Race & Politics, Theory & Essay

Are Black Students At Duke Pissed For The Right Reason?

I majored in sociology and I'm still gonna make more money than you pretty soon, white man.

I came across this article at Clutch Mag yesterday entitled, “Black Students at Duke Upset Over New Study Claiming They Take The Easy Way Out” that linked to a Durham, NC, Herald-Sun article about a study that pissed of Black folks from near and far. In a nutshell, two Duke professors and a grad student wrote a paper stating that Black students at Duke changed majors from more traditionally difficult majors like economics, engineering, and natural sciences to less rigorous majors (like humanities) at a higher rate than did white students. The paper was an attempt to explain why the GPAs of Black students tended to trend towards the GPAs of white students as ninjas made their way through college and is being used as a bone for opponents of affirmative action policies.

Oy vey.

The unpublished report, “What Happens After Enrollment? An Analysis of the Time Path of Racial Differences in GPA and Major Choice,” looked at the Duke freshman classes that matriculated in 2001 and 2002, in their first, second and fourth years of college.

It found that among students who initially expressed an interest in majoring in economics, engineering and the natural sciences, 54 percent of black men and 51 percent of black women ended up switching to the humanities or another social science.

By comparison, 33 percent of white women and just 8 percent of white men made the switch to majors that are considered less rigorous, require less study and have easier grading standards.

According to the paper, 68 percent of Duke’s black students but less than 55 percent of white students ended up majoring in the humanities or social sciences other than economics.

The authors of the paper suggested that the switch to easier majors was predominantly responsible for why the grade point averages of black undergraduates ultimately became similar to the GPAs of white students as they progressed through school.

The paper is included in a brief submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court by opponents of affirmative action. The court is considering whether to hear a lawsuit challenging race-conscious undergraduate admission at the University of Texas.

 

The fact that any professor intensely intrigued and/or troubled by the fact that Black student GPAs were similar to white student GPAs is problematic enough. But to take it to the next level to prove that basically Black students (and legacy kids, interestingly enough) were stepping on their cocaine to make it through is just a gotd*mn shame.
However, I’m choosing to take my feelings out of this and going to attempt to look at this somewhat objectively. And my reason is because of this line, the constant rally cry of any and all things that involve race by us, the Black people:
[Nina] Asante (president of Duke’s Black Student Alliance) wrote that the authors failed “to account for the societal, complex and institutional factors that must be considered in any attempt to delineate trends in racial differences in grade point averages and major choices, in a scholarly manner.”
I am admittedly jaded but I read that to say, “unless you have a section in your study about how slavery and the persistent effects of institutional racism f*cked us the f*ck up then your whole paper, study, and lifespace is fugazi, b*tch.”
Which, while true, does tend to obscure what are, well, facts. Look, I went to an HBCU with a stellar science program in physics and biology and a great dual degree engineering program with Georgia Tech. But let’s be real, the majority of majors at Morehouse were business. And I’m not sh*tting on business majors, but it is what it is. That was like our catchall if you couldn’t hack it in the STEM majors. And a lot of people did make that switch. I myself chose economics with a math concentration because I specifically didn’t want to feel like I was shortchanging myself. But you better believe, we had a non-math economics option and the majority of econ majors took that road.
What does that have to do with the price of dental dams at Spelman? Nothing. But if Duke is the academically rigorous school that its purported to be, and Morehouse isn’t (no shots, and if you take shots at the ‘House I’m 404 you’re whole life son) and we have a preponderance of ninjas who make the switch, then what are we complaining about at Duke? Are we mad that the story is out there or that we can’t hack it?
Look, I know the public education system that the majority of us will have to use isn’t top notch. But that’s probably largely in the inner city where it seems like most of us aren’t exactly coming from anymore. And I’d bet money that most of the Black students at Duke aren’t exactly coming from southeast DC, the south Bronx, the west side of Atlanta, or Compton. Most are probably suburban children and/or private school kids. So their education is probably better than what a lot of us received at various stages (except for you bougie ninjas). Yet and still, many of us can’t hack it.
Now, if you ask me, that’s the study that needs to be looked into. When you control for socio-economic status, are these same Black students not able to cut the mustard? If not, are we going to blame racism and slavery for that? And that’s a real question. Seeing as Duke is a private school and considered an elite institution, I’m guessing their application process is itself more rigorous and they are accepting students who would likely meet a higher education standard. This is my assumption. Anybody can feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.
So what the hell is really going on then? I’m not insisting that that Black students aren’t as smart. Far from it. But perhaps some of these students learned a lesson that I learned at Morehouse really early on: game the system. The goal is to graduate. So maybe some of these ninjas are taking the path to least resistance and banking on the school attached to the degree to be able to take them far. Hell, isn’t that what many white people do anyway? Just because those white students aren’t changing majors doesn’t mean they’re excelling either. So if I’m beasting out with my English degree with a 3.9 and you’ve got a 2.7 in biology, and we all know that grad schools and the like care about your GPA, then perhaps I will feel like I’m winning.
I don’t know. And I don’t like the implication behind that either. Maybe we can blame hip-hop and this hustler mentality of dong what you need to do to get where you think you’re trying to go. Or maybe a lot of those kids don’t want to be STEM majors anyway (whole other discussion about that) and are thinking business and wall street or what most of us do…law school. Which if I’m not mistaken, wouldn’t require a STEM degree.
My point here is that while there are probably other factors involved, playing the slavery card (how I’m reading it) isn’t probably accurate. Maybe playing the “I get money, I-I get money” card is. Which means that some of those protests might be a bit ill advised. I can understand why Black people are up in arms. On its face, it sounds messed and politically motivated, but that doesn’t mean that what they’re stating didn’t happen. We just don’t like the implications behind it, even if maybe, just maybe, they’re accurate.
The paper’s authors — professors Peter Arcidiacono and Kenneth Spenner, and graduate student Esteban Aucejo — write that their work calls into question other studies that play down the academic difficulties initially experienced by those who benefit from race-conscious admissions by saying that such students eventually catch up with their nonminority peers in GPA.
Just wanted to add that I do think the authors here have some racial issues of their own to deal with (and I’m aware that Duke has a somewhat sordid history of racial issues in general).Clearly they’re not proponents of affirmative action, except their inability to see the forest for the trees (as academics) is a bit scary because at the end of the day, we DO end up with a lot more minorities with degrees which is better for society. Like your point was to intentionally disprove any benefit from race-conscious admissions without acknowledging that it might be harder to get into these schools than actually graduate? Sitchoazzdown.
But forget their reasons, and back to the actual findings. What say you? Thoughts?
Should we be mad about these findings? Should we be protesting studies like this? Or should we acknowledge that there’s truth there and then determine what the solution is, should one be necessary? Are these folks just not on our level?
Inquiring minds would like to know.
Sorry for the length. Heheheheh.
-VSB P aka THE ARSONIST aka MR. YOUR STUDY IS FUGAZI EVEN IF ITS TRUE SON aka GIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRL HE A 3
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Damon Young

