Monthly Archives: July 2008

Should HBCUs take a Page from Obama’s Notebook on fundraising? Yes!


By Dr. Marybeth Gasman


Liberals and conservatives alike have raved about Barack Obama’s innovative approach to fundraising.  In recent months, I have seen article after article lauding Obama’s campaign for using technology in new ways and paying attention to the small donor.  After careful review of the Obama campaign’s strategies, I’m convinced that Black colleges and universities should follow his lead.


Obama’s fundraising success comes from a multi-part strategy. His campaign uses a combination of Google ads, email list generation techniques, a presence on various social networking sites and tailored email messages to garner funds.  Knowing Obama’s captive audience, his campaign strategically places ads on websites that are akin to his kind of politics.  In addition, his campaign targets websites that speak to audiences with which Obama can potentially make headway (e.g., the Latino population).  Perhaps HBCUs should be placing ads on viable websites both for marketing and fundraising purposes.  Research shows that the internet is an excellent way to connect with people under 40 years of age (and this is changing to include those over 40).


Perhaps one of the Obama campaign’s most successful and innovative approaches to fundraising is the collection of email addresses.  At small and large campaign rallies across the country, they collected the emails of virtually all attendees, creating a massive database of supporters with whom Obama can be in constant contact.  What if HBCUs began collecting email addresses systematically at homecoming, football and basketball games, and special events?  And, what if HBCUs began to court these constituents – keeping them abreast of their successes, telling them of their needs, and eventually asking them to support HBCUs financially?  The Obama campaign sends regular email messages that inform, inspire, and request support.  HBCUs could certainly do the same.


The Obama campaign also makes use of electronic social networks, including Facebook, Myspace, and LinkedIn.  Individuals who friendObama can download videos and send them to their friends, post Obama quotes on their personal sites, and invite friends to participate in campaign events.  What if HBCUs tapped into these social networks extensively, using them to communicate with alumni and drum up enthusiasm for campus events?


And, of course, the Obama campaign doesn’t ignore the small donor.  Even donors who give a mere $5 are courted on a regular basis.  Obama realized that paying attention to the small donor would pay off in the end as small donors give time and time again. They are loyal. Often times, HBCUs place their fundraising emphasis on foundations, corporations, and large donors, neglecting to focus attention on their alumni (i.e., the small donor).  Cultivating alumni in the way that Obama’s campaign has done is essential to the growth and longevity of HBCUs.  And the trick, at least for Obama, is a lot of thank you’s, a lot of information on how the donations are used, and targeted and meaningful solicitations.


Check out these articles for more insight on Obama’s fundraising strategies:


“Obama’s Fundraising Success May Herald a Whole New Model”

“On the Web, Obama is the Clear Winner”

“Internet Revolutionizes Campaign Fundraising:  Successful Fundraising Efforts Appeal to Average People Online”


An associate professor of higher education at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Gasman is the author of Envisioning Black Colleges: A History of the United Negro College Fund (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007) and lead editor of Understanding Minority Serving Institutions  (SUNY Press, 2008).

CNN’s Black in America Sounds Clarion Call To Do More

By James Ewers


I am black in America so the recent two-part series produced by CNN entitled “Black in America” did appeal to me. This special program to my mind was not only for black people but for white people as well. For whatever judgment you rendered about the series let us give both CNN reporter Soledad O’Brien credit for undertaking this project. It was two years in the making and was well worth watching. It validated some of my thinking and gave me further insight into some other areas that were eye opening. I remember a few years ago when some said that Bill Cosby was exposing our “dirty laundry” in public when he talked about the issue of self-responsibility in the African American community. Some thought that he was too candid and much too skeptical. Well if Bill Cosby exposed our dirty laundry, then CNN wasn’t far behind. 


