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Getting to Know Dr. James T. Minor

Getting to Know Dr. James T. Minor

Growing up in Detroit, James Minor bypassed the drugs and gang life that plagued his neighborhood and graduated from the city’s public school system. But the price tag of many of Michigan’s four-year colleges and universities put them out of reach, so he headed to Mississippi to attend historically Black Jackson State University.

Attending an HBCU had a profound impact on Minor, and a master’s and Ph.D. later, it’s now the focus of his scholarship. At 32, Minor, an assistant professor of higher education at Michigan State University, studies and writes about making the HBCU path stronger and better for the students coming behind him.

“Prior to Brown v. Board of Education, three-fourths of African-Americans went to HBCUs, and today it’s 14 percent,” Minor says. “So, I’m asking the question: ‘Are HBCUs operating in the best
way possible?’”

His study, “Contemporary HBCUs,” looks at the current role of Black colleges. Minor says today’s Black students have an array of college options, and they increasingly attend traditionally White universities.

Minor expects that the current anti-affirmative action climate will drive more students to HBCUs in the future. He points out that more than 70 percent of today’s Black doctorates earned their undergraduate degrees from Black colleges. For Minor, the HBCU experience offered more than an open door; he says he learned in a climate where Black achievement was the norm, not the exception.

“Eighteen years old to 22 is a very developmental stage of your life — who you are and what you believe is developed,” he says. “To transform into a young adult in an environment that is affirming and supportive is very different than going through that developmental process in an environment that is hostile.

At predominantly White universities, you exist in a world of daily micro-aggression in which you are constantly fighting for your right to be on campus,” Minor says, referring to the experience as racial battle fatigue. “There are no reaffirming cultural symbols; nothing in the cafeteria reflects who you are. There are no statues on campus. That’s a very different environment in which to develop yourself during this time of social, intellectual and personal development.”

A large portion of his study is devoted to governance issues. In more than 85 percent of states, the governor appoints public university trustees, usually without much transparency or clear criteria for procedures. Given the increased calls for accountability, Minor wants to establish a connection between the selection process and the universities’ performance.

“To produce change from scholarship,” Minor says, is his major goal.

By Christina Asquith

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