Panama Jackson is pretty fly for a light guy. He used to ship his frito to Tito in the District, but shipping prices increased so he moved there to save money. When he's not saving humanity with his words or making music with his mouth, you can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking her fine liquors. Most importantly, he believes the children are our future.

  • http://www.thinkprettysmart.com Ms. Smart

    I’d be interested to know where the kids came from. A high grade point average at a TAG school and several years of practicing the SAT/ACT are different than a high grade point average and two years of practicing for the SAT/ACT in a ‘regular’ school. I took a group of kids to a certain white university back in the late 90′s. They paraded all these people across the stage to talk about minority enrollment. But when queried about graduation rates, the story was a lot different. The kids were admitted but unprepared for the real rigors of the university. I’ve heard from friends who are currently college professors that some students don’t want to ask for help because they were used to being the shining stars of their ‘regular’ high schools. So maybe, instead of dropping out, the kids at Duke are choosing a major they’re more comfortable with and one where they’re confident in their ability to succeed.

    Or, as you said, they intend to go to graduate school so they choose majors that they believe will help them get a higher GPA and into grad school. Not that I did anything like that.

    • http://twitter.com/tylerg_thomas tgtaggie

      “I’ve heard from friends who are currently college professors that some students don’t want to ask for help because they were used to being the shining stars of their ‘regular’ high schools.”

      I agree with you on all of what you said. I think a major problem is a lot of kids today are learning how to take a test (standardized tests and other bs) rather than learning how to learn. I’ll be the first to admit it, I basically had to learn how to study for tests when I first went to college. b/c in high school I really didn’t do it.

      • http://www.thinkprettysmart.com Ms. Smart

        Critical thinking and life lessons are lost (along with music, art, gym) in exchange for memorization. I am thankful for the schools and teachers I had prior to college. I didn’t apply myself until graduate school though. Luckily, I knew enough and had enough ‘survival in school’ skills to make it that far. A lot of folks don’t.

        Even sadder, a lot of parents don’t know what to look for. All they see is that their child can read in first grade. Never mind he’s reciting what he memorized based on the pictures. Never mind that by fourth grade his comprehension skills are so weak that he can’t summarize and discuss what he read. A lot of parents thinks sending their kids to private or charter schools is a panacea. They still need to be diligent no matter where their kids spend 7:30 AM – 3:00 PM (or whatever school hours are now).

        *gingerly hops off soap box*

        • http://twitter.com/tylerg_thomas tgtaggie

          +1. And the sad thing is that kids today will not and won’t appreciate things like art, music and other creative outlets.

          • http://www.thinkprettysmart.com Ms. Smart

            And most people don’t get that music helps with fractions. If I didn’t play instruments in ES, I don’t think I would have really gotten how fractions work.

          • A Woman’s Eyes

            Actually they appreciate it when they are doing it–music, art have led to higher scores in STEM subjects in grade school.

  • Elle Boogie

    I think it’s interesting how economics got magically separated from the other social sciences (because that’s the clique the authors are claiming). Also, I want to hear what William Darity has to say about this. Meanwhile, Ward Connerly has been exposed.

