[I have to share Bill Crain’s concern here that African Americans — particularly males — are once again being excluded from CUNY.  As background many years ago (1963), I worked briefly as an aide to J. Raymond Jones, the “Harlem Fox,” NYC’s most powerful behind the scenes politician, to achieve “open enrollment” for those then largely excluded from admission.  Fortunately for the politics of opening the university, not only minorities, but also blue collar workers — particularly Irish and Italian — were also being excluded by high admission standards which to put things bluntly favored Jewish students who in turn were excluded from such as the Ivies and Seven Sisters colleges — this I knew first hand as I had editorialized against it at Yale and fought it at Vassar as a member of the scholarship committee there where I started my teaching after working with Ray who had formed a coalition with Kenneth R. Clark, noted CCNY psychologist:


and principle union leaders.  I was Ray’s liaison to various of these.  And this experience was what drew me to CUNY for the bulk of my teaching career.

What we seem to be seeing now from the reports here and there, is a diminishing number of African American admits to CUNY and particularly men.  Those better educated in the British systems of the Caribbean are doing better.  Our public schools are about as bad as ever in educating minority students.  Even those who do not drop out have not acquired the English language breadth that a middle class family offers and are not getting the equivalent in their schools.  We are seeing a widening gap between those minority group members who have made it — good news — and the vast majority left behind — often without even a high school diploma!  Crime is on the rise.

Our CUNY honchos have boasted of raising standards.  And we do a reasonably good job of educating our students.  But NYC families are sophisticated and increasing numbers of them are taking advantage of our honors programs which will leave both students and families in far better financial shape and still offer admission to our leading law, medical, and graduate schools and the leading national fellowship awards — my college, Brooklyn, has been doing better than Columbia in that department!  But those at the bottom of the heap are once again being excluded and, thus, discarded!

Bill Crain is a caring psychologist and active in his college and our university governance.  He knows whereof he speaks and his concerns are mine as well, as I leave the academic world for full time blogging and political activity.   My concerns are reflected in the groups that I have initiated listing in order of formation in my signature below. Ed Kent]

P.S. A small footnote to Bill’s #3.  When I last looked 60 credits were required for acceptance into our NYPD — John Jay dropping the community college option obviously removes the most reasonable source for those credits.  We are having trouble enrolling new police, given the miserable starting pay scales which are near the poverty level.


On Thursday, June 7, I testified at the City Council’s Higher  Education
Committee hearing on diversity. The committee’s chair, Charles  Barron, ran the

I raised four points of concern.

1.  Between 1999 and 2005, City College suffered an  11-point drop in the percentage of Black undergraduates.  Hunter and Baruch  also experience sharp declines.  Overall, the total enrollment of students  of African descent at the senior colleges was pretty flat during this period,  while the enrollment of the other ethnic groups increased.  I speculated  that one factor is the imposition of skills tests. These tests are not  good predictors of success at CUNY but they disproportionately reject Black and  Latino students from our senior colleges. I speculated that Latino enrollment  would have dropped as well, except for the huge increase in  the city’s Latino population.

2.  John Jay, a comprehensive college, is eliminating its Associate Degree program.  This change will essentially remove a community  college from the CUNY system. Moreover, it will eliminate the smooth  transition to bachelor’s degree programs that the comprehensive college  provides. I asked the committee to see how many students of color will be affected.

3.  CCNY and CUNY are shifting IRADAC (the Institute for Research on  the African Diaspora in the Americas and the Caribbean) from its CCNY  site to the Graduate Center.  CCNY already has had its Black Studies  Department demoted to a program. Now it’s losing this center.  What  message will be sent to African American students at CCNY, located in Harlem,  about the value the college places on their history and traditions?

4. CUNY will soon raise the cutoff score on the Compass math skills test
from 27 to 30 for both pre-algebra and algebra.  The hope is to improve  math performances in college. But to achieve this goal, what is really needed is a series of new math courses that generate student motivation and move students forward step-by-step. Higher cutoffs will primarily mean more students will be rejected from bachelor’s degree programs. And if history is a guide, those rejected will disproportionately be African American and  Latino. Opportunities for the disenfranchised keep shriveling up.

At the hearing there also were excellent reports on the Black  Male
Initiative and centers for Dominican and  Puerto Rican studies.

Bill Crain

“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)

Ed Kent  718-951-5324 (voice mail only) [blind copies]

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