One of the more compelling topics broached on the series was HIV/AIDS. While watching the snippets was painful, the information needed to get out there so that people would know.  HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death among young women in the black community. According to the report, one in 20 people in Washington, D.C., are infected with HIV/AIDS. Wherever you are and if you are black, you ought to pay serious attention to this statistic. The takeaway from these statistics is that we as African Americans must make better choices and decisions. HIV/AIDS education must begin, I believe, at the elementary school level. While some may think otherwise, I think to talk about this dreaded disease at the middle school level may be too late. There are a lot of conversations that we have with our children around the dinner table and this must be one of them. In order for our present generation to survive and future generations to thrive, we must become much more proactive about this issue. 


T.D. Jakes, a prominent African American minister, in essence said that black churches have a responsibility in this area. This responsibility just didn’t happen as it has been our responsibility all along; we have just ignored it, thinking that it might go away. Many in the black community think that sermons on Sunday and education programs during the week will help. As for our black community in Middletown what church will begin a ministry that will target HIV/AIDS?


“Black in America” started off on Wednesday showing related black families going to their family reunion in Atlanta, Georgia. The strength and resoluteness of the black family cannot be overlooked or minimized. I spoke with a good friend of mine recently who also had his family reunion in Georgia. I could see the pride on his face as he brought me a souvenir. The black family is steadfast and unmovable because it is our bedrock and the centerpiece of our entire experience. Black folks have long understood that, when all else fails, we still have our families. Dollar bills will come and go but our families will remain strong and consistent. I thought the segment on the family reunion was good, as you could see the connectivity between generations.


One aspect that could have been talked about more was the increase in the number of African Americans who are graduating from colleges across the country. Highlighted in the piece was the fact that more African American women are graduating from college than men. The ongoing challenge that has existed over a period of many years now is how to get more African American males in college and to graduate them. The road to college is filled with potholes called jail, drugs, and poor choices for many black males. I believe strongly that education must be valued in our black households. If it is valued, then in the end it doesn’t matter as much if your parents went to college. All that matters is that they see the importance of getting a college education. I found it a bit amusing on one level that a high school counselor on the special told the African American boy at the time that he should not consider college. Does that still happen today in 2008?


African Americans make up 13 percent of the population yet represent 49 percent of the homicides. This statistic is just horrific. There is no other way to say it. Presidential candidate, Barack Obama, in a recent talk at the NAACP Convention in Cincinnati spoke of personal responsibility and accountability in the black community. If we want to see change, then we must be the change and not wait for it. If we don’t begin it, then who; if not now, when? We, as African American parents and love providers, must provide our children at an early age with a set of instructions that will ward off poor choices and their consequences. Poor decision making results in no dreams of success and generally low expectations. We must teach our children that good things happen when you work hard and treat all people with dignity and respect. Unfortunately, big clothes don’t mean big dreams. We can, we must, and we will do better. We have no choice!


I would hope that mentoring groups and churches would invest in a copy of this series as it can be instructive. There is much to talk about as our future can be bright if we want it to be. The terms and conditions of our future are up to us. While the circumstances are dire in some cases, we have the brainpower to make a difference in the future. Despair must be replaced with hope, and protraction must be replaced with interaction. African Americans who have achieved have a moral obligation to help others who have not been as fortunate. We cannot think that, because we have a bigger house or a bigger car, we have arrived. It is only when we enrich the lives of others that our own lives will be enriched. 


While the CNN special pointed out some of our challenges, it also showed that we have much to be proud of in the black community. As one of my colleagues has said, we have gone from picking cotton to picking presidents. Maybe our dirty laundry was exposed, but we have a chance to clean it up!


Dr. Ewers is the associate dean for student affairs and director of community partnerships at Miami University Middletown in Ohio. He is the author of Perspectives From Where I Sit: Essays on Education, Parenting and Teen Issues

Go to college or get paid? Mr. Jennings I Ain’t Mad At You!

By Dr. Emmett Gill

Last Tuesday, Arizona University basketball recruit Brandon Jennings decided to make an unprecedented move to forgo playing in college and instead pursue a professional career in Europe next season before likely entering the 2009 NBA draft.

