Black Students File Complaint Saying U-M Discriminates

Maryanne George, Detroit Free Press, Feb. 3, 2006

A group of black students at the University of Michigan has filed a discrimination complaint with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights

The group claims that African-American students are recruited to graduate and undergraduate programs at the university to inflate enrollment numbers but are not given enough academic counseling or financial support to allow them to graduate.

Black graduate students are abused and demoralized, told they are not PhD material and advised that their best option is to leave after completing master’s-level requirements, the 13 students say in the complaint. Undergraduates are misled, segregated and alienated from an already grueling academic process, said the students, known as the Coalition for Action Against Racism and Discrimination.

“Critical issues involving African-Americans are considered to be nuisances,” according to the complaint. Once enrolled, completion of academic study, tenure processes and research are said to be of minor concern.

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The group of mostly graduate students claims discrimination is worse at the U-M College of Engineering, where students are allegedly invited into PhD programs and then directed into master’s degree rather than doctorate programs.

About 79% of students who enter graduate engineering programs qualify for PhD candidacy, according to U-M statistics. Of those who earn candidacy, 91% complete PhD programs. U-M awarded 725 doctoral degrees, including 33 to black students—about 4% of the total—in 2004-05, according to U-M statistics.

Simeon Anderson, a graduate student in civil engineering and spokesman of the student group, says a professor invited him to switch to the civil engineering program from the industrial engineering program. He alleges that the professor promised him admission to the PhD program and made offers of financial support, but later reneged on his promises.

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The university ranked sixth in the nation for total doctoral degrees awarded and seventh for the number of doctoral degrees awarded to blacks in 2003-04, the latest data available from the National Center for Education Statistics in Washington. That year, U-M awarded 660 doctoral degrees, including 34 to blacks.

Total black enrollment at U-M this year is about 7.6%. About 7.7% of graduate students are black.

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