Enrollment Is Shifting At Black Universities

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November 1, 2004 1:45 PM

Washington Post Article (oct. 31, 2004):

Just after noon on the Howard University yard, members of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity broke into an impromptu step show, bobbing and chanting as they stomped in unison.

Chad Bishop watched from a distance. In his three years on the Northwest Washington campus, he has become fully immersed in college life: student body treasurer, sports announcer, newspaper board member, resident adviser in a dorm.

But Bishop, one of the few white students at this historically black university, said he has never felt quite comfortable enough to join a fraternity.

"You know, I started to pledge, but then I thought I shouldn't," Bishop, 24, said. "I wasn't sure how people would feel about it with the history and everything. I wasn't sure if people would understand why I wanted to do it."

Increasingly, white students are enrolling at the nation's 120 historically black colleges and universities, changing the landscape of institutions that were created when African Americans were barred from attending most colleges.

In the past quarter-century, the number of white students at these campuses has risen 65 percent, from 21,000 to nearly 35,000 -- an increase driven partly by court orders aimed at desegregation and partly by interest in programs these schools offer.

Some of these universities, such as West Virginia State University and Lincoln University of Missouri, are now majority-white. Others, struggling to meet court mandates for more white students, are using scant scholarship money to lure students from as far away as Russia.

Many educators said the changing demographics will enrich the educational experience for all students at the once all-black colleges.

"Boardrooms are not all black, and classrooms shouldn't be either," said Lee Young, admissions director at North Carolina A&T University, which actively recruits white students.

His school's increasing popularity with students of all races, Young said, is in many ways a measure of its success.

"What does it say about the value of your institution that people who didn't come before are now coming in droves to get in? It means that your institution has transcended color and now it is viewed as an institution of higher learning of impeccable choice."

Other activists and students, though, said this influx of white students is costing African Americans slots and scholarships at coveted schools and eventually could change the mission of these historically black colleges and universities, which are considered more nurturing than most other institutions.

"I feel like it will change the structure of the classes and the culture of the campus," said Tiffany Hawkins, 22, a senior telecommunications major at Baltimore's Morgan State University. "Now, we can speak freely. We learn about how things are different for us as black people. . . . In English class, we study black literature. In my media criticism class, we talked about how blacks are portrayed in the media.

"The focus is on us."

Most of the influx has come at public institutions, which receive funding from federal and state governments. As such, many colleges are pressured to increase their white enrollment -- even as affirmative action requirements at some other universities are waning.

"It is an odd and dubious legality that institutions that have not excluded anyone" are now forced to recruit white students, said Lezli Baskerville of the Silver Spring-based National Association for Equal Opportunity in Education.

Tennessee State University, for instance, was at one point under court order to increase its non-black enrollment to 50 percent. The court eventually dropped that requirement, and the campus has agreed to earmark $924,000 a year for scholarships to white students.

Three universities in Mississippi -- Jackson State, Mississippi Valley State and Alcorn State -- must increase their white enrollments to at least 10 percent and maintain that level for three years before they can receive a portion of the $524 million in state funds for school improvements provided in a federal court settlement, officials said. An effort to overturn that settlement reached in Ayers v. Fordice, a landmark desegregation case for colleges, was rejected Oct. 18 by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Alcorn State University, about 90 miles southwest of Jackson, has not found enough eligible white students from Mississippi interested in attending, so officials began recruiting overseas.

Eugenia Merculova Lubrano, 24, of Veronezh, Russia, a 2001 graduate who works as a recruiter for multicultural students at Alcorn, said she heard about the college from the mother of a friend. The word spread, she said, and now 40 people from her town have attended the historically black college.

Lubrano said she never could have gone to a U.S. university without the full scholarship Alcorn State offered.

Alvin O. Chambliss, the attorney who argued the Mississippi desegregation case, said the focus at historically black campuses should be on providing a quality education, not on drawing white students.

"They are going all the way to Russia to give away scholarships when they are sitting in the poorest state in this country and there are many poor black kids right there who could use those scholarships," Chambliss said. "They should be focusing on improving facilities and adding professional programs so that it will make all students want to go to these schools."

