Academic journal article Taboo

Developmental Education: Preparing White Campuses for African-American Students

Academic journal article Taboo

Developmental Education: Preparing White Campuses for African-American Students

Article excerpt

Twenty years ago, in an interview, Keeter (1987) asked Professor Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman elected to the U.S. Congress and the first to campaign for the presidency, if she knew of faculty behaviors that alienate African-American students or communicate uneasiness or if faculty sometimes communicates that they have different expectations of African-American students. She responded by saying that "Blacks have become very sensitive, and rightfully so, about attitudes of over-protectiveness or someone's bending over backward to accommodate them. Whites--along with Blacks--must realize that the era of beneficent paternalism is over" (p. 15). In the two decades following Chisholm's remarks, sorry to say, due to the proliferation of programs such as affirmative action, some still believe that students of color are being coddled and receiving preferential treatment, and are being admitted even though they are not qualified or prepared for the rigors of college (Antonio, 2003; Keeter, 1987; Locks, Hurtado, Bowman, & Oseguera 2008; Turner & Myers, 2000).

Nonetheless, the professorate plays an important role in the academic achievement of underprepared students and the college student of color--a pivotal and crucial role in both their social and academic success. With the increasing complexity of campus ethnic and racial demographic profiles, we are beginning to see a widening gap between the professorate and particular student cohorts, namely, college student cohorts of color. The question then becomes, how do we respond to an increasingly diverse, underprepared, and unprepared student population? The answers are complex and multilayered.

In response, one plausible solution is for colleges and universities to seek out and embrace diversity and multiculturalism, cultivating the attitude that the more knowledge of the diversities presented by their campus clientele, the better prepared they will be to meet their needs (Neville, Heppner, Ji, & Thye, 2004; Hale, 2004; Watson, Terrell, Wright, Bonner, Cuyjet, Gold, et. al., 2002). Another possible solution is for faculty to develop a greater sense of flexibility and cultural sensitivity in their teaching styles as well as a better understanding of student learning styles regardless of the level of academic preparedness or cultural background.

Nonetheless, students of color (African American, Native American Indian, and Latino/Hispanic) entering four-year Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs) compared to their White peers are more likely to be identified as underprepared for college (Institute of Education Sciences [IES], 2004; National Center for Educational Statistics [NCES], 1995). In reality, African Americans who attend PWIs have problems with preparing for the experience as well as adjusting to their new environment. In fact, research even further suggests that regardless of levels of academic preparedness, a disproportionate number of students of color who manage to get through the doors of PWIs often find themselves ill prepared to thrive on these campuses.

For that reason, it is imperative for colleges and universities concerned about the academic success of students of color to recognize that academic success or failure is in part directly related to unmet cultural and developmental needs. Additionally, success is impacted at the microlevel through faculty attitudes and interactions as well as at the macrolevel through institutional culture and climate toward these students.

There has been a subtle paradigm shift over the last four decades in remedial and developmental education. That is, there has been a shift from the deficit being students of color to the deficit being predominantly White institutions (PWIs). Previously, there was carte blanche labeling of students of color as the ones in need of remediation and developmental services without regard to institutional preparedness for culturally diverse students. …

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