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Operation Black Male

Operation Black Male
New book highlights successful programs, challenging topics
related to this segment of the college population

African American Men in College
By Michael J. Cuyjet and Associates
Jossey-Bass/Wiley Books, 2006
384 pp., ISBN: 0-7879-6460-3:
$38 hardcover

The media and scholarly literature are replete with countless reminders of the negative plight of the Black male in American society. The predicament of the Black male was well-articulated in a recent New York Times article entitled, “Plight Deepens for Black Men, Studies Warn,” which highlighted various data such as incarceration rates and unemployment statistics for Black males. In response to this and other reports, there appears to be a movement underway among researchers and concerned stakeholders to improve the participation of Black men throughout all levels of education.

Michael J. Cuyjet’s new book, African American Men in College, emerges as another tool to support such efforts. In this  volume, more than 20 scholars, professionals and students provide a glimpse into the mind of Black men, as well as into the conditions and circumstances affecting the lives of Black male college students.

The book is appropriately divided into two sections, the first of which describes some of the relevant issues related to Black men’s experiences in college. The second section examines the success and effectiveness of various programs designed to influence their academic, social and personal development. The topics addressed cover a wide range and include scholarly work on Black male student-athletes, gay Black men in college, Black men in community colleges and the impact of fraternities on Black male development, to list just a few. The contributing authors of African American Men in College should be applauded for addressing controversial and challenging topics regarding Black men. The importance of these topics for college student personnel and faculty is undeniable.

Since Cuyjet’s Helping African American Men Succeed in College was published in 1997, very little has changed when it comes to the plight of Black male college students. In 1997, Black males constituted approximately 4 percent of all college students, a number that has changed markedly today, according to National Center for Education Statistics. In terms of graduation rates, Black men lag behind their Asian, Hispanic and White counterparts. For example, in 2005, Black men at Division I institutions had a graduation rate of 36 percent, compared to 46 percent and 60 percent for Hispanic and White males, respectively, according to data from the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

Student affairs and higher education professionals should appreciate the fact that Cuyjet’s book is supported by well-known theoretical frameworks. The book’s validity is also bolstered by a myriad of research conducted over the past 30 years regarding the impact of in-class and out-of-class factors on student development for college students in general and African-American college students in particular. The importance of retention also plays prominently throughout the essays.

Among the many promising programmatic efforts addressed in African American Men In College is the Student African American Brotherhood. SAAB, an organization designed to help Black men excel academically, socially and professionally, is characteristic of other initiatives profiled in the book and has been replicated at more than 100 postsecondary institutions. The success of this program, along with the other initiatives discussed in the book, including the Meyerhoff Scholarship Program, The Black Man on Campus Project and The Collegiate 100, is tied to the level of support received from key campus leaders as well as the program’s purpose and objectives.

While highlighting the strength of this book, it should also be noted that one of its limitations is that it does not adequately address the importance of examining educational policies, organizational culture issues and administrative behaviors in higher education, all of which play a role in the Black male college experience. As a result, additional analyses and research are needed that take into account these and other important issues affecting the persistence and intellectual development of Black men.

Dr. Lamont A. Flowers is the Distinguished Professor of Educational Leadership and Director of the Charles H. Houston Center for the Study of the Black Experience in Education in the Eugene T. Moore School of Education at Clemson University.

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