    • http://ccooper929.wordpress.com/ Chad C.

      As someone who has a BA in Sociology-Criminology, I agree with what you said about economics supposedly being separate from the other social sciences.

      At times the people in the econ dept where I went to school at seemed a bit arrogant.

      SN: so glad to turn full attention to the NBA b/c it was a bad week for my teams #geauxtigers #whodat #hornetskingslakerhater

      • http://ccooper929.wordpress.com/ Chad C.

        this is coming from someone who started out as a Business admin./human resources management major who found himself and started excelling in sociology and poli sci.

        Bottom line: I still got the degree w/ no student loans #countmyblessings

    • Sigma_Since 93

      Many schools have the econ department separate from the social sciences; that was the major draw for the Graduate School I attended and obtained my MS from.

    • Scipio Africanus

      The Econ community has spent a ton of time and energy over the last 60 or 70 years trying to get Economics as close to straight up math as possible. Probably in an effort to make the discipline seem more legit. It kind of helps that it deals with dollars and cents, which are represented totally by numbers.
      The hardcore math is typically kept out of most undergard programs, because if it were included, no one would major in Econ, hardly.

      • Maab Ibrahim

        Hi Everyone,
        I’m a student of Prof Darity’s and a few of you have asked his thoughts on the study. He invited me to share the comments he sent to the authors last night:

        —-
        Dear Peter, I spent most of last night reading you paper. Here are my thoughts:

        1. There are at least two ways to view affirmative action. One way, which is the way I view it and is reflected in the comments I have made in the attached draft paper for a festschrift for Tom Weisskopf, is as an anti-discrimination measure that includes persons in positions from which they would otherwise have been excluded, regardless of their “qualifications” or “merit”. An alternative way to view affirmative action is as a compensatory measure that de facto gives extra points to candidates who otherwise would not have been admitted based upon prevailing standards. The latter is akin to a weaker golfer’s handicap score. The second view of affirmative action is it invariably leads to the admission or inclusion of less qualified candidates. In the context of selective university admissions it is necessarily associated with the prior that black students entering such schools are inferior or less well prepared. It is interesting to note that there is no compelling research that supports the view that black employees in the wider workforce who get hired via affirmative action are inferior workers. Quite the contrary: see especially the studies by Holzer and Neumark and by Major Coleman.

        2. What, then, is the basis for asserting that black students enter selective universities as comparatively inferior students? The claim seems to anchor on their relative test scores, which are on average significantly lower for black students at Duke than white students, although black students at Duke score well above the national average for all students regardless of race. The crude explanation which would have been offered by Herrnstein and Murray in The Bell Curve is that it’s all a matter of genetics. A more popular argument today is to claim it is due to cultural differences across “racial” groups with respect to attitudes toward education. Ironically, though, Duke’s black student population consists disproportionately of children of recent black immigrants to the USA who presumably don’t carry the same “cultural baggage” as those of us who are non-exotic blacks. The conventional piece of wisdom seems to that immigrant blacks have a much greater inclination toward achievement and learning than native blacks (I certainly think that was the thrust of John Ogbu’s efforts to distinguish between the putative perspectives of “voluntary” and “involuntary” minorities). A more disaggregated view of the black student population at Duke would put the lie to the cultural explanation on its own terms. Indeed, it might be useful to disaggregate the “white” student body at Duke. Based upon some data generated by a routine of the General Social Survey, I suspect that white mean SAT score reported in your Table 1 is raised significantly by the scores of Jewish students — who tend to have the highest scores on the SAT nationally by religion apart from Unitarians.

        3. If it’s not genetics or culture then why are Duke’s black students mean SAT scores lower? You and your coauthors invoke the phrase “weaker preparation”, but you are never specific about how that has occured. If it because private school exposure is superior to public school exposure? If so, and if the SAT is your standard for guaging preparation, then that does not explain why Asian students have higher scores than whites nor why Latino students have lower scores than whites. I know that racialized tracking in public schools deflects black students away from the most challenging courses, regardless of their social class, but I don’t know to what extent this applies here. Perhaps another factor to consider is number and type of AP courses taken or something along those lines?
        But there is a major factor that can depress black students test scores that is not associated with their lack of preparation nor knowledge, a factor that Ken is probably quite aware of: stereotype threat. The existence of widely held negative beliefs about the cognitive abilities of the group to whom a person belongs — whether or not the person actually shares those beliefs — can affect adversely their performance on a stereotype salient task, like taking a standardized test. In Steele and Aronson’s first experimental study they found that blacks in the threat condition had scores 13 percent lower than comparable black students in the no threat condition. In a second study black participants in the stereotype threat condition completed about 6 fewer items than those not under stereotype threat. In a further study, black student under stereotype threat were slower by an average of 23 seconds in answering the first five test questions and answered five fewer items correctly than black students in the no-threat condition. Steele argues that stereotype threat is necessarily activated in high stakes testing conditions — taking a standardized test that will influence your college admissions. Steele has argued that students consciously or subconsciously don’t want to confirm the stereotype, thereby putting too much pressure on themselves, and lower their performance.
        So at least some portion of the entry test score gap can be explained by stereotype threat, but stereotype threat can operate pervasively after students enter college.

