A little more than half of Black students, 54%, surveyed at Ohio universities, reported feeling discriminated against because of their race.
“Some had very negative experiences or uncomfortable experiences or didn’t feel comfortable going to the different areas on campus,” Dr. Everrett Smith, an associate professor at the University of Cincinnati who conducted research for the report, said during a press conference.
About the survey
OSA surveyed 361 students from 12 Ohio colleges and universities, including students from the state’s two Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) — Central State University and Wilberforce University. One hundred eight students surveyed attend an HBCU and 253 students go to predominantly white institutions (PWI).
The 12 schools are:
- Central State University
- Case Western Reserve University
- Cleveland State University
- Kent State University
- Cuyahoga Community College
- Ohio State University
- University of Akron
- University of Cincinnati
- University of Dayton
- University of Toledo
- Wilberforce University
- Wright State University
The universities with the most participants in the survey were Central State, Ohio State University, Kent State University, Cleveland State University and Wilberforce. The students were surveyed on many different topics including their sense of belonging, campus police, financial aid, campus environment and faculty and administration.
OSA’s report comes about two months after the Supreme Court of the United States struck down affirmative action.
“We can’t afford to backslide when it comes to racial equity on campuses, especially in the aftermath of affirmative action being overturned a couple months ago,” said Rachael Collyer, OSA’s program director.
The report’s findings
Seventeen percent of Black students experienced a negative interaction with campus police, 32% did not feel safer with the presence of campus police and 21% of Black students were made to feel unsafe by campus police, according to the report.
Most Black students, 89%, receive financial aid; 60% said at some point they were worried about their enrollment because of financial aid/money concerns; and 49% of students were worried about paying back student loans.
A quarter of students surveyed said there are places Black students should avoid on campus.
“They were apprehensive about going around historical white spaces on campus,” Smith said.
Students going to HBCUs reported experiencing less discrimination.
Seventy-four percent of Black students at HBCUs and 51% of Black students at PWIs reported feeling like they belong.
At PWIs, 46% of Black students said their racial identity led to added stress and 67% said they felt unsure or disagreed that their university valued Black students.
Tamyra Otkins, a junior at Case Western Reserve University, said there is a lack of Black representation on campus.
Seven percent of Case Western students were African American, according to the university’s Fall 2022 Diversity Snapshot. Nearly half of Cleveland, where Case Western is located, is African American, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
“The population of Black students does not reflect the community as much as it could,” Otkins said. “This is a reasonable concern for Black students that attend this university because there is a power in numbers. … It can be isolating, not seeing much of yourself in the university, which makes it easy to feel like your voice is not strong enough.”
Brielle Shorter, a sophomore at Ohio State University, shared during the press conference what it was like hearing disparaging comments about Black people uttered by classmates growing up.
“These are words that I can still remember today, cutting through me like a knife,” she said, speaking in her dorm room.
Seeking support, she turned to a school counselor.
“Her response was just a box of tissues and a cold report sheet that I had to fill out so I can send it to the principal,” Shorter said. “And regrettably, over a decade later, since that incident happened, Black students that look like me, have the same cold atmosphere.”
She said this report is “a tool that can empower us to address issues that have long plagued our society.”
Nineteen percent of Black Ohioans have a bachelor’s degree compared to 31% of white Ohioans, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
“We know that if Black students are not enrolled in higher education institutions, our ability to have a higher quality of life is greatly diminished,” said Prentiss Haney, executive director of the Ohio Student Association.
The report lists four recommendations — create a statewide collaborative for institutions of higher education, build a system of accountability for campus policing, ensure all Ohioans have access to and complete higher education and protect Black students from harmful anti-CRT/anti-DEI legislation.
“Let’s embrace the findings … and use it as a call to action and opportunity to shape the trajectory of our educational system and use it as a testament to our commitment for a brighter and more inclusive future for all Ohioans,” Shorter said.
This story was originally published by the Ohio Capital Journal and republished here with permission.