In this brief report, I will be examining common practices, policies and resources that support Black women attending Princeton University. Included is a brief review of national averages in regards to higher education attainment and a rationale for continued rhetoric on this topic. My interest in this topic stem from my experience at State University’s Women Studies Program. While the conversation around gender is necessary and crucial, little attention was given to discussions of how race and gender affect an individual’s lived experience. I was constantly aware of my lack of representation among students who were in those classes and the faculty who taught.
Obtaining higher education is regarded as the ultimate symbol of status in the United States (US). Access to a college education in this country is seen as an expression of academic excellence and can provide access to unlimited possibilities. In the US, Ivy Leagues are considered the elite and represent the most powerful ideogram of educational opportunity. According to the National Center for Education Statistics [NCES] (2012), from 1999–2000 to 2009–10, the percentages of both master's and doctor's degrees earned by females increased from 1999–2000 to 2009–10 from 58 to 60 percent and from 45 to 52 percent. The NCES report (2012), found that in 2009-10, of the 10.3 percent Black students who earned Bachelor degrees; 65.9 percent were women. Of the 12.5% of Black students who earned Master’s degree in 2009-10, 71.1 percent were women; and of the 7.4 percent of Black students who earned doctoral level degrees (this includes most degrees previously regarded as first-professional, i.e. M.D., D.D.S., and law degrees), 65.2 percent were women (NCES, 2012)
In 2003, Harvard professors Lani Guinier and Henry Louis Gates Jr. noted that of Harvard’s 530 Black undergraduates in the 2003-2004 academic year; approximately 180 graduates could claim a Black American heritage (Rimer & Arenson, 2004). Historically, the majority of students accepted into Ivy League universities have been white. Although discourse regarding the racially unequal make-up of such elite schools existed prior to Guinier and Gates’ comments; the present discourse among Black feminists, academics striving for gender equity is focused on increasing the presence of Black women at these elite universities. According to its website, of the 1,200 students that enroll at Princeton University each year, 8 percent identify as Black. While the statistics report does not identify what percentage of the 8 percent identify as male or female; according to the same report, 49 percent in the class identify as female. Historically, the isolated initiatives of increasing racial/ethnic diversity of the student body “calls from business and community leaders to strengthen workforce diversity, and shows a desire to redress past societal inequities; however it does not address compositional diversity of other parts of campus...