Saturday, December 05, 2015

Black Self-segregation in Politics and Academia -- Part 3 (strategic partnerships)

Last update: Saturday 12/515
In Part 2 of these notes, I suggested that most Black students are underperforming at most predominantly white institutions (PWIs), not just because they endure racist micro aggressions, but because they must strive for academic success without the benefit of the pervasive support networks of peers, teachers, tutors, mentors, and role models that sustain Black students at HBCUs.  

I also noted that most HBCUs face existential challenges because of their adherence to inefficient, labor-intensive, face-to-face methods for supporting their students ...  plus insufficient non-tuition revenue sources, i.e.,  endowments, affluent alums, and royalties from commercialized research ... plus their lack of enough powerful political patrons to guarantee the continued flow of public funds
  • In other words, more than 90 percent of Black college students attend PWIs where most of them are underperforming because the PWIs don't provide the support their Black students require. 

  • I will go further. No matter what commitments they make to student activists in the Black Lives Matter movement, most PWIs cannot provide the needed support networks because they cannot hire enough qualified Black faculty. Why not? Because there aren't enough qualified Black PhDs to go around. Yes, there really is a "pipeline problem", but it's not in Silicon Valley. It's in academia. The pernicious legacy of centuries of slavery and decades of apartheid cannot be wiped out within the next ten to twenty years.
  • For similar reasons, most PWIs don't have enough Black students in advanced classes to act as tutors, nor do they have enough Black alums to act as mentors and role models. 
  • By contrast, HBCUs know how to support Black students, but will reach fewer and fewer Black students in the coming decades because most HBCUs don't have enough technology, non-tuition revenue, and political backing. 
If the reader grants my assertion that PWIs have more technology, larger funding, and stronger political backing than HBCUs, then we have a framework for mutually beneficial, strategic partnerships between HBCUs and PWIs  Each partner has critical resources the other partner needs. 

More technology for HBCUs

Most HBCUs need more cost-effective, scalable classroom technologies in the form of e-Learning, e.g., online and blended courses, that will enable their instructors to teach their students in a more cost-effective manner. They also need the scalable technologies of social networks to enable more of their successful Black alums to interact with their on-campus students as mentors and role models.
  • PWIs, especially public institutions, have been prolific developers of online and blended courses, especially the so-called "flipped" courses wherein students are first exposed to new subject matter via short online videos they watch at home, then engage in instructor-led activities in class that strengthen their understanding of the new materials. In other words many PWIs have the technical expertise to help HBCUs to produce their own online and blended courses.
  • As for using social media to involve more alums as mentors and role models, I am unaware of any widespread initiatives among PWIs in these regards. Nevertheless, PWIs have larger budgets for larger IT support staff who could help their HBCU partners adapt Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media for these purposes.

Using technology to extend HBCU networks to support Black students at PWIs
The previous section noted that HBCUs currently employ inefficient face-to-face networks to support their own students; so they need to adopt e-learning technologies and social media. Entering strategic partnerships with PWIs "merely" requires that HBCUs extend their new e-learning and social media to provide support for Black students at PWIs.
  • The word "merely" appears in quotes because extending HBCU support networks to PWIs is easier said than done ... but for lack of viable alternative solutions, it is something that must be done for the next ten to twenty years. Otherwise we will bear witness to endless repetitions of the same sad scenario wherein PWIs diffuse Black Lives Matter demonstrations by making promises to their Black students the PWIs cannot possibly keep ... which will inevitably lead to more strident demonstrations when the Black students realize they have been conned.
  • HBCUs should also make the lecture videos in their online and blended courses available to their PWI partners so that the Black students at the PWIs have the opportunity to learn from Black experts who will thereby serve as additional role models for them. I further suggest that White and Asian American students at PWIs be exposed to these course materials so that they, too, can learn from Black experts in these subjects, thereby reinforcing their awareness that Black experts really exist.
  • It's important to note the pervasive roles that Black fraternities and sororities, especially the so-called "Divine Nine", play in all components of HBCU support networks. Indeed, their lifelong active membership includes students, faculty, staff, administrators, alums, and trustees. These organizations promote academic excellence by providing teachers, tutors, role models, and mentors for their HBCU communities. That's the good news. The better news is that the Divine Nine and other Black fraternal organizations also have chapters at hundreds of PWIs  although their influence at PWIs is nowhere near as extensive as at HBCUs. Nevertheless, the fraternal linkages between HBCUs and PWIs could greatly enhance the effectiveness of strategic partnerships between HBCUs and PWIs.
Strategic partnerships could provide support networks for large numbers of Black students at PWIs, but would they be able to reach all Black students at all PWIs?  Probably not ... and so what. In the real world, more of a good thing is usually better than less, and a lot more is always better. Secretary Clinton's phrasing comes to mind, "We can't let the perfect get in the way of the good." 

Finally, if HBCU support networks are valuable, but relatively scarce commodities, PWIs will take their partnerships with HBCUs more seriously. To my way of thinking, this is a good thing. For too many decades I have been frustrated by the patronizing, fallacious assumptions of policy-makers and prominent members of the PWI community that HBCUs would always derive important benefits from partnerships with PWIs, but never the other way around. 

Note: Regular readers of this blog know that I greatly prefer the term "non-HBCUs" to PWIs because (a) HBCUs were the primary focus of this blog for a long time and (b) PWIs have provided better educational opportunities not just for White students, but for also for Asian American students. However the frequent comparisons of HBCUs and other institutions in this note were much easier to understand using "PWIs" than "non-HBCUs" ... :-)

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