College can be a difficult time. Not only are many trying to “find themselves,” but students are also forced to decide on what career path their lives will take. Because of this, many students often switch majors in an attempt to figure out what works best for them. While this practice may be common place, a new research paper at Duke University has some black student crying foul.

An unpublished report titled “What Happens After Enrollment? An Analysis of the Time Path of Racial Differences in GPA and Major Choice,” took a look at Duke’s 2001 and 2002 freshman classes, and concluded that black students switched to “easier” majors at disproportionally higher rates than their white counterparts.

The Herald Sun reports:

It found that among students who initially expressed an interest in majoring in economics, engineering and the natural sciences, 54 percent of black men and 51 percent of black women ended up switching to the humanities or another social science. 

By comparison, 33 percent of white women and just 8 percent of white men made the switch to majors that are considered less rigorous, require less study and have easier grading standards. 

According to the paper, 68 percent of Duke’s black students but less than 55 percent of white students ended up majoring in the humanities or social sciences other than economics. 

The paper’s authors–professors Peter Arcidiacono and Kenneth Spenner, and graduate student Esteban Aucejo–suggest that the switch to seemingly less rigorous majors suggest that black students who benefit from affirmative-action programs are less prepared for more difficult majors, and therefore switch to less demanding areas of study. They also argue that “attempts to increase representation [of minorities] at elite universities through the use of affirmative action may come at a cost of perpetuating underrepresentation of blacks in the natural sciences and engineering,”

According to the Herald Sun, the report was submitted as a brief to the U.S. Supreme Court by opponents of affirmative action. It argues that previous data showing the GPAs of black students were similar to their white peers aren’t necessarily accurate because black students, according to report’s authors, tended to pursue less difficult areas of study.

Black students at Duke are pushing back against the paper’s findings, which also noted that children of alumni switched majors at similar rates. The Black Student Alliance (BSA) sent a letter to the local NAACP branch about the ramifications of the research paper.

The BSA explains, “The implications and intentions of this research at the hands of our very own prestigious faculty, seemingly without a genuine concern for proactively furthering the well-being of the black community is hurtful and alienating.”

The BSA also noted that the paper neglected “to account for the societal, complex and institutional factors that must be considered in any attempt to delineate trends in racial differences in grade point averages and major choices, in a scholarly manner.”

What do you think? Does this information speak to the validity of Affirmative-Action or are the paper’s authors just race-bating? 

  • Natalie

    Affirmative Action benefits white women more than any other race. Seriously? What was the point of this study. I feel like statistics and studies like these keep promoting this foul and negative belief about black people. We can’t catch a break-ever.

  • LemonNLime

    “”suggest that the switch to seemingly less rigorous majors suggest that black students who benefit from affirmative-action programs are less prepared for more difficult majors, and therefore switch to less demanding areas of study.”

    I was accepted on scholarship into an accelerated doctorate in pharmaceutical sciences program coming straight out of high school. I would have had my doctorate in 6 years if I completed the program and would have come out of college making at least 80K. Before even stepping for on the campus I withdrew from the program for several reason and changed my major to international studies:
    - Because so much time was needed, there was no room for me to study foreign languages or have the possibility of studying abroad
    - Anatomy labs were at night and I don’t do dead bodies
    - I wasn’t worried about the content but rather the set up of the program bc even though you are accepted, you study CRAZY hard the first 2 years and they average the class grades after 2 years. Whoever is at the average or below is kicked out…btw that average was usually no lower than a 97%. I was NOT going to be having high blood pressure and heart attacks because of this thing.
    - Most importantly, I didn’t want to do it. I loved science, still do, but I was pushed into it by my mom who was looking at the money I would bank. I wasn’t concerned about begin rich, I just wanted to be able to learn about the world, cultures, languages, and travel. Something that is hard to do when you are stuck at Walgreens counting pills

    All of this is said to prove a point. Rigor/ difficult is defined differently by different people. While I have no issues breaking down the colonial history of Haiti or theories of why there aren’t black people in Buenos Aires, some one else might find studing such a subject difficult and boring. And maybe they are right for a few people but I think that is across the board not just the black students. Not everything that happens is because of our inability to do something or comprehend something. Some times, just like other people, your interest change. Plus if you are spending all that money on a degree you better spend on something you want.

  • T.

    “attempts to increase representation [of minorities] at elite universities through the use of affirmative action may come at a cost of perpetuating underrepresentation of blacks in the natural sciences and engineering,”

    This part of their argument/conclusion confuses me. But failing to increase minority representation would also come at a (greater) cost of perpetuating underrepresentation of black people in these fields, no? If, say, 50 of every hundred black science/engineering students who benefit from affirmative action switch to a non-science, non-engineering major, that’s still 50 black scientists/engineers who might not have had that opportunity at all without affirmative action, right? Or am I missing something?

  • Grace

    Those who funded the study are inherently biased. I would have to read the paper that Huff Post based their article on, but I almost positive that the study has design flaws because of that.

  • edub

    very interesting given our unemployment rate. All of my friends who majored in hard sciences or engineering have NEVER been unemployed.

    It’s a conversation that our community needs to have.

  • lostluv224

    “Plus if you are spending all that money on a degree you better spend on something you want.”

    @LemonNLime that statement right there sums it all up. If you are spending the money, time, stress in college do it for somethig you LOVE, not so that you can be on the right side of some bored ass professors “report”.

    I know about 20 of my friend off the top of my head that majored in engineering, medicine, etc while we studied at Penn State. I studied journalism and like Ms. LNL said they thoughtmy waking up in the middle of the night to capture a story on campus was insane, while i thought i’d die if i had to stare at their 7000pg books all day.

  • eshowoman

    Since affirmative action in higher education was banned in 2005, this is definitely race-baiting.

  • Concerned Citizen

    I am surprised that so many of you are surprised. You know that other groups, including the one in charge, overall does not care for our group and consistently allows such leanings to reflect in their actions. Let’s move on, shall we?

  • Vertigo Schtick

    Exactly. Why is no one pointing this out? We’re automatically assuming the study is racist. You know what subjects lead to the most unemployed jobs? Clinical Psychology and HUMANITIES. I know someone who got a Master’s degree in Psychology from some Ivy league school. What a waste. A master’s degree just to be swimming in debt without a job.

    This is why people were protesting at Occupy Wall Street. Because white people finally realized that degree in Medicinal Literature isn’t going to get them a well paying job.

    I don’t doubt these subjects are “tasking”. But let’s see the rate of unemployment for BLACKS and WHITES who chose to go with Science/Maths route. Let’s see people cry foul then. Seriously.

  • Vertigo Schtick

    Also this link just proves everything you’ve said.

    “Estimates indicate that a disproportionate percentage of black students at elite universities are immigrants or children of immigrants. Nigerian immigrants have the highest education attainment level in the United States, surpassing every other ethnic group in the country, according to U.S Bureau Census data.”

    So it’s not actually an issue of racial ideology effecting black people as a whole. Because clearly it doesn’t effect Nigerian Americans.

    Another thing, I don’t know about everywhere else in the country. But most of the people who major in Maths/Sciences at my University are Asian, Hispanic, African, Middle Eastern, and White.

  • Alexandra

    In a way it could be seen as downplaying accomplishments, but edubs comment is right.
    The new routes the students are taking could very much be linked to unemployment rates for Black college grads. It could be a way to encourage Black students to take on other fields of work.

  • edub

    wow, thank-you for sharing that link. very eye-opening.

    “So it’s not actually an issue of racial ideology effecting black people as a whole. Because clearly it doesn’t effect Nigerian Americans. ”

    Yes. Precisely!

  • Carla

    No one who takes the time and money to invest in higher education wants to major in something they have no interest in, regardless of supposed job prospects. While no one relishes unemployment, people with a choice don’t want a lifetime of work that doesn’t interest them. Not everyone in society can be a scientist or engineer. Part of the problem is that we don’t value intellect in this culture, regardless of where it is applied.

  • TheBestAnonEver, Part 2

    It must be disheartening for the black students on campus to feel like they are under this microscope. This study could cause the black students in the sciences and outside of it to experience stereotype-threat.