Morgan State University President Earl S. Richardson agreed. He said the key to diversifying student populations is offering quality programs. The Baltimore school offers no race-based scholarships, but has unique programs in architecture and city regional planning that help bring in students of all races. About 8 percent of its undergraduates and 20 percent of its graduate students are white, Asian or Latino.

"My goal here is to create an institution that is comparable to any of the majority-white universities," Richardson said. "Then, we not only improve the quality of education we offer our black students -- we make it attractive to white students, as well."

Morgan State and Maryland's other three historically black institutions -- Bowie State, Coppin State and University of Maryland Eastern Shore -- are governed by a 2000 accord with the U.S. Department of Education that sets no quotas for enrolling white students. Rather, the agreement encourages the state to invest in those colleges so they can offer unique programs to draw all students. Virginia, too, has focused on enhancing facilities and academic programs at Norfolk State and Virginia State universities rather than setting quotas.

Private universities, such as Hampton in Virginia and Howard, face no court mandates to attract white students and generally have less diverse student bodies. At Howard, 1 percent, or about 100, of their 11,000 students are white. Those who do enroll are generally drawn by its academic reputation or its music and athletic programs.

Bishop -- a tall, sandy-haired native of Shreveport, La. -- whittled his college choices to Howard and the University of Michigan because he had relatives near both campuses.

Bishop said he chose Howard "because of the tradition" -- the red brick buildings, the impressive résumés of the faculty, Howard's prestigious reputation.

He is aware, though, that some people think he doesn't belong.

"I don't want to offend you," a woman in a campus elevator once told him, "but I'd like to ask you why you decided to come here."

At other times, he has been called racist names and met more subtle hostility. He has been in classes where instructors have referred to "the white man" and made generalizations about white people that would have drawn fire if a white professor said the same about African Americans, he said.

"I was in the administration building and I had had a problem with something . . . and this lady who worked there said to me: 'Why are you here? This is for black people.'

"If she had been at a majority-white school and I had been black, she would have been fired."

Oddly, his relationships with white students are more strained. He feels more at home at majority-black parties at Howard than visiting predominantly white students' parties in Georgetown. Bishop said he rarely sees Howard's other white students taking an active role in campus activities, other than sports.

His southern roots have made him comfortable with some aspects of black culture, such as the food and music. "I eat my greens with my fingers mixed with my cornbread," he said. "I put my pork chops on bread and put hot sauce on it to make a sandwich."

The hardest gazes come when he walks across campus with black female friends. "It's like, 'What is she doing with him?' " he said.

But he has enjoyed his years at Howard. "I wish I could do it over again," he said. "This is a beautiful experience. The people who are nice to me are genuinely nice. This is like a family atmosphere.

"Not only did I get an academic education, I got a cultural education. . . . I don't believe I would have gotten that someplace else."

What do you think? Do you agree with this statement:

"My goal here is to create an institution that is comparable to any of the majority-white universities, then, we not only improve the quality of education we offer our black students -- we make it attractive to white students, as well."

Please share your thoughts as well...
1 vote
3 votes
0 votes
Mixed Feelings
2 votes
Total Votes: 6
November 1, 2004 3:52 PM

Mine is the 'mixed feelings' vote.

The crush of dollars meets the weight of mission.

Does the reason a student chooses an hbcu matter? These arguments are, in part, why I am so insistent that the laws that are left on the books, because 'they can't be enforce' be removed. Leaving structure in place means you don't have to rebuild it.

The pressure of 'white' student enrollment will eventually mitigate the intent of hbcu's to the point they will be of little value to us as a people. Yet, the need will still be there, because society will not allow full participation by African Americans.

I get a feeling of desperation when I realize how vulnerable we leave ourselves with no declared ancestral nationality.

As a people, I feel we are naked.

I know. I always get back to that.

It is desperately necessary that we get this done. It is the best armor we have.


Jim Chester
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November 2, 2004 12:48 AM

Yes, I agree with the statement. But I agree with this statement even more! Smile

"It is an odd and dubious legality that institutions that have not excluded anyone" are now forced to recruit white students, said Lezli Baskerville of the Silver Spring-based National Association for Equal Opportunity in Education.
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November 2, 2004 1:21 AM

In response to the poll no I don't agree with the statement, because the way race plays out in this country is that schools that have high populations of blacks are seen as less academic, for the most part, which from my experience isn't true. So money is not given to these schools as much as predominantly white schools. But I think the article does mention a key factor that I learned throughout my undergrad career.

