Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

As College Educators, We Need to Ask Ourselves Are We Doing Enough?

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

As College Educators, We Need to Ask Ourselves Are We Doing Enough?

Article excerpt

Imagine overcoming the odds - being a young, underprivileged Black male, who recently graduated from his local high school with honors, scored decently on the SATs, proudly heading to his first college class at the states largest predominantly White institution (PWI). He is filled with so many emotions - excitement, hope, promise. However, upon entering class, this young man instantly notices all eyes staring back at him from a room filled with only White faces, including the professor's. Suddenly, he faces a heightened sense of racial awareness, propagating feelings of insecurity and alienation. It is a scene repeated throughout the week.

Researchers reveal it is not uncommon for students of color, particularly African-American students, who elect to attend PWIs, to describe their in- and out-of-classroom experiences as "chilly," unwelcoming and inhospitable. They define their collegiate experience as running the gamut between virtually being ignored in critical conversations and dialogue to essentially being sought after to serve as the spokesperson for their entire race. Another hurdle - 100 percent of African-American males reported they went through a "proving process" in the classroom before faculty perceived they possessed the intellectual capital lo be academically successful. Then there is constantly being asked which sport they played or being congratulated repeatedly on Mondays if the football or basketball team beat its weekend opponent.

As an African-American male (Errick Farmer) who completed his undergraduate studies at a PWI, 1 can verify these occurrences are real. Not only have I experienced these as a student but also, today, as a young educator with a Ph.D. On numerous occasions, both students and staff have confused me for a student-athlete while walking across the college campus.

So how does any student, but especially the African-American male, overcome these types of situations and succeed? Research consistently uncovers three key factors that are necessary for Black males to succeed in college - peer support, a strong campus services support system and genuine faculty support, "If you think about it, a lot of your White students don't come from very good high schools, but they're able to persist," states Darnell Cole, associate professor of education at the University of Southern California, who studies race and ethnicity in higher education, "One of the reasons they are able to do that is because they find enough peer support, faculty support and support among their campus services. …

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