  • Adrianna

    I just graduated with a degree in engineering this December 2011. I got a job offer the day after graduation… Then again I was the only African American at my school to grauate with an engineering degree that semester…

  • Vertigo Schtick


    Haha here’s more supporting info:

    About Unemployment and STEM (Science/Technological/Engineering/Math) Degrees in the Black Community:

    The Rate of Unemployment for Minorities with STEM Degrees:

    “The Department of Labor attributes this association between race/ethnicity and unemployment only partially to the lower educational levels of blacks and Hispanics.[18] However, among individuals with doctoral degrees in science and engineering fields, race/ethnicity does not appear to affect substantially the likelihood of being unemployed. The unemployment rate for non-Hispanic blacks in 1993 was 1.4 percent; for Hispanics of all races it was 1.9 percent, compared to the 1.6 percent rate for non-Hispanic whites. These differences were not statistically significant. The overall association between race/ethnicity and unemployment also was not statistically significant when controlling for the other variables in the analysis.”

    A little outdated, but I’m sure it hasn’t changed much since then… I’ll try to find a current figure.

    11 Majors With High Unemployment:

    Popular Majors for Black Men and Women

    Notice how they cross in more than one place…

    I’m in awe of the connection between the first and second link actually…

  • Cynika

    i had 6 diff majors in college, simply bc i changed my mind so many times bc i was interested in so many diff things. i finally settled w psych bc it was mostly electives & i love behvioral sciences & could still take courses in other fields. i initially wanted to be a cardiologist to help poor ppl, then thru all of the volunteer work & consciousness of social issues, i decided i wanted to open a youth center to help save the future of our nation. this is just another way to undermine the underrepresented & programs that dont directly benefit the economy & thus the elite. furthermore a lot of those in more “rigorous” programs suck at social sciences bc theyre so ignorant of ethnic & low-socioeconomic issues. id also like to add that i went to uk & duke is our rival school so i expect this from them lol. uk aint no better tho. plus theyre one of the top schools in the country so idk y theyre trippin.

  • Vertigo Schtick


    And that’s precisely the problem with Americans. Too much emphasis on what makes me happy over what can sustain my lifestyle. I’m not saying you have to be super swell in maths or sciences or even choose that route if you’re not particularly good at it. But know the advantages and disadvantages of your major. Don’t choose the easy way out. Let’s be honest, this country doesn’t really encourage students to express any interest in Math or Science. Looking at any equation will garner a sigh.

  • Vertigo Schtick

    One more and then I’m done haha!

    Model Minorities-> The black African:

    “Black Africans have emerged as the most highly educated members of British society, surpassing even the Chinese as the most academically successful ethnic minority.”In a side-by-side comparison of 2000 census data by sociologists including John R. Logan at the Mumford Center, State University of New York at Albany [...] black immigrants from Africa averaged the highest educational attainment of any population group in the U.S., including whites and Asians. [...] Some 48.9 percent of all African immigrants hold a college diploma. This is slightly more than the percentage of Asian immigrants to the U.S., nearly double the rate for native-born white Americans, and nearly four times the rate for native-born African Americans.[...] 43.8 percent of African immigrants had achieved a college degree, compared with 42.5 of Asian Americans, 28.9 percent for immigrants from Europe, Russia and Canada and 23.1 percent of the U.S. population. [...] Nigerians have both the largest number of immigrants as well as the highest educational attainment and income statistics.”

    Wow the things they don’t tell you about our race. Not only is this happening now, it has been for over a decade:

    “In 1997, 19.4 percent of all adult African immigrants in the United States held a graduate degree, compared to 8.1 percent of adult white Americans and 3.8 percent of adult black Americans in the United States, respectively.”

    Alright. Now I’m gonna go eat :D

  • Tara

    The authors of this study have not one clue about the culture or aspirations of many undergrad black students. And it seems that they don’t want to know. What I found is the reason for such the high percentage of blacks in social science is that many young blacks want to major in a humanitarian field they think they can use to help their community after graduation (i.e.: sociology, education, etc.). They can become teachers or social workers or psychologists in their community. There is a certain social obligation that many young blacks feel to help the ones they left behind.
    This research paper is full of assumptions and false claims. Its interesting that not once throughout the paper did these fools ask a group of black students on Duke’s campus WHY they chose the field they choose.

  • Tara

    The authors of this study have not one clue about the culture or aspirations of many undergrad black students. And it seems that they don’t want to know. What I found is the reason for such the high percentage of blacks in social science is that many young blacks want to major in a humanitarian field they think they can use to help their community after graduation (i.e.: sociology, education, etc.). They can become teachers or social workers or psychologists in their community. There is a certain social obligation that many young blacks feel to help the ones they left behind.
    This research paper is full of assumptions and false claims. Its interesting that not once throughout the paper did these fools ask a group of black students on Duke’s campus WHY they chose the field they chose.

  • Intrigued and concerned

    I am a Black woman at an Ivy league school. I don’t find this article offensive at all especially because it’s highlighting what seems to be a real issue in higher education. I even find their conclusion plausible. It’s not necessarily true that Black students are less intelligent or less capable than their White counterparts; however, it is plausible and even likely that on average, they are less prepared than their White counterparts. They may have even had to accomplish less than their White counterparts to receive admission to a highly competitive school such as Duke. The result would be that Blacks face a much harsher reality shock when majoring in “hard sciences” ( a reality shock that most top students receive when they go to competitive schools). My criticism is that they seem to emphasize lack of ability as opposed to environmental factors. For instance, I’ve heard that advisors at southern schools often discourage Blacks from pursuing more technical majors. There’s also probably a snowball sort of effect where as the number of Blacks in technical majors decrease, other Blacks are more easily discouraged from their current paths. Interested to here more thoughts on this subject, especially potential solutions.

  • adiatc

    Fantastic article! I love the statistics introduced regarding Black Africans. Everyone should be aware that their is inherant difference in the educational attainment of Black Africans vs. Black Americans. Black Africans do usually select more rigorous courses of study, ie. mathematics, engineering, medicine. While Black Americans usually select Communications, Education, Social Sciences, which are not as challenging.

    Those degrees don’t garner as much income after graduation and have been most likely the fields where individuals have been unemployed during the recession. I am half Nigerian and half Black American and can speak from both sides.

    My Nigerian friends took the harder road of study have not been unmployed, while making generous incomes. I can’t say the same for my Black American friends who chose to be social workers, teachers, etc.

    Black America needs to wake up and start challenging ourselves or we will continue to be left behind!

  • Intrigued and concerned

    I think the point is that if these students had gone to less competitive universities for which they were more qualified they would then be able to complete majors in their primary area of interest. i.e. most maybe they could complete their hard science major at say UNC Charlotte or ECU rather than Duke. However, there are problems with this and . . .

  • T.

    Thanks for that explanation/clarification, i&c.

  • BeautyIAM

    Vertigo Schtick, thank for the information.

    I guess my my family is a part of that. We are Nigerians. My dad has a PhD. My brother has a BS degree. I’m working on my BS degree. My family friend just who is also Nigerian graduated from Dartmouth this past summer.

  • Teach nj

    I’m glad you think education course work is ‘taking the easy way out’!
    As someone who majored in education I take offense to that. Learning theories and applying psychology all while doing practicums and student teaching was NOT easy nor less challenging. I still had to pass! I couldn’t pass with C’s and get my degree. I also attended an HBCU (thank God). Our professors were hard on us major subject or not. The difference……my professors actually cared how I was doing and extended themselves beyond the classroom to ensure we all did well. My fellow alum are in many fields excelling. As a matter of fact my alma mater is a LA college but has an impeccable Engineering program that turns out highly sought after graduates. This article is exactly why I am glad I chose to attend an HBCU! My professors weren’t looking for their next Phd thesis subjects (black students).

  • Name

    wow. from this black african vs black american bullsh**t i ha ve garnered that black americans are lazy dumbassses while africans are smart, hardworking and all round peachy perfect in the education field. i guess thats why the country of nigeria is so great to live, eh?