I went to a predominantly white college for undergrad and now grad school because I could not (and still can't) afford the HBCU's tuition. One, I am from MA, so out of state tuition was just too much, so I needed to rely on scholarships. I couldn't rely on my parents because my mom never graduated from high school and my dad never went to college, so they after they paid the bills and put food on the table they had very little for their kids college education. So I went to a predominantly white school where I recieved minority scholarships.

There was a major trade off though, my sanity! By my third semester I couldn't take the emotional, physical and mental stress that being at a predominantly white school was giving me. I was ready to go homicidal on the whole white student body. So in fear of being locked up for the rest of my life, I did a domestic exchange to a HBCU senior year. Well I loved Heartit! I didn't have to speak for my race to a bunch of ignorant white folk. However, I did have to explain to a lot of ignorant black folk about why I don't have a Benz and why my parents couldn't afford to send me to an HBCU...which just shows you that just because you get rid of one ˜ism' doesn't mean another won't bite you in the ass brofrown.

Like in the article, the HBCU I went to had white students. I will admit I went Eek when I saw quite of few white students in my class. I did speak to them and asked why they decided to go to an HBCU. Well, guess what, it was the same reason why I went to a predominantly white school...they got money for being a minority on that campus (Eek which screwed me up even more because, white people as a minority? What the soapbox?) Then I came to the realization that white people who can't afford to go to college is going to use the same resource that I used when I went to college. That resource for the poor black and poor white person, who wants to get a higher education but can't afford to pay for it, is their race.
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November 2, 2004 9:57 AM

HBCU's are for people who are B! Period.

The experience that you get at a HBCU is like no other. It's a great feeling to sit in a classroom, with people who genuinely care about you. When you raise your hand and don't get chosen, you know it's not because you are Black.

Between the ages of 18-22 are years that are critical to your development, in majority white environs, you are constantly being attacked, psychologically, socially, intellectually and mnay are left with a feeling of inferiority - some never recover and become handkerchief heads. brotongue At an HBCU, you are only challenged not attacked, an environment that fosters growth, IMHO.

HU (the real one - HOWARD winkgrin ), just had their homecoming this past weekend and the feeling that you get "being on the yard", renewing friendships, is like no experience I have ever had anywhere else. I ran into people that I had not seen in 20 years, and in many ways it was like it was just yesterday that we last saw each other. True friendship, kinship even, is really what HBCU's are about - Something that is unique to us and should be preserved at all costs. IMHO.
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November 2, 2004 10:11 AM

I went to a majority white high school and regained my sanity by going to an HBCU...I had lost my mind and had to work back to a state of normalicy!(I definately can relate naturallyme)

There were white and mexican kids at the HBCU, even 1 Asian guy...but they were in the extreme minority and therfore dare not attack us.

I agree with you AudioGuy. In the hostile social environment of the U.S. these educational institutions must be preserved, so future generations can "retain or regain their sanity".


That statement you highlighted says it all!
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November 2, 2004 11:42 AM

My vote was "mixed feelings" but my heart says NO. Here we go again, this reminds me of intergration which I believe did us "Black FOLKS" more harm than good. On the other hand, my niece had a bad "FINANCIAL" experience with a HBCU where the loan funds were paid but the school said they weren't. This keep her from transferring to a college that was not a HBCU but had the curriculum she wanted.

Oh, but she could return to the HBCU and graduate and the "FINANCIAL" error was cleared up. Another niece, who was scholarly, wanted to go to a HBCU but they didn't offer her anything financially. But, Ohio State University offered her a significant scholarship. Therefore, the HBCU must be competitive in what they have to offer students. Unfortunately, to be able to offer financial support to students they will have to met state and federal monetary requirements.

Fortunately, I don't thing there will be enough whites enrolling in HBCU to be a real threat to their historical status.
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November 2, 2004 3:17 PM

Between the ages of 18-22 are years that are critical to your development, in majority white environs, you are constantly being attacked, psychologically, socially, intellectually and many are left with a feeling of inferiority - some never recover and become handkerchief heads. At an HBCU, you are only challenged not attacked, an environment that fosters growth, IMHO.---AudioGuy

True words.

