When Black Men Succeed
The litany of bad news about the status of black men in higher education is by now familiar. They make up barely 4 percent of all undergraduate students, the same proportion as in 1976. They come into college less prepared than their peers for the rigors of college-level academic work. Their completion rates are the lowest of all major racial and ethnic groups in the U.S.
Shaun R. Harper is tired of hearing the list. It’s not that he believes it’s inaccurate — the facts are the facts — or irrelevant. But what troubles Harper, an associate professor of higher education at the University of Pennsylvania, is that it’s pretty much all that we hear, in higher education research, in news reports, and as reflected in campus policies. That single-minded theme struck Harper personally as incomplete, since it didn’t reflect his own experience or that of many black men he knew
And it troubled him professionally, as well, because he believes the relentless emphasis by researchers and others on the failures of black men has helped “shape America’s low expectations for black men.” For teachers and counselors and others in a position to influence black men, he says, “if all you read about them is bad news, it’s really hard to craft high expectations for them.”