  • You’re Ratchet

    Wow, America hates black people, I swear. Can we just live? Gotta dissect every little thing we do, and attack any and everything that we have going for us. Jesus Christ.

  • You’re Ratchet

    Exactly!! We’re constantly being scrutinized, whites never have to feel questioned or challenged about behaviors they may exhibit.

    And that also reminds me of this quote from Frantz Fanon’s “Black Skin White Masks”:

    “There is a fact: White men consider themselves superior to black men.
    There is another fact: Black men want to prove to white men, at all costs, the richness of their thought, the equal value of their intellect.
    How do we extricate ourselves?”

    “Studies” like these, stereotypes abound, continue to try to assault black and other minority students in the American education system.

  • Vertigo Schtick

    Uhm. It wasn’t about Black Americans vs. Black Africans. But you’re allowed to let your insecurity guide you in that direction. All I said was that it’s not that simple to just call this a race issue. Black Africans just simply exemplify the point edub and I were trying to make– it’s the major that makes the difference NOT the skin color.

    Don’t find more reasons to draw lines between this race. We’ve already got color and education wars. It’s stupid.

  • Vertigo Schtick

    Also it’s about Black Africans (in America) so obviously these are the children of immigrants. We are just as much American as you are. Nigeria has nothing to do with this.

  • BeautyIAM

    Name, that was really unnecessary. Who even said that?

    I’m honestly proud that people from my home are succeeding, but that will never mean that I look down on Black Americans.

  • Alexa

    I agree. Black Americans should just be able to live, not be dissected like some sort of lab specimen. At least those students are going to college and graduating.

  • Teach nj

    Went to grad school where the class was majority African students. Small class size 6:2 African majority. These particular students……CHEATED…..Failed to participate in group projects and 2 of them ultimately just STOPPED attending class leaving their group partners hanging. I was partnered with one of them and if not for MY work ethic/education I would’ve FAILED!!!! So please with the sweeping generalizations of the African vs. African American student. That mess kills me!!!

  • Vertigo Schtick

    @Teach nj

    What in the hell does that have to do with anything I posted. For the last goddamn time this is NOT a “who does it better” situation. No one made ANY claim that Africans are smarter than Black-Americans. Honestly, READ.

  • Kacey

    I agree. As a black person, I don’t find this study to be racist or conspiratorial at all. It states facts, hard facts, but facts nonetheless.
    When I was in college (which was not long ago btw), I witnessed this myself. The number of people switching from engineering, math and biology majors to psychology became a running joke – it was an easy way out.
    The black community needs to take heed and examine the reasons why we, as a group, are falling behind others. From what I’ve observed, many of our priorities and values seem seriously f*cked-up and there is not an emphasis on education. I was born in the West Indies and raised in the U.S. from the age of 8. I always excelled academically because my parents kept their feet in my ass when it came to education. There was NO WAY I could come home with anything less than an ‘A’, and they would have cracked my skull if I chose some frivolous major. I didn’t see that with many of my peers and they were the ones who skated by in school and have been chronically unemployed ever since.

  • BeautyIAM

    “So please with the sweeping generalizations of the African vs. African American student. That mess kills me!!!”

    LOL…Are you not doing the same thing?

    Uh Vertigo Schtick, just leave them alone. Both of them obviously have issues.

    Again, thanks for the info you posted.

  • edub

    vertigo, thanks for all the links! very informative.

    as i mentioned earlier, it’s high time that we starting facing the truth about what’s going on in our communities. racism seems to be the knee-jerk reaction to anything that may shed light on our current predicament. in some cases, it is warranted, in many cases, it is nothing that personal responsibility can’t remedy.

  • Vertigo Schtick


    Haha, I’m sorry. It just gets to me when people try to find reasons to divide the black race EVEN more. Like, why would you try to do that? Instead of learning and accepting it could possibly be true… you’d rather get defensive and close everyone off. It’s a mentality that could only be bread from hurt and pain… it’s sad.

    Anyway I’m gone now. Have a happy weekend everyone~

  • Vertigo Schtick

    Also I want to point out this makes the Asian as a Model Minority trope terribly terribly racist. Especially since groups of Black people have been surpassing BOTH White and Asian for decades. It’s basically a clever way of saying Blacks are the only race that can do no good. I’m so angry at that. No one wants to talk about the accomplishments of Black people :/

  • Chrissy

    I agree with you, Name.

    It doesn’t take long after an article like this is posted for all the Black Africans or Caribbeans to come out and talk about how much ‘better’ and ‘smarter’ they are.

    It has been done before and it is tired.

  • Tonton Michel

    I would take it more seriously if this report was about the percentage that drop out of college and not switched majors. Its definitely not an objective or probing.

  • KayDre

    As a graduate of an Anthropolgy program, its hard not to take a bit of offense with this study. While I agree that in America our education system is lacking and more resources should be pushed toward math and science, I don’t believe choosing a Humanities degree is an easy way out. I chose anthropology because I wanted to learn more about different cultures and the world in general. I knew that choosing anthropology wouldn’t make me much money, but I was okay with that. I think for some college is an opportunity to explore your interests on a higher level and find your path eventually, rather than a straight shot to a career. I may not have my dream job working internationally or in a museum in my city where I can inspire others with the beauty of other cultures yet, but im working on it and thats okay with me.

    On another note, why can’t the study celebrate the fact that these students were able to ATTEND college and GRADUATED? A feat that is becoming even harder these days?

  • BeautyIAM

    Chrissy, Like I asked Name, who said that?

    Can you please point it out? Pretty please?

    I don’t get why some Black Americans feel the need to have this inferiority complex.

    I will always be happy to hear that people from where I come from are succeeding. But that does not correlate to me thinking that Africans are “smarter” or “better.” YOU are the one that said it. Not me or anyone else that has left a comment.

    So can people just drop it and lets move on.

  • Grace

    Ok I can understand not wanting to waste your time studying a subject you dislike, but do you really need to go to a top tier university for a humanities degree? If you’ve decided money isn’t your ultimate motivating factor why go into so much debt then. Especially for a career that’s over saturated with applicants and won’t be lucrative. Why not go to a community college or state school for that. It just seems like such a waste of money and like you’re setting yourself up for a hard life for no reason.

  • Remember

    Let’s also remember that white middle class women are the biggest benefactors of affirmative action. We should analyze them as well.

  • LW

    I think the biggest factor, which is not discussed, is the likelihood that minority students will find mentors within their department when compared to white counterparts. Another important consideration is whether they are accepted into the necessary study groups (or internships for that matter). This is a topic influenced more by social factors than just purely academic factors.

  • Reason

    Okay, yes, America’s focus on STEM is lacking across the board. But it is widely surmised by many experts that China’s over-emphasis on STEM won’t make it ready for prime time when it comes to being a super power in the vein of America. That’s why China is now trying to emphasize creative thinking. Steve Jobs was not a programmer. And most people believe that the next Steve Jobs will likely, not surprisingly be from America. And that’s not because America is the alpha and omega of the sciences but because America thrives on the humanities. Say what you will about America but I love that a STEM degree only matters diddly squat to those who hold it. I’ll be impressed by the field when cancer, AIDS, and/or stretch marks are cured.

    Also, I can’t help but be skeptical of these studies whenever I see reports especially by 60 Minutes that reveal how students abuse and misuse drugs like Ritalin and Adderall to study better; and the standardized testing cheating scandal that took place in NY.

  • The Comment

    I would love to see a black scientist explaining the roots of civilization while referring to the works of Cheikh Anta Diop and Chancellor Williams. Imagine a show like that mixed with the 3D animation to illustrate actual events would do for young black men who are left alone to watch tv for hours at a time because the guardians are working.

  • Vertigo Schtick

    Except China and the US are two completely different countries. Saying a STEM degree is useless because no one has cured cancer yet is like saying a Humanities degree is useless because no one has developed an international language or global solution to syntax barriers yet. Makes no sense. At all. We’re not China. We can afford to have a bit more Math/Science people. Like a LOT more.

