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Shayla Pink

Thomas
UWRT 1102
29 September 2015
#bethechange
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 is 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 specifically talking about African American students enrolled at Predominately
White Institutions or PWIs and compared to Historically Black Colleges and Universities or
HBCUs. Since 2008 when President Obama was elected the United States has become more
focused on educated their minorities. Since this is the case there are more opportunities for
minorities to get prepared for another four years of schooling at universities. A widely known

aspect for success at college is being involved in and out of the classroom activities. This isnt
possible 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 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. Ive lived down the street from the
campus for over ten years. I have seen a very clear change in how diverse the school has become.
During the this summer I sis the University Transition Opportunity Program (UTOP), this is a
transition program for incoming freshman 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 of the clubs like CAB
and the Student Wellness Club 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 one African American for every group of twenty. While there were
some African American volunteers, I still felt a little uncomfortable 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 there that held leadership positions. When I see this I realize that at UNC
Charlotte leadership for African Americans are not limited to traditionally African American
organizations. When I talked to some of these leaders I realized that they arent 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 did either 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 at PWIs is 39.5% compared to
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 dropout 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. Anpther 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 in college.
Overall, the average African American student is changing. There are strong cores of
black students on every campus, whether its at a PWI or a HBCU. Programs allow for students
to thrive in new cultures and seek new opportunities without hesitation. Success foe an African
American student in a university is not a dream, its 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. In 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.

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