        4. Consider the fact that faculty members know the information reported in your Table 1 and typically assume that SAT score differentials capture substantive differentials in capacity to perform in class (whether in an innate sense or in the sense of preparation differentials). Consider further that there are even more specific widely held beliefs that blacks don’t tend to do well in classes that require more quantitative chutzpah. And I suspect that more of the SAT gap is driven by racial differences in scores on the Quant rather than the Verbal portion, providing further reinforcement for faculty beliefs. So from a faculty member’s perspective a successful black in a quantitative field is a surprise or an anomaly. The widely held expectation is a black student in that class will not do well — never mind become a major in the field. Clearly your results support the self-fulfilling prophecy of the nature of that belief, which, in a sense, is a key adjunct to the impact of stereotype threat. Indeed, there is some evidence that black students are far more reluctant than nonblack students to drop a class in which they are not doing well — pushing down their GPA. I think the reluctance is another manifestation of the effects of stereotype threat; leaving the class would be confirmation of black inferiority rather than a strategic move to maintain their place in the “tournament”.

        5. This creates conditions where there is little reason for faculty members to try to “keep” black students in the STEM fields, since they, presumably, don’t really belong there in the first place. In fact, at the first sign of a poor grade — or even before that — faculty members may actively discourage black students from majoring in a STEM field.

        6. Your data in Table 9 is actually quite striking. Although black students collectively only have a 1 percentage point greater likelihood of declaring a STEM field as their major, there are much wider differences when blacks and whites are compared within gender groups. I guess the overall mean difference is so low because it is a weighted average of the gender based rates of declaring STEM majors, and, unlike all other ethnic groups in the study, the vast majority of black students at Duke are female (why that’s the case should be a matter of interest as well; is there implicit affirmative action in your sense for white males at Duke?). I think all of your analyses should be done separately by gender. Given the higher rate of black entry into the STEM field we might anticipate a higher rate of exit a priori.

        7. A key question not only is why is there such a high rate of exit, but why is there such a high rate of entry? Are black students more likely to declare STEM majors because these are the majors that are most legible to their families? Are they seeking to meet parental expectations rather than satisfy their personal passion to a greater degree than nonblack students (or is there less of a discordance for nonblack students)?

        8. We should only really care about this pattern, if black students are being driven out of the STEM fields when those are their areas of intellectual and personal passion. I suggest that may be the case for a significant number of black students.

        9. However, I don’t view the shift to the humanities or other social sciences besides economics (when did economics cease to be a social science?) as intrinsically a negative decision. Although I struggle mightily with my colleagues in the humanities in AAAS about the importance of having more faculty who are quantitative social scientists, it is not because I view quantitative social science as “superior”. Nor do I view it as inherently more difficult. It is true that the grade distributions lie to the right for the humanities and non-economics social sciences relative to the grade distributions for the natural sciences, engineering, and economics. This may partially be because in a school where so many students declare their majors in STEM fields, the non-STEM departments may seek to compete for students by affording them the expectation of better grades. But I also think it is because many of the STEM classes mandate that grades be generated on a curve. So there is no inclination to have everyone succeed; some students have to be at the bottom of the curve. And at Duke it appears to be disproportionately black students.

        10. Some other observations:
        a. The controls for family background, parental education and very dichotomous income categories, omit wealth or net worth.
        b. If the grand issue is the absence of black scholars in the STEM fields, then it would seem that the university would have a special interest in nurturing and encouraging black students in the STEM fields to pursue doctoral work in those areas. That clearly does not seem to be the case, particularly not economics.
        c. It will be interesting to see if the major switching phenomenon by race is as pronounced at a school that no longer requires the SAT for admission, like Wake Forest. Or will faculty just assume that black students would have had lower scores and treat them accordingly?
        d. Because your presumption is the operation of affirmative action selects in weaker students, your paper clearly can be mobilized (as it has) by the anti-affirmative action camp. Of course, I would be glad to surrender affirmative action on behalf of black Americans if the nation established a full and comprehensive reparations program.

        best, Sandy
        2. What, then, is the basis for asserting that black students enter selective universities as comparatively inferior students? The claim seems to anchor on their relative test scores, which are on average significantly lower for black students at Duke than white students, although black students at Duke score well above the national average for all students regardless of race. The crude explanation which would have been offered by Herrnstein and Murray in The Bell Curve is that it’s all a matter of genetics. A more popular argument today is to claim it is due to cultural differences across “racial” groups with respect to attitudes toward education. Ironically, though, Duke’s black student population consists disproportionately of children of recent black immigrants to the USA who presumably don’t carry the same “cultural baggage” as those of us who are non-exotic blacks. The conventional piece of wisdom seems to that immigrant blacks have a much greater inclination toward achievement and learning than native blacks (I certainly think that was the thrust of John Ogbu’s efforts to distinguish between the putative perspectives of “voluntary” and “involuntary” minorities). A more disaggregated view of the black student population at Duke would put the lie to the cultural explanation on its own terms. Indeed, it might be useful to disaggregate the “white” student body at Duke. Based upon some data generated by a routine of the General Social Survey, I suspect that white mean SAT score reported in your Table 1 is raised significantly by the scores of Jewish students — who tend to have the highest scores on the SAT nationally by religion apart from Unitarians.