  • Gerard

    Yes and no. The statistics are more than likely real, but my question would be did the paper address why blacks may not be as prepared for harder majors as whites. I listen to my white supervisor tell me how she payed her sister who is a math teacher at a university to tutor her children growing up. How she helped them do there school projects. She sounded like she did most of them. She was so involved and on top of her children and thier grades. Her children are now in college and don’t have to work. She puts money in their bank accounts when they need it. Then you have me. My mon never helped me with my school work from kindergarten to high school. She never even looked at it. She loved me and kept the heating and air on and fed me. Well as a kid I wasn’t in the right mind to push myself so I was always somewhat of an underachiever. Despite the lack thereof I made it into college and picked a hard major and eventually switched to an easier major. I worked, went to school(studied when not in class), & interned at the same time. Nobody filled my bank account when I was low. A lot of the time I could have been studying I was working.

    So once again this paper is a yes and no. Yes the statistics may be correct but was an argument made for the larger likelihood that a black child would be way less likely prepared for college vs a white child that was brought up in a household with a longer history of education and how to raise a college bound child. Because I raised myself. I was in the grown folks club in 9th grade after my father died. It was the grace of God that I made it to where I am today. An IT professional in the radiology dept of a hospital. I have a big office, wife, child, & a home. I’m not done moving up but I’ve been blessed to make it this far.

    I’d like to see a paper on how blacks do way better with adversity than whites with a smaller percentage of adversity. Because them jokers buckle under pressure because they’re not use to hard times. Let their stock portfolio dip and they’re jumping out of windows. Our history has made us much more durable and mentally stronger than them. Despite what this paper says they are weaker mentally.

    Sorry for the mini rant. 10-4

  • TheMuseintheMirror

    Google the Willie lynch letter

  • ruggie

    This study is interesting, but its implicit conclusion that black students are unmotivated or incapable of achieving STEM degrees is suspect. Whites tend to take interest in black people during times of their own uncertainty. There is an undercurrent of academic anxiety among whites, who are being surpassed in the STEM fields by Asians.

    That being said, I think it’s time to look at how blacks are being educated in the STEM fields, even from a young age, and challenge whether the American approach to teaching is suitable for our young people. There is a false dichotomy between humanities and sciences, and a failure to teach math and science around ideas, with not enough hands-on learning in math and science. And there is very little integration between black history and science. Imagine a science course centered around black inventors and the workings of their inventions.

  • Nic

    @edub and @Vertigo Schtick

    My rhetorical question would ask if either of you completed college or are you just lacking in critical thinking skills. Vertigo, you lose your credibility off the bat when using “WIkipedia” as your main sources to prove your point when it is not, in fact, reliable. I’m sorry, but Huffington Post, which relies on anecdotal “evidence”, is a fail as well.

    No one is assuming that the study is racist, people are just questioning the INTENT as well as METHODOLOGY of the study in question. That this study is being taken as FACT and will possibly used in a court case when it has not been peer-reviewed, is a big concern. I’m actually looking at the study now and am finding several flaws. I’m an undergraduate, and that’s what my major is teaching me….how to do CREDIBLE research.

  • Hmmm…

    For this reason, this whole rant, I respect you! Continue to be successful!

  • Isis

    I agree with this study. I can count on one hand how many ppl I know that went to school for something other than humanities. I was in the business school and I had a few friends that left the business school for a liberal arts degree. We need more blacks with an interest in engineering, medicine and more technical degrees cuz these are the industries where we will find the lowest glass ceiling and racism. Plus those things can help build our communities up more

  • Isis

    And the most racism

  • Vertigo Schtick

    Oh lawd, Wiki isn’t credible because you disagree. For your info, I checked out the cited sources. And my other links weren’t from Wikipedia. You can’t dispute those. What are your responses to those?

    And spare me the bullsh*t. You can go to collegeprowler and deduce the same thing that Wikipedia has conveniently enunciated. Less than 8% of all blacks enter STEM majors THAT’S from collegeprowler. And do a quick search for employment rates for STEM degrees. It’s really that easy. Quit making excuses.

  • YeahRight2011

    The lack of critical thought in the comment section scares me, especially when so many posters claim to be educated. “Less Rigorous” compared to Social Sciences and Humanities. Consider that the fact that Sociology and Urban Studies help black students understand racial and economic disparities, something they’re not getting in either public or private secondary education. Why would an African, Asian, or white student care about these topics when Africans and Asians are NOT politically active in the United States and white don’t suffer from these disparities? Also note that most academic accomplishments in STEM majors must be credited to foreign born African and Asians, not their children or following generations-stop riding that pony if your born here. Black, mainly African Americans are encouraged to be politically active culturally speaking. Becoming an engineer or scientist for a higher paycheck isn’t considered an accomplishment as much as a career that gives you access to policy and affecting social change.

    I wouldn’t use too many personal experiences to illustrate the validity of this study either, its makes you look stupid.

  • london

    Dear Gerard,
    I hope you don’t mind but I have copied and pasted your comment and put it on my wall at university as reading was soooooooooo inspirational. I am a final year psychology student who comes from a single parent background, currently juggling a work placement, working, earning money for food not for fun, and supporting my mum. The fact that you have highlighted these variables that a lot of young black college student are dealing with is commendable as it never ever get discussed. I am constantly compared academically to people who lead completely different lives to my own, and the fact that I am working when should be studying is apparently irrelevant. Hopefully it will be worth it.

  • Vertigo Schtick

    1. Who said Humanities was less rigorous. <- "I don’t doubt these subjects are “tasking”. But let’s see the rate of unemployment for BLACKS and WHITES who chose to go with Science/Maths route."

    2. "Why would an African, Asian, or white student care about these topics when Africans and Asians are NOT politically active in the United States and white don’t suffer from these disparities?" <-lolwut. Only Black-Americans are politically active? This must be a joke.

    3. "Also note that most academic accomplishments in STEM majors must be credited to foreign born African and Asians, not their children or following generations-stop riding that pony if your born here." <- Uh no. If you read any of the wiki links it specifically says children of immigrants. So yeah…

    4. " Becoming an engineer or scientist for a higher paycheck isn’t considered an accomplishment as much as a career that gives you access to policy and affecting social change." No. That wasn't the argument at all. And please, the most popular major for Black-Americans is Psychology, hardly political. A STEM degree gets you a job because there are too many people who major in the HUMANITIES. It has nothing to do with one being better than the other. It's just the simple truth of the economy as of late. People are willing to pay more for STEM degrees because we don't have enough Americans invested in Science or Math. THAT IS A FACT. No one is saying Humanities is worthless.

    5. "I wouldn’t use too many personal experiences to illustrate the validity of this study either, its makes you look stupid." But your un-sited, anecdotal relevance isn't, right?

  • Nic

    It is perfectly fine for you to have your opinion and disagree. I addressed your magazine articles. There is no need to address an old page on statistics from DOL, numbers are numbers. Including it as supporting evidence (for what point?) is misleading because you’re trying to compare apples to oranges. If you need an explanation why, I have no problem in doing that for you.

    “You can go to collegeprowler and deduce the same thing that Wikipedia has conveniently enunciated.” Your wikipedia articles have not enunciated anything except background information about black immigrants and collegeprowler does not allow you to deduce that or anything related to the article at hand. So what excuses are you talking about?

    Back to my original statement, which you conveniently did not address, that the concern is over intent, methodology, and analysis. Because it does shape the broad conclusions people come to, which the BSA addressed in their response. No one is talking about racism or lack of employment. Statistics don’t mean anything without context, and that is the issue at hand. The conclusion that “The differences in difficulty levels across course types then works to dissuade individuals with relatively worse academic backgrounds to choose majors in the humanities and social sciences” is not accurately justified to apply to an argument against affirmative action or any other argument concerning race, especially when it has not been reviewed by experts and when it lacks exploration of other contributing factors.

    The only thing that is of importance in that paper is that “…these differences in persistence rates are fully explained by differences in academic background. An initial major in the natural sciences, engineering, or economics is associated with higher switching because of one’s academic background regardless of the set of controls used [race, gender, etc.].” Alot of people abandon those subjects period, but unfortunately 68% of blacks (about 200/300) is much more frightening than 55% of whites (about 1000/1800) when you don’t look at other contributing factors. People are making this a racial issue (implying that blacks are too lazy for hard sciences) when it is not.