I went to an in-State 'white' university. And that is what it was, a 'white' university.

For me, your words are right on target. Most of my courses were in the physical sciences. Lots of labs. Lab problems are largely based participation by more than one student. Seldom are they designed for a single person.

Needless to say, I had a major problem for four years. Occasionally, I get lucky and be in a section with an even number of students. The scramble to avoid getting paired with me was almost comical. There were only two of us in the entire major. His name began with a 'W'. We were never in the same section.

The instructor, usually a grad student, simply shrugged his shoulders, and said, "Do the best you can."

He was surprised when I passed.

He was pissed when he had to give me an 'A.' He had no hesitance in asking me how I did it.

It is a war.

Maybe hbcu's will ultimately have to combine to survive.


Jim Chester
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November 3, 2004 12:11 AM

Well, while I in no way advocate white students going to HBCUs, I do believe that they should be just as competitive and comparable, and even "attractive" to non-black students. I may be splitting hairs, but just because they may like it and wanna go, doesn't mean that they should be able to!! Eek

I'm having a little trouble with the fact that popular thought says that race shouldn't be used as a factor in admissions, but should be used as a factor in whether or not to receive state/public monies!! I mean, WTH is that?? Don't let somebody in because of race, but you can't have any money if you don't?? Eek

Sometimes this society really makes me wanna ... Frown
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December 11, 2004 11:50 PM

I found a story about this with some interesting numbers to it! Smile

White enrollment grows at historic black colleges
Friday, December 10, 2004

Historically black colleges and universities aren't all that black anymore, according to data from National Center on Education Statistics.

White enrollment at HBCUs jumped significantly, by more than 10,000 between 1980 and 1990, and the numbers have increased incrementally in recent years. The enrollment of whites peaked in 1995 with 35,963 at the nation's historically black colleges and universities. Then after a few years of decline, white enrollment at these schools rose back to 34,908 in 2001, the last year analyzed by NCES for the report.

Since 1976, the enrollment of whites at HBCUs increased by 65 percent, according to the government agency's data. Enrollment of blacks at HBCUs increased 25 percent during the same period from 1976 to 2001, according to the report.

"Most of the increase in white enrollment has been at public colleges and universities under court order to increase diversity," Tazewell Hurst, a researcher with the United Negro College Fund, BlackAmericaWeb.com. While UNCF colleges overall have a larger white enrollment than a couple of decades ago, the percentage increase there has not been as great, he said.

"Whites often are attracted to the programs and the atmosphere at historically black colleges and universities," said William Harvey of the American Council on Education. "They are discovering what blacks have known all along – HBCUs have strong programs and a student-friendly environment that inspires achievement."

At Kentucky State University, a school with a 35-percent white student population, people are drawn by programs such as aquaculture, which teaches future farmers how to raise catfish and prawns, said David Shabazz, the school's spokesman.

Harvey said that graduate and professional school programs at HBCUs also attract large numbers of whites because of the quality of the programs. .

Schools like Kentucky State, as well as Tennessee State University, North Carolina A&T, Alabama State and Alabama A&M were included in federal lawsuits to put them on par with their state's historically white institutions. As a result, the schools were required to try to recruit and attract white students.

During the 1970s and 1980s black students welcomed the improvements on their campuses, but questioned whether school officials were forced to make incentives available for whites that were not offered to blacks.

Fifteen historically black colleges and universities listed by the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education as having a white student population of 16 percent or more are public institutions.

Both Kentucky State in Frankfort, Ky. and Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Mo. have high white enrollment and are in regions where the communities that surround them are majority white. Officials at those schools say the demographics of their regions are reflected in their student body. Lincoln University, founded mostly by black soldiers in 1866, is now 59 percent white, according to data from the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education. The white enrollment at Kentucky State is 35 percent.

Mandy Mankin, who is white and a 26-year-old junior majoring in journalism at Lincoln, said that university was a natural fit for her. "I knew Lincoln had good programs, and it was convenient," she said.

Though a majority of students at the school are white, everything from sports to other special events continues to have the cultural flavor of an HBCU, and Mankin said she enjoys it. "I go to parties and other events, but the general composition of the student body is not reflected in a lot of the activities," she said. "It's usually the same whites who attend events."

