Tastemaker Spotlight: Interview with Isioma Nwabuzor, the DREAMer Next Door

Posted on Categories Alumni Contributor, Higher Education, Immigration Law, Legal Profession, Public1 Comment on Tastemaker Spotlight: Interview with Isioma Nwabuzor, the DREAMer Next Door

I recently had the privilege of interviewing an incredible colleague — and friend — Isioma Nwabuzor. This intelligent, passionate, and compassionate woman has served as a role model for many youth of color in the Milwaukee’s legal and social communities.  Please enjoy her thoughts and insight into the good work she is doing for our city and for the future of the legal profession.

Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Isioma Nwabuzor and I am a transactional attorney at Baird. I am originally from Nigeria, West Africa, but was raised and lived in Milwaukee for as long as I can remember. I am a member of several professional and/or service organizations, including Rotary International, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., and the Association of Corporate Counsel.

How has your journey to and through the legal profession been influenced by your life and roots?

My maternal grandfather was a high-court judge in the country of Nigeria. I come from a long line of attorneys on my mother’s side, so my family always jokes that my inclination towards a career in the legal profession is hereditary. However, from a different facet, all that I am motivates me to give a voice to the voiceless. My experiences as a member of several minority demographics (I’m a Black woman and an immigrant) has inspired a passion and fight in me that, I believe, lends itself well to adversarial careers, such as the legal profession.

Tell us about Dreamer Next Door, your new 501(c)(3).

The DREAMer Next Door, Incorporated is a non-profit organization that was borne from my TEDx Talk of the same name. Continue reading “Tastemaker Spotlight: Interview with Isioma Nwabuzor, the DREAMer Next Door”

In Support of the Humanities

Posted on Categories Education & Law, Higher Education, Political Processes & Rhetoric, PublicLeave a comment» on In Support of the Humanities

The seal of the National Endowment for the Humanities showing an eagle holding both arrows and an olive branch in its claws.Given the Trump Administration’s denunciations of various Americans and numerous manufactured crises, we might easily overlook its attack on the humanities.  For the third consecutive year, the Trump Administration has proposed closing down the National Endowment for the Humanities.  It has also proposed major cuts for the National Archives Administration and the complete elimination of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

The justifications for these kinds of cuts are predictable.  The endangered programs are said to be too costly, although the projected savings of only $28 million for National Endowment grants is not even a drop in the bucket compared to military and defense spending.  More generally, supporters of the cuts are prepared to echo the public’s growing skepticism about the value of the humanities, particularly because they purportedly do not result in marketable skills.

What we really need, some might insist, is more funding for STEM programs or, at least, a greater commitment to programs that develop roll-up-your-sleeves practical approaches to problem-solving.  These are the types of programs, it is claimed, that best prepare people for life and especially for work and employment in the context of the proverbial market economy.

Holding to the side the fact that STEM and skills funding already greatly exceed grants for teaching and research in the humanities, denigrators of the humanities overlook what might be gained from teaching and learning in such disciplines as art, classics, foreign languages, history, literature, music, philosophy, and religion.  Each of these disciplines in its own way invites us to reflect on the most fundamental of questions:  What does it mean to be human? Continue reading “In Support of the Humanities”

When is it Plagiarism?

Posted on Categories Higher Education, Legal Education, Legal Ethics, Legal Research, Legal Writing, Marquette Law School, Political Processes & Rhetoric, Public1 Comment on When is it Plagiarism?

trump obamaLast night’s Republican National Convention has thrust “plagiarism” to the forefront of the news. One of last night’s speakers was Melania Trump, the wife of presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump. Trump’s speech sounded to many strikingly similar to one given eight years earlier—by First Lady Michelle Obama at the Democratic National Convention in 2008.

How similar?

Incredibly so. Not just identical words, but nearly identical context and sentence structure. At one point, Trump says, “Because we want our children in this nation to know that the only limit to your achievements is the strength of your dreams and your willingness to work for them” (emphasis added). Eight years earlier, Obama had said, “Because we want our children — and all children in this nationto know that the only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work for them” (emphasis added).

That is plagiarism.

(You can see a side-by-side text comparison here and here and side-by-side video comparison here.) Continue reading “When is it Plagiarism?”

