Social Exclusion: The State of State U for Black Students

Source: Mark Huelsman, Dēmos, December 2018

From the Introduction and Selected Findings:
….These stories, and countless untold others, follow a familiar pattern. A student of color behaves as millions of other students have—finding a quiet campus space to eat, napping while studying, attending a party, queueing in line for a campus tour. Passers-by and, in some cases, law enforcement officers who carry with them the capacity for lethal force, subject this behavior to extra scrutiny.

These students and employees posed no threat to safety and were not causing any disturbance. In fact, most of them were sitting in solitude before being interrupted by law enforcement. But other students or employees view these students with suspicion precisely because these they do not see these students as a typical or ordinary part of their campus experience. They are not the image many people—including their peers—conjure when they think of the American college student. They are black or brown, Native American and immigrants, and their very existence in an elite academic setting makes others incredulous…..

…..This exclusion is true even for elite public institutions, which still have a basic responsibility to be representative of and responsive to the needs of their state populations and economies. It goes without saying that each state’s flagship campus and other selective institutions have a great deal of political power and cultural cachet. Thus, it is worth interrogating how they are doing at increasing the enrollment of black students, 50 years after the civil rights movement, at a time when higher education is more important than ever to achieving a stable life. We all benefit when these institutions are affordable, accessible, welcoming, and safe for all of their state’s students.

This brief takes a look at whether selective public colleges have made progress toward these basic goals. We find that, unfortunately, most states have very far to go in making their selective public institutions representative, and thus truly public. In many cases, institutions are less representative than they were a generation ago:….