Perceptions, perspectives, and adaptive behaviors of selected black freshmen at a southern predominately white university


Material Information

Perceptions, perspectives, and adaptive behaviors of selected black freshmen at a southern predominately white university
Physical Description:
v, 269 leaves : ; 28 cm.
Gibson, Joyce Taylor, 1946-
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
African American college students -- Psychology -- Florida   ( lcsh )
College freshmen -- Psychology -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Adaptability (Psychology)   ( lcsh )
Educational Administration and Supervision thesis Ph. D
Dissertations, Academic -- Educational Administration and Supervision -- UF
bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )


Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 1983.
Bibliography: leaves 264-268.
Statement of Responsibility:
by Joyce Taylor Gibson.
General Note:
General Note:

Record Information

Source Institution:
University of Florida
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
aleph - 030595802
oclc - 12015805
System ID:

Full Text







Dedicated to my parents

who taught me the value of education

Dr. and Mrs. Jeremiah A. Taylor


This research could not have been completed without the support of
many friends, colleagues and family members. The author wishes to
express special thanks to the persons described here who were intimately
involved with her during the time of her study.
Dr. Wattenbarger is to be congratulated for his enduring patience;

his support and advice made the study possible. Dr. Eddy introduced the
author to the field of anthropology and provided countless hours of
assistance during the research process. Encouragement and direction from
Dr. Cole was readily available when necessary. Very special thanks must
be given posthumously to Dr. Solon Kimball whose counsel was critical in
the development of the study.
The Whitney Young Foundation of New York City provided the author
with financial support for one year of study and research. The Southern
Education Foundation of Atlanta subsidized the research to facilitate
analysis of the data. The author expresses sincere gratitude to these
foundations for their assistance.
Roland, the author's husband, and her children, Rhona, Roland, Jr.
and Rhys, deserve awards for their love and understanding throughout the
study period. For encouraging words and prayers, the author thanks Bill
Beldan and her friends in the Littleton Congregational Church. The quiet
place in the woods of Harvard where the majority of the writing was
completed, was made available by two wonderful friends, Phil and Lynne
Wood, whom the author can never thank enough. Pamela Johnson, who typed
the dissertation, is appreciated for her talent and hard work.
Finally, the students who participated in the study are warmly
thanked for giving the author the opportunity to seek solutions to
problems of adjustment which are important to all those who support
higher education.


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS . . . . . . . . . . .. iii

ABSTRACT. o o o o o . . . . o. . . -. . . .- . .. vi


I. INTRODUCTION . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Statement of Problem ...
Justification for the Study .
Methodology. . . . . .
Data Analysis. . . . .
A Look Ahead . . . . .


Overview . . . . .
Who Is This Black Student in H
Problems Of Black Students .
Adaptive Behaviors . . .
Developing Perspectives . .

. . . . o . .
. . * *

. . * .

higher Edcto?....

Institutional Response to Black Students
Theoretical Framework. . . . . .
Summary. . . . . . . . ...


The Orange State University. . ..
Family History/Educational Background .
The Special Admission Program. . .
Orientation, Advising, and Registration.
Make New Friends, But Keep the Old . .
Black-Black Peer Relationships .. ......
If I Study More, My Grades Will Improve. .
I Didn't Know We Had a Dean of Students. .


Student Characteristics . . . . . . . . .154
Comparison of 1971 Students and 1978 Freshmen. . . . 158
What Phenomena Influenced Student Adjustment?. . . .. 162
Was Race a Factor in Students' Adjustment
to the University? . . .. ......... 191
What Patterns of Behavior Were Developed
by Students Adjusting to the University? . . . . 194
What Perspectives Did Students Develop to Solve Problems
While Adjusting to the University? . . . . . . 205
Freshmens' Perceptions about Adjusting . . . . .. 210
Perspectives Developed by Freshmen . . . . . .. 212


. . ... 154

* *

. 0 .



B INTERVIEW GUIDE .. .. . .. . .. . . . .. 231



REFERENCE NOTES. . . . . . . . . . .. . . .. 263

REFERENCES . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 264

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH. . . . . . . . . . . .. .. 2(o

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

Perceptions, Perspectives And Adaptive Behaviors Of Selected
Black Freshmen At A Southern Predominately White University


Joyce Taylor Gibson

December, 1983

Chairman: Dr. James L. Wattenbarger
Major Department: Educational Administration and Supervision

The research reported here examines the perceptions of a small group

of black freshmen about their academic and social adjustment to a pre-

dominately white, Southern university. The purpose was to discover the

behavioral patterns used by students in adjusting to the university

environment, and the perspectives they developed in solving problems

during their first two terms in school. Documenting student perceptions

and perspectives about college is critical to a better understanding of

the ways in which students adapt to the university. Students' perspec-

tives about their everyday activities within the settings of classroom,

extra-curricular activities, living arrangements and natural groupings on

the campus are revealed to accomplish this goal.

