeling overworked while others are not, feeling unappreciated and under acknowledged over their counterpart’s achievements, and even feeling left out.
Yet, stories suggest there is a root that goes beyond the surface and highlights why conversations on ownership and success-hood are often avoided. Perhaps this lack of discussion can be grounded in fear or an unwillingness to be portrayed as the “typical” antagonists. Or maybe an unwillingness to sound ungrateful or incapable of doing the job unless things are made to be more “fair.” Instead, Black faculty members face this decision to accept every offer extended to them or to balance tasks that are beneficial to their personal success as well. This discussion focuses on two of the many issues that Black faculty encounter. Instead of spending too much time on the issues, we offer potential solutions.
The increase of Black faculty into academia is a great improvement; however, additional efforts are required in order to recruit, retain and support the success of Black faculty members in years to come. A well-known odd that stands against Black men can also be considered a prophecy of the likelihood for a prison sentence to occur at some point in their life. This is proclaimed over them at the innocent age of 3. Before Black male scholars can even apply as candidates for the academic arena, it seems that they have to first prove the prophecy wrong by working through the many obstacles to show themselves as productive members of the learning environment.
Simultaneously, in an effort to combat these predictions, many Black males may struggle as their identity may be wrapped in a culture that seems nonexistent within the classroom. With no support, positive influences, or shared experiences with peers and less than 2 percent of Black teachers in classrooms, Black males are subjected to fail. If, Black males conjure up the motivation and choose to pursue postsecondary studies or even graduates school, these men begin to face obstacles similar to those seen in the K-12 public school system. This notion can be seen as an ultimate disappointment.
Over the past few years, academia has become increasingly diverse. Strategic plans were developed in order to recruit and support underrepresented groups in higher education. The directives to help Black scholars to thrive is on the rise; especially in women. However, unspoken expectations create barricades in the academy. If we were to meticulously explore and identify these role expectations and ‘the war of paradigms’ between Black scholars and the academy, we might in fact reveal how these constructs impact student success. These unspoken expectations encompass what can be equivalent to a blind quadrant. The blind quadrant makes it difficult to recognize and address issues before things become problematic and create barriers for success. Some may even inadvertently question the idea of double standards among Black scholars. Failure to recognize the impact of double standards creates multiple disparities in overall student production.
We believe that exploring double standards is critical toward increasing awareness of overall production of student success. Academia consist of expectations in the realm of service, research, teaching, publishing and commitment. Black scholars experience unique challenges; however, that does not dismiss them from their responsibilities. Particularly, first-year students are faced with the overload of responsibilities. One would imagine that it is impressive to say yes to everything and accept every offer. It is critical to address the underlying factors that contribute to the desire to say yes: prove to others, affirmation of self, and increasing odds of becoming marketable. Having a sense of acceptance from others is affirming in academia. However, among accepting the many opportunities, a sense of self will diminish.
Whereas, Black scholars are making strides daily to conquer these hypothetical barricades of academia; increased attention should develop toward the significance of clarifying role expectations and addressing impact factors toward a student’s success. Solidifying role expectations and increasing inclusion will lead toward diminishing the disparities within the academy.
Dr. Jessica Henry has expertise in rehabilitation counselor education, crisis counseling, multicultural counseling, disability identity, coping and resilience with an emphasis on disability services for persons with acquired and congenital disabilities.
Simone Hicks is a doctoral student at Ohio University in Counselor Education and Supervision. Her research interest encompasses: people with disabilities, the cycle of poverty, and the impact of inaccessibility. She worked in various sectors, such as: acute psychiatric unit, public mental health agencies and university settings.
LaMarcus Hall is a doctoral student in the Curriculum Studies program at Purdue. He is also a Holmes Scholar. LaMarcus currently serves as the Assistant Director of Student Life and Development at Ivy Tech Community College.