WTF is a "Black Engineering Program"?

“It’s really our cultural responsibility to graduate from and be taught by our own people and to bring more children in and have them follow our path. That’s going to be taken away from us,”

There are no black engineers at any school other than this one? Are there white kids in this program? If not, why? If so are they getting a better or worse education being taught by black engineers?
“The drive they have to get postdoctoral degrees, to create their own businesses, to become consultants, is because of the foundation they got at a historically black college,” said Temitayo Akinrefon, a graduate student in engineering at the University of Central Florida in Orlando and regional chairwoman of the National Society of Black Engineers.
What does the school being historically black have to do with any of this? Being taught by white, hispanic or asian professors wouldn’t provide these same opportunities? This is nuts.

I just don’t understand the need in 2005 to continue to tout things as “black this” and “black that”. How will this country ever feel naturally integrated to those that feel that racism is still strong in the US as long as they continue to label things based on race? It’s stupid.

OK. So first we get to dump on the black community for not producing enough well-educated and productive people who can be held up as role models for kids, leaving the role model slot to the rappers, sports stars, and drug dealers.
Then, when they make the effort to provide role models in the business and technical fields, we get to criticize them for being separatist.

Sounds like a good deal, to me. We get to bash them either way.

Note that the more outlandish comments quoted in the article were made by young students (employing typical student rhetoric).

What we have is a private school making a business decision and the people affected by it complaining. Now, my experience has been that the boards of governmors of many private schools are idiots who never quite pick the proper cost-cutting or fund raising methods, but there is not evidence here that “the man” is interfering with the situation.
Rather, we have people doing exactly what some among the majority claim they are supposed to be doing–establishing ways to get kids out of poverty into productive careers and providing role models to encourage the next generation to do the same–and they are having their legs cut out from under them.

If an occasional student uses typical overblown student rhetoric to describe the situation, I would suggest that we blast the reporters for picking the wildest response rather than trying to organize one more protest against them uppity people.

So you’re saying that these exact same opportunities are not availible at a, for lack of a better term, “non-black” engineering school?

I don’t buy it.

Which opportunites? The chance to learn specific formulae and methodologies to become an engineer? I’m not trying to sell that to you.

The chance to see that there are blacks who have achieved an education and been able to find productive employment in that field and have used that condition to improve their social status? If you cannot see the value in that, then you are not paying attention to the world.

So, tell me, how many blacks are employed as instructors and administrators at engineering colleges around the country.
How many engineering faculties have no blacks?

Do you believe that no one needs a role model? Do you believe that no one can be intimidated by being the first of their group to try something outside the norm for that group? If so, then you are probably not capable of “buying” the point and would not understand it if it were handed to you for free.

I’m on tomndebb’s side of the fence on this one.

I work for an engineering firm, and have worked for one for over 25 years. We employ a few hundred people in our region. We currently do not have any black engineers. None. Zero. I can count the number of black engineers we have had on the fingers of one hand, and use the remaining finger to point accusingly at those who question the need for this program/any program that will bring more black engineers to the workplace. Hyperbolic, I know, but illustrative.

It is not for lack of trying. My company is a national firm, and Equal Opportunity is absolutely part of our corporate policy. There are some engineering firms that we use as sub-consultants that are MBE (Minority Business Enterprise) firms; upon examination they turn to be minority owned, but staffed chiefly by non-minority employees.

When I attended college (lo these many years ago), there was a tendency at my state university for black students to congregate together because they were vastly outnumbered by white students. Based upon the racist comments I would hear upon occasion, I can hardly say that I can blame them. As a result, despite what must have been varied levels of interest and intellect, they would tend to attend the same classes together in the Black Studies program. Not exactly the formal and rigorous background required by the technical firms hiring when they graduated.

If there are programs that encourage black students to get a technical education, then I am all for it.

And, before anyone starts mentioning the number of Chinese/Mid Eastern/Indian students in engineering programs, ask yourself this: Are you more likely to hear a bigoted comment about them, or about a black student? There is nothing intellectually superior about those students compared to white or black students; it’s just that the cream of the crop from those countries have been accepted to universities, mostly coming from financially secure families and having access to expensive and top-quality private educations.

More likely to hear a bigoted comment about the Chinese or Indians. Though the few blacks that were in my engineering program were presumably coming from the same financially secure backgrounds as well. I’m not sure of your point. Are you saying that blacks need to be in a ‘protected’ program due to racism?