Learning the “Old-Fashioned Way”: Study Says Taking Notes by Hand Better for Recall

Posted on Categories Higher Education, Legal Education, Public2 Comments on Learning the “Old-Fashioned Way”: Study Says Taking Notes by Hand Better for Recall

note takingThese days, it’s hard to find a law student who doesn’t come to class with a laptop or tablet of some type. Even if the student avoids the temptation to access the Internet during class and simply uses his laptop to take notes, it’s likely his recall of concepts will be not as good as a student who takes her notes by hand.

According to a post in The Chronicle of Higher Education, researchers have found that taking class notes by hand helps students better recall concepts in the lecture. The researchers asked students to take notes using “their normal classroom note-taking strategy.” Some used laptops (disconnected from the Internet) and others used pen and paper and wrote longhand. After 30 minutes, students were tested on the lecture. Researchers discovered that while the laptop note-takers took more than twice the amount of notes as the longhand note-takers, the laptop note-takers “scored significantly lower in the conceptual part of the test.” Both groups scored the same on factual recall. Continue reading “Learning the “Old-Fashioned Way”: Study Says Taking Notes by Hand Better for Recall”

Returning College Athletics to College Students

Posted on Categories Higher Education, Public, Sports & Law2 Comments on Returning College Athletics to College Students

kansas city chiefs football gamesThere is a simple way to end the hypocrisy that is modern college sport and at the same time preserve the much-beloved pageantry of men’s college football and basketball.

First of all, we need to embrace the idea that college athletics should be a part of the educational mission of colleges, and not part of their “providing entertainment” function. Subject to the exception for men’s football and basketball set out below, participation in college athletics should be limited to regularly enrolled students who chose to attend their college free from the enticement of special financial support.

The first step is to abolish all athletic grants-in-aid (euphemistically called athletic scholarships) except for those awarded in men’s football and basketball. Except for a few pockets of fan support for college baseball and hockey and women’s basketball, the simple fact is that most sports fans do not care about college sports other than football and men’s basketball.

It is foolish for colleges to “hire” players for their “non-revenue” sports teams at great cost when there are so many regularly enrolled students who would be happy to participate on those teams without additional financial inducements. Marquette, for example, does not need to give athletic grant-in-aids to have men’s and women’s teams in tennis and soccer. Lots of current students would jump at the opportunity to be a member of one of those teams.

Obviously, the teams recruited from the ranks of the regular student body would not likely be as talented as those that are purchased with grants-in-aid; but what should matter more is that under this proposal regular students would have the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of athletic participation, rather than simply have the option of sitting in the bleachers, watching their professional “classmates.”

For the vast majority of students, even those who devoted much of their pre-college years to competitive sports, college athletic participation opportunities today are pretty much limited to the intramural and club sports. The unrecruited varsity “walk-on” who plays a meaningful role on a college sports team has become almost as rare as the college football player who is awarded a Phi Beta Kappa key.

Men’s football and basketball programs are exempted from the proposed grant-in-aid ban for purely historical reasons. Unlike the case in every other country in the world, at an early date in the United States colleges and universities, rather than private sector clubs or the state itself, assumed the role of sponsoring developmental professional leagues for men’s football and basketball. In this role, college teams in both sports came to be treated as the equivalent of the major professional sports leagues, at least with regard to fan interest.

“Big time” football schools have performed this function for more than a century, and having cultivated enormous fan-bases that extend well beyond the college community, it would not be feasible, or even desirable, to scale back the level of competition in these two men’s sports.

This proposal would obviously require a modification of Title IX, or at least its reinterpretation, but that should not be problematic. Title IX has from its beginning been about expanding educational opportunities and not about providing subsides for elite athletes.

Freed from a mechanical application of Title IX, this proposal would greatly expand educational opportunities. By eliminating athletic grant-in-aids in all other sports and by dramatically reducing athletic travel budgets colleges could expand the number of varsity and junior varsity opportunities for their students, both men and women. Title IX would still require schools to provide equal opportunities for male and female students, but the moneys spent on men’s football and basketball were no longer be part of the calculation. The money that would have gone to athletic grants-in-aid for non-revenue sports could be added to the institution’s regular financial aid budget.

Because “college” football and basketball are still inextricably linked to the idea that the players are students at the institutions they represent, scholarship players in men’s football and basketball would be required to remain enrolled as full-time college students, as they are now. Current eligibility rules could remain in place; players would still receive athletic grants-in-aid; and there would be no problem, at least from the perspective of this proposal, if the amount of the grant was increased to provide for additional spending money.