  • Vertigo Schtick


    So the fact that across racial lines humanities have the highest unemployment has nothing to do with Blacks-> who mostly choose humanities, have the highest unemployment? Awesome.

    “Back to my original statement, which you conveniently did not address, that the concern is over intent, methodology, and analysis.”

    Except ” What was the point of this study. I feel like statistics and studies like these keep promoting this foul and negative belief about black people.” <- Clearly Means Promoting Racism.

    "People are making this a racial issue (implying that blacks are too lazy for hard sciences) when it is not."

    You're right… and none of us implied blacks are inferior or lazy. So.. I'm not sure what we're disagreeing about other than something neither of the above posters are talking about? It's a matter of what degree makes sense in this current economical disaster. If you're going to an ivy league school for a humanities degree– add black on top of that– you will be swimming in debt because it's not one of the growing industries/careers. However and unfortunately, Science, Math, Technology and Engineering all are. This has NOTHING to do with race. It has to do with practicality. The addition of the statistics about Black Africans was to SUPPORT that notion (And since African immigrant children are more likely to major in STEM courses they were the PERFECT group to look at. Nothing more nothing less). It's that simple.

  • Gerard

    Thx “hmmm…”. And yes “London” it will pay off if you endure. Also assuming you have a masters and possibly doctorate in your field. Truth is they may ever understand. Almost in the same way a republican can’t understand the way a democrat thinks and vice versa. The life they came from has attached views to them that it’s extremely to see past since they haven’t lived it. I know a white girl that was raised in the projects in Atlanta and she has an understanding of certain things most whites don’t. But she was exposed first hand. Went to a predominantly black school and grew up with more black friends than white friends. She understands things other whites don’t. I don’t fault those that don’t understand though. They didn’t grow up in our environments. As a majority they’ve had much more success as a people. Hence slavery….lol! That lil ole thing. Just be the best at what you do and make sure you humbly crush every stereotype they quietly give you. It’s amazing what they think and admit they’re willing to admit they think when you get close to them.

  • Nic

    @YeahRight2011 – Thank you. You make a totally different point that I was, but yours is completely valid. Lack of critical thinking…

    @Vertigo Schtick – You were not personally addressed, so why are you defending your comments? The research paper in question stated that humanities was less rigorous. YeahRight didn’t say only black-americans are politically active. And your wiki links only prove his/her point, not yours. Immigrant means foreign-born, period. Number 4 is moot and irrelevant. Major does not equal job.

  • Gerard

    Sorry for all the typos. Been typing all this from my cellphone.

  • Cognorati001

    Thank you so very much. My story is very similar to yours – I dropped out of school, got a GED, and now I have a Master’s. I have never encountered anyone else with a story similar to mine and throughout my experiences and encountering Whites in predominantly White settings I’ve realized they do not have a clue as to what challenges Black people face – they simply assume we are all the same without ever considering how class, poverty, abuse, racism, or even isolation impact individuals.

  • Vertigo Schtick


    It says Nigerian-American… that’s not an immigrant.

    “Why would an African, Asian, or white student care about these topics when Africans and Asians are NOT politically active in the United States and white don’t suffer from these disparities?” <- How is that not saying every other group but American Blacks are not politically active.

    And yes. Major does have to do with what job you get. That's why OWS happened. Funny, no dispute about number 5..

  • Vertigo Schtick

    Ugh nevermind. This is entirely not worth my Saturday. I’ll concede. Have a good weekend y’all.

  • Nic

    Yes please have a nice weekend.

    Britni asks “What do you think? Does this information speak to the validity of Affirmative-Action or are the paper’s authors just race-bating?”

    My argument was that no, this information has no validity in speaking about affirmative-action. Yes, the authors are race-baiting, the valid conclusions have nothing to do with race. The implication in using these statistics to oppose affirmative action is that blacks are lazy because alot of them leave hard sciences for humanities/social sciences, so they should not be preferentially selected to increase their representation in fields where they have been historically excluded.

    Choice of major has little to nothing to do with employment. Of course practical majors lead to some form of employment right after college. Other fields require advanced degrees (or licensure) for employment, so yeah someone might be unemployed while they are waiting on their acceptance to graduate school. But unemployment rates for those “majors” go down once you have attained an advanced degree. Who you know is the greatest factor in getting a job, next to your skill set. Humanities, social sciences, arts, etc. majors do not automatically mean ______ job.

  • Genuinesol

    This article infuriates me! Where do the authors of this paper get off by just assuming that humanities and social sciences are easier coursework when compared to a major focusing on math and sciences because THEY say it is? Can someone please show me the damn benchmark that constitutes what deems something challenging and what does not? Who decided that it is universally accepted that going to school to become a social worker is somehow less challenging than becoming a pharmaceutical engineer?

    As an elementary school teacher I can honestly state that teaching is an art and a science in itself and all of the skills that the more “rigorous” courses demand and that the authors of this paper that asserts itself as just presenting facts when, in my opinion, is just really implying insulting stereotypes of blacks; were taught by people who took less “rigorous” courses. When I attended college to become a teacher our focus was on physiological and cognitive development; theories of learning and social interaction; and most importantly, teaching critical thinking; problem solving; and collaborative skills to our students. Those last 3 aforementioned attributes are just want most employers are looking for today whether a person has a degree in a STEM major or not!

    You will never hear me deny that our nation as a whole needs to do more to encourage participation in math and sciences but, what is crucial to success in any major is the fostering and application of critical thinking and fields such as anthropology require that all the same. In my general K-12 experience and in my collegiate experience; I struggled in the area of math and I just knew that I was going to fail the 3 math courses I had to take. Well, in each course I earned a B and it was not because math was my strong point but, I was able to critically analyze the specific areas I struggled in and develop multiple approaches to them. As a person who majored in education, I take umbrage to the assertion that my area of passion is an “easy way out”.

    Here is a prime example of how the social sciences and humanities can be just as complex and rigorous as any STEM major. In China there is a colossal, and at the time of its construction it was billed as the largest in the world, theme park that cost billions of dollars to construct and yet, it lies completely vacant. Do you know why it is vacant? It is because the theme park model as it functions in the USA still does not fit in with Chinese culture and as a result, millions or possibly billions of dollars were wasted that could have been directed elsewhere. If sociologists and anthropologists had been consulted; this perhaps would not have occurred.

    That is just one example of how the humanities and social sciences are integral in a well functioning society. Then, they inserted the common Affirmative Action recipient stereotype into their “factual” paper when it is white women that benefit the most from Affirmative Action and many white men for years had their own form of Affirmative Action where they were admitted into college simply because of the color of their skin but thankfully, the goal of Affirmative Action has always been to give qualified women and minority applicants a fair opportunity to be considered in a nation that has long been afflicted with institutionalized racism and discrimination.

  • MarloweOverShakespeare

    Yes. *nodding*

  • reecola

    *co sign*

  • Kristin

    Well at least when starting out a degree from a “more prestigious” school may get your resume a few more looks than a “lower” university. After people get experience under their belts, that becomes more important versus where you got your degree from. Also the student may have fallen in love with a particular school and they don’t have an idea of how much debt they will be in. It never seems like that much as you sign the loan forms each semester.

    I do wonder how many of these students were steered to STEM by well-meaning advisers because they were the smart Black kids. In my day people were suggesting that the smart kids should be engineers or doctors. While I made good grades in math and science I thankfully knew I wasn’t ready for engineering and sick people made me nervous. If I had tried either one it would have been a disaster.

  • Intrigued and Concerned

    I just wanted to hop back in and say one more thing. I’d like to preface this by saying that I am a social science major, so I’m not against the social sciences and the humanities but my own journey in making my decisions has helped bring a couple things to light.

    It is most certainly true that math,science,engineering degrees have on average lower degrees of unemployment and higher payscales (specifically with just the undergraduate degree). Why? For starters, there are less of them. Less people find themselves interested or able to do these technical disciplines, so being skilled in them is more profitable.