 While David Stern and the National Basketball Association (NBA) are well prepared for the subsequent trend Jennings may incite, universities with big-time basketball programs will soon learn the true value of a big-time student-athlete.  Universities will no longer be privileged to the best athletic talent because an 18-year old could use $500,000 tax-free dollars until he is eligible to play in the NBA. Players must be one year removed from high school before they’re eligible to play in the NBA. Teams, athletic departments, and yes academics may experience some uncomfortable times if top-flight basketball students decide to study abroad in Europe. I have experienced firsthand how athletic success can breath life into a universities and how a lack of athletic success can suck the life out of campus spirit.  When our team gets invited to the big dance or to go bowling the entire campus, even professors, go mad! When the donations from athletic boosters start to slide, marketing deals that carry free cable begins to subside, or enrollment dips, remember Mr. Jennings. 

 As a former student-athlete I still believe an undergraduate degree is like a union card and graduate degree can be an American Express Black card.  Even so, I fully support Jennings’ decision.  Back in the day the notion was that “student-athletes need an education to fall back on just in case…” Just in case can always happen, but if it does it’s unlikely “just in case” will prevent Jennings from pursuing a degree.  Secondly, I believe student-athletes who compete in the big five sports -– football, basketball, women’s basketball, soccer, and baseball — should be paid – period.  We can chat about the logistics later, but it’s feasible, trust me.  You have to pay the workers. As much respect as I have for the NCAA and the efforts they dedicate to student-athlete development, neither the NCAA nor member institutions can ensure kids receive functional degrees.  Until they set aside a trust fund for student-athletes who graduate (an idea proposed by former UNC Tarheel and current TNT analyst Kenny “The Jet” Smith 15 years ago) the Jennings effect is a threat.  You oftentimes hear of basketball coaches who will “hug a thug,” meaning they will get marginal athletes in school or you hear “one and done” (in school for one year – see Michael Beasley and Derrick Rose). Those days may be gone, but is it for the better?

 Mr. Jennings is primed to make more money in one year than a top-flight law school graduate might make in their first three. As much as we might want to mentor student-athletes and expose them to life outside basketball… raise your hand if you would go hoop for $500,000-plus tax-free dollars.  That’s what I thought …not that I would ever trade in the social capital I reap from academia …

I never heard of this kid so I’m unsure of his academic or his athletic prowess.  Still, when Mr. Jennings travels overseas I am sure he will have some field instruction/classes in foreign language, contracts, investment banking, etiquette, social history, and of course basketball.  If you think about it Mr. Jennings’ course load might mirror a freshman at the Wharton School of Business… and Mr. Jennings is getting PAID.

Dr. Gill is an assistant professor in the School of Social Work at Rutgers University.

Recent Report Identifies Factors That Improve Educational Outcomes for Black Males

By James Moore III

In a recent report entitled, “Breaking Barriers: Plotting the Path to Academic Success for School-Age African-American Males,” Dr. Ivory A. Toldson, senior research analyst for the Congressional Black Foundation, Inc., identifies salient factors that improve educational outcomes for Black males. He uses data from four nationally recognized databases, such as Health Behavior in School-Age Children, National Crime Victimization Survey: School Crime Supplement, National Survey of America’s Families, and National Survey on Drug Use and Health to develop the research policy report. More specifically, Dr. Toldson uses these databases to explore personal and emotional factors, family factors, social and environmental factors, and school factors. These are the common domains thought to impact educational outcomes for students in general and Black males in particular.

In summation, Dr. Toldson found strong correlations between academic achievement and the aforementioned factors. Regarding personal and emotional factors, he also found that academically successful Black males were almost two times as likely to report feeling happy about their life, when compared to their Black male counterparts who were failing. Consistent with past studies, he also discovered that Black males who hoped to attend college were more likely to do better in school. Additionally, Dr. Toldson found that high-achieving Black males had more positive experiences with classmates and less involvement with bullying and fighting compared to their peers.

Regarding family factors, Black males, with a father in the home, had higher levels of academic success. Father’s educational level also had more impact on Black males’ school outcomes than mother’s education. However, this was not true for their Black female counterparts. Regarding social and environmental factors, Black males — who resided in homes with more financial resources — did better in school than those who did not have such resources. Additionally, participation in sports positively influenced these students’ academic achievement.