Schools with scholarship programs in men’s football and basketball could also operate non-scholarship teams in these two sports. Hence, Marquette could have both a scholarship varsity basketball team and a non-scholarship varsity team, each playing a separate schedule and likely in different conferences. While fan attention would likely continue to focus on the scholarship varsity team, the non-scholarship second team would give some regular Marquette students who enjoy playing basketball the opportunity to experience the benefits of participation in intercollegiate sports.

This proposal would return most college sports to students who come to college for the purpose of broadly preparing themselves for their future. It would take athletics away from those whose primary concern, reasonable or not, is for a career as a professional athlete. Superbly talented golfers, tennis players, and baseball and hockey players will find other ways to demonstrate their potential for professional careers in sport.

I know that some will object that this proposal will adversely affect those students whose only path to college is through a grant-in-aid in a non-revenue sport. However, I don’t see that as persuasive. There is nothing that will prevent a college from giving such a student regular financial aid if the student has academic potential as well. Alternatively, the school could take the money that would have gone for the athletic grant-in-aid and instead give it to an equally needy student with even greater academic potential.

This proposal could be implemented by voluntary action on the part of colleges and universities, either under the umbrella of the NCAA or outside of it. It could also be legislated into existence by Congress. However adopted, this proposal would benefit both athletics and higher education.

Teaching, Technology, and Eckstein Hall

Posted on Categories Higher Education, Legal Education, Marquette Law School, PublicLeave a comment» on Teaching, Technology, and Eckstein Hall

There is convergence of ideas about teaching and technology around the Law School lately. The Law School is holding idea sessions as part of our strategic planning process.  A significant part of the discussion involves teaching: effectiveness, learners, full and part-time education.  Earlier this week Douglas Fisher published an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education on “flipping” his database course at Vanderbilt. Flipping a course refers to taking the in-class lecture component and moving it to an online component, usually accomplished by recording the lecture. Earlier this summer I attended a presentation by Professor Norman Garland (Southwestern School of Law) who flipped his Evidence course and reported on the process and results. These threads all come together this week for me.

We haven’t flipped any classes here but we have blended (a term Garland prefers to flipping) a few. Some MULS faculty have been long time adopters of technology both in the classroom and outside. Many have electronic course pages, electronic supplements, electronic casebooks, and even video webcasts of course supplements. Several faculty here have blended some of their traditional in-class instruction with required out-of-class viewing of lectures. The MULS faculty who have blended their classes use the out-of-class lecture to establish the basics of the topic, which means in-class instruction can focus less on establishing the topic and more about exploring its nuances and its applications. Continue reading “Teaching, Technology, and Eckstein Hall”

Looking at the Increase in the Number of Law Schools and Law Students, 1950-2010

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There seems to be a consensus today that the United States has too many law schools and too many law students.

The table below looks at how we reached the current situation. It compares the increase in the number of law students and ABA accredited law schools to the general growth of the U.S. population on a decade by decade basis for the past 60 years.

Decade GeneralPopulation Increase Increase in Law School Combined Annual Enrollment Increase in Number of ABA Accredited Law Schools
1950-60 18.5% -16.9% 12.3% (114 to 130)
1960-70 13.3% 80.1% 10.8%  (130 to 144)
1970-80 11.5% 85.5% 17.4%  (144 to 169)
1980-90   9.8%   4.1%   3.6%  (169 to 175)
1990-00 13.2%   0.6%   4.0%  (175 to 182)
2000-10   9.7%  17.8%   5.4%  (182 to 200)

As the table indicates, there has never been a correlation between general population growth and increases in law schools and law students.

Although the decline in the number of law students in the 1950’s may be somewhat exaggerated by the fact that law school enrollment boomed in the late 1940’s because of the disruptive effects of the Second World War and the benefits provided by the GI Bill, the period was a remarkably stable era for legal education. Although the number of ABA-accredited law schools increased by 16 in the decade, there was no growth in the number of law students. Law schools remained essentially the same size across the decade or else reduced their enrollments.

In contrast, the decade of the 1960’s and 1970’s saw an enormous increase in the number of law students: a 234% increase over the 20 year period. (This figure compares the enrollment in the 1959-60 academic year with the enrollment in 1979-80.) This enormous growth occurred even though the number of law schools increased only by 30%, from 130 to 169. Obviously, lots of law schools got much larger in these two decades. Presumably, this increase was justified by an increase in the demand for legal services.

In contrast, the period between 1980 and 2000, was a period of remarkable stability for legal education. Total law school enrollment increased by less than 5% over the twenty year period, while the number of law schools increased by less than 8%.