    In my own experience, really smart people tend to take these technical majors and one of the most significant differences between the highly technical major and social science/humanities would be they focus more on a skill set and a difficult skill set that would be hard to learn on your own. I can speak from experience that social science teaches you to read closely and analytically, think critically, write well, open your mind etc. , but to be honest most majors will teach you the majority of these skills. Thinking critically, writing well, and having an open mind are key to any academic discipline. However, whereas the computer scientists are learning how to program and build hardware, the social scientists might be learning political theories or a number of facts about Cold War US government. Both are important, but one set of skills is more easily transferred into tangible results than the other. In addition, a computer science major can much more easily read a couple books and catch up to speed with the social scientist on a certain topic than the social scientist can learn how to program. I know this from experience. I’ve met students who were really brilliant in math/physics/computer science who were also pretty knowledgeable about a number of social science phenomenon and who definitely possessed the skills to push them further.

    Also, I feel a lot of people are up in arms that the social sciences and humanities are accused of being less rigorous, but I think the KEY issue is the number of individuals switching to them from more technical majors. Their initial intent to major in engineering, math, physics, computer science etc. indicates that most of them have a strong interest in that area and maybe even really wanted to major in that area, but changed because they were unsuccessful. Now, I agree we need more complete statistics to support this conclusion, but it does seem very likely that at least a significant proportion of these students are switching because they are not performing well on their original. At many universities, the average GPA for social science/humanities is higher than the STEM GPA’s. Reason being there are a lot of concepts in the social sciences and humanities that you just can’t get “wrong”. Not the case in a technical discipline.

    People change their minds, they should be able to major in whatever they want, but we can’t ignore the fact that their are substantive differences in these majors. And, we can’t ignore the fact that young Black students at Duke (at least some of them) are feeling pressured to transfer out of their initial choices to something that is less rigorous (by certain measures). The key issue is understanding why and how we fix it so that everyone can study whatever they want.

  • Reason

    China and America are two different countries? You don’t say. My bad I thought China was a Commonwealth of America. And please cite where I’ve said that the sciences were insignificant. I was using China as a example of how an (over-)emphasis on STEM doesn’t necessarily spell success for a country as a whole. What is great about this country is that the sciences are given equal import as the humanities. America as of late has never emphasized just having a job. America has been about doing what you love. Clutch itself has had how many articles on making a career out of what you love? I can honestly say that even if a STEM career paid a billion dollars I’d never even attempt it.

  • YeahRight2011

    I see you’re upset. If I were you I would be too if I had an ethocentric premise as flawed as yours. I’m not going to use your number bullets to respond so hopefully you can keep up. STEM majors are driven by consumerism while Social Sciences are driven by policy/politics. Most grads majoring in the latter aren’t looking for a paycheck, they’re looking to make a difference. Social sciences come in second after Business Management for black grads, Psycology comes in third. Now consider that foreign born blacks have the highest unemployment rate of all immigrant groups including those with STEM credentials. How does the group with the highest level of education among immigrants (and the US) have the lowest unemployment rate and marginal job creation in STEM industries? Maybe they should become of politically active but as it stands Africans and Asians alike are NOT politically active in the United States (collectively speaking). But to be fair African Americans aren’t the only politically active groups; Caribbeans and Latinos are extremely political active, whites are too. As far as citng, the perspectives I put out in my first post are supported by peer reviewed sources. Sociololgy by Tim Curry, Reinventing the Melting Pot by Tamar Jacoby, and Race and Ethnic groups by Robert Schaefer. For this post you can look up the field distribution for African American education attainment in the US dept of ED and for immigrant unemployment by race go to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Yeah, if I were you’d be pissed too.

  • YeahRight2011


    “How does the group with the highest level of education among immigrants (and the US) have the HIGHEST unemployment rate and marginal job creation in STEM industries?”

  • TheBestAnonEver, Part 2

    This is not the smartest comment. The majority of white/Hispanic students are in the humanities as well, do you think they shouldn’t go to Ivy League schools as well? Or is this requirement only for the black students???? Most of the white folks you see earning big bucks on Wall street have undergraduate degrees in some humanities discipline from Ivy League schools. Why should black people not be able to take part in that?

  • isolde


    Um . . . where in this sentence

    “Ok I can understand not wanting to waste your time studying a subject you dislike, but do you really need to go to a top tier university for a humanities degree?”

    or the entire comment, for that matter, did Grace imply that she was only referring to black students?

  • girlformerlyknownasgrace

    at first I was scratching my head, like when did I write this? Then I remembered that there is another Grace on this website. LOL

  • Tonton Michel

    “but do you really need to go to a top tier university for a humanities degree?” Yes you should, you may be learning the same thing but the so called “prestige” of graduating from an Ivy league school holds more weight with employers than someone who graduated from a “lesser” school. They know this that’s why they offer it.

  • K.Nicole

    Gerard, thank you so much for your comment. So many of “us” are the first generation in our families to go to college and the impetus was on us to GO, but our parents didn’t necessarily know the mechanics of helping their children get and stay in college. This is rarely acknowledged in retention and graduation rates of blacks in college, a lot of us are the “lab rats” of this college thing.

  • edub

    “My rhetorical question would ask if either of you completed college or are you just lacking in critical thinking skills.”

    puhlease. miss me with the “superiority complex”. I went to MIT as an undergraduate–majored in engineering and economics, have a masters in both urban planning and economics and am currently at harvard earning my phd and have published several papers in peer-reviewed top notch journals.

    LOL, you can tell me NOTHING about credible research and need to get over the fact that you have a hard time handling the truth. i’m tired of you and your ilk doing everything BUT acknowledging the truth. why is it that so many af-americans switch majors? racism? LOL!

    as they say in these parts…girl, bye!

  • apple

    aint this some shit..

  • The Black Feminista

    The of the greatest men in American history were Social Science majors: Dr. Martin Luther King and W.E.B. Du Bois. Both majored in Sociology and left valuable contributions to society,

  • Pema

    The truth hurts. Instead of being reactive we should try to look objectively at these studies. I definitely took the easy way out in undergrad but changed course in grad school and my income tripled because of it. Most of my peers (in their mid-thirties) are still caught in
    low-paying social work or education jobs.

    Sorry a lot of these humanities degrees are a big waste of money (and I have an expensive liberal arts BA so I’m pointing the finger at myself as well). Many black people have bought into the lie that an education in and of itself is enough but the reality is your field of study makes all the difference. We all could affect a lot of change in our communities if we had more capital.

    To the above posters lamenting that life is harder for a black undergraduate, at the end of the day nobody cares. Corporations, etc. care about the value you can provide not your personal story. Unfortunately the playing field is not level but a STEM major will help fortify you against market gyrations.

  • Eccentricism

    Some of these comments are baffling. The complete condemnation of humanities degrees and professions seems to be based solely on income prospects. What these commenters don’t realize is that there are people that choose to educate themselves in psychology because…well…they are actually passionate about psychology, and seek to use these degrees to help individuals, families, and groups with mental and emotional ailments. I think one of the problems is that these majors are flooded with people that don’t really care about the field of psychology, they simply want a job in something that they might be semi-proficient in. We need counselors and psychologists that fully dedicate themselves to their clients. If anything hurts the black community (especially our youth), it’s counselors that have no empathy for the black experience and are there to work, not to help.

  • African Mami

    I went to school with a boy whose major was GYM! He wanted to be a GYM TEACHER. Being from the motherland, I almost passed out when he mentioned he liked me more than a friend That my friends is UNACCEPTTTTTTTTTTTABLE! I don’t curr, if it is passion or you are so talented. but that right thurrrr is madness! I run, run away, because I knew we would end up po’ picking fruits in California to support our immigrant asses. -Although he was a trillion generations before me from Africa..

    I am fully aware that my comment is very mundane and random, but I could curr less

  • Genuinesol

    The implications of this study is also, in my opinion, asserting academic elitism. It seems to imply that if you major in a STEM field then you are smarter and are able to take on more rigorous work and if you major in a humanities degree then you are not as intellectually capable and are taking an easy way out.