I don’t have a problem if a group sets up their own program for ‘their own people’ who want to be in it.

Which is what we are looking at.

In 1994, Clark Atlanta University (a traditionally black school created earlier from the merger of two other traditionally black colleges), established an engineering program in connection with Georgia Tech. (Clark Atlanta is highly rated, but, like many schools, is having endowment problems and financial issues.) The school is open to all ethnic groups, but has traditionally focused on recruiting and educating black kids.

Two years ago, looking over their books, the board of governors decided to kill off the engineering college by 2008, setting up an alternative program that would send their student to Georgia Tech after their junior year–but in a way that would require those students to spend five years to get their degree instead of four years.

Members of the engineering faculty (with some students) filed suit to stop that decision, last week, prompting the story linked in the OP.

Clark Atlanta may have made the right decision and there may be good arguments for the new curriculum whereby incoming students spend threee years at Clark Atlanta and then matriculate to Georgia Tech. Without on-the-ground knowledge of the situation, I am not going to take sides in that discussion.

However, I do think that pitting objections to that decision in ways that demonstrate ignorance of both the situation at the school and the situation in the country are silly.

Sure there are. Just not very many.

I wouldn’t be so bold as to say none, but I don’t think there are that many. White people don’t tend to gravitate towards historically black colleges and universities, at least at the undergraduate level. The reasons are many, but probably the biggest one is that it’s not usually fun being in the minority, particularly in the educational setting.

Historically black colleges and universities serve a population that is underrepresented in just about every academic field and endeavor. Thus, they feel a certain pressure to put out top professionals and make sure their students go on to succeed. Not having attended an HBCU, I can’t say this for sure, but from what I’ve heard these instutitions tend to be particularly nurturing and attentive to their students’ needs–probably moreso than other schools.

I’d say being a HBCU is very relevant to this. Atlanta is a city that is predominately black. Many Atlantans attend one of the local HBCUs–with Clarke U. being one of them. Maybe people fear that the loss of the engineering program means that even fewer black engineers will be produced. This, for a lot of people, isn’t a good thing.

Come on now. Don’t you think having a role model who looks like you matters in the least bit? Do you think white men would have come to dominate engineering if most of their role models had been black women?

People don’t tend to be “in your face” racists anymore, but we all harbor prejudice. I will never forget the day I sought out my undergraduate advisor as a freshman at Georgia Tech. I knocked on his door and he gave me a cursory glance before turning his attention to the stack of papers on his desk.

“Are you an athelete?”

This was his very first question to me after I told him my name. Not, “What are your career plans?” Not, “What classes are you taking now?” No, he just saw my skin and thought, “Oh dear. Here’s another dumb jock coming here to pester me about something.” He didn’t know a thing about me but already his expectations were low. (A few months ago I visited him at his summer house. It felt good to hear him address me as “Doctor”).

Prejudice is still a very real thing facing minority students in the educational setting. It can range from being simply irritating (like my encounter with my advisor) to cruel and heartbreaking.

Of course, there will always be professors who are truly color blind and will see genius and potential regardless (I will never forget my first calc professor, a hard-ass if there ever was one, who you could just look at and tell was a fair dealer, straight shooter). And there will always be professors who will shaft EVERYONE, regardless of their skin color. But if you already have the deck stacked against you (black, poor, under-educated), it might be in your best interest to seek out an environment where you are NOT a minority, where your instructors are understanding, and where competitive individualism is balanced with a sense of community. So while I did not attend a HBCU, I don’t blame those who do.

White students have it lucky. They can attend most colleges and universities without worrying about how to handle being a minority. No one will call them a separatist or a racist for going to a school with 90% white enrollment. White students can easily seek out a comfort zone, where no one will question their hygeine habits, their speaking style, their educational background, job aspirations, or their general compentency. They can go to a “white” school and live in a “white” neighborhood and no one will ever say to that they need to naturally integrate.

But the moment black students choose to emerse themselves in an environment where they aren’t the minority, where they have a lot of classmates who have a similar cultural background, where they don’t have to work so hard to fit in, where they can rest assured that no one will discriminate against them or harbor ill thoughts about their worth–they will be blamed for “holding things back” and told that they need to disperse (just like “gangs” of black youth at the mall). Don’t even recognize yourselves as a group, they are told. I tell ya, this particular double-standard sucks donkey balls.

