The article in full is here and I found it linked from Clicked.
I think 'historic black college' has a specific meaning and it may be clear to others. I may have missed it. My impression is the college this professor taught at was quite small, had been built specifically for black students and may have had a large percentage of donations, scholarships and subsidies operating to the student's benefit.
My own university is completely different from the idealized one I characterized (accurately or not) above. There are scholarships but also mine is a private university with tuition much higher that of provincial or national schools.
As I read the article, I was struck by the similarities and contrasts with my own situation.
During those first few weeks of school, the new equipment began arriving and my
hopes continued to rise. My first year at Stillman, which had fewer than 1, 000
students, had not been as smooth or as fulfilling as I had hoped. My students'
academic performance had been generally disappointing, and I could not persuade
most students to even attend class regularly.
My colleagues and I were witnessing the result of low admission standards. Were
we expecting too much of young people who scored poorly on the SAT, who were
rarely challenged to excel in high school, who were not motivated to take
advantage of opportunities to learn, who could not imagine where a sound
education could take them?
A few minutes into my exchange with the class, I realized the white professor was not the problem. The students simply did not - or could not - read closely. My colleagues and I could not teach what we had been trained to teach.
"My students don't use me, " an English professor said. "At most, I may run into two or three a year who make me work. Talking over your students' heads is a waste of everybody's time."
Many of my Stillman colleagues regularly invited their students to their homes for dinner. The discussions often were about personal matters involving romantic relationships, family crises and money problems. Professors were the first confidants many students ever had. Indeed, they often became surrogate parents.
The bottom line was the same as it is at most HBCUs.
Professors who had the best success connecting with students, especially
below-average male students, emphasized friendly, personal and supportive
involvement in their lives. For example, Stephen Jackson, who taught sports
writing, was an effective professor because he understood the importance of
winning students' trust. He even ate lunch in the cafeteria with students each
The flexible professor encouraged lively exchanges of subject matter, ideas, beliefs and opinions during class discussions. The flexible professor often did not require written responses or exams. The flexible professor let students keep pace by retaking exams, completing take-home exams or giving classroom presentations.
I had difficulty becoming flexible. The majority of my students in the English class failed to complete most of the assigned readings. Most of their essays were unacceptable, and attendance was low. I had a choice: Abandon my syllabus or flunk more than half of the class.
I abandoned the syllabus. Instead, I lectured and made assignments based on the problems and errors in the students' writing. I went over the same material, such as writing the topic sentence, again and again because some students could not master it.
"Our kids haven't had many good things in their lives, " she said. "Many of them are angry and negative and rude. They've had hard lives.
Some of them don't belong here."
I always was amazed that so many of the women tolerated the
crude way the men spoke to them. One afternoon in my English class, a male
student called a young woman "a big-assed ugly bitch." I expected her to slap
him, and I would not have intervened. Instead, she dismissed the whole thing
with a wave of her hand and turned to chat with her roommate. After class, I
asked her about the insult.
"Have you noticed that our students never have a sense of
urgency?" a colleague asked one afternoon as we walked to a faculty meeting.
"They don't seem to be going anywhere in particular. They just stand around or
mosey along. Frivolity."
He was right. Greek organization activities such as step
shows - the rhythmical, patterned dance movements favored by fraternities and
sororities - and any excuse to party and play music were the most important
events on campus.
The effects of poverty made teaching and learning arduous. I
asked a student why she always fell asleep in my reporting and news writing
"I work full-time at Target at night, " she said. "I can't get enough
Each week after that, I went to Kmart and CVS and shopped
for travel-size cosmetics and toiletries to replenish the basket. I learned that
several other professors also found acceptable ways to make personal items
available to students free of charge.
Campus-wide, professors bought many of their classroom and
office supplies. In my building, for example, we rarely had an ample supply of
paper for our copy machine. I learned early to buy my own paper and keep it in
While disagreeable staff members and financial red tape were
constant irritants, nothing was more appalling than the students' disregard for
By the end of the spring semester, I knew that I could not
remain at Stillman another year. I had a few good students, but a few were not
enough. One morning as I dressed for work, I accepted the reality that too much
of my time was being wasted on students who did not care. I felt guilty about
wanting to leave. But enough was enough.