Rutgers University is the largest institution of higher education in New Jersey with a student population of nearly 70,000 statewide. However, one Black professor at the school says the institution could do more for its more than 3,800 Black students.
Dr. Walton R. Johnson, who is a professor of Africana studies and anthropology at Rutgers, recently said in a column published in Diverse Issues in Higher Education that Rutgers’ efforts in recruiting Black students is on the decline.
“At the present time, the university administration rejects practices that have proven to increase enrollments from our Latinx and African-American communities.” he said. “There is a long and disgraceful pattern here.”
Johnson pointed out Rutgers had great success in the 1970s and 1980s enrolling and graduating Black students. At one time, Rutgers was ranked first in African-American enrollment and third in Latinx enrollment by the Association of American Universities. Currently New Jersey has a Black population of 14 percent but only 7.2 percent of Rutgers students are Black.
Taking on the subject of the diversity of Rutgers’ faculty, Johnson notes that he is one of the school’s 93 African-American teachers out of 2,000 university-wide. The faculty’s union has proposed the “Paul Robeson Hiring Initiative” in an effort to attract a more diverse faculty. Robeson graduated from the school in 1919. Rutgers is holding a yearlong celebration for the famed actor and singer.
“To respectfully embrace Paul Robeson, our university administration must eliminate its deep-seated hostility to African-Americans and Latinx and begin to implement appropriate measures for student enrollment and faculty hiring,” Johnson said.