    Science and math may be easier for some or some may be simply be passionate about those subjects. On the other hand, there may be some who find the humanities to be more challenging and do not feel passion for such areas. Furthermore, a study on college graduates found that the average college graduate is likely to change their major 3 times and their subsequent careers 6 times so this article is stating what has already been discovered. I wonder if there were any humanity majors that switched to a STEM major that this wonderfully compiled study (sarcasm of course) neglected to cite. I wonder if this study considered that most people drop out of college let alone switch to and succeed within another major.

    There are too many gaping holes and insulting insinuations in this study.

  • paisleywicker

    Honestly, I think it’s only reasonable that black students might gravitate towards degrees in humanities/social science because much of their life experience would allow them to arouse interest in something like that. I thought sociology was really interesting because as a black person I’m made aware of my race everyday and it’s interesting to understand the science behind that. You can also develop an appetite for these areas of study when you have life experiences that are expounded upon in them. Why is that so bad?

  • TheBestAnonEver, Part 2

    Isolde: Isn’t the whole discussion about black students??????

  • DivineBrown

    ANOTHER STUDY! Another STAT. Another opportunity to “dissect” our behaviors like lab rats and COMPARE it to the WHITE counterparts. ONLY for them to show something NEGATIVE. I don’t care what this says. I don’t believe what it says. I want them to stop studying us and for us to stop taking these things seriously. Trying to “dialogue” about it. The ONLY thing these things are good for is to show our supposed inferiority. Since I know that, it’s silly to even entertain this mess. It’s tantamount to answering a rhetorical question. It’s a JOKE. Nothing to brainstorm over.

  • oknow

    and they needed to do a study on this because………………………………………..

  • Bill Graves

    The research sounds on track to me. It is true that the majority of Black engineers and Black doctors finish at HBC.

  • Mimi

    I don’t think the authors of this paper are “race-bating”. In fact, the paper is quite true. How many Black students, if you went to/work at a non-HBCU, do you know that are actually NOT in some easy ass major?

    I go to Penn State, am of African descent, and I am a French-Business Option major. Besides myself, I believe there is only one other Black [female] majoring in French. And not only that, as I take my business classes, I am the only, or one of the couple, Black student in my classes!

    Then I turn around and see all my Black friends and associates here ALL in the Communications College, or majoring in BBH (Biobehavioral Health). Then there’s the handfuls of Blacks in the Business School (one of the top in the country). And I probably can’t even name one person that is Black that is majoring in Engineering, or even Criminal Justice (aka CLJ here @ PSU). And there’s other majors that I can really only name one Black person, I have a friend who’s in an Agricultural major, and another that’s in one of the IT majors.

    I also have friends who have left their previous majors of CLJ and Economics to be in the Communications dept. And frankly, yes, I do believe they took the easy way out.

    Black people are always complaining about progress and whatnot. Why not stop complaining and go to school for something that will actually benefit your community? Quit tryna aspire to be on tv, radio and in films, even though we do need our race in those fields. Instead let’s go into engineering – chemical, aerospace, civil or mechanical – get into the languages, even if it’s just a minor, major in education, business, agriculture, criminal justice, earth sciences and architecture!

    Black folk: Stop taking the easy road in life. Life isn’t an easy road. Plain and simple.

    PS. And sometimes all these HBCUs aren’t even the best choices in education. If you wanna be something, go to where you will be given the best education. So what if there aren’t alot or even one other Black person at that place. Be diverse, be open to other cultures. Stop being so stuck in your ways and open your mind to the world, because once you do, so many opportunities will be available to you. SMH

  • Mimi

    P.S.S. About comparing the GPAs of White and Black students… engh, kinda not fair. Every major has its hard and easy classes, so you can’t really determine the level of difficulty for every time a GPA is calculated unless you go through each person’s grades for similar difficulty level classes with a fine-toothed comb. The only way to be fair about that is to compare those in same majors or colleges. Eg you can’t compare an Engineering major to a, let’s say, Media Studies major. Although everyone is entitled to recognition for their hard work, whether they are Black and in Media Studies with a 4.0 or White in Engineering with a 4.0. It ain’t easy either way!

  • Leia

    You can make numbers say anything. Numbers may make the argument presented, but it is neither a sound experiment nor a strong argument by any means. I am an African American, non immigrant, female, pre-med, engineer, who graduated from an Ivy League University. I saw many of my female engineering peers, who were also pre-med, switch from the engineering degree to a bachelors in applied science to have a less demanding course load. But at what cost, or shall I say what gain?
    These Black women chose this option in an effort to get better grades and ultimately be considered more competitive by the graduate programs where they planned to apply. We saw many pre-med’s majoring in french, English, Psych, and touting GPA’s upwards of 3.8 while the average freshman engineering GPA was a 2.8 across all races. I believe that many of the African Americans who switch to an easier subject, may simply be playing the game. Any medical school admission information packet will tell you schools don’t care if you studied astrophysics at Harvard or English at Spelman, you need to have as lcose to a 4.0 science and cumulative GPA as possible. If I had it to do again I’m not so sure I wouldn’t have chosen the better GPA, a lighter courseload, a less stressful undergrad, and saved the 30K (plus interest!) I spent on a post baccalaureate program to be considered a more desirable candidate for medical school. I say Hurrah (Hurrah! Hurrah, for Pennsylvania!) to the Black students at Duke hopefully having some foresight to make sure that they look right on paper, ensuring they can dream of the next step, because getting rid of a bad GPA is like overcoming bad credit; it’s possible, but few recover.
    Oh and one more point. All of the girls who switched majors from engineering to applied science, were told to do so by faculty advisers. This was suggested of myself as well, but I refused figuring it to be a conspiracy theory of the faculty to hold me back from my true potential. There are not enough advisers encouraging the more challenging path, but their advice proved to be a double edge sword. Three of us are in medical school, one is getting a PHD in pharmaceuticals, and one has acquired like 5 masters. Perhaps the Blacks who are accepted to top tier schools and choose “softer” majors are just more likely to be academics, where as the white males are less likely to pursue a graduate degree outside of Business, law, or engineering.
    There are so many factors at play, without interviewing the actual students, this report took away people’s voices and put words in their mouths….so it it inherently non-factual.

  • Leia

    I agree completely. Obviously the point of this, as is the point of most studies similar to this, is to show why Blacks should just disappear. It’s not a factual study of why the decisions were made, and whether there is a lack of internal support within the school for students in the minority. The study shows Blacks have similar GPA’s, does it show that Blacks were doing poorly prior to switching majors? Another component to take into account is Advisory notes. Were the Black students pressured to switch into an easier major by an adviser? Did advisers shun them from the more strenuous majors because they were Black? Or were the advisers perhaps being helpful, knowing that graduate programs like to see you “study what you are interested in” and excel?
    Outside of Nursing, Engineering, and Business, where you learn actual skills to apply directly out of college, an undergraduate degree is nothing more than a certificate of common sense, and a stepping stone to do more.

  • Leia

    RIGHT??? If anything universities do still care about being a diverse environment reflective of American society….supposedly… so top tier universities meet “numbers” to provide a cultural experience by only accepting Blacks from private school. Twas a RARE, thing this hear tale of someone going to public school, or even more scarce, being from Philadelphia during my time at UPenn. They call it “creamin”….so the argument of us not being prepared to handle the curriculum, is not an accurate one. In any instance every student has their story, and no one wants to be lumped negatively.

  • Leia

    Which is exactly why the study has no valid basis. They made the numbers say what they wanted it to.

  • Oz

    Another study to prove our lesser value. How many does that make now?

  • E. Parks

    While the study and numbers may be true, what does it prove? The study does not deliver any real answers, but lends to support the current trend of regression on race.

  • SheThrives11

    People upset with the research study in this article clearly did not major in STEM fields, lol. The study is not racist just because it offends you.

