Black Students and Alumni Speak Out in Outrage Over Duke Study

University researchers claim that African-American students are disproportionally likely to switch to “easier” majors.

Posted: 01/17/2012 12:07 PM EST

An unpublished study by Duke researchers has many minority students and alumni upset, and now they’re speaking out about it.


As reported in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Duke University released an unpublished study stating that Black students are disproportionately likely to switch to easier majors.


On Sunday in response, about three dozen Duke University students from the Black Student Alliance stood in silence outside of the university’s chapel holding signs of their frustration.


Some read, “I’m Black. I’m an engineer. And I’m not the only one.” Others read, “What is an easy major?” and “It’s not a race issue so don’t make it one.”


The university’s Black Student Alliance Communications Director Crystal Fuller expressed that Sunday’s protests were conducted in silence because students are not fighting against their school.


“We want the Durham community at large to know what’s going on,” she told a local newspaper.


Echoing the concerns of the students, Black alumni have expressed their outrage as well. In a letter to the Herald-Sun, 17 Black alumni called the study by Duke faculty members a “misguided scholarship” whose results and methodology are “both flawed and incorrect” and based on “problematic premises [that result in] problematic conclusions.”


The paper, What Happens After Enrollment: An Analysis of the Time Path of Racial Differences in GPA and Major Choice, looked at two Duke freshman classes in their first, second and fourth years of college.


It found that a significantly higher percentage of Black students who initially expressed an interest in majoring in economics, engineering and the natural sciences switched their majors to what the researchers called “easier” or majors in humanities or another social science.


In addition to their protests, the students have called on the university to provide a public affirmation of the university’s commitment to diversity and full support of policies and programs that promote the success of Black students.


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