Administration responds at black student summit

More than 100 black students and 50 administrators discussed Emory's initial response in an ongoing discussion of black student concerns during a three-hour meeting on Jan. 12, organized by the Black Student Alliance.

Senior Jonathan Butler, president of the Black Student Alliance, opened the meeting by describing the events during the 1994 spring semester, including a February early morning wake-up protest, which led to the initial black student summit meeting last April. "The summit was a chance for Emory decision makers to hear the concerns of black students," said Butler. "During the summer, groups of administrators met to respond to our concerns," he said, "and then in November they gave initial reports to a small group of black student leaders." Butler noted that the evening's meeting was a chance for Emory to respond to all black students and for students to ask questions about the reports.

Mel Lockhart, vice provost for academic enrollment and planning, gave a detailed report from the Admissions and Financial Aid committee in response to issues raised about the recruitment and awarding of financial aid to black students. The report outlined how decisions are made at the university and school levels to allocate financial aid and to recruit and admit students. The report also charted gains in black enrollment from 3.1 percent in 1976 to 9.8 percent in 1994; in black applicants to Emory College, from 162 in 1983 to 986 in 1994; and the growth of Emory College's financial aid from $1 million in 1980 to $19 million in 1994.

Lockhart noted that several steps have been taken to increase the applicant pool and admission rates of black students. "We have a great pool of admitted black students; turning those admitted students into enrolled students continues to be a challenge," said Lockhart.

The committee suggested several steps to improve the yield among admitted black applicants including the funding of campus visits for admitted applicants, more follow-up by current black students with admitted applicants and expanding black alumni participation in recruitment. One suggestion that cannot be implemented now was to eliminate loans for needy black students. According to Lockhart, the cost of eliminating loans to black students would be more than $1 million annually; the cost of eliminating loans in the entire student body would be several times that.

Lockhart's committee also examined Emory's policy, which increases the amount of student loans each year a student is enrolled. Lockhart noted that this was a complex issue, related both to annual increases in costs and to federal limits on low-interest loans. If Emory averaged the loan amount over four years instead of increasing it according to federal guidelines, students would have to borrow at higher interest rates and end up paying more for their loans. New materials have been developed to more clearly communicate this information to students and their families when they receive their first financial aid award.

At the end of her remarks, Lockhart said, "All of our data suggest that the most important voice influencing the enrollment decision is that of a current student or a recent graduate. Our goal is that every admitted black student have a personal contact with an enrolled black student or alum." More than 60 students pledged to help with recruitment by calling prospective students or hosting them when they visit campus.

A panel of academic deans was on hand to respond to student questions. Many of the questions and much of the lively and intense discussion of this report dealt with the growth of loans for students and the impact it has had on students.

Faculty and Curriculum

David Bright, dean of Emory College, reviewed the Faculty and Curriculum report and explained that the report was primarily a college, business and graduate school response. He discussed efforts to recruit black faculty, the curri black applicanculum review currently under way in Emory College, and improving faculty interaction with students. Acting Graduate School Dean Eleanor Main outlined efforts to support black students in graduate work.

Following Bright's and Main's remarks, there was an extensive discussion on the reasons Emory does not hire its own Ph.D.s and how students could encourage the faculty to revise the curriculum to require courses on the pluralism of American society.

Images and Campus Life

Much less time was spent on the reports from the Images and Campus Police committee and the Campus Life committee. With the meeting nearly 30 minutes behind schedule, Bob Ethridge, associate vice president of Equal Opportunity Programs, briefly reviewed his committee's report, which discussed actions taken to respond to student concerns about custodial staff in Residential Facilities and Facilities Management, the Emory Wheel's coverage of minority student news, and the Emory Police Department's treatment of black students.

Walter Kimbrough, coordinator of Greek Life, discussed concerns about racial segregation of students in residence halls and noted that while 55 percent of black male freshmen request co-ed by floor housing assignments, only 15 percent of black female freshmen request co-ed by floor. He noted this as a cultural issue that explained the lack of black students living in McTyeire and Trimble.

Much of the discussion following Kimbrough's report echoed that which followed the Image committee report, specifically, concerns about support and opportunities for custodial staff.

After sitting through the nearly three hours of presentations and discussion, President Bill Chace said in his closing remarks that of the 20 questions posed that had covered the full gamut of issues, he wanted to talk about two questions that struck him more deeply and powerfully - those associated with financial aid and a question asking whether anything has really changed at Emory with regard to the environment for black students.

"Mel Lockhart has given us a lucid, full and persuasive argument about how financial aid is accomplished and dispersed," said Chace. "But I'm ready to say, as a witness to the evening, that some things about financial aid are not easily understandable. We must make the principles and methods of financial aid more accessible to each student.

"The question about the status quo reminded me that, despite what my administrative colleagues and I think we are doing, the extraordinary advances that we see happening in the past 10 or 20 years at Emory, we see this from a largely white perspective. For students here today, the changes are not rapid enough, not visible enough, not dramatic enough. And that shows the painful dichotomy between administrative and student perceptions of change. Students have four or five precious years to extract from the institution and feel that changes should take place.

"In the end, a good university does not educate groups of people; the secret of education is to educate individuals, one-by-one, and Emory will serve or fail you to the degree by which it can penetrate your hearts and make you a stronger, more capable version of who you are."

Frances Lucas-Tauchar, vice president for Campus Life, ended the evening with brief remarks about the commitment of the academic deans to address these issues and noted that the reports have been turned over to the President's Commission on the Status of Minorities to follow through. She also thanked the students for their commitment to work for change and reiterated the University's commitment to continued dialogue.

Copies of the full reports are available by calling the Campus Life office at 727-4364.

-Jan Gleason