  • Michelle

    Mimi, what do you mean stop taking the easy way out? French and Business is not the same as Engineering, so I’m not sure where you were trying to go with that. It seems like you chose a major that you found interesting and you felt you would excel in, I don’t think you should knock others for doing the same. As for this article, the bottom line is college is about finding yourself and ultimately you want to choose a career that you will enjoy and be successful in. Hard work will come regardless of what field you go into. That’s just life. Instead of focusing on the fact that Black students are switching their majors, how about focus on the fact that more and more Black students are going to college and attaining a degree. People always find a way to make a negative out of something positive. SMDH

  • NamasteX

    What is particularly troubling about the Duke Professors’ study

    is that it equates affirmative action with black. The Supreme Court ruled in 2003 (Grutter v. Bollinger) that race based college admissions can be used if ‘narrowly tailored’ and not an ‘overr-idding’ factor in the selection criteria. Thus, it is constitutional to use race as ‘one’ of the ‘many’ factors in an equation that contribute to admissions but it is NOT the only or the overriding (tipping point) factor. Affirmative Action does not = black. In fact, a letter in Duke’s Chronicle by ‘anonymous’ notes that Duke (as the Supreme Court ruled) “does not count race or anything else’ as a sole factor of admissions. Again Grutter v. Bollinger provides the clearest reference for Affirmative Action in college admissions up to now. Why do the Professors make this egregious jump and connect black students switching majors (and just being black) to AA policy? Professors please step away from your research and go back to research basics: (clarify definitions).

    This study also uses race to stratify/examine students when, if we read the study itself, the authors show that some black undergraduates at Duke come from private schools (23% which is more than double the national average of 9.5% for blacks in private schools… and have either a mother and/or father with an advanced/professional degree (32% at Duke ; National Average is below this number for sure just can’t find it right away… ). Maybe there is a narrative this research failed to show that would be more productive and illuminating. What about class?

    Additionally, over 70% of the survey respondents (for black students) were women. There are tons of studies (… about women and minority women in the STEM fields. The professors do a horrible job of situating their research into the broader context of research in the field. The professors do a poor job of disaggregating the data and accounting for “differences”. Black students/White students/Asian students are not all alike. The professors do an embarrassing job of trying to assert (mention/hint at) a ‘policy’ recommendation/suggestion/thougt(?). They clearly have no idea what Affirmative Action is or how it operates.

    It baffles me (or maybe I really shouldn’t be so shocked) why people (including professors such as the 2 at Duke who authored the study with a grad student) don’t take time out to understand the definition of Affirmative Action and how it is currently ”applied” in the US context.

    And…last but not least the Humanities are ‘easier’? I’m just outdone with the elitism and downright disrespect for the academy and liberal arts education. Where are the voices of professors in the Humanities? The so called ‘easier’ subjects/professions.

    Thank you Duke Students and Alumni for calling this out. People please read the study. The students have a right to speak out ESPECIALLY because of potential relevance in the pending Fisher v. Univ. of Texas Supreme Court case. (The Court has not decided to review the case yet…)

    This is the big deal. Where is the paper trail? How did this document become an amicus brief??

  • h

    My own experiences in science and math classes are filled with memories of students and teachers alike making the the assumption that I am incapable of handling the material. Perhaps these numbers are a reflection of the ramifications of this type of racism.

  • Mimi

    Never did I compare French and Business to Engineering, uh not sure where you got that from. I wrote that I am the only, or 1 of 2 Black persons in my major. I also wrote the majors in which I see the Black students choosing at my campus.
    And honestly, I chose French because I was familiar with it having took it in high school. And I chose the business option of that major because I messed up my freshman yr and would not have been able to get into Penn State’s business school. Had I really pursued my heart, I probably wouldn’t be here. But it was determination that made me continue to finish.
    There’s is only a bit of truth in your statement about more and more Black students going to college. However, those same Black kids going to college will be some of the majority of those that don’t FINISH college because they don’t have the money for it, maybe don’t even have the determination and just fail and have to withdraw from school.
    I’m not trying to be negative about anything, I’m just trying to point out what I see, and give suggestion on how to make it better, what to do so that the next paper talks about how less Black students than White students switch to easier majors.
    But everyone is entitled to their own opinion as I am. Thankssss.

  • Racial Rachel

    It think it’s a smart move, to be honest. If both our degrees say Harvard, it doesn’t matter if I take art and you take life sci. The moment I realized I was getting the same degree as everyone else, I began thinking strategically about classes.

    I’m a double Ivy and at both my schools there is a tradition of the older black students telling the younger black students about easier classes and good professors. Who wants to struggle if their heart is not in it?

    Also, humanities are not easier than science. It takes a different set of skills. I had pre-med friends who struggled with 7 page papers while I was turning in 25 page papers in a week. It wasn’t easy, but I learned the skill.

    Sidenote: I hope I’m an affirmative action case. Consider it my reparations. I’m going to take my affirmative action degree to get my affirmative action job and fight to end disparity.

  • PDemon

    You cite the Grutter case, but you don’t bother bringing up the Gratz and Bakke cases where Affirmative Action was ruled unconstitutional?

    Even in the Grutter case, the issue was whether Michigan was using a quota system, and the ultimate ruling was no, but there is strong statistical evidence that says yes.

    With Gratz, Michigan was using a point system at the time and 100 points was a guaranteed admit. Minority applicants received a 20-point bonus. A perfect SAT score was only worth 12 points. Michigan was forced to scrap the point system, but there is no reason to believe they didn’t continue using race to evaluate candidates in just as important a fashion as they did before.

    In Bakke, UofC-Davis was ordered to admit a then 33 year-old who had applied multiple times and had excellent undergrad GPA and medical school entry scores, was a worked as a NASA engineer, and was an Marine with the rank of Captain. The school had until then operated with a racial quota of approximately 16 students per class reserved for minorities.

    Grutter, if anything, was ruled incorrectly because, as I mentioned before, Michigan’s system worked as a quota; and quotas were ruled to be a violation in Bakke, as they should have been.

  • PDemon

    Affirmative action=racism.

  • Andrea

    Seconded. I majored in psychology, but I invite any major to come take developmental neuroscience or psychopharmacology and then tell me about my easy major.

  • The Black Feminista

    I agree. I was a Sociology major and I dare anyone to take Social Theory. Hard as hell and boring to boot. We had two take home finals but both had to be between 15 & 20 pages.

  • Preach!

    AMEN. As a very cisgendered/girly black female, I’ve had Economics professors at a top national university treat me like I had no chance at grasping the material. It wasn’t the actual material and subject matter that dissuaded me from the department; it was how uncomfortable the people in the department made me feel. I’d be willing to be many minority students have felt the same way.

  • Jay

    “PS. And sometimes all these HBCUs aren’t even the best choices in education. If you wanna be something, go to where you will be given the best education. So what if there aren’t alot or even one other Black person at that place. Be diverse, be open to other cultures. Stop being so stuck in your ways and open your mind to the world, because once you do, so many opportunities will be available to you. SMH”

    Dr. Carter G. Woodson’s thesis, The Mis-Education of the Negro, is still in print; let us all read it to determine what implications are still relevant today. There are over 4000 colleges and universities in the U.S., and 105 HBCU’s; why do we still group HBCU’s as if they are a monolith? Why aren’t all predominantly white colleges grouped like this I wonder? Why is it that if a student attends an HBCU, he or she is not embracing diversity because he or she is of the majority population? Why do we not say to white students who attend predominantly white colleges that they are not embracing diversity? Why is ‘predoninantly white’ still the best? Why is it that individuals who have never attended an HBCU always state that HBCU’s are not the best educational choices? It is because, many Black/African Americans still feel that white is right?Do they feel that white is still better? Do they feel that black is less than, and that it could never be euqal to what is white? Mis-educated black folks tell me daily that they would never attend a “black” college, but get up every Sunday morning and attend and drive to a black church! LOL Sometimes it is even a Historically Black church! At other times, they have joined historically black fraternities and sororities, or even black student associations; yet, black colleges are still inferior? I am not directing these statements/questions to you “Mimi”; I do not know you. I am a Ph.D. student (at a white college of course ) and travel across the country presenting on HBCU’s; your statement above just prompted me to respond. I find many of the comments fascinating; however, my expertise concerns HBCU’s which is why I focused on your statement.

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