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Shayla Pink

UWRT 1102
"Black people hold too many leadership positions on campus and now they are trying to
turn a PWI into a HBCU". This was a rumored statement made by a member of the Student
Government Association administration at UNC Charlotte late September 2015.This 'hashtag'
that I have as the title of this inquiry was a part of a response by the student body on social
media. As a student at UNCC when I read about this I was both proud and outraged. I was
outraged by the pure ignorance of the statement and I was proud because as an African American
myself I can finally see a change in what the 'norm' is in any university. For decades the average
black college student usually meant that they would drop out in a few years, they were an athlete
or they would become the next senator or president. Now though, the average black student is a
leader, they are involved, and they are driven. How has this change been made possible? There
are many reasons as to why this is the case.
To be clear, I am not talking about all African American students that attended
universities. I am specially talking about African Americans that are enrolled at Predominately
White Institutions or PWIs as compared to Historically Black Colleges and Unviersities. Since
2008 when President Obama was elected the United States has become more focused on
educating their minorities. Since this is the case there are more opportunities for minorities to get
prepared for another 4 years of schooling at universities. A widely known aspect for success at
college is being involved in out of classroom activities. This isn't impossible for African

American students but it has been very limited to Black Student Associations, historically Black
Greek letter organizations, and other similar groups on campus. Historically, PWIs do not
provide a sense of identity or worth to their African American students. So it could be easy to see
that it would be difficult for African American students to reach out to other organizations
without feeling uncomfortable.
Personally, I have lived in Charlotte all of my life. I've lived down the street from the
campus for over 10 years. I have seen a very clear change in how diverse the school has become.
During this summer I did the University Transition Opportunity Program (UTOP), this is a
transition program for incoming freshmen that is mainly for minorities. I was able to learn about
all the resources offered to students and I was able to meet the presidents of many clubs. What I
noticed was that a lot of the members of clubs were minorities and some the clubs like CAB and
the Students Wellness club the presidents are African Americans. This comforted me because
earlier that summer I attended my Student Orientation and I was truly the minority. We were put
into groups and there was on average 1 African American for every group of 20-30. While there
were some African American volunteers, I still felt a little uncomfortable and as if I was an
outsider. Later though, during the Student Organization showcase I got to see all the different
clubs and groups on campus. Not only were there African American students there that were
involved in the clubs, there were a few that were that held leadership positions.When I see this I
realize that at UNC Charlotte leadership roles for African Americans are not limited to
traditionally African American organizations. When I talked to some of these leaders I realized
that they aren't the type of students that want to be the next president of the country, they are
'normal' students just like me. I also realized that when they either did a program about success

in college or got a mentor they were told to get involved and join clubs. They were also told to
seek leadership opportunities. When they listened the result was that they became better students.
Academics is something else that has been changed for African American students in
universities. In 2014 the graduation rate for African Americans in PWIs is 39.5% compared to
the 35% at HBCUs. This is shocking, but this happens because African American students have
to work harder to get into a PWI than a HBCU. That is simply because there are more criteria for
African American students to meet if they want to attend a PWI. Sure, all the test scores are
equal but schools also look at statistics such as drop out rates and grades from past students. In
the past, the retention rate for African American students attending universities was very high.
When this is seen by universities they begin looking for a certain type of African American
student, maybe the student scored a little higher than the most on a ACT or SAT, maybe the
student has an above average GPA, maybe the student was involved in many student
organizations while they were in high school. All these things may seem normal but the scale is
very different. Another reason this happens is because at PWIs there are programs set in place for
first-year African American students that helps students adapt to the culture of a PWI and
provide mentors for students. Examples at UNC Charlotte are Student Advising for Freshman
Excellence (SAFE) and UTOP, which are all under the Multicultural Academic Service
department on campus. These programs make it possible for students not only to be prepared for
but also thrive academically in college.
Overall, the average African American student is changing. There are strong cores of
black students on every campus, whether it's at a PWI or a HBCU. Programs allow for students
to thrive in new cultures and seek new opportunities without hesitation. Success for an African
American student in a university is not a dream, it's a goal that can and will be reached. UNC

Charlotte prides itself on being the most diverse school in the UNC system, now they have to
prove it.IIn my inquiry I will be exploring how the idea of the average African American student
at a PWI has changed and why. I want to find out what programs have led to such growth and if
there are any changes in culture that has also contributed to this change. They can do so through
African American, and other minorities, success inside and out of the classroom.