Obviously, the stability of the final two decades of the 20th century ended in the first decade of the 21st. The current economic climate suggests that the nearly 18% increase in the number of law students was not economically warranted.

Why did this happen? What caused the controls exercised in the 1980’s and 1990’s to break down?

Knowledgeable observers are likely to cite the 1995 consent decree between the American Bar Association and the Clinton Justice Department in which the ABA agreed to relax the accreditation standards for new law schools. Moreover, in 2006, the Justice Department levied a fine on the ABA for violating the decree. Regardless of the degree to which the ABA lived up to its part of the agreement, it was clearly easier to establish a new ABA-accredited law school after 1995 than it was before.

However, the number of new ABA-accredited law schools in the first decade of the 21st century is not that out of line with the historical pattern. Between 1950 and 2000, the ABA accredited, on average, 13 or 14 new law schools per decade; between 2000 and 2010, the number was only 18.

While new law schools are responsible for part of the increase in the number of law students between 2000 and 2010, they do not explain the entire increase. Existing law schools also increased their size during the decade.

What the pattern will be in the 2010’s is not at all clear.

Study Finds That Second Year Law Students Pay Less Attention Than Their First and Third Year Counterparts

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Student use of laptop computers to surf the web during law school classes has been a much debated “problem” in legal education for more than a decade.

A recent study conducted at St. Louis University suggests that the practice is wide-spread, and that second year law students are most likely to use their laptops for “off-task” purposes. According to research conducted in 2010 by Kim Morse, the associate director of writing support at SLU Law School and a doctoral candidate in education, second year law students spent 42% of their in class time involved in “off-class” Internet activities. In comparison, the figures for first year and third year students were 35% and 25%, respectively.

The study also showed that there was no apparent correlation between laptop misuse and poor grades and that students with high LSAT scores were more likely to be surfing the Internet than their lower-scoring counterparts. In addition, classes taught by the Socratic method featured higher levels of laptop misuse than those taught by other methods.

Morse’s survey included just five classes during one semester at one law school. Students in the surveyed classes were told that they were being observed for class participation, but were not told that the way in which they used their laptops was specifically monitored. Given the admittedly small sample size, generalizations based on the study should be made with caution.

Moreover, in a world where multi-tasking has become the norm, one cannot necessarily assume that a student who is looking at unrelated websites is not also paying attention to the class.

 

New Affirmative Action Cases

Posted on Categories Civil Rights, Constitutional Interpretation, Federal Civil Litigation, Higher Education, Public, Race & Law, U.S. Supreme Court2 Comments on New Affirmative Action Cases

[Editor’s Note: This month, faculty members are posting on upcoming judicial decisions of particular interest. This is the second post in the series.]

It seems almost certain that the Supreme Court will again take up the issue of affirmative action in higher education, as two highly controversial cases separately make their way up the appellate ladder.

On two occasions, Regents of the University of California v. Bakke (1978) and the companion cases of Gratz v. Bollinger (2003) and Grutter v. Bollinger (2003), the Supreme Court has, by narrow 5-4 majorities, upheld the constitutionality of college and graduate school admissions programs that take race into account when making admissions decisions. In the same cases, the Court, also by 5-4 votes, struck down the use of formal admissions quotas (Bakke) and the awarding of a specific number of points for race in a numerically-based admissions systems (Gratz) as running afoul of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Although there was no clear majority sentiment on this point, the use of race as an admissions “consideration” was famously justified in opinions by now-former justices Lewis Powell and Sandra Day O’Connor as a way of achieving the “compelling state interest” in “diversity” in the composition of college and university student bodies.

In the first of the new cases, Fisher v. University of Texas, Abigail Fisher and a number of other unsuccessful white applicants to the undergraduate program at the University of Texas argue that they were denied the opportunity to attend the university because of its policy of taking race into account in making some of its admissions decisions.

The University of Texas uses an admissions system that guarantees admission to students who graduate in the top ten percent of their Texas high school classes. This system accounts for 81% of admitted students, but the other 19% are chosen through a competitive process in which race is taken into account as one of multiple factors used to determine which students will be offered admission. The policy was adopted following the Supreme Court’s decision in Grutter in which a similar practice by the University of Michigan Law School was upheld.

Fisher’s suit was dismissed by the federal district court on the grounds that this issue had been resolved by Grutter. On appeal to the Fifth Circuit, the three-judge panel unanimously upheld the decision of the district court, although one of the three, Judge Emilio Garza, filed a concurrence in which he forcefully questioned the correctness of the Grutter decision.