As for the situation at Clarke, it’s sad but it’s not the end of the world. Most black engineering students in Atlanta don’t obtain their degrees from Clarke anyway. They either start off at an HBCU and transfer to Georgia Tech, or they do as I did and go to Georgia Tech from day one. And Georgia Tech has its own program devoted to maintaining black student matriculation and it’s pretty good (at least it was, back in the day). So I think people who are worried about this should relax a little.

Stinkpalm, this might be the lamest pitting ever.

You might want to read a little about historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), and indeed about Clark Atlanta University (from

Bolding mine.

The history of HBCUs is mired in the racism and segregation - but philanthropic organizations and churches sought to educate African Americans from the 1860s. I am certain that many of these colleges were founded with the intent of giving Blacks a meager education for a life in the service sector - however, over the years, their institutional missions have changed. Until very recently, Black colleges produced more graduates than predominantly White institutions. These 103 institutions can boast a better graduation rate of African American students than predominantly White instititutions, and many prominent African Americans are HBCU graduates (Martin Luther King, Jr., Thurgood Marshall, Barbara Jordan, and the first African American president of an Ivy League institution, Ruth Simmons). Here’s an article that presents many of these facts as well as others.

Your assumption that HBCUs such as Clark Atlanta only have Black professors is also erroneous. While I don’t have specifics on Clark Atlanta’s faculty today, I can tell you that I know of no HBCU with 100 percent Black faculty. The national averages from the National Center of Educational Statistics (NCES) from 1996, if I recall, is that HBCU faculties are about 50 percent African American and 50 percent other races. That’s a much better average than predominantly White institutions, which nationally have African American faculty at about five percent. Not to mention that HBCUs were among the first to hire non-White faculty and women in sizable numbers. Joseph Jewell and Walter Allen write about how many predominantly White institutions refused to hire Jewish scholars who escaped Europe in the 1930s and 1940s, but HBCUs were all too happy to employ these displaced professors. I personally have a friend who is Indian whose father teaches at Prairie View A&M University outside of Houston. He’s been there since the 1960s - no predominantly White university would hire him, and he’s happily taught there for nearly half a century.

I would also imagine that Clark Atlanta has graduated students who are not Black. There are at least four HBCUs that actually have predominantly White student bodies - Langston University in Oklahoma and Bluefield State in West Virginia are two of them. The latter’s president is a White male who came from the faculty ranks. This is because many HBCUs are known for their emphasis on student potential than standardized test measures, and have pioneered innovations such as night courses and part-time programs. You can see how servicemen returning from WWII, Korea, or Vietnam might find these programs attractive - as well as women who work. Furthermore, there are prominent White Americans who hold (earned not honorary) degrees from HBCUs - former U.S. senator Harris Wofford and former Louisiana governor Mike Foster

Plynck and tomndebb have ably articulated the issues concerned with the lack of Black engineers in predominantly White institutions and the lack of Black role models, so there’s no need to recap those arguments.

I find it hard to understand how anyone could reasonably object to Black Engineering Programs. Do we really want inadequately engineered black people walking around? There’s already enough of a technical drain in American black engineering schools, as other nations send their brightest students through our educational system only to export our expertise back overseas and engineer their own black people. The United States has a proud tradition of engineering the highest quality black people for generations, and it would be economically disastrous if the industry were to lose ground to foreign competition in the 21st century. Let us not forget the inspiring words spoken at the inauguration of America’s first Black Engineering Program:

“Gentlemen, we have the capability… we have the technology. We can make him better than he was before. Better… stronger… blacker.”

I grew up in a very diverse but very intergrated area. HBCU’s wern’t really a part of my consciousness.

But now I live in Oakland, where things are a little more segregated. I can walk up the hill to a nearly all-white high school that looks like a palace. They offer dozens of honors and AP classes. It’s rare for a student not to go to a four-year university with a nationall known name. Whenever I work there, we have contingent of parent volunteer- mosty trophy housewives- to help out. I can also walk to a predominently Black school. It looks like it’s about to fall down. They got funded by the district for 800 kids and on the first day 1200 kids showed up. They can’t even get enough funding to hire teachers for all the kids they have. The kids there are considered lucky to graduate.

