Gates, Not Fences
Frank Shushok, Jr.
“As many of you reading this may also concede, troubling times in which we fail to listen and understand others as fellow travelers on life’s journey sow the seeds of fear, hate, and sometimes violence. Yet even in my gratitude for these experiences, I must also acknowledge my own discomfort. As an educator, I’m realizing how easy it has been for me to insist that our students find relationships with those from different backgrounds without recognizing how challenging it can be. In my interview with Beverly Daniel Tatum, Spelman College’s President Emerita, she reminded me that “We know that when young people have the opportunity to engage in sustained dialogue over the course of the semester, we can get beyond discomfort to really start to understand the experiences of others, and hopefully become motivated to interrupt the cycle of racism and other ‘isms’ in our society.” Surprisingly, even unintentionally, my trips to the horse barn in Giles County are interrupting a potentially destructive cycle by enlarging my sustained experiences. To put it simply, good fences may make good neighbors, but it’s the gates in them that open the way for friends. “
About Campus Executive Editor, Frank Shushok, Jr. Visits with Beverly Daniel Tatum, President Emerita of Spelman College, about Leadership, Her College Presidency, and the Contemporary Challenges That Face All Our Student
Frank Shushok, Jr., and Beverly Daniel Tatum
In this interview, Beverly Daniel Tatum, President Emerita of Spelman College, shares her views of higher education. She notes the historical importance of historically black colleges and universities to our current leadership in all areas of society, their importance in rural areas or other places with limited educational options, and their need for resources to meet these needs. She reviews the progress made in the 20 years since the original publication of Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria but recognizes that we are in a period of retrenchment. While hopeful of future progress, she reminds us of the necessity of the hard work on the local level to make that happen.
“What Is Said Here”: Reflections on an Informal Community for Black Men at an Historically White Institution
Ray Black shares the story of creating the Black Male Think Tank, an informal community for black men at his historically white institution. He tells how black male students turned to him in confusion after charges of sexual misconduct by Bill Cosby and various police killings of young black men. The students needed a safe place in which to process these difﬁcult events, support each other, and ﬁnd strategies to survive their experiences of racism. The group discussed the negative public image of the black male, the invisibility of the successful black male, the isolation of being at a historically white institution, and the lack of fathers and father ﬁgures in their lives. This last point helped Black to become aware of his own responsibilities as an elder of this community.
Taking the Pulse
Practice or Perish: How Over-Exposure and Premature Claims of Success Undermine Men of Color Initiatives
Steven Thurston Oliver
Many of us recognize that it is important for black male students to have safe spaces to share their experiences, such as overt racism, microaggressions, and isolation, and connect with other students sharing the same experiences. However, Oliver points out that, often, when attempts to provide community are just starting to take root, the institution’s need to prove it is supporting diversity causes a premature focus on GPA and graduation rates. Oliver argues that such initiatives require space and time to develop—they should not be required to prove their value before they receive adequate resources to develop—and perhaps providing psychosocial support that does not represent a direct causation to GPA and graduation is still worth providing.
Views from Campus
Conor P. McLaughlin and Christopher B. Newman
As higher education professionals, we all wield power to shape the educational environment for our students. Conor P. McLaughlin and Christopher B. Newman use the metaphor of the superhero, whose power has the potential to be both democratic or fascist, to consider how we use our power as higher education professionals. More speciﬁ cally, they challenge us to consider how we use our power with those who hold different perspectives and worldviews. They suggest that a dialogic approach is the most appropriate method for engaging with difference. This doesn’t mean we must accept all perspectives as equal but, rather, that the human-ity of the participants is the focus instead of a position or belief.
“Don’t Believe the Hype”: Complicating the Thriving Quotient for Latino Undergraduate Men at Selective Institutions
Wilson Kwamogi Okello and David Pérez II
Wilson Kwamogi Okello and David Pérez II highlight Christian’s story from their study of 100 Latino undergraduate men at 20 selective universities. Christian’s experiences as an apparently successful student exemplify the double-edged nature of Latino men’s challenges in higher education. Okello and Pérez apply the concept of public and hidden transcripts to his experience; according to his public transcript, Christian is a success story, graduating in four years with a 3.4 GPA and ending up with a good job. However, this version does not recognize the psychological toll of the systemic oppression he experienced as a Latino male, such as microaggressions, lack of support, and lack of social connectedness. In light of Christian’s story, Okello and Pérez question whether standard metrics are adequate to determine whether college students are successful.