The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Monday December 5th

Low black male retention causes concern

When senior Mycal Brickhouse looked around at the crowd of a minority male forum he attended in January, he noticed something was missing.

Some of the students he had known during his first years at UNC were gone.

“They withdrew for many different reasons,” he said. “But a common reason is that they didn’t feel at home here, academically or socially.”

The low four-year graduation rate of black males at the University — 49.2 percent, according to a 2010 study — has recently been a focus of administrators and students.

That number is jarring in its own right. But also surprising is the fact that many black male students who leave the University do so for non-academic reasons.

Taffye Clayton, vice provost for diversity and multicultural affairs, said at a Friday meeting of the Faculty Council that many of the black males who leave the University are still academically eligible.

“There’s another thought — (minority males) decide to leave Carolina not even because of an academic problem. They don’t feel comfortable or don’t feel engaged,” said Deborah Stroman, chairwoman of the Carolina Black Caucus.

Brickhouse founded Carolina M.A.L.E.S. last year to create a network for minority males.

Brickhouse said when minority male UNC students — who are accustomed to doing well — face academic difficulties, they often feel uncomfortable seeking help.

“The data says there is a problem,” Stroman said. “If the resources are here and not being utilized, what are we doing to market and make the resources work?”

Brickhouse said minority men should encourage one another to seek help from resources like office hours and the writing center.

“Having opportunities to connect successful minority males is an important step,” Clayton said.

The Carolina Covenant program, a scholarship program for low-income students, boasts a 69.2 percent graduation rate for its black male members.

Shirley Ort, associate provost and director of scholarships and student aid, said members of the program have access to their own advisors and social activities, which might contribute to an active presence on campus.

“When students get engaged in their campus community … they are naturally much more likely to connect with it,” Ort said. “They want to remain a part of it.”

A work group was formed in March with the support of a federal grant to do research. Members are trying to figure out what would be most beneficial for minority men on campus, said Brickhouse, a student adviser to the group.

“We’re having a cohort of young men who will be engaged in a number of strategies — seminars, workshops, opportunities to have a faculty mentor,” Clayton said.

Ort said she is happy with the new focus.

“When we as a community decide there is a problem we want to solve, we find a way to do it,” Ort said.

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