        3. If it’s not genetics or culture then why are Duke’s black students mean SAT scores lower? You and your coauthors invoke the phrase “weaker preparation”, but you are never specific about how that has occured. If it because private school exposure is superior to public school exposure? If so, and if the SAT is your standard for guaging preparation, then that does not explain why Asian students have higher scores than whites nor why Latino students have lower scores than whites. I know that racialized tracking in public schools deflects black students away from the most challenging courses, regardless of their social class, but I don’t know to what extent this applies here. Perhaps another factor to consider is number and type of AP courses taken or something along those lines?
        But there is a major factor that can depress black students test scores that is not associated with their lack of preparation nor knowledge, a factor that Ken is probably quite aware of: stereotype threat. The existence of widely held negative beliefs about the cognitive abilities of the group to whom a person belongs — whether or not the person actually shares those beliefs — can affect adversely their performance on a stereotype salient task, like taking a standardized test. In Steele and Aronson’s first experimental study they found that blacks in the threat condition had scores 13 percent lower than comparable black students in the no threat condition. In a second study black participants in the stereotype threat condition completed about 6 fewer items than those not under stereotype threat. In a further study, black student under stereotype threat were slower by an average of 23 seconds in answering the first five test questions and answered five fewer items correctly than black students in the no-threat condition. Steele argues that stereotype threat is necessarily activated in high stakes testing conditions — taking a standardized test that will influence your college admissions. Steele has argued that students consciously or subconsciously don’t want to confirm the stereotype, thereby putting too much pressure on themselves, and lower their performance.
        So at least some portion of the entry test score gap can be explained by stereotype threat, but stereotype threat can operate pervasively after students enter college.

        4. Consider the fact that faculty members know the information reported in your Table 1 and typically assume that SAT score differentials capture substantive differentials in capacity to perform in class (whether in an innate sense or in the sense of preparation differentials). Consider further that there are even more specific widely held beliefs that blacks don’t tend to do well in classes that require more quantitative chutzpah. And I suspect that more of the SAT gap is driven by racial differences in scores on the Quant rather than the Verbal portion, providing further reinforcement for faculty beliefs. So from a faculty member’s perspective a successful black in a quantitative field is a surprise or an anomaly. The widely held expectation is a black student in that class will not do well — never mind become a major in the field. Clearly your results support the self-fulfilling prophecy of the nature of that belief, which, in a sense, is a key adjunct to the impact of stereotype threat. Indeed, there is some evidence that black students are far more reluctant than nonblack students to drop a class in which they are not doing well — pushing down their GPA. I think the reluctance is another manifestation of the effects of stereotype threat; leaving the class would be confirmation of black inferiority rather than a strategic move to maintain their place in the “tournament”.

        5. This creates conditions where there is little reason for faculty members to try to “keep” black students in the STEM fields, since they, presumably, don’t really belong there in the first place. In fact, at the first sign of a poor grade — or even before that — faculty members may actively discourage black students from majoring in a STEM field.

        6. Your data in Table 9 is actually quite striking. Although black students collectively only have a 1 percentage point greater likelihood of declaring a STEM field as their major, there are much wider differences when blacks and whites are compared within gender groups. I guess the overall mean difference is so low because it is a weighted average of the gender based rates of declaring STEM majors, and, unlike all other ethnic groups in the study, the vast majority of black students at Duke are female (why that’s the case should be a matter of interest as well; is there implicit affirmative action in your sense for white males at Duke?). I think all of your analyses should be done separately by gender. Given the higher rate of black entry into the STEM field we might anticipate a higher rate of exit a priori.

        7. A key question not only is why is there such a high rate of exit, but why is there such a high rate of entry? Are black students more likely to declare STEM majors because these are the majors that are most legible to their families? Are they seeking to meet parental expectations rather than satisfy their personal passion to a greater degree than nonblack students (or is there less of a discordance for nonblack students)?

        8. We should only really care about this pattern, if black students are being driven out of the STEM fields when those are their areas of intellectual and personal passion. I suggest that may be the case for a significant number of black students.

        9. However, I don’t view the shift to the humanities or other social sciences besides economics (when did economics cease to be a social science?) as intrinsically a negative decision. Although I struggle mightily with my colleagues in the humanities in AAAS about the importance of having more faculty who are quantitative social scientists, it is not because I view quantitative social science as “superior”. Nor do I view it as inherently more difficult. It is true that the grade distributions lie to the right for the humanities and non-economics social sciences relative to the grade distributions for the natural sciences, engineering, and economics. This may partially be because in a school where so many students declare their majors in STEM fields, the non-STEM departments may seek to compete for students by affording them the expectation of better grades. But I also think it is because many of the STEM classes mandate that grades be generated on a curve. So there is no inclination to have everyone succeed; some students have to be at the bottom of the curve. And at Duke it appears to be disproportionately black students.

