Monday, December 1, 2008

Engaging African American Intellectual, Academic Interests

What prevents a university from taking a more active approach to engaging African American students in the intellectual life of the institution? How might university officials become more inspired to involve black students academically and professionally?

Colleges and universities do a fairly good job of getting black students involved with social life and fun activities. African American students coordinate and attend parties. They have a say in some of the entertainment acts that come to campus.

In many cases, African American students are active in student government. And at schools with top flight basketball and football programs, black athletes are actively recruited in high school and sometimes earlier.

But when it comes to academics, the story is different. At our university, for instance, black students are hardly ever involved in honors programs and special academic activities.

There is, in some areas at least, systematic exclusion going on. To be fair, I imagine that exclusion is unintentional. Many professors, staff, and administrators are perhaps unaware that it goes on, or they have limited knowledge of its effects.

Nonetheless, it’s worth considering how universities might do a better job of engaging the academic and intellectual interests of African Americans on a higher level. But first, I suppose, we’d need to consider some of the barriers.

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