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
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
how few race-based
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
"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
Though he is
vague as to exactly
how the data will
be gathered, Gray
related that in the
course of conducting
the institute might first
focus on standardized
of African Americans
and nationally. He
said that the institute
might undertake to gather information
directly from individual schools.
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