Identity Bank: Research Institute Launched by College Fund/UNCF Has a Big Job Ahead of It

Article excerpt

Former Congressman William H. Gray III has to look no further

than his battles on the floor of the U.S., House of Representatives

over race-specific scholarships in justifying how key the College Fund/United

Negro College Fund's newly created Frederick D. Patterson

Research Institute can

be to Black America.

In 1990, when then

Assistant Education Secretary

Michael Williams

created a stir by trying

to eliminate the scholarships,

Gray and other

Black legislators convinced

the George Bush

administration that the

furor Williams created

was groundless by

showing, statistically,

how few race-based

scholarships existed

compared to those

given based on sex, religion,

geography and other factors.

"Here I was as majority whip, with the White House and Justice

Department making major policy -- and we didn't have the facts. it

became clear to me that there was no place in the United States where

you could pick up a phone and quickly get data," explains the UNCF

president and CEO, who touts his brainchild as "the first research

institute of its kind" controlled by the Black community.

"The real point here is that people were making policy

based on perception, not reality," says Gray,

who recently unveiled the new institute,

which will focus research exclusively on the

status of Black students, preschool to

postgraduate.

"We are real excited about this," he says.

"You know, we spend billions of dollars on

education in this country, billions trying to deal

with the problems of minorities -- particularly

African Americans. But what do we base that

expenditure on? Often it's a partial study, an

isolated study. It is not based on fact."

Gray says he expects his data to be "very

much up to date, within a year to two years."

He adds, "There will be a broad range of

original research going on, as well as data

collection. We will use the best scientific

methodologies."

Though he is

vague as to exactly

how the data will

be gathered, Gray

related that in the

course of conducting

original research,

the institute might first

focus on standardized

testing, and

the enrollment

and employment

of African Americans

regionally

and nationally. He

said that the institute

might undertake to gather information

directly from individual schools.

Observers Hopeful

Around the country, observers are hopeful

that the institute can fulfill Gray's vision,

though they are cautious when discussing how

successful the institute, named for UNCF

founder Frederick D. Patterson, can be.

"You want to keep in the front of

America's consciousness how much Blacks

need to achieve education-wise," says Dr.

Kenneth S. Tollett Sr., professor of higher

education policy at Howard University and an

advisor to the American Association of

University Professor's committee on

historically Black institutions and the status of

minorities in the profession. "What is

happening in the country now is that people

are just washing their hands of the problems"

in the Black community, particularly in light

of the Los Angeles riots of a few years ago and

growing racial divisions on several issues.

"The hope is that there is a reservoir of

decency in both Blacks and whites that will

cause them to want to direct these deficits," he

says. "The research also would

indicate that there still is a

need for Head Start,

affirmative action and special

consideration. …

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