• UConn offers benefits of single-race housing for black male students.
• Denies benefits of single-race housing to whites, black female students.
By Ronald L. Ray —
The University of Connecticut (UConn) recently caused a major stir, when it announced the formation of a new program for first- and second-year black male students. “Scholastic House of Leaders who are African American Researchers & Scholars” (ScHOLA²RS House), scheduled to open in Fall 2016, is intended to be “a Learning Community designed to support the scholastic efforts of male students who identify as African American/Black through academic and social/emotional support, access to research opportunities, and professional development,” according to its website.
But the announcement has led some to suggest that “anti-racism” has gone too far, creating its own racist, sexist world.
ScHOLA²RS House, which initially will accommodate up to 40 male students, will be led by Dr. Erik Hines, an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Psychology at UConn. Hines told Fox 61 News, “It is a space for African American men to one, come together and validate their experiences that they may have on campus. No. 2, it’s also a space where they can have conversation and also talk with individuals who come from the same background who share the same experience.”
Hines said he is trying to do something proactive to improve the retention and graduation rates of black male students. While 82.5% of UConn students graduate, only 54% of black men attain a degree. In this sense, Hines’s efforts are laudable.
Stephanie Reitz, spokesperson for UConn, told Boston.com, “We know it’s not [an] issue of whether African-American males have the capability to excel in school; rather, it is their environment that sometimes inhibits their potential.”
But, contrary to some news reports, ScHOLA²RS House will not be a “black male only” residence hall. The “learning community” (LC) will share a floor with another LC in the NextGen dormitory now under construction. The building will house nearly 20 LCs focused on various student academic populations, including one—“WiMSE House”—solely for women majoring in mathematics, science, and engineering.
Hines told the website “Daily Campus”: “We want to do a lot of intrusive counseling. . . . We will look at their academic preparation, their social emotional development, their growth and their career development,” ostensibly to assist participants’ success. Whether the students and parents will be keen on that remains a question.
While participating students will have ample opportunity to interact with the rest of the university community, Hines considers the segregated living space a key component for assisting the young black men’s academic success.
“Let’s go back to the research literature. Most students are going to persist in college if they are in a space that is comfortable for them,” according to Hines. “We look at the living space as a place where they can meet other people who look just like them, who have shared experiences.”
If Hines is to be believed, just being in an environment where people have a different skin color contributes to black men’s failure rates. That seems to be more a maturity issue than a racial one, and a failure to recognize that many people in the world live successfully as a minority in society.
The larger question, however, is whether ScHOLA²RS House is “political correctness run amok” and actually creates greater racial problems. In an effort to find out, AFP submitted 12 questions to Hines and David Ouimette, executive director of UConn’s First Year Programs and Learning Communities. Both declined to respond, allegedly due to prior commitments, but referred us to university spokesperson Stephanie Reitz.
In response to AFP’s question as to whether Hines’s new initiative violates equal educational opportunity laws, Ms. Reitz stated in an email: “[B]ecause females will receive housing of exactly the same quality in the same dorm [WiMSE House], the program complies with applicable laws on gender equality.”
Boston.com reported, however, “Although [ScHOLA²RS] participation will be open to all students, those who identify as black or mixedrace will be prioritized in selection.” Ms. Reitz also told AFP, “Any male undergraduate student enrolled at the University of Connecticut and eligible for on-campus housing can apply to live in ScHOLA²RS House.”
The ScHOLA²RS website seems to have been altered in the latter sense, too, perhaps due to a realization that racial preferences and segregation could violate federal laws. So, will de facto preferences continue anti-white discrimination, or will Hines’s initiative be undermined by a large influx of interested white men?
Here are just a few of the remaining 11 queries about racial segregation and preference.
• Has the decades-old politically correct practice of passing unprepared minority students on to the next grade in school contributed to low graduation rates of black men?
• Should admission to and retention at college be based strictly on ability and aptitude, or should certain groups or individuals receive favored treatment, even if they are scholastically inferior or unprepared for college?
• Should a white men-only learning community be accepted on campus?
• Is ScHOLA²RS House a step back from racial integration?
• Will it move toward what evidence suggests may be a more successful single-sex, single-race learning environment?
UConn failed to respond to these questions.