Sustaining a Year-Round Commitment
P eople often joke that February — the shortest month of the year — is Black history month. I, however, am among those who recall the Februarys of my childhood and adolescence as a month that African Americans looked forward to, regardless of its abbreviated status. February was our month, when TV programming, including the commercials, museum exhibits, lectures — you name it — were geared toward people of color. We had to enjoy it while it lasted, all 28 and sometimes 29 days of it, because on March 1, it was back to life as usual.
February was and continues to be a month when students and faculty, especially those at college campuses where African Americans are not the majority population, look forward to welcoming a star lineup of guest speakers and events.
Here at Black Issues In Higher Education, our goal is treat each month like Black history month. It is our mission to not only keep you informed about postsecondary issues that affect African Americans, but also to feature and celebrate the accomplishments of African Americans in academe.
One such scholar is the subject of this edition’s cover story (page 36), Dr. Elnora D. Daniel, president of Chicago State University. She is “turning up the heat” in the Windy City by raising admissions standards while also urging state officials and the private sector to stop treating the institution like a stepchild. Daniel is determined to admit a student body that is prepared for the challenges and rigors of higher education, even if it means directing some applicants to take the community college route first. As you will read, not everyone agrees with Daniel’s strategy. But regardless of what people think about her tactics, this woman — who as a youngster, never imagined she would one day be a college president — is successfully breathing new life into a university that enrolls one third of Illinois’ African American college students. That is something to celebrate.
Also in this edition, is a story about the National Merit Scholarship Corporation’s recent annual report, which shows that Florida A&M University has tied with Harvard University as the No. 1 recruiter of National Achievement Scholars. These students are the nation’s top African American high school students, for 2000, and FAMU enrolled 62 of them in its 2000 freshman class (see page 15).
In another story, we report that Geier v. Sundquist, a 32-year-old higher education federal desegregation lawsuit, was finally settled last month. It will result in new opportunities for students attending public universities in Tennessee to receive a quality education in a diverse learning environment (see page 28).
Despite these achievements, this edition also illustrates that African Americans’ struggle for equity in higher education continues, even in the new millennium. The National Association of Scholars, whose members fiercely oppose race-conscious affirmative action and believe they have an opportunity “to be a real influence,” met last month in New York for their ninth annual meeting. BI senior writer Ronald Roach reports that their efforts to eliminate programs that have previously served as a gateway for thousands of African American students persists, and University of California Regent Ward Connerly is leading the charge (see page 26).
I guess we must take the good with the bad and persevere to reach our individual and collective goals. Hopefully, the example of people like Dr. Daniel, the National Achievement Scholars and Rita Sanders Geier — who as a young instructor 32 years ago took a stand against the inequities she saw developing in Tennessee — will inspire us. Whether our achievements are individual or collective, we can’t forget that we’re making history year-round.
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