Consistent with current research literature, Dr. Toldson also found that the teacher played a tremendous role in the Black males’ education. For example, the students tended do better in school and were engaged, when they had teachers who were interested in them. Additionally, regarding school factors, Dr. Toldson found that the students did better in school, when they felt safe and were less likely to carry a weapon.

This report was both timely and insightful. I strongly recommend that the readers of Diverse: Issues in Higher Education review this report. It provides a fresh perspective on Black male students at the secondary level. In my opinion, Dr. Toldson does a great job linking his findings to public policy. Hopefully, such work, as well mine, will find its way in the hands of policy makers, practitioners, and the Black community at-large.

Like I always, I look forward to having intimate dialogue and exchange on the findings of the report and its many implications to policy and practice. If you would like to retrieve the report, I recommend that you click on the following website: .

Dr. James L. Moore III is a tenured associate professor in the College of Education and Human Ecology and is the inaugural director of the Todd Anthony Bell National Resource Center on the African American Male at The Ohio State University.

HBCUs Here and in South Africa — Common Missions, Common Challenges

By Dr. Marybeth Gasman

I just returned from leading a study abroad program in South Africa, which focused on the country’s higher education system, history, and culture.  This was my fifth visit to the country and, just as in the past, I learned immensely from the experience. 

What is always most interesting about taking students to South Africa is watching them notice racism, inequity, and the lack of access for the country’s Black and “Coloured” students.  Many of my students, in particular those in the majority, are quick to point out these issues of inequality when they see them in another country, but have difficulty seeing them in the United States. I often wonder why.

During the study abroad we visited various institutions of higher education; among these were the University of the Western Cape (UWC) and the University of Cape Town (UCT).  Upon arrival at UWC, a historically black institution under the apartheid government, my students immediately noticed the aging facilities, remote almost desolate location, dark hallways, and fiercely cold classrooms.  In comparison, UCT, a formerly English-speaking, White university was lush and built into the mountain side above the city.  The students could understand the existence of such stark inequities under the apartheid system – especially given UWC’s resistance stance against the apartheid regime, but wondered how inequality could remain under South Africa’s new democratic government.  Wouldn’t the new government, sometime during the last 14 years, have addressed the inequities between these two institutions?

What my students discovered was that higher education funding in South Africa is linked, in part, to graduation success.  Yes, public universities receive funding based on enrollment figures, but a good amount of funding is linked to graduation outcomes.  In theory, and especially in our accountability-driven nation, linking funding to graduation success may sound like an excellent idea.  However, UWC, like many of our nation’s HBCUs, has maintained a mission that is committed to serving low-income and underrepresented students (Blacks and “Coloureds” in South Africa).  Because these students often come from areas of dire poverty (no electricity, no running water, make-shift housing, and high unemployment), poor primary and secondary education, and are often first-generation students, they are less likely to graduate regardless of the efforts of UWC.  UCT, although making sincere attempts to serve underrepresented students, is less willing to take a risk during its admission processes.  Taking less of a risk on students equals greater graduation success and thus more funding. 

Just like their South African counterparts, public HBCUs in the United States have a history of being unequally funded.  Although some states are trying to rectify the inequities in funding Black colleges, others have yet to take on this challenge.  According to Michigan State University professor James T. Minor, “When comparing state funding, per student inequities become evermore apparent. For example, UNC-Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University [historically White institutions] receive approximately $15,700 in state funding per student. In comparison, students at North Carolina A & T and Fayetteville State University [both HBCUs] receive approximately $7,800 each in state appropriations.” 

The unique mission of UWC was crystal clear to my students; they understood why the institution had lower graduation rates and why it clung to its mission.  Of course, we see a similar situation here in the United States with our HBCUs.  Many Black colleges and universities serve underprepared, low-income African Americans, taking a chance on whether or not these students will graduate.  Although HBCUs are often criticized for their low graduation rates, what we fail to notice is the value added impact these institutions have.  Research shows that HBCUs overall graduate a disproportionate number of African American students compared to their historically White counterparts, and do so with far less funding.  Imagine the possiblities for the United States and South Africa in terms of providing equity for Black with equal funding of HBCUs!

