Student protests at the University of Missouri last year captured the national spotlight and uncovered deep-seated racial tension on campus. But Mizzou was not alone. Several other campuses were also on edge—from the University of Oklahoma fraternity members caught singing a racist chant on video, to hate groups counter protesting a University of Mississippi student demonstration to remove the state flag with its Confederate emblem.
Walter M. Kimbrough, president of the historically Black Dillard University, points to the “Missouri Effect” in his new Washington Post article as an explanation for the enrollment increase this year at HBCUs.
Kimbrough said freshmen enrollment is up by 22 percent at his university, 49 percent at Shaw University in North Carolina, and 32 percent at Tuskegee University in Alabama.
This upward trend goes back at least three years, according to University of Pennsylvania Professor Marybeth Gasman, director of the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions, and Ph.D. candidate Amanda Washington, a research assistant at the institute.
They wrote in The Hill that America’s social and political landscape contributes to the enrollment surge at HBCUs.
“Black students who choose to attend an HBCU are doing so to continue learning their history, to engage in an environment that appreciates their contributions, and to cultivate their minds in safe and welcoming spaces,” Gasman and Washington added.
Interestingly, many university presidents are apparently unaware of racial tensions on their own campus. A recent Inside Higher Ed and Gallup survey found that 84 percent of them believe race relations are excellent or good on their campus. But only 24 percent of the presidents believe race relations are good on other campuses.
Kimbrough said he graduated from predominantly White universities and believes that African-American students can flourish in that environment.
However, parents and students who choose those institutions must do so with their eyes wide open. For example, don’t expect (or demand) to find many Black professors at a university located in a rural area of a mostly White state.
At the same time, Kimbrough calls on White university presidents to lead the way on campus inclusiveness.