another day more racism from Anglo-America's universities
DURHAM, N.C.— A group of about two dozen Duke University students
urged administrators Tuesday to create a better climate and provide more
financial support for black students, saying they’ve been disappointed
so far in how top officials have reacted to their viewpoints.
The students, almost all of whom were black, unsuccessfully sought a
meeting with university President Richard Brodhead at his campus office
in hopes of explaining a document they describe as a call to action for
the prestigious, private southern school.
Concerns range from the future location of a black culture center to
the lack of support for a black student group’s annual event and a
recent study that suggested African-American students switched to
“The university has affirmed through media outlets that it has a
commitment to meeting the needs of all its students, including black
students,” said Nana Asante, a senior psychology major and president of
the Black Student Alliance, who led the procession Tuesday. “We have yet
to witness any action that reflects this supposed truth.”
The most immediate cause for students’ anger is an as-yet unpublished
study by Duke researchers saying black students match the GPA of whites
over time in part because they switch to majors that require less study
time and have less-stringent grading standards. Opponents of
affirmative action are citing the study in a case they want the U.S.
Supreme Court to consider.
But the students say the research is just one example of an
environment in which many black students feel uncomfortable. The
document they gave to administrators cites concerns over the future
location of the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture and the
status of the Black Student Alliance invitational weekend, an annual
event the students say is in jeopardy because of the administration’s
lack of support.
“These are really just symptoms of a contentious and strained racial climate here,” Asante said.
Some of the students’ recommendations include establishing an
endowment to create a stable funding source for cultural events and
academic programs involving black students, and for the creation of a
special university working group to assess whether blacks feel the
climate at Duke is unwelcoming.
Brodhead was not in his office Tuesday morning, but an administrator
came out to shake each student’s hand and promised to pass the document
to the president.
“We welcome their call to action and we welcome their
recommendations,” university spokesman Mike Schoenfeld said.
Administrators plan to discuss the issues with students, he said.
“These are not new issues at Duke,” Schoenfeld said. “Many people
have been working for a long time to create a positive environment for
African-American students at Duke.”
The Durham university has about 6,500 undergraduate students, about
47 percent of them white and 10 percent black. The largest group of
non-whites is Asian-American, representing 21 percent of the
undergraduate population. The university community has been embroiled in
racially charged debates before, as during the fallout over accusations
of rape — later found to be false — leveled at white Duke lacrosse
players by a black woman six years ago. Bad feelings over that case
linger in Durham to this day.
Asante said the students will wait to hear the university’s response
to their call to action before deciding on what steps to take next.
“We will do what is necessary to ensure that our voices are heard,” she said.