        10. Some other observations:
        a. The controls for family background, parental education and very dichotomous income categories, omit wealth or net worth.
        b. If the grand issue is the absence of black scholars in the STEM fields, then it would seem that the university would have a special interest in nurturing and encouraging black students in the STEM fields to pursue doctoral work in those areas. That clearly does not seem to be the case, particularly not economics.
        c. It will be interesting to see if the major switching phenomenon by race is as pronounced at a school that no longer requires the SAT for admission, like Wake Forest. Or will faculty just assume that black students would have had lower scores and treat them accordingly?
        d. Because your presumption is the operation of affirmative action selects in weaker students, your paper clearly can be mobilized (as it has) by the anti-affirmative action camp. Of course, I would be glad to surrender affirmative action on behalf of black Americans if the nation established a full and comprehensive reparations program.

        best, Sandy

        • Resilience1908

          Thank you for posting Dr. Darity’s comments. He really has been an ally of mine while I have been trying to make my way through Duke Economics.

  • http://TheNotesofToni'sLife Toni La Nae

    I am an African-American college female student I feel as thought the research and outlook is biased. Further more white people always find a way to put themselves ahead. Everytime we advance or excel in anything it becomes a problem. Not to mention common sense tells you go in the field of study you are passionate about and also go into the field of study you will excel in.

    • Tiny Tim

      Playing the race card a bit early, eh? Whites have a life and their life doesn’t focus on how to mess over blacks. If it weren’t for the ‘in your face’ attitude of some blacks we would ignore you, not out of racism but because we’re busy.

      • http://wildcougarconfessions.co Wild Cougar

        \__

        • http://vanityinperil.com Vanity in Peril

          White life in North America, which is where I live so I can speak to that only, is a system of “whites messing over blacks” and has been since always. The fact that you don’t notice it does not mean it is not there. Nor does it mean you aren’t a part of it subconsciously. We all are a part of it until racism ends. Which won’t happen anytime soon until sleepwalkers and the apathetic ‘wake up’. #no Spike. Watch this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MbdxeFcQtaU and then play ‘Last Night a DJ Saved my Life” for irony. :)

          • http://vanityinperil.com Vanity in Peril

            My comment was in response to Tiny Tim not Wild Cougar… but I’ll take that seat all the same. I’m tired.

  • http://twitter.com/tylerg_thomas tgtaggie

    I’ll be the first to say it…..I’m a diehard North Carolina fan so naturally anything with “Duke” in it I’m going to side eye it.

    On the real, I went to an HBCU in NC that graduates more blacks in engineering than any school in the country. When I was a freshman, I initially majored in architectural engineering. I changed my major b/c I felt that majoring in Construction Management (CM) would best suit me for running a construction company (which I do now). I also felt that I wanted the option to go to b-school. The math and physics wasn’t a problem for me. And I know I’m not the smartest guy. My undergrad program in CM was less engineering intensive (math and physics) so naturally my GPA was higher.

    We know its a well known fact that some blacks aren’t prepared for college (especially STEM majors). I want to say they didn’t include the social-economic background of some of the people they studied (which would explain a lot of it).

    • KayDotNicole

      “I’ll be the first to say it…..I’m a diehard North Carolina fan so naturally anything with “Duke” in it I’m going to side eye it.”

      Go to hell Carolina, go to hell!

      Signed,
      A Proud Duke Alum *smile*

    • DQ

      You don’t even have to name the school, the stats speak for themselves. Aggie Pride.

    • http://semanticpoison.blogspot.com Samantha

      Aggie Pride

      • DocDD

        YES Aggie Pride!!!

        I also would like to know what Professor Darity has to say about this. I’m in no way strong in STEM (took basic math 101 three times), I never wanted to do anything but humanities, but I would love to understand the reasoning behind the switch. And it’s interesting to hear/read this because I was always under the impression that African Americans usually stay away from the humanities just because the fields typically make less money than practical fields. No scientific research done on this, but most HBCUs are more technologically focused; only a few are considered liberal arts institutions.

        But it does sicken me that they felt the need to publish this just for the uses of abolishing AA. Assholes. Also, I must say, this is another reason why I will always root for Carolina over Duke.

  • andherewego

    I can’t. I don’t even know where to begin.

  • http://mondaysbaby.com Monday’s Baby

    Um, it’s not just black students at Duke who switch from STEM majors to those in the social sciences/humanities.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/06/education/edlife/why-science-majors-change-their-mind-its-just-so-darn-hard.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=stem%20majors&st=cse

    (That’s all I’ve got.)

    • Todd
      • http://mondaysbaby.com Monday’s Baby

        I have a STEM degree from undergrad (Chemistry). I was well prepared by my high school and studied (most of the time). However, I really wanted to major in radio/tv/film or communications and become a news anchor. My mother told me that that absolutely wasn’t going to happen. If I had been able to pay for school out of pocket or had the benefit of hindsight, I would have taken an extra year, worked full-time (or close to it), and double majored in English. As it stands, I only worked as a chemist for 1.75 years after graduating. I do something totally different now.