Mankin writes for the school newspaper and said she has had opportunities to transfer and go elsewhere. "But I wouldn't want to do that," she said. "I am learning a lot and my best friends are here."

Historically black colleges and universities with the highest white enrollments

Bluefield State University, W. Va. 88.8 percent;
West Virginia State University 83.2 percent;
Lincoln University, Mo. 59 percent;
Shelton State Community College 64.6 percent;
Drake State Technical College 46.8 percent;
Kentucky State University 35 percent;
Bishop State Community College 32.8 percent;
Saint Phillips College, Texas 31.3 percent;
Langston University, Okla. - 22.6 percent;
Elizabeth City State Univ., N.C. 22.2 percent;
Tennessee State University 21 percent;
Fayetteville State University, N.C. 20 percent;
Trenholm State Technical College 19.6 percent;
Winston Salem State Univ., N.C. 17 percent;
Harris-Stowe State College 16.7 percent;
Delaware State University - 16.2 percent.
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December 26, 2004 4:30 AM

Sometimes, it seems like Black people can't have anything of their own. Sometimes I get really frustrated when we are expected to be saints and be accepting of others when other people are allowed to treat us like shitte.
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July 5, 2006 8:03 PM


Tommy Stratchko plays first base and designated hitter for Coppin State University in Baltimore. His twin brother, Bernie, plays third base for the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore.

Three years ago, when their mother Norma first heard the acronym HBCU, she had to ask what it meant. Today, when the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference -- a collection of historically black colleges and universities -- begins its baseball tournament in Norfolk, Norma Stratchko and her husband will be in the stands and their sons will face each other on the field.

That two white twin brothers from La Plata would be starters for a pair of predominantly black schools is hardly even noteworthy in black college baseball circles. Only one of the MEAC's seven baseball teams had a majority-black roster this season, and nearly half of the league's players were white, according to interviews with coaches and sports information directors. At some historically black schools, the ratio of black players to white players is almost the exact opposite of the ratio of black students to white students.

"If you saw these teams without their uniforms, you wouldn't even know they're HBCU anymore," said Claudell Clark, who played and now coaches at Norfolk State. "We're just trying to recruit the best possible athlete we can get, white or black. We're not necessarily concerned with that."

The shrinking number of black baseball players is a much-noted trend that stretches across all levels of the game. Last season, 8.5 percent of Major League Baseball players were African American, down from 18 percent in 1991, according to the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport. In the 2004 season, just 6 percent of Division I baseball players were black, according to an NCAA survey, compared with 58 percent of basketball players and 44 percent of football players.

But on campuses that are often 85 or 90 percent black, the MEAC's baseball rosters are especially striking. At Coppin State, about half of the school's 30 white male students play for the baseball team. At league powerhouse Bethune-Cookman, about half of the school's 30 Hispanic male students do the same.

Coaches at historically black schools tell stories of attending showcase events for high school seniors and seeing just four or five black faces among 200 prospects. At their schools, the situation is reversed; white players on several MEAC teams said they're often the only non-black students in their classes and are easily identified as baseball players merely by walking through campus.

"I look at the pictures on my wall; when I started, the team was predominantly black and we had maybe one or two white kids, and you look at it 10 years later and it was split down the middle," said Florida A&M Coach Joe Durant, who has spent 15 years at the Tallahassee school. "You want to look for the African American kids first, because we're a predominantly black university, but when you can't find 'em, you can't find 'em. . . . [Coach] Danny Price from Florida International, he looked at my team and said, 'Damn Joe, you've got more white kids than I do.' "

Whether this is even worth mentioning is a matter of some debate. White players, who in some cases have been asked repeatedly about their school choice by friends and media members, said their minority status is insignificant.

"Baseball is baseball no matter where you go," said Bernie Stratchko, a phrase repeated by players of different races at different schools.

Administrators at several schools said the racial makeup of their teams is never discussed with coaches, that there are no racial quotas or goals and that coaches are merely expected to recruit athletes who are able to compete at the Division I level.

"We don't play baseball because of color," UMES acting athletic director Keith Davidson said. "We play baseball because in order to be a Division I program you have to have 14 sponsored sports, and baseball is one of the ones we chose to play."

