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I want you to read something that caught my attention this week:
“When we have more national championships than we do black male freshmen, it’s evident that our only purpose here is to improve your winning percentage. So now black high school kids can care less about grades just as long as the number on the back of their jersey doesn’t fade; and you tell me I should be proud to be a Bruin.”
That’s Sy Stokes, a third-year Afro-American studies student at the University of California, Los Angeles stating that 65 percent of the small number of black students at UCLA are undergraduate athletes.
Stokes identifies himself as Black, Cherokee and Chinese. He also says he’s the cousin of tennis legend and former Bruin the late Arthur Ashe.
He is joined by about a dozen other young African-American men who wonder out loud why they should be proud to be UCLA Bruins when the latest undergraduate admissions information shows only 3.8 percent are African-American students.
Out of almost 20 thousand male students enrolled at UCLA, only 660 are black.
According to Stokes, the school has more national sports championships– 109– than black male freshmen– 48– currently enrolled at the university.
The young men who are challenging the school to be more inclusive and who are making their voices heard through a video posted online and through a change.org petition that’s gaining momentum.
I really frankly admire the young men. They are brave and should be applauded in their efforts to encourage UCLA to do better in recruiting African-American students, with particular focus on black males.
Here are some facts though that they and you should be aware of.
As a trustee of the college from which I was a graduate, Brooklyn College, I know that the hardest students for us to recruit academically or otherwise are black males.
According to the U.S. Department of Education the college graduation rate for black males nationwide is 33.1 percent. At UCLA it’s 74 percent. That’s a good percentage but 74 percent of a small number is an even smaller number. You understand what I’m saying?
However, I want those young men in that UCLA video to know what I know as someone who sits on the board of a college, a very diverse college as a matter of fact. As someone who communicates with students and educators a few times a month on this very issue.( I just left Miami-Dade last week doing a summit on this very issue.)
Number one, you should be encouraging UCLA to improve its recruiting and diversity practices. But highly qualified, academically competitive black students, many of them male, are having their way in good numbers at ivy league universities and historically black colleges and universities like Morehouse and Spellman with graduation rates in the 80 and 90 percent ranges. The onus is not just on schools like UCLA to improve diversity. It’s on society to understand the history of this country and its uneven playing field. it’s mostly on us to improve the students and the schools in our own communities.
So, I completely understand it when the young men in the video say, “stop pretending that the wounds of our past have healed. We’re not asking for a handout. we’re asking for a level playing field.”
True, but in order for that playing field to level out, we have to place a premium on education, on academics, on closing the achievement gap for young, black people, especially young black men.
We have to make them the best and the brightest so UCLA and other schools like it won’t have any other choices and no more excuses.