An associate professor of higher education at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Gasman is the author of Envisioning Black Colleges: A History of the United Negro College Fund (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007) and lead editor of Understanding Minority Serving Institutions  (SUNY Press, 2008).

What Did Students Study in Southern Colleges Before the Civil War?

By Alfred Brophy

What did students study in Southern colleges before the Civil War? Well, in algebra class, they sometimes studied how terrible Yankees were. Take several examples from the math textbook of Professor D. H. Hill of Davidson College:

A Yankee mixes a certain number of wooden nutmegs, which cost him 1/4 cent apiece, with a quantity of real nutmegs, worth 4 cents apiece, and sells the whole assortment for $44; and gains $3.75 by the fraud. How many wooden nutmegs were there?

Fun in math class, eh? (Am I right in thinking that 4x-1/4x=375?)

And they studied the hiring of a slave:

A planter hired a negro-man at the rate of $100 per annum, and his clothing. At the end of 8 months the master of the slave took him home, and received $75 in cash, and no clothing. What was the clothing valued at?

Also, on the issue of emancipation and the generosity of North and South, try this problem:

A gentleman in Richmond expressed a willingness to liberate his slave, valued at $1000, upon the receipt of that sum from charitable persons. He received contributions from 24 persons; and of these there were 14/19ths fewer from the North than from the South, and the average donation of the former was 4/5ths smaller than that of the latter. What was the entire amount given by the latter?

Mighty interesting stuff to see what’s on the minds of antebellum textbook authors, isn’t it? I will talk shortly about some of the more traditional curriculum in southern colleges shortly.

Native American Studies Making Strides

By Dr. J. Kehaulani Kauanui

Many administrators are reticent to inaugurate Native American studies where no program currently exists because of concerns about programs and departments having a “universal” appeal. The problem with this line of thinking is that many of these same administrators still see the field of Native American studies (NAS) generating a curriculum aimed at narrow constituencies, and therefore narrow arguments, that they then compare to the so-called “general” curriculum that is seen as benefiting everyone without acknowledging its own epistemological, racial and social confines. One colleague recently told me that when she urged her college’s administrators to consider establishing a program in NAS, one of them replied, “But, we have to be careful not to have programs that over-indulge our students’ identities,” as though that were the primary concern of Native American studies. She retorted, “Well, that shouldn’t be a problem since we have no Native American students!” Now, while Native American student recruitment is a serious issue, and this school only has approximately three American Indian students out of nearly 3,000, this is not the same issue as recognizing the intellectual contributions of the interdisciplinary field of NAS and its historical transformation as an area of critical inquiry.

NAS centers the political and cultural agency of indigenous peoples and is foundational to the critical study of American history, culture, society and politics vis-à-vis the original inhabitants of this continent, especially with regard to settler colonialism, slavery and imperialism. Developments in NAS have moved it from a subfield of ethnic studies, to a field in its own right. NAS was institutionalized in the 1970s alongside African-American, Asian American and Chicano studies, by historians and sociologists who aimed to wrestle the study of American Indians away from the sole province of anthropologists and folklorists. Ethnic studies, however, emphasized models of inclusion, civil rights and the intellectual paradigm of the nation-state, while NAS has increasingly distinguished itself as a field that privileges the categories of indigeneity and sovereignty over those of race and democracy. The field has also expanded to examine the history and politics of Native Alaskans and Native Hawaiians, while also looking further beyond the machinations of the U.S.-nation state to Indigenous studies in Canada, Australia and Aotearoa/New Zealand, as well as in Latin America and beyond. There is now a growing awareness of the critical importance of taking Native American studies more seriously on epistemological grounds.