        All that to say, STEM majors aren’t for everyone. There are many careers (that pay decent salaries) that don’t require a STEM degree. Changing from a STEM major to something in the humanities doesn’t necessarily mean anything about one’s intelligence. Try not painting with such a broad brush, Todd.

    • http://vanityinperil.com Vanity in Peril

      It’s funny that this is from the NYT where I have been addicted to Steven Strogatz and his series on mathematics. I think it should be mentioned that teachers influence how we learn and how we apply ourselves as well. Females of all races and black males are not encouraged to learn math and science in elementary and middle schools b/c of the assumption/prejudice that it is a white/asian male strength so that even when the ability and aptitude is there, students fall back. If the ability is there but needs to be cultivated and isn’t in these grades, where it is so easy to get left behind, students are not prepared by the time they reach hs and are often times encouraged to take the easier courses or just do the status quo and finish hs with electives. Partner that with the fact that women are encouraged more than men to be pretty over smart (remember guys don’t make passes at girls that where glasses?) and too many of our black youth have fallen into the Venus flytrap of lies that black=cool (not worried about being smart) and white=nerdy(expected to be smart) and you can see how this exasperates things. I didn’t read the study but I doubt they accounted for that. Or the obviousness of how we groom white males for greatness in this country.

      • http://wishaniggawould.com Chucc Taylor

        I’m callin bull$*!^ on that statement about not checking for chicks with glasses. #ilovemesomenerds #ilovechickswithglasses

    • Nappy Mind

      Thank you! Of course it always helps to frame the discussion in a larger context.

  • http://lizburr.com Liz

    Hmm. As someone who started out as a hard science major and ended up in more of a humanities major (I still got a BS degree tho!) I think I kind of took this personal. But on the other hand, I have to think about what it was like for me, especially at a good white school, and when and why I made the switch.

    Initially I wanted to do both but the science major was just….uncute. I couldn’t imagine myself being in a lab all day for the rest or even a significant part of my life (maybe that’s part of the problem). Also, I discovered I had other interests…just kinda late. Maybe black kids tend to overcompensate and try out hard sciences first only to discover they don’t really like it. Or maybe in a hard science setting they realize they won’t get enough support and it’s unbearable. Who knows. I particularly liked science and math because I felt like there weren’t a lot of things to argue about. 2 plus 2 is always 4, but some essay grading could totally be subjective.

    All I know is, I am a much happier person because I pursued what naturally interested me, and I am proud and happy to say I use my undergrad learnings every day at work. Even if it is for the purposes of interviewing Idris Elba on video.

    • nillalatte

      Kudos Liz. This is what I tell anyone seeking a degree; study what interests you and you’ll do well. If you are going after a degree just because there may be money behind it, you may not be happy. I’ve known people with degrees in things like anthropology who built websites for a living. Another friend was a Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering who ended up changing professions (late in life… like his 50′s) and now teaches computer science. There are many other examples. Peoples interests changes and nothing is wrong with that.

      • Nappy Mind

        Yep, and there are 50eleven negroes with law degrees who have never practiced law.

    • Hawaii

      “I couldn’t imagine myself being in a lab all day for the rest or even a significant part of my life (maybe that’s part of the problem).”

      I think this it’s definitely number 1 in the top three of the issue. My sister’s initial major at Spelman required some of the more rigoruos math courses but it was cool until a bad grade gravely effected her GPA had her switching to another major. Now, granted… she was young and may have indeed had a new interest in the major she graduated with a degree in but you can’t convinced me that because those math courses that needed to be paid more attention to, got in the way of her partying, she was over it and would rather put less time into her studies and more into her social life- which I understand at that time/age is important but still….

      • http://lizburr.com Liz

        My point was speaking more to the fact that I had little to no points of reference of black people in labs, or even just people in labs all day because I was never exposed to it. at the time it was a weird concept for me to understand what academia and lab life was like for the long haul, mostly because in my life I didn’t know anyone (parents, parents friends, mentors) who had gone down that path, nor did I know it could be a successful path if I stuck to it. All the black people I did know in lab life seemed salty, as if the KKK was knocking on their doors everyday harassing them. Could be just the school I went to….or it could be that racism is still very institutionalized in the upper echelons of hard science and that sh*t is annoying, b. Either way, I knew at the time with my “angry black” disposition in life, I was not the one.

        • Todd

          Is racism entrenched in the highest levels of ACADEMIC hard sciences? Yes. However, we have a huge pharma/biotech industrial complex and lots of engineering firms. While I wouldn’t say there’s no one racist in that scene, the fact that they can make some money off your brain seems to keep the foolishness to a minimum. Academia is a stifling case of inequity, while industry is an ocean of affluence, at least in my opinion.

        • http://www.styleillusions.com WIP

          I think there is a difference in the pressure put on black kids. As I mentioned below, I’d guess many of us were encouraged to be successful, in general. I often hear people of other ethnicities say their parents expected them to be doctors/scientists from day one. To be a teacher or a public servant would be beneath them. I wonder how many black students hear that? There is real pressure to go into a specific field and I’d guess that’s why many of those students stay.

