Universities need more Blacks: How do we know if we’re making progress?

July 14, 2017 at 7:00 am 1 comment

The below article is pretty stunning — a sitting justice on the Supreme Court calling out an elite University for a lack of diversity.  This isn’t just about the University of Michigan. This isn’t about computing, but it could be. Sotomayor is speaking about an important social need, where computing is part of the problem.  We see that in the Generation CS report. We are falling further behind in getting African Americans into CS. (An interesting side note here that Georgia Tech alumna, Sarita Yardi (whom I mentioned in this blog post), just won an award at the University of Michigan for her work in promoting diversity.)

Daryl Chubin sent me a workshop report on “Better STEM Outcomes: Developing an Accountability System for Broadening Participation.” How would we know if we’re doing better?  We could measure participation rates in Universities, but that will take time to change.  How do you know if you’re doing the right things now for success later? For example, what would you measure at the high school level that would suggest progress towards broader participation in the future at the undergraduate level?  It’s a good question — we’re far from where we need to be, but we need to take meaningful steps towards the goal of broad participation in computing.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor on Monday said future diversity on college campuses is a key to diversifying society at large, noting the lack of black students at the University of Michigan is a “real problem.”

Sotomayor, the first Hispanic on the Supreme Court and daughter of Puerto Rican-born parents, was asked by a moderator what a university will need to look like in the years ahead to be inclusive and innovative.

“It’s going to look a lot like Michigan,” she said to applause, “but with even greater diversity.” The percentage of black undergraduate students at the University of Michigan has been pretty steady in recent years at less than 5 percent. Hispanics are 5.5 percent. White undergraduates are 65.4 percent.

Source: Sotomayor says University of Michigan needs more blacks

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Bonnie  |  July 14, 2017 at 12:34 pm

    One of the things that should be realized is that there are black CS majors, maybe not as many as we would like, but they are out there. They don’t go to schools like UMichigan for a whole host of reasons, but instead are clustered in urban universities and colleges, like mine, or like CUNY. My program has about 20% black enrollment, with an additional 25% Hispanic enrollment and some number of mixed race kids. One of the big problems is that the schools that are educating students of color are often not noticed or recognized, by recruiters from companies, or by policy makers.

    And there is a big problem with low expectations. I was chatting at SIGCSE about this with a faculty member from a HBCU, a small state school. We both noted that administrators and industry people seem to think our students are more interested in being helpdesk or network techs than in careers in cutting edge software development or robotics or game development. But when we ask the students where they want to work, they want the same kinds of careers that students at places like Virginia Tech or Ohio State or Michigan want. They want the cutting edge jobs at the cool companies. It is fine to encourage the big name schools to recruit more CS majors of color, but I think policy makers should also focus more attention on the schools that are already attracting and educating these students – and not just the same old suspects like Howard and Morehouse.


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