By Sandra J. Szczsponik
The second edition of The Black Student’s Guide to Colleges has just been published and Martin Luther King Jr.’s alma mater is not included in the top 10 of supportive schools for blacks.
However, Boston University did get high marks in the guide for the Martin Luther King Jr. Center, the Black Drama Collective, the Black Law Students Association and several other organizations.
The book included quotes from students who rated BU generally fair but sometimes indifferent to minorities.
Christine Norman, of Minority Affairs, said author Barry Beckham was very impressed with the student support system at BU.
“The drop out and transfer level for blacks is lower than in the university as a whole because of places like the King Center,” Norman said.
Despite attempts to recruit black students, Norman said the number of black students has remained about the same for the last three or four years. There are currently 448 black undergraduate students at BU.
Norman said that “cost is a factor (in bringing more blacks to BU.) There’s a lack of knowledge about the financial aid available. Students have to know that financial aid is determined by need and not by the cost of the institution.”
Marsha Morris, a black student in the College of Basic Studies, said about racial relations at BU: “There’s kind of an indifference more than anything. BU is so big that I don’t think they (whites) look at us as blacks.
“You notice it sometimes on a more one-to-one basis. In CBS where you have small classes, you can see the preconceived notions.”
Morris said that “there’s a lot of ignorance and whites don’t know the history of blacks. We had to read a book in CBS called All My Kin which reinforced all these lies and stereotypes.
“I remember somebody last year asking me why the inside of my palm was white when the back of my hand was black. What was I supposed to say? So there is a lot of ignorance and a lot of people who aren’t used to knowing blacks.”
Marjorie Keys, a black CBS sophomore from East Lansing, Michigan, said blacks and whites tend to form two separate groups at BU.
“The black population is not very big here and we tend to stick together. But everybody here tends to hang out with their own kind—Jew, sororities, frats, Lebanese, Chinese, etc.”
Keys said she hasn’t encountered any racial problems and that “in high school most of my friends were white so coming to BU wasn’t such a big thing. You can see who isn’t accustomed to doing things with blacks—you can feel the difference here. At home you couldn’t tell the difference.”
Morris and Keys agree that they sometimes encounter hostility in competitive classrooms. “In one class there were eight of us and we’d end up sitting together because we were all friends from last year,” Morris said. “I know the white people felt like we were alienating them but we’re not.”
“There’s definitely competition,” Morris added. “You can feel the tension.”
A couple of them made nasty remarks when we asked questions. They don’t like the fact that we’re pushing ahead and trying to do better..If you can better them, they get pissed, more so than they would with a white person. I answered a question in political science the other day and some people cut me down with their looks.”
Keys says that “you can even feel it with the professors. You tend to be singled out. One of our professors was getting information wrong on Martin Luther King and civil rights. We kept trying to correct him but he thought we were being hostile.”
David Hudgens, a School of Engineering sophomore from Washington, D.C., hasn ‘t encountered these problems. “I lived in Shelton last year. The white to black ratio was probably one to 25 but l got along very well. If there was homework to do, we’d sit down together and do it.”
Hudgens says college was a big change for him. ”Washington is mostly black. One thing that made my adaptation easier was that I always traveled in the summer months. One summer I went to Alberta, Canada and I was one of a handful of blacks in the town but I had no problems.”
Hudgens says his roommates treated him like a brother last year. “My brother came up from Washington last year to visit. I was real busy but my roommates were real cool and took my brother out. They acted just like I would expect a friend to.”
Both Morris and Keys agree that the city of Boston isn ‘t as kind to blacks as Boston University is. Morris says “If you go off campus it’s a whole different situation. It’s like 1965, just the way in which I’m handled. There’s nothing you can do about it – they’re very small minded. Before I came here all the good things I heard about Boston I heard from white people.”
None of the three students regret their decision to come to BU and Keys says she would recommend it to most prospective black freshmen. “It really depends what you’re studying. I’d tell them ‘You’ll be entering the world now. It’s good training. for life.’”
Morris agrees, explaining “All the people in the world, you’ll encounter here. I think international students save this school from being a racist school. You get to the point where you can’t tell where anybody’s from.”
Keys says that many of the black organizations on campus help students adapt to college life by providing them with a sense of unity.
Hudgens adds “They’re coming along. They are inspirational leaders for the younger undergraduates.”