        • Sigma_Since 93

          “My point was speaking more to the fact that I had little to no points of reference of black people in labs, or even just people in labs all day because I was never exposed to it.”

          I can relate to your statement. I always wanted to work on wall st. and my friends would scoff and reply who do you know that’s black on wall street. Yes we are on wall st. but geography and time constraints made accessing them dang near impossible.

          While I was in grad school, Black Enterprise ran an issue on the Black movers and shakers in wall street. I wrote a letter to each person in the article asking what advice they would give to graduates comming out of school (pre 9-11 mind you). I only received one response. Their response was be overqualified; as banks and brokerage firms merge being overqualified makes it hard for you to be displaced because you can (should) be able to surrive in both enviornments. If we can’t take a moment to build the brigde, plant a seed VSB family the cycle will of the youth not having a reference point will continue.

        • Golden_standard

          I feel where you’re coming from re: the lack of black representatio. In STEM professions. I think most of us aspire to be what we know. I think lots of us go for social sciences because lots of people we know are in social science professions. I’m 27 (criminal justice & poly sci undergrad, lawyer now) and I know less than 10 black people (maybe less than 30 white people) in STEM careers or with STEM degrees and I’ve got 1000 Facebook friends.

    • Rewind

      Agreed. You have a dream, then when it’s time to make it reality, it is nothing like what you imagined. Don’t see why anyone should be penalized for changing their mind so that they won’t be miserable in 20 years.

      • http://lizburr.com Liz

        yeah. I still think maybe blacks overindex for hard sciences mpre than they intend to. maybe out of high school they have no idea what to do so they pick the first basic major that comes to mind (doctor path). that’s literally what i did LOL. i did love biology though. just not for a career.

    • http://Ponderingsofablackman.blogspot.com Miles Garvey

      Liz, I’m with you 100%. Initially I was a Biochem. major at a PWI. I excelled in the lecture classes but the lab classes killed me. Not that I couldn’t handle the material (my GPA was over a 3.0 as a Biochem. major), but I HATED being in those long lab classes. Also, I was never passionate about Biochem. so I changed my major to History. I’m glad I made the switch. No regrets.

    • http://asiyah3.wordpress.com Asiyah

      “Maybe black kids tend to overcompensate and try out hard sciences first only to discover they don’t really like it.”

      That’s actually what I was thinking.

  • A Woman’s Eyes

    See, the litmus test on the strength of racism that will be used as fuel for the anti-affirmative action clan is on whether socio-economic differences within Black folks is looked into. And because it is not, all this does is promote the idea that Black people are a monolith that comes from the same socio-economic and academic roots.

    I’m more annoyed that Black students who switched to the humanities, excelled at it and are getting jobs based on their academic achievements (the irony!) and their school name are going to be treated as the Willie Hortons of 2012. We have an election coming up. Every election, the Republican mouthpieces look for a new set of trifling niggas to blame for their own mental illness called racism. Only in 2012 will the blame be due to non-triflingness.

    • A Woman’s Eyes

      Free my comment please.

  • TyRonda Smith

    I feel like there is truth there. I am still in undergrad and am double majoring in biology and psychology. There are so many students I know that started off as bio or nursing majors, and then changed it to psychology (which in my eyes is an easy major), social work, health administration, communications, or African American or women’s studies. All of these majors are considered easy by many Caucasians, and I for one am actually tired of seeing only a few black faces in my class! There are never more than 5 in any of my science classes but I see Black people all day everyday. I remember even talking to a few of my professors and they’ve been genuinely surprised that I can academically compete with many of their Caucasian or higher level minority students. I feel like as a solution we need to teach more students to not be afraid of math and science and really support working hard in those fields, because yea the goal is to graduate and with a high GPA, but if your field is considered easy and predominantly Black,do you really think there will be a lot of jobs in that field after graduating in an institutionalized society such as ours.

    • lotusflower11

      Your professors were surprised you were academically on par with white students? If one of my professors said that to me I’d be kind of offended.

      • Chanelle

        “If one of my professors said that to me I’d be kind of offended”

        I kind of would feel some type of way about that too.

    • Chanelle

      “All of these majors are considered easy by many Caucasians, and I for one am actually tired of seeing only a few black faces in my class! ”

      I understand this statement. All my classes I’ve ever taken have been filled with mostly whites, even in high school when taking advanced and AP courses

      “yea the goal is to graduate and with a high GPA, but if your field is considered easy and predominantly Black,do you really think there will be a lot of jobs in that field after graduating in an institutionalized society such as ours.”

      Right. The answer is no. I know many people experiencing this now. They went to school for “easy” subjects and can’t find a job in those areas and therefore have to work sub-par jobs that they could worked without degrees.

  • A Woman’s Eyes

    I just saw the caption *lol*

    I feel like there will be a “How dare they succeed” campaign platform coming up with the elections…

    • http://wildcougarconfessions.co Wild Cougar

      This