Meanwhile, I’ve spent a lot of time talking to high school students. I was surprised that so many young black people expressed an interest in moving out of state and going to an HBCU. Oakland has failed these kids badly. HBCUs stand in their mind as a place where they won’t get fucked over like they have here. It gives them hope that someone is actually interested in their education. And anything that can convince a kid to work hard and invest in their education, I’m for.

We must also not forget that one of the most important things you get in college is contacts. And I don’t blame these kids for being wary of the contacts they’d make at a predominently white college. White people havn’t showed too much interst in making their life better. White people, around here, have shown mostly interest in getting away from the Black people. The front page of this all-White high school boasts it’s racial data on the front page. In an area that is only 20% white. They mention being close to Berkeley and San Francisco, but they don’t mention Oakland, that big diverse city that their school has a beautiful view of from the top of their hill.

Clark Atlanta just dropped their library science program. It was the last MLIS degree program at a HBCU in the country. The ALA fought hard to get them to keep it, because we want more diversity in the profession. We were all very upset to see it go.

Having graduated from a major university engineering program I can tell you that most, not all, but most of my professors were not role models to me. Most didn’t even know my name. It didn’t matter whether or not I was black or white. We all had the same dis-advantage. Giant classes. I got no more attention than my black classmates (of which there were a few). So the color of your skin at a large university is probably not going to hold you back considerably because most of the profs don’t even know your name as an undergrad. They just know your student ID number and put your grades by that.

Once you break into grad school and the classes get smaller there may be some differences but I can tell you that at a large state U there isn’t any difference.

(Yes there may be exceptions to this but I’m talking about in general)

Thanks for making our case.

Kids coming out of poorer neighborhoods where they may be accused of “acting white” if they concentrate on academics do need role models more than the typical middle-class kid with college-educated parents.

This initial draw is not that Professor J will be a personal role model to a student, but that Professor J has a similar background to the prospective student and that he also shares that background with Professors K, L, M, and N.

Then, when the student arrives at the smaller, more student-focused school, dragging his or her poorer academic experience from high school, the student is more likely to get the type of help that will help him or her succeed.

So we have a situation where blacks are not seeking set-asides or affirmative action, where blacks are investing their own energy to help kids get ahead, and you decide to make that a reason to pit them?

Kinda lame.

Oh, I bet you did. I bet you had all the same disadvantages as the black kids. Yep, suuuuure you did.

Did you not read a single word of monstro’s post?

I grew up one of 4 kids of a single mom. We lived in a 2 bedroom house for the first 14 years of my life and lived on her $20k/yr on the south side of Chicago. I went in the military to pay for my education (which I couldn’t start for 5 years because I spent so much time in the fucking desert) while black kids from my school were going to college on scholarships that I couldn’t compete for because I was white.

Save your sarcasm and eye rolling for someone else.

I’m hoping that we reach a point during this millenium where people stop blaming their station in life on the people and situations around them and start taking charge/responsibility for themselves. There are other people in this world that have had the deck stacked against them in life who are NOT minorities. Why are they always overlooked?

If you really agree with this, then you wouldn’t have authored this particular Pit thread.

It seems to me that these people are taking charge. They’re just not doing it the way that you apparently want them to.

There’s help out there for disadvantaged people of all colors. There were programs in my college that offered extra help to kids who were the first in their family to attend college, and to kids who came from low income families. I don’t believe that they were unique to my school.

It seems to me that they did, and you seem to be pretty upset that they did.

First, thank you for your service. I think that higher education is the least benefit that the government should provide to those who give their time in its service. I hope that others who served with you were also able to take advantage of those benefits.

I wasn’t in the same situation as you were, but I was one of four boys in my family. I worked part-time jobs throughout high school, took a year off after high school to work to save for college, worked part-time jobs throughout college, and immediately went to work after graduation to pay off my college debts. Some of my friends went to school on trust funds, others on full scholarships. I don’t hold either situation against them. It is what it is.

I don’t think that you are asking the right question here. You are asking why only some people are given an opportunity for higher education instead of asking why everyone isn’t given that opportunity. If that had been your point, I would have stood with you shoulder to shoulder.

I don’t think that everyone needs a college education. But, if a person wants to pursue a particular career, college may be their only option to achieve that goal. Engineering is an example of that.