Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Your News: The Campus Accountability Project (CAP)

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Dr. Boyce Watkins

Hello to the Your Black World Family,

Think for one second and ask yourself:  How many Black professors did you have in college outside of those who taught African American studies?  Have you ever wondered why other students get to have professors who look like them, but Black people don't expect to have that same right?  Imagine how much more comfortable your college experience would have been if you'd had a few more professors who looked like you.  That is what I am here to discuss.

I am working in conjunction with the National Action Network on "The Campus Accountability Project."  The goal of this initiative (which is going to last for no less than 10 years) is to directly confront the fact that most American campuses (HBCUs included) have a horrifically low representation of African American faculty, especially at the tenure level.  As we know, America has a very twisted history when it comes to diversity and treatment of people of color, and this history shows itself in the present every single day.  I remember being personally frustrated during my collegiate experience, given that I attended 4 years of college and another 7 years of graduate school without having ONE SINGLE AFRICAN AMERICAN PROFESSOR in any department, in any class, at any time.

This is WRONG and our students should not be forced to attend college within the confines of such an uncomfortable reality.  Personally, the experience can be traumatizing for our children and obviously leads to high drop out rates of Black college students. The acceptance of this way of life relegates Black people to second class citizenship status in many of America's colleges and universities. Our children deserve better than this.

So, rather than just complaining about it, we are going to do something about it.  We are engaging in a national campaign for campus accountability, to encourage campuses to become more diverse.  We plan to conduct a series of meetings with university leadership, state legislators, legal counsel and community activists to ensure that our voices are heard.

The ideology is very simple: Diversity matters and campuses are ignoring it.  Additionally, diversity should not be laced with cosmetic tokenism, athletic scholarships and polite little King Day Celebrations.  It should be about respecting diverse ideas and ending the academic imperialism which disrespects Black scholarship and Black students, putting the needs of the African American community solely on the back burner.  Black athletes give nearly a billion dollars a year to the NCAA on the football fields and basketball courts; well, it's about time we start to get a return on our investment.

If you believe in this cause, I hope you will forward this email to as many people as you can.  This affects any American wishing to go to college (even if you didn't graduate), those who went to college and those who have children that they expect to send to college (which should be all of us, since education is crucial for success in this economy).  I personally plan to push this initiative at least until the year 2020, and I believe that by engaging in firm, direct and aggressive action, we can make a tremendous difference on this issue. 

There is a role for everyone here, since we are all hurt and affected by this problem.  So, I encourage you to call your own campuses and alma maters and hold them accountable.  IT IS NOT NORMAL for you to never be allowed to learn from a Black Professor.  We deserve the same privileges received by the White students, and universities must be pressed to explain why there are tens of thousands of qualified Black professors that they reject for hire or promotion every year.  Some will try to tell you that they can't find qualified minorities to hire, but that's simply a lie.  The problem is that the powers that be tend to believe that those who are different are inferior, which is reflective of the White Supremacist foundation of the decision-making infrastructure of most American campuses (notice there were no Black people on most of these campuses for the first 80 - 100 years of operation.  When Black people arrived, they certainly had no decision-making rights).  There's no point in tap dancing around the issues and change will only be made if we are willing to fight for it. 

Below, there is a very short survey to help us collect data on your college experience.  It will only take 1 minute to fill out (it's very short) and it sorts you into HBCU and non-HBCU categories for the 4 questions provided.  We also ask that you join the Campus Accountability Project to help us make America's campuses into trust worthy incubators of Black intellectual development.  We know that a mind is a terrible thing to waste, but brilliant Black minds will always be wasted without the presence of high quality Black mentorship.  Had I not met Dr. Tommy Whittler (the only Black professor in the entire Business School at The University of Kentucky), I never would have become a professor.

To fill out the survey, please click here.  To sign up to join the Campus Accountability Project, please click here.

Be blessed, be strong and be intelligent.  DO NOT spend one second being afraid.  Life is too short for that.


Dr Boyce Watkins

Syracuse University, Your Black World

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