The MEAC's seven baseball coaches said their most important goals are winning baseball games and graduating students, and that they will continue to recruit the players most suited to that task -- "black, white, blue, purple," said Eastern-Shore Coach Bobby Rodriguez; "black, white, green, orange," echoed Delaware State Coach J.P. Blandin.

Coaches said parents are more likely to ask about campus life than players, but that racial issues are not central to the recruiting process.

"We're trying to think of who can get the ball down to second or who can throw the ball over the outside third of the plate," said North Carolina A&T Coach Keith Shumate, who is white. "When we talk about white or black, we're talking about parts of the plate we throw to or what uniform we're going to wear."

These schools often have small or nonexistent baseball recruiting budgets and scholarship allotments far below the NCAA maximum. Scholarship dollars last longer, the coaches explained, when divided among in-state players, regardless of race. They said that polished black players are snatched up by elite schools or the major league draft, and that less-polished players often choose to play other sports in college.

But some coaches also said they're representing schools whose historical missions were tied to race, schools that in some cases have long traditions of producing black baseball players, and that they continue to search for black prospects. Major League Baseball stars Andre Dawson, Vince Coleman, Marquis Grissom and Hal McRae all came from MEAC schools, and the schools sent several players to the Negro leagues.

"I feel a calling to make sure we recruit black athletes," said N.C. A&T's Shumate, who coaches the only majority-black baseball team in the league. "Anytime you talk about race the least little thing can be twisted, and that's why people don't like to talk about it, but I'm outspoken about it. . . . It's about opportunity, and it's about making sure these kids get opportunities just like the other kids do."

Of the 23 schools in the MEAC and the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association -- the two historically black conferences that encompass the mid-Atlantic region -- only 12 play baseball. The two local HBCU schools, Howard and Bowie State, both dropped the sport within the past five years.

When Terrance Whittle became the coach at Division II Elizabeth City State six years ago, the baseball team was mostly white. Whittle has since launched a concerted drive to recruit black players, and said his roster this season is about 75 percent black.

"For us it is an effort, a conscious effort to find and field the best black baseball players and to stay true to the historical mission and complexion of our schools," he said. "The MEAC seems to have kind of gotten away from that mold of recruiting African American players, and the complexion of their rosters has changed."

But Whittle acknowledged that, as a Division I conference, the MEAC faces different challenges. There are stricter eligibility requirements, and there are regular meetings with the biggest powers in the sport, heavyweights from the ACC or the SEC.

In fact, that prospect of facing the best teams in the country is responsible for attracting many of the white players, who often said historically black schools offered their only chance to play Division I baseball. That's what landed Tommy Stratchko at Coppin State, where he said being the only white kid in class has been "different from everything I've ever experienced."

The Baltimore school has just one student cafeteria and two dorms, and non-athletes agreed that it's easy to pick out the baseball team around campus.

"I just started looking around," junior Dunstan Cole said. "I said, 'Where are all these white boys coming from?' "

Cole and other Coppin students said they're happy to have the best baseball team coaches can compile, and that in any case they rarely see the baseball players, who mostly live in off-campus apartments.

The baseball players also stick together around campus, but so too do athletes from other sports. Coppin State pitcher Alex Hangland joked he can never skip class because his absence is too easily noted, and several teammates said they've never spent time in a majority-black environment before baseball brought them to Baltimore.

Coppin State outfielder Ryan Deakyne, for example, went to high school and junior college in California; both schools were overwhelmingly white. His friends asked him what it would be like at a predominantly black school and he said he didn't know. When he arrived on campus he ate meals by himself if he couldn't find any teammates, and was intimidated by the idea of being the only white student in a classroom.

Now, he said, the idea of being intimidated by a majority-black class seems "ridiculous." If he doesn't see baseball players in the cafeteria, he sits with other students. Plus, he tasted gumbo for the first time and proudly tells of going to the D.C. club H2O this week for teammate Amiel Traynum's 21st birthday.

Needing an English requirement this semester, Deakyne wound up being the only white student in a black literature class, and despite his increased level of comfort, he hesitated to participate in class discussions. But when a business professor asked students to design a marketing strategy for Coppin State, Deakyne decided not to include a racial component in his plan.

"I was sitting there and I was like, 'As a white guy, I wouldn't mind coming here if I lived in the city,' " he said. "I didn't see it as an issue."
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