Fisher then petitioned for an en banc hearing, which was denied, although by a narrow vote of 9-7, with Chief Judge Edith Jones filing a dissenting opinion which was joined by four of her colleagues.

Fisher then petitioned to the United States Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari, and the petition remains on the Court’s current docket. To date, the University of Texas has, somewhat mysteriously, refused to respond to the petition, although at least six amicus briefs have already been filed. The Supreme Court has already taken the unusual step of formally requesting a response from the University, which now has until November 30, 2011, to file a reply or request an extension of the time to do so.

Should cert be granted, it is still possible that Fisher could still be argued before the full court during this term.

Two questions jump out in regard to this case. The first has to do with the personnel changes on the court since 2003. Is there now a five-justice majority willing to overturn the Court’s Grutter decision? Many observers think there is. Presumably, Chief Justice Roberts shares the affirmative action views of his predecessor Chief Justice Rehnquist, but there are strong reasons to believe that Justice Alito’s views are more in line with those of strongly anti-affirmative action justices Scalia and Thomas than they were of his predecessor, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. However, the matter is somewhat complicated by the increasingly unpredictable views of Justice Kennedy, who could conceivably shift over to the pro-affirmative action side.

The other interesting issue raised by Fisher involves a question of standing. No court has yet ruled that either Abigail Fisher or any of her other co-appellants would have been admitted to the University of Texas had it not been for the school’s practice of taking race into account. This is a recurring problem in reverse discrimination cases: how does a plaintiff establish conclusively that he or she has Article III standing to challenge an allegedly unconstitutional admissions system that may (or may not) have affected them adversely?

It is possible, of course, that the trial court could reach such a conclusion, as it apparently did in Bakke and Grutter, but in this case there was really never an opportunity to do so, since the district court believed the question to be irrelevant under Grutter.

The Supreme Court may (or may not) have reached this issue in its 1999 decision in Texas v. Lesage, a Section 1983 action filed by an unsuccessful white applicant for a graduate program at the same University of Texas. In that case, the Supreme Court unanimously dismissed the plaintiff’s action, but there the trial testimony had included evidence that Lesage would not have been accepted to the program, even if all of the available slots had been filled by Caucasians. (My friend Vik Amar has written a very intelligent commentary on this question which can be found at http://verdict.justia.com/2011/10/28/an-update-on-the-fisher-v-university-of-texas-affirmative-action-case.)

The second of the two new cases involves an amendment to the Michigan state constitution enacted after the Supreme Court’s decision in Grutter. The amendment was designed to achieve what the Gratz-Grutter litigation had not. Similar state constitutional amendments had earlier passed in California and Washington.

The Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, formally known as Proposal 2, was a proposed amendment to the Michigan Constitution that was adopted by a public referendum in 2006, by a vote of 58% to 52%. The amendment prohibits any agent of the state from discriminating against, or giving preferential treatment to, anyone on the basis of race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin.

The Proposal 2 amendment was sponsored by a number of groups, including noted black anti-affirmative action activist Ward Connerly and the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, whose executive director was Jennifer Gratz, the successful plaintiff in Gratz v. Michigan.

A number of different legal challenges have been filed against Proposal 2. An effort to have it removed from the ballot in 2006 as inconsistent with the federal Voting Rights Act was unsuccessful; however, after its adoption, it was again challenged on the theory that the amendment violated the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

In 2008, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan upheld the constitutionality of the Michigan Amendment, but that decision was recently reversed by a 2-1 decision of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Coal. to Defend Affirmative Action v. Regents of the Univ. of Mich. At the end of June, the court ruled that the amendment “unconstitutionally alters Michigan’s political structure by impermissibly burdening racial minorities.” The state of Michigan has petitioned for a hearing en banc, and as of the end of November, no ruling on the request has been issued.

While the Michigan case will not be part of the Supreme Court’s 2011-12 docket, it may well hear the matter the following year.

The Supreme Court has avoided making a conclusive ruling on the constitutionality of race-based affirmative action for almost forty years now, but the issue has a way of coming back time after time. However, with all the evidence pointing toward a sharply and evenly divided court, it is unlikely that these cases, if they are in fact heard, will be the end of the story.

