Emory Report

 August 25, 1997

 Volume 50, No. 1

First Person

Editor's Note: This is a corrected version of the original text that was incorrectly put on the Emory Report web site. We regret any confusion this may have created.

Are Emory's efforts at internationalization at the
expense of black students?

There are two words, each of which begins with the syllable "in," that are frequently used these days (and may thus be considered "in" in another sense) at Emory and on other campuses around the country. Those words are "interdisciplinary" and "internationalization." If challenged, I'm not sure that I could provide an operational definition for either of these terms in the Emory context, but I am aware of at least some of the implications of such definitions for the Emory community. It is the second of these two words, internalization, that provides the stimulus for this essay.

Whatever the operational definition of internationalization turns out to be for Emory, such a definition will almost certainly have implications related to the allocation of resources, human and fiscal, to support international projects. Because the size of the fiscal pie, in particular, is likely to remain finite, resources that are devoted to international programs and projects presumably will not be available for use elsewhere. One of the documents that explains the role and purpose of the President's Commission on the Status of Minorities describes the commitment of the University "to improve the quality of life for minority faculty, students and staff." I am concerned that this commitment may suffer as Emory reconfigures its mission to function more effectively in a global community.

I've just finished reading two interesting and provocative books, Alien Nation by Peter Brimelow and The Case Against Immigration by Roy Beck. One of the most significant conclusions reached by both authors is that the segment of the U.S. population that has been most negatively affected by the wave of immigration that the country has experienced since the immigration laws were changed in 1965 is African Americans. Both authors provide anecdotal and data-based evidence to support this conclusion.

Of course, internationalization means more than just increasing the number of international students and scholars on the Emory campus, but fostering such increases will almost certainly be one component of our commitment to become a more international community. The question is, will at least some of the costs associated with our support of this "immigration policy," and other elements of our push toward internationalization, have a negative impact on our ability to attract African American scholars to Emory and to create an environment in which black students and scholars can develop and flourish?

Emory has evidenced a commitment to enroll African American students and there have been significant increases in black student enrollments in at least some recent years at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. The same may be true in the professional schools. The recent rulings in Texas and California may, however, work to erode enrollments over time, especially at the graduate and professional levels, as African American students decide not even to apply to schools and colleges because they have concluded that the doors have already closed.

Moreover, the increase in the number of black graduate students has been accompanied by an increase in the number of international graduate students enrolled here, and the latter increase reflects a national trend. According to a 1990 survey by the National Research Council, black students are required to finance a much larger fraction of their graduate education than are international students because most American universities provide more financial aid to foreign students than to African Americans. This may not be the case here at Emory, but this conclusion highlights the point that Emory must continue to be active in its efforts to recruit, support and retain African American students and to ensure that its other interests, e.g., internationalization, are not substituted for those efforts.

Although we may have done reasonably well with regard to our commitment to increase the number of African American students at Emory, we don't seem to have done as well in the faculty and administrative areas. As far as I'm aware, there are no African Americans at Emory with the title vice president or vice provost. There are no African American deans at Emory.

According to the College office, there are only 18 tenured or tenure-track African American faculty in Emory College. If our goal is to have African Americans represented on our faculties at a level that is comparable to their representation in the general population in this country, the number of African American faculty in Emory College should be more than twice its actual value. There are only five departments in Emory College with as many as two African American faculty and only two departments with more than two. This means, of course, that most College departments have none. I would wager that there are many more foreign-born faculty in Emory College than there are African American faculty.

Let me conclude by citing another "in" word, one which has fallen into disfavor in recent years-integration. Many Americans, black and white, have stepped back from some of the philosophies and policies that were linked to integration in the '60s and '70s, and rightly so. But at least some of the goals of integration-to increase the opportunities for African Americans and other American minorities, to increase their representation at all levels of our society, to effectively use the skills and talents they offer-are still worthy objectives. There are additional steps that can be and need to be taken in the Emory environment to achieve them.

It is my fervent hope that as we move toward the laudable goal of increasing Emory's engagement in programs and projects that are international in nature, we will not forget our responsibilities to those segments of our existing community who still deserve our attention and support. As we strive to internationalize, let us not forget our own.

George Jones is the Goodrich C. White Professor of Biology.

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