Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

LAST WORD: Avoiding the `Divide and Conquer' Environment on Campus

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

LAST WORD: Avoiding the `Divide and Conquer' Environment on Campus

Article excerpt

Black administrators and faculty at historically White colleges and universities may be affected by tension-filled "divide and conquer" environments on campus. In higher education, these individuals generally constitute a minority population. They have limited power to influence institutional ends and have the ability to exert control over fewer resources than their White counterparts. And in historically White colleges and universities, Blacks are generally underrepresented in both faculty and administrative ranks.

During my tenure in higher education, I have witnessed this "divide and conquer" phenomenon that pits Black actors against the formidable Black "other." Though forms vary, rampant antagonisms yield stark demarcating lines. For example, declarations of disrespect often define the relationships between administrators of Black studies programs and their counterparts who manage student services programs for minority students. In other manifestations, Black faculty members may be observed perched on ivory tower pedestals "looking down" at nonprofessional employees. Wherever the lines are drawn, such divisions sear the sites of intragroup Black conflict, effectively divert energies, and restrict optimal Black participation at all institutional levels.

The rancor of this "divide and conquer" climate is vividly seasoned. Invariably, at the epicenter of Black campus wars at historically White universities is the ever-present personality clash between brilliant and highly accomplished Black actors. For the most part, the primary sources of volatile tensions remain elusive. Nonetheless, this orchestration of Black conflict does not benefit the animated antagonists or their constituent communities. Artificial barriers most often separate wartorn campus factions. In many respects, the maxim "to the victor goes the spoils," perversely applies to such territorial conflict. …

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