Data were collected through open-ended interviews, questionnaires,

participant observation, and through examination of official documents

published by the university which were in effect during 1977-78, the time

period of the research. The analysis of the data revealed four variables

which had major influence on the students' adjustment to the university:

family support, the initial university reception, peer relationships, and

individual characteristics. Peer relations were by far more influential

than the other variables. The students' peers at home and their peers at

the university played equal roles in their adjustment, and in how they

developed perspectives to solve everyday problems.

Two important perspectives developed by freshmen influenced the

social and academic aspects of their lives. They were (1) to succeed in

college I have to make good grades, preferably without any help from

others, and (2) to be successful in college means being accepted by my

peers, especially my white peers. Those freshmen identified as adjusting

well had at least two of the following characteristics: (1) friendships

with black students at the university prior to their enrollment,

(2) friendships or experiences with white peers in high school, and

(3) strong self-images, and positive attitudes about the university. The

successful adjustment of black freshmen seemed to be dependent on certain

essential conditions outside and within the campus community.



The enrollment of Black-Americans in higher education has tripled in

the last twenty years, bringing the 1982 figure to 1.3 million students.

However, too few of these students are graduating, and attrition poses a

serious threat to this increase in numbers. A closer look at the break-

down of enrollment will put these facts in wider perspective.

At this writing, 75 percent of all students enrolled in higher

education attend two year or four year colleges--86 percent of black

students are enrolled in these institutions. Twenty-five percent of all

students attend universities, yet only 15 percent of black students are

enrolled in universities (National Advisory Committee, 1979). Higher

education statistics for 1981 reflected that blacks constituted 9.3

percent of all students in higher education, and the makeup of the

institutions where they were enrolled was as follows: 70 percent in

predominately white institutions (PWI), 18 percent in the traditional

black institutions (TBI), and 12 percent in newer predominately black

institutions (PBI). Of the baccalaureate degrees awarded that year, a

surprising 40 percent of these were awarded by the traditional black

institutions. Poinsett (1980) summarized this dilemma in an article in

Ebony magazine:

Fantasy may suggest that the million-plus students are
moving inexorably toward baccalaureate degrees and beyond.
But the fact is that half of that impressive total is
enrolled in two-year colleges--plagued with high dropout


rates and limited academic offerings--and only about a third
is in four-year programs. In other words, while more black
students are entering colleges these days, the majority
leave before they graduate. (p. 55)

What are the variables that influence black student adjustment at the

predominately white schools where attrition appears to be high and

matriculation very low?

Wright (1981) reported several reasons for high matriculation of

black students at traditional black institutions, including elements

which may be missing at the majority of the traditional white institu-

tions. Two are important to this study: (1) most of the TBI's have

strong supportive programs for students who are in need of academic

assistance, especially for those with deficiencies in reading, mathe-

matics, and English, and (2) the TBI's help students develop their self-

images, which is viewed as critical to achieving goals. In his national

longitudinal study of freshmen, from 1968-1972, Astin (1975) found that

blacks at predominately white institutions had a substantially higher

attrition rate than any other group of students in the study. He


The higher attrition rate appears to be attributable in part
to the effect of attending a white college, rather than to
differences in initial drop-out proneness between blacks in
white colleges. (p. 26)

Students' adaptations to college life depend on many things that

they bring with them to college, including family history, grades from

high school, and study habits (Astin, 1975). On the other hand, what

they encounter in the college environment influences their adjustment,

i.e., the people they meet, classroom experiences, as well as their

involvement in extra-curricular activities. Adaptation involves

interactions and relationships between individuals and groups in an

environment and is part of the socialization process. One purpose for

conducting this study was to discover how black freshmen adapt to their

white college environments. One aspect of this purpose was to examine

how students adjust to problems they encounter in their new environment.

