|Black college presidents get orientation to
Sept. 26, 2006
|A UMNS photo by Linda Green
Gomez, director of a Hispanic marketing group, speaks about Hispanic
culture, as Wanda Bigham, staff executive with the Board of Higher
Education and Ministry, listens.
By Linda Green*
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — The burgeoning Hispanic population has become a
target for recruitment efforts by historically-black colleges across the
Leaders of black colleges related to the United Methodist Church are
discussing whether they should jump on that bandwagon. The presidents of the
denomination’s historically black colleges focused their Sept. 18-20 meeting
here on Hispanic/Latino/Mexican American culture. The group discussed how
their schools can recruit large numbers of Hispanic students and still
maintain their foundational mission to African Americans.
The Council on Presidents is an organization of the presidents and
president emeriti of the denomination’s 11 historically black colleges and
universities. Larry Earvin, president of Huston-Tillotson University,
Austin, Texas, is council president.
Earvin told United Methodist News Service that the council began
discussions last year about ways to secure the future of the 11 schools. As
a part of those discussions, the presidents considered reaching out to the
growing Hispanic population.
“Their needs for education and to be able to assimilate into the
mainstream are similar to those that had been negotiated by the
African-American population,” Earvin said.
For two days, the presidents addressed the topic, “Forging Bold New
Paths: Offering Welcome and Ministry to Hispanic-Latino Students at Black
College Fund Schools.” They heard from the director of a Hispanic marketing
group and Hispanic and Latino youth and leaders to gain a glimpse of
Hispanic life, the various cultures and immigration issues.
They were told that it is a common misconception in the United States for
people of Hispanic origin to be regarded as a single race, but the term
“Hispanic” applies to people of many races and ethnic origins. The estimated
U.S. Hispanic population is 41.3 million, a figure that does not include the
3.9 million residents of Puerto Rico, the presidents were told. The
presidents also learned that one-third of Hispanics living in the United
States are under 18 years old, and Mexicans are the youngest demographic of
that group, with 37 percent being younger than 18.
“This workshop focused on an orientation on the profile of various
Hispanic and Latino populations within the United States and the various
dimensions we would have to pursue to be successful in serving that
population,” Earvin said. Some of the colleges already have a number of
Hispanics enrolled, and the presidents of those schools shared those
The presidents’ meeting was in response to an invitation from the Rev.
Jerome King Del Pino, top staff executive of the United Methodist Board of
Higher Education and Ministry. Del Pino invited the group to engage in
conversation about the possible future mission of the schools.
|A UMNS photo by Linda Green
Tisdale, president of Claflin University, and Trudie Reed, president of
Bethune-Cookman College, share a moment during the Council of
He told the council that as leaders of the largest group of
church-related black academic institutions of any Protestant denomination,
they have a non-negotiable leadership role in forging new and creative ways
to address the challenges and opportunities of an ever-changing landscape in
Del Pino said the schools “have been on the cutting edge of providing a
caliber of leaders in the church and society that have made a critical
difference in the course of our national life,” and now the presidents must
pay attention to changing demographic realities.
The presidents are cautious about increasing the number of
Hispanic/Latino/Mexican-American students. Cost is a major factor. “Whenever
you are going to reach a population that is going to require additional
intervention ... that is a very expensive proposition,” Earvin said. “That
is one of the reasons why you find public institutions and research
institutions taking that aspect of a curriculum out and giving it to
community colleges to do. It really is a significant venture that you have
The presidents are committed to being of assistance, but that “does not
mean that we have the resources in hand to be able to do that,” Earvin said.
He added that the church’s historically black institutions already serve
students who have significant deficits and needs when they come to college.
“We know firsthand what it costs to remediate or intervene in those
instances,” he said.
|A UMNS photo by Linda Green
Earvin (second from right) addresses the Council of Presidents as Elias
Blake (center), former president of Clark College, looks on.
“Even though we have the expertise and we have the experience of being
successful, we know what it will require to be more successful,” Earvin
said. “There is no way to redeploy the limited resources we already have to
be able to take on this new challenge, so it would require a investment from
our partner, which is the United Methodist Church, for us to be able to
launch such an initiative.”
The council established a committee to “canvass the landscape” of the 11
historically black colleges” to determine capacity and how they might have a
more defined approach to embracing Hispanic/Latino students, including
addressing the tensions that arise when new ethnicities are introduced into
populations with another group as the majority.
“Whenever you bring different groups together, you are going to have
tensions,” Earvin said, adding that Mexican-Americans are 15 percent of
“Those tensions seem to subside when the institution is sensitive to what
it is getting into,” he said. He noted the tensions that arose when African
Americans began enrolling at white colleges and universities almost 50 years
ago, and he said no thought was given to orienting and sensitizing students,
faculty and alumni to the value of another culture.
The committee’s canvassing will enable a successful embrace, he said. “We
do not want to have false starts, and we do not want to have situations
where people do not feel welcome. It is incumbent that we take a step back
and develop programs to assist institutions in this regard.”
The council took no formal action to launch an initiative to embrace
Hispanic students at the colleges and universities.
Earvin said there are people who do not know that black colleges and
universities are legitimate four-year liberal arts institutions and in some
cases graduate and professional schools. The challenge, he said, is in
crafting a message that communicates to the larger population “that we are
not only historically black colleges but we are also mainstream colleges and
our doors are open to everyone.”
*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville,
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or
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