Just this year, a group of Native scholars I am part of co-founded the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (NAISA). At a meeting, “Native American and Indigenous Studies: Who Are We? Where Are We Going?,” on April,10-12, 2008, registered attendees voted to ratify a constitution and bylaws for the new association. This was the second meeting called by a six member steering committee and was hosted by the Institute of Native American Studies at the University of Georgia. The event drew more than 450 scholars and graduate students and included 95 sessions from scholars from more than 165 institutions from 18 countries. Members of the founding steering committee (now the acting council of NAISA) are: Inés Hernández-Ávila, professor of Native American studies, University of California at Davis; K. Tsianina Lomawaima, professor of American Indian studies, University of Arizona, Tucson; Jace Weaver, director of the Institute for Native American Studies, professor of religion, University of Georgia; Robert Warrior, director of American Indian studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Jean O’Brien, associate professor, Department of History and Chair, Department of American Indian Studies; and J. Kehaulani Kauanui, associate professor of American Studies and Anthropology at Wesleyan University. The aims of the steering committee have been to gather a critical mass of scholars to help shape a new association that is scholarly, is interdisciplinary, is governed by individual members, has annual meetings that rotate among institutional hosts or other locations, is open to anyone who does work in Native American and Indigenous studies, and has a program committee that takes primary responsibility for sending out an open call for papers and setting the agenda for annual meetings.

In May 2009, the Department of American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota will host the first annual meeting of the new association. A nominations committee made up six scholars elected at the meeting in Georgia will conduct an election of a council that will take office next May in Minnesota. The nominating committee members are: Aileen Moreton-Robinson, chair (Queensland University of Technology, Australia); Victoria Bomberry (University of California, Riverside); Daniel Heath Justice (University of Toronto); Brenda Child (University of Minnesota); Gabrielle Tayac (National Museum of the American Indian); Paul Meredith (Victoria University of Wellington, Aotearoa/New Zealand). The composition of the nominating committee reflects the international research scope of those in attendance and includes those working in First Nations studies, Aboriginal studies, and Maori studies.

It is apropos that the first annual meeting of NAISA will be held at the University of Minnesota and hosted by American Indian Studies, given that 2009 marks the 40th anniversary of the department’s founding, which is the oldest such program in the United States with departmental status — one that has been central to the emergence of the field as a whole. Indeed, there they have managed to be at the forefront in several areas as the department has worked to establish links with the tribal nations of that territory — the Dakota and Ojibwe — teach the native languages of the region, recruit Native American and other students, recruit top Native scholars as faculty members, and develop a rich curriculum that covers a range of studies from oral traditions and indigenous philosophy, history and education, to American Indians in Minnesota, American Indian peoples in the United States, and Indigenous peoples in a global perspective. The program is a model for its ongoing commitment to community as it honors its political origins as a program back in the day.

New developments across the country include undergraduate minors in Native American studies being institutionalized at Vassar College and Indiana University. Other exciting initiatives include: the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and its recently established American Indian Center, which is still expanding; Columbia University’s consideration of a new program of study and/or center, the University of Massachusetts at Amherst expanding its certificate program Native American studies into a possible major; and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where the Native American House and American Indian studies program has just founded an undergraduate minor that begins Fall 2008, and submitted a proposal for a graduate minor now under consideration. Certainly these developments indicate that administrators across the United States are not confused about the field as an intellectual project deserving of institutionalization and its distinction from identity indulgence. It’s high time for all scholars and administrators to recognize these critical projects and their respective and related intellectual legacies.

For more information on the first annual meeting of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association on May 21-23, 2009 to be hosted by the Department of American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota see:

— Dr. J. Kehaulani Kauanui is an associate professor of American studies and anthropology at Wesleyan University, where she teaches courses on Native American sovereignty issues, U.S. colonialism in the Pacific Islands, and U.S. racial formations, and critical race methodologies. Her first book, Hawaiian Blood: Colonialism and the Politics of Indigeneity and Sovereignty, is forthcoming from Duke University Press in October 2008. She is also the host and producer of a weekly public affairs radio program, “Indigenous Politics: From Native New England and Beyond,” at WESU, Middletown, Conn., which is syndicated through the Pacifica radio-network.