Adjusting necessarily involves learning about new and different ways of

handling problems that are unique to campus life. How students face the

new problems on campus is determined to some degree from their past and

in part from their ability to generate new ideas. This process is called

developing a perspective. Students can develop individual and group

perspectives in learning to cope and handle problem situations. Their

home lives appear to have as much influence in developing perspective as

their new campus life. (See literature review for more details on


Many black college freshmen who attend predominately white colleges

are particularly vulnerable to uncertainties and frustrations during

their first year of school, primarily because they are unlike the major-

ity of their white counterparts in three major ways: (1) they are

usually first generation college students, i.e., the first person in

their families to attend college; (2) they have generally been academic-

ally handicapped to some degree by their inaccessibility or delayed

accessibility to quality secondary schools; and (3) they must try to

adapt to a college environment which reflects very little of their own

history or culture (Harper, 1971; Ballard, 1973; and Boyd, 1974). The

problems they face are real and must be addressed by other members of the

university community.

When black students began to attend predominately white universities

in large numbers in the early 1960's, few of these institutions were

prepared to receive them. John Egerton in a 1969 report on newly

integrated institutions of higher education described this problem:

One of the most serious problems accompanying increased
desegregation in predominately white colleges and universi-
ties could be called unpreparedness. Institutions which
have reached beyond the "super blacks" with impeccable
credentials to admit students whose backgrounds and prior
preparation set them apart from regular students have often
experienced a variety of difficulties. The unpreparedness
of these students has frequently been noted in institutional
studies and press reports. But the institutions, too, are
often unprepared, not only to deal with the so-called "high
risk" students but with black students generally. "High-
risk" is a two-sided coin; the institutions take a risk on
the students, but the reverse is also true, and the risk any
black student takes when he enters a white-oriented institu-
tion is substantial. Universities, despite popular senti-
ments to the contrary, are conservative institutions; the
process of change in them is sometimes glacially slow, and
many of them have not yet demonstrated either the skill or
the determination to educate students--whatever their race--
who differ markedly from the middleclass white students they
are accustomed to having. (p. 94)

This mutual unpreparedness of the new black students and the tradition-

ally white institutions was and still is a major factor in the poor

adjustment of many black students to predominately white campuses.

A 1980 Office of Education study of seven predominately white insti-

tutions, conducted by Donald Smith, revealed that institutions had

changed very little since the 1960's. In reviewing Smith's work,

Poinsett (1980) reported that black students still complained of feeling

depressed, alienated in PWI's where the environments were described as

"hostile" (p. 55). Perhaps worst of all, black students are still expe-

riencing the negative effects resulting from the apparent belief of white

faculty and white students that all or most blacks are special admission

students or are enrolled to meet affirmative action quotas, and therefore

are not legitimate students. Successful adaptation and the onus to

develop improved relations between black students and their institutions


must be borne by both parties. Gibbs (1977) echoed these sentiments in

an article on the problems of black students at integrated colleges, and

offered this prediction:

There will continue to be ethnic tensions in the foreseeable
future, so that blacks will continue to be perceived as a
minority and treated in a somewhat different manner. How-
ever, the challenge for the students and the universities is
learning to adapt to each other for the mutual growth and
vitality of both constituencies. (p. 56)

Statement of the Problem

The research reported here examines the perceptions of a small group

of black freshmen about their academic and social adjustment to a pre-

dominately white southern university. The purpose was to discover the

behavioral patterns used by students in adjusting to the university

environment and the perspectives they developed in solving problems

during their first two terms. This study is an exploratory one which

sought answers to the following questions:

1. What phenomena influenced black students' perceptions of their

academic and social adaptation to a predominately white


a. In what activities do students participate as they adapt to

the university?

b. What groups do students interact with in adjusting to the


c. What are the students' feelings about the ways in which they

adjust to the university?

d. What institutional policies and/or traditions do students

perceive as affecting their adjustment to the university?

2. What patterns of behavior are exhibited by students in their

adjustment to the university?

3. What are students' perceptions about race as a factor affecting

their adjustment to the university?

4. What perspectives do students develop to solve problems they

encountered in the university?

Although many surveys and studies have been conducted to determine

the attitudes, conditions, and perceptions of black students adjusting to

white campuses, few have sought the perceptions of defined groups within

the black college population, that is, black freshmen, and none have uti-

lized an open-ended interview method or directed questions towards the

collection of data which would begin to reveal the nature of the inter-

connections between social and psychological processes as black students

make the transition from their home communities and schools to the

university community. In a preliminary way, this study was designed to

accomplish this goal.

