Black On Campus
Higher Education and the African American Experience

Black College Presidents

February 10th, 2007 by Ajuan Mance

Harvard’s decision to appoint it’s first woman president (Drew Gilpin Faust) creates a natural opening for interested observers like me to assess the progress of other marginalized groups in making inroads into academia’s executive offices.

Given that even the most rudimentary level of academic achievement (basic literacy) was illegal for much of our history, African Americans’ success in breaking into the executive ranks of some of the nation’s most presitigious colleges and universities is nothing short of miraculous.

Still, Black campus executives are few and far between. Despite increasing numbers of Black faculty and administrators, obstacles still remain. In “An Overview of African American College Presidents,” Sharon Holmes explains:

Overall, access to educational and employment opportunities for African Americans in general has increased steadily since the turbulent 1960s; however, research indicates that a disparity still exists at various levels of the academic ladder when African Americans are compared to their White counterparts (Corrigan, 2002; Fields, 1991, 1998; Lindsay, 1999; Opp & Gosetti, 2002; Thomas & Hirsch, 1989). Some of the research also provides evidence to suggest that the vestiges of the past linger such that race and gender-related issues make equity, mutual respect, and full participation in all areas of the academy difficult for African American and other administrators of color to achieve (Holmes, 1999, 2003; Turner & Myers, 2000). This is not too surprising considering the long history of “-isms” that have pervaded most social institutions in the United States including institutions of higher education (Esty, Griffin & Hirsch, 1995). For example, Harvey (2001) reports that as late as 1997, African Americans represented only 8.9% of the full-time administrators in higher education, while their White counterparts comprised 85.9%. Similarly, in a study investigating female administrators, Wolfman (1997) found that even though African American women are an integral part of the American society and outnumber African American men as heads of public institutions, they constitute a mere 5% of the overall managerial group in American higher education.

Is academe as receptive to the African American college or university president as it needs to be? Are African American college presidents getting a fair shake in terms of support and compensation? Is African American movement into academia’s highest adminstrative posts happening at an acceptable rate?

Below you will find some of the most current facts and statistics on Black college presidents. Do these numbers paint a picture of progress or stagnation? You decide.

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(from the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education, 12/21/06 )

  • In 2001, 7 of the nation’s 2,320 four-year institutions of higher education were led by African American women. (The New Crisis, March/April 2001)
  • As of 2002, virtually all HBCUs were headed by people of color. When HBCUs and other minority institutions are excluded, however, the proportion of U.S. colleges and universities headed by people of color drops to less than 10% (American Council on Education, December 9, 2002)
  • In 1986, the typical college president was a white male, age 52, married, with a doctorate degree, who had been in office 6.3 years (The American College President: 2002 Edition by Melanie Corrigan)
  • The typical college president in 2001 was a white male, age 57, married, with a doctorate degree, who had been in office 6.6 years, and served previously as a senior campus executive. (The American College President: 2002 Edition by Melanie Corrigan)
  • In 2002, 6.3 percent of all college presidents were African American, representing more than half of all minority presidents. (The American College President: 2002 Edition by Melanie Corrigan)
  • In 2002 Minority presidents were more likely than white presidents to be women. More than one-third of Hispanic presidents (35.2 percent) and one-quarter of African-American presidents (24.2 percent) were women compared with 21 percent of white presidents. (The American College President: 2002 Edition by Melanie Corrigan)
  • In 2002 Minority presidents were more likely to lead larger institutions — almost half of African-American presidents and more than half of Hispanic presidents led institutions with headcount enrollments greater than 5,000, compared with less than 30 percent of white presidents. (The American College President: 2002 Edition by Melanie Corrigan)

Posted by Ajuan ManceĀ 

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Posted in Academia, African Americans, College Presidents, Current Events, Higher Education, My Favorite Blogs, Ruth Simmons, Women

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