NEW ORLEANS–DILLARD University is exploring ways Louisiana colleges can increase enrollment and re- tention rates among Black men on their campuses.
The New Orleans’ HBCU initiated this pro- cess by hosting an event called “Louisiana Summit on Black Male Student Suc- cess in Higher Education.” The goal of the summit was to introduce methods of de- veloping programs and ini- tiatives to ensure a healthy matriculation of Black men through college while in- creasing their presence.
“More has been written about Black men since 1997 than any other race or sex group in higher education, but yet the outcomes re- main unchanged, ”said Dr. Shawn R. Harper, Execu- tive Director of the Center for the Study of Race and Equity in Education at Uni- versity of Pennsylvania.
Harper, who served as the Keynote speaker, said that individuals who share research using negative headlines and statistics are creating initiatives based on what he refers to as “bad math”.
“I often argue in my work that those who really want to improve success for Black male undergrad- uate students have much to learn from Black male un- dergraduate students who are successful, but that is often not the first part of strategy,” Harper said.
Harper acknowledged the success of the Urban Prep School, a Chicago all- Black-boys high school. Ur- ban Prep has made head- line news for the past four consecutive years due to its 100 percent graduation rate and four-year college acceptance.
“Why not go to a place where 100 percent of the seniors, who are guys, got admitted to college and try
to figure out what in the world [they are doing] phil- osophically, organization- ally, politically, financially and intrinsically – and what they have done there will be the instructive for the rest us who are concerned with improving rates of success among Black male students” Harper said.
Harper noted that sometimes when institu- tions want to implement programs they over look the basic steps when it comes to planning. He said the downfall of well-inten- tioned initiatives could sim- ply be the fact that no plan has been written down.
“There have also been missing standards. No standards by which to design, implement and as- sess and these initiatives”, Harper said.
Former University of Toledo professor Tyrone Bledsoe, PhD agreed with Harper’s appeal. Bledsoe is the founder of the Student African American Brother- hood (SAAB), a mentoring organization that focuses on ways to increase college readiness and retention among Black men through- out the country by holding administrators responsible for their students’ success.
“I want everyone to stand, look at the person next to you and see if you can find something wrong with them,” Bledsoe in- structed the summit audi- ence. “I want you to look at that person and see if they are at risk – isn’t that what we do with Black males?”
Bledsoe continued by explaining that he used the exercise to describe the way that initiatives approach Black men with the “I can fix you” attitude, instead of assets to our communities.
SAAB works by imple- menting its mentor style program in middle school through college levels by working with school dis- tricts and university ad- ministrators. Bledsoe said the organization operates this way so there is always a level of accountability at the administration level.
According to Bledsoe, the issue of Black men be- ing successful in higher education has now become an international issue and he is working with orga- nizations in Germany and London to introduce his mentoring initiative.