Justification for the Study

This exploratory research was designed to identify phenomena that

influence the adaptation of black freshmen on a predominately white

campus, and to formulate new hypotheses for further study. Though many

black students at predominately white institutions learn to cope with and

survive in their environments, even more do not; moreover, the staff and

faculty at these institutions are not aware of some of the problems and

concerns experienced by students, nor how to help them. High attrition

rates often result from this lack of understanding between university

personnel and minority students resulting in a low graduation rate for

black students. Goodrich (Note 1) summarized a few reasons for the

attrition of black students at the First National Think Tank on Blacks in

Predominately White Colleges and Universities:

While attrition is a problem for the college student popu-
lation as a whole, it is particularly so for the (ethnic)
minority students attending predominately white universi-
ties. In addition to financial and academic difficulties
which typically contribute to student attrition, the minor-
ity student faces an unfamiliar and frequently unsupportive
environment. The low percentage of minority faculty and
support service staff, the dearth of cultural and social
programs geared to minority students, and the indifference
or hostility of many administrators and faculty make it
extremely difficult for even the better prepared minority
student to adapt to the college environment. (p. 3)

Willie, Kramer, and Brown (1977), authors in a text on racial

relations and mental health, recommend that more studies be conducted as

a means of adding significant knowledge for greater understanding of

black students at predominately white institutions.

An investigation to identify the social and psychological phenomena

entailed will provide insights into the adaptation of students to each

other and to the campus. Knowledge of these phenomena may also help

develop measures to facilitate adaptation. Documenting student percep-

tions and perspectives about college is critical to better understanding

of the ways in which students adapt to the university. In their pioneer-

ing study on college student life, Becker, Geer, and Hughes (1968)

described this void in understanding the everyday life of students:

Everyone writes about college students. Many people have
studied them. Yet in all the vast literature that has
accumulated, we find very little that gives any sense of
either the overall dimensions of college life, as students
see them, or of the ordinary, routine everyday character it
has for them . we should study students' views of their
own experience because, we think, it is the best way to find
out what influences these features of student behavior we

are interested in. If we do not see it as they do--as a
dense network of social relationships, institutional
demands and constraints, and temporarily connected
contingencies--we will not be able to understand what they
do. (pp. 1-2)

This study reported here reveals students' perspectives about their

everyday activities within the settings of classrooms, extracurricular

activities, living arrangements and natural groupings on the campus.

Finally, this study was conducted to emphasize the need for more

field research in the area of social relations in education. Field

studies conducted in natural, realistic environments are particularly

meaningful in developing new hypotheses, discovering relations among

variables, and laying the groundwork for more rigorous testing of ques-

tions and hypotheses (Kerlinger, 1973). The approach that seeks to

understand life in the context and setting of the person being studied is

referred to by anthropologists, sociologists, and other behavioral scien-

tists as an in vivo study. It requires the technique of participant

observation, as a means of collecting data, and utilizes a combination of

techniques such as interviewing and surveys, to facilitate the under-

standing of persons in their own setting. This study utilizes the

participation-observation method, questionnaire and interview in

collecting data.

Use of varied techniques is becoming more popular in educational

research, but is usually confined to the social sciences. In their book,

Unobtrusive Measures, Webb, Campbell, Schwartz and Sechrest (1966) des-

cribed the limitations of single instrumentation in conducting research,

and advocated (whenever possible) a multiple operational methodology for

more reliable results (pp. 105). Pelto (1970) has also described multi-

instrument research as a means which "greatly enhanced the credibility of

research results" (p. 145). Two early studies on black students at white

universities used a combination of the participant observation method and

a questionnaire in documenting the perceptions of students about their

college experiences. These studies added to the general body of informa-

tion about black students' adaptation on the predominately white campus.

Willie and McCord (1972) in Black Students at White Colleges, and George

Napper (1973) in Blacker Than Thou: The Struggle for Campus Unity, pro-

vide important data about black students, yet little is known about the

everyday activities of black college students attending predominately

white campuses.

Like some other studies (Willie and McCord, 1972; Peterson,

Blackburn, Gamson, Circe, Davenport and Mingle, 1978), this study was

conducted on a single campus. However, it is not a comparative study of

perceptions between blacks and whites, does not use a large staff to

conduct the study and interpret the data, and is not a study that simply

utilizes statistics from surveys or questionnaires to convey perceptions

of black students as a homogeneous group. Rather, this study is one of a

few conducted on a southern campus which seeks to examine (1) the

perspectives and adaptive behavior of one particular group of black

students--freshmen--(not a mixed classification of students) and (2) to

identify phenomena that influence their perceptions and adaptations

through a variety of research tools.1

1The research was conducted by a former administrator at the institution
where the study took place. Her familiarity with the institution, its
traditions, policies, and practices enhanced her ability to develop
insights and hypotheses which an outside observer might have had
difficulty in grasping during the two terms the study was completed.