Father Pilarz: Promoting Marquette’s Responsibility for Milwaukee’s Well-Being

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In a down-to-earth and sometimes self-deprecating way, Marquette University’s new president, the Rev. Scott Pilarz, S.J., offered a vision Monday of a university that simultaneously strengthens the quality of its academic programs and its research while becoming more involved with addressing Milwaukee’s needs.

Speaking during an “On the Issues” session with Mike Gousha, distinguished fellow in law and public policy, in the Law School’s Eckstein Hall, Pilarz described Marquette as one of the nation’s great universities. He said great universities successfully walk a tightrope in which student education and research are complementary, not competitive, interests.

Asked by Gousha what other universities he felt Marquette was competing with, he said, “I think we’re competing with Marquette to be the best Marquette we can be.” He said university leaders shouldn’t  spend a lot of time looking over their shoulders.  “We’re a major national university,” Pilarz said. The focus should simply be, “How do we improve Marquette?”

Pilarz took office as president on Aug. 1. Ceremonies to inaugurate him officially are scheduled for Thursday and Friday. Continue reading “Father Pilarz: Promoting Marquette’s Responsibility for Milwaukee’s Well-Being”

Rofes Receives Kutulakis Award

Posted on Categories Education & Law, Higher Education, Marquette Law School3 Comments on Rofes Receives Kutulakis Award

AALS Peter RofesIt was a privilege today to attend the lunch of the Section on Student Services at the Association of American Law Schools’ annual meeting. For our colleague, Professor Peter K. Rofes, received the section’s Peter N. Kutulakis Award. This award recognizes the outstanding contributions of an institution, administrator, or law professor in the provision of services to law students. Our Associate Dean for Administration, Bonnie M. Thomson, nominated Professor Rofes for the Kutulakis Award, and Professor Rofes richly deserves it.

Permit me to repeat what I said a year ago concerning Prof. Rofes. The context was my reporting to students, in my beginning-of-semester letter, that Prof. Rofes had elected to return this academic year to full-time faculty duties, in the tradition of the Law School, after lengthy service as director of the part-time program and associate dean for academic affairs. I wished to explain “my thanks and admiration”:

I have been especially impressed by Prof. Rofes’s ability—even while administering the academic program, including determining course offerings, working with full-time and adjunct faculty, overseeing the schedule, and running the Academic Support Program—never to lose sight of the individuals with whom he works and never to fail to make time, for example, for the individual in need of time, attention, or assistance. There is a lesson for you in his work. For your work as a lawyer also will be in support and service of others; indeed, the work of the lawyer inheres most basically in the attention to and care for another. I express at graduation my hope that you have found some models in these, your early days in the profession. You—we—would do well especially to consider the important ways in which Prof. Rofes is an exemplar.

Congratulations, Peter—and thank you.

New Study Shows Regional Disparity in African-American College Performance

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Racial disparities in education has been one of the central legal and cultural problems in post-World  War II America.  A recent study published by The Education Trust reveals yet another example of the problem of African-American underperformance, although the data compiled has a fascinating regional twist.

The Education Trust study focuses on comparative graduation rates for black and white students at the same colleges and universities.  Data was collected from 456 colleges and universities throughout the United States.  For the study as a whole black students are twenty percent less likely to graduate from college than their white counterparts who attend the same school.

However, the discrepancy in graduation rates is not uniform.  At some colleges and universities, African-Americans graduate at the same or nearly the same rate as white students.  At other schools, the gap is as wide as thirty-four percent.

Although the Education Trust study does not address the issue of regional variance, it is apparent from the results presented that the gap between white and black graduation rates is much lower in the South than it is in other regions of the country, and that the gap is particularly wide in Wisconsin.

Of the 29 public universities where black student graduate at the same (or greater) frequency as whites, 23 are in the South.  (I am defining any state that permitted slavery in 1860 as a “Southern” jurisdiction.)  In contrast, of the 25 public universities where the disparity between black and white graduation rates is the greatest, all are outside the South.  The latter group includes the Madison, Milwaukee, and Whitewater campuses of the University of Wisconsin.

The same regional pattern can also be seen in private schools.  Of the thirteen private schools listed in which black graduation rates equal that of whites, only one is outside the South.  In contrast, the twenty-one of the twenty-five private schools with greatest variation are outside the South.  Included among the twenty-one are Milwaukee’s Alverno College and Marquette University.

Why African-American college students appear to be playing on a more level playing field in the South is a fascinating question, as is the question of why African-American students at several of Wisconsin’s best universities have trouble obtaining the same graduation rates as their white peers.

The study can be found here.