This study was designed to be exploratory since research on this

topic is relatively new, and not much is known about the adaptation pro-

cess of blacks on white campuses. Sellitz, Jahoda, Deutsch, and Cook

(1959) found that with exploration research, "the major emphasis is on

the discovery of ideas and insights" (p. 50). Katz and Festinger (1953)

described exploration study as a kind of field study which seeks what is,

rather than predicts relationships to be found (p. 25). In examining

student perceptions and adaptive behavior patterns, the researcher

designed the exploratory field study to discover relationships among

certain variables affecting perceptions in the adaptive process and to

formulate new questions and hypotheses about black students' adaptation

to predominately white universities.

Although this study was not itself a community study, the perspec-

tive of the researcher in designing the interviews and making observa-

tions of students was strongly influenced by this approach. As noted

earlier, the community study method is familiar to sociologists and

anthropologists who have utilized this method to attain a naturalistic,

or real life picture of the processes which occur between and among indi-

viduals in a given environment. Arensberg and Kimball's (1972) defini-

tion of the community study is simple and easy to understand:

Community study is that method in which a problem (or
problems) in the nature, interconnections, or dynamics of
behavior and attitudes is explored against or within the
surround of other behavior and attitudes of the individuals
making up the life of a particular community. It is a
naturalistic, comparative method. It is aimed at studying
behavior and attitudes as objects in vivo through observa-
tion rather than in vitro through isolation and abstraction
or in a model through experiment. (p. 29)

In his reflections on his field research for Street Corner Society,

Whyte (1943) commented on how he used this method.

Although I could not cover all Cornerville, I was building
up the structure and functioning of the community through
intensive examination of some of its parts in action. I was
relating the parts together through observing events between
groups and between group leaders and the members of the
larger institutional structures of politics and the rackets.
I was seeking to build a sociology based upon observed
interpersonal events. (p. 358)

The community study method seeks to describe what is natural and is

different from controlled experiments. The four major characteristics of

any community study as described by Arensberg and Kimball (1972) are as


1. The community under study must be a whole or representa-
tive community. In other words, a reasonable representation
of the different sexes, ages, classes, sects of the majority
and minority members of an area must be present or included
in the defined community. Each and every segment does not
have to be represented in each study. However, Arensberg
stated that "the community is still representative which
knows and deals with persons and things of its culture and
society, as long as a minimal number, a minimal contact, and
a minimal continuity connects them . pattern and aware-
ness, structuring and relationships, not numbers is of the
essence" (p. 25). The method is by nature comparative since
it must be alike or different from some other community.

2. Several techniques of observation and data collection
must be used. Examples of techniques used in this type of
study include questionnaires, surveys, in-depth interview-
ing, participative observation, sociometrics, and house-
to-house canvasses.

3. Third, there is a requirement to reexamine existing
data. Simply stated this means that the researcher cannot
assume that data already collected are the most accurate,
even though he/she uses it.

4. Fourth, a new working model is required as a result of
this hypothesis--generating comparative methodology. The
community study technique evolves ideally into model build-
ing through three stages: (a) construction of the model
through the data collected, (b) comparison with other exist-
ing models or those examining exact data collected before
this study (see characteristic (3), and (c) integrating
problems within the new model created by study. (pp. 31-34)


Effective model building depends heavily on the completeness and consis-

tency with which results are fitted into the community studied, the

experience and insight of the research, and finally on the accuracy of

the technique used to collect data. Details of model building will be

described in data analysis.

Pilot Study

Prior to designing the study, the researcher conducted an informal

pilot investigation to help identify phenomena that influenced the

adaptation of black students to Orange State University (OSU) campus in

Mainsville.1 During the Fall quarter, 1977, twenty-five currently

enrolled black students were contacted by telephone and invited to a

meeting to share their experiences about adapting to the University.

The students were selected by the researcher and the Assistant Dean for

Minority Affairs at the University. The nature of the research was

explained and the students were assured of the confidentiality of the

information. Twelve students agreed to participate in the pilot study

including one sophomore, six juniors, four seniors, and one graduate

student. Each student had entered the University as a freshman, and

agreed to share feelings and experiences about adapting to the


The researcher met with the students in a November in the Afro-

American Cultural Center on campus. The students were divided into three

small groups in which they shared the positive and negative experiences

1These are pseudonyms for the name of the city and the name of the


about adaptations to the University. Afterwards, they were asked to join

the researcher and share the same with the entire group. Tape recordings

were made of the large group discussions.

Data collected from the pilot study and the review of the literature

were used in designing the study formulating questions for the investiga-

tion and for defining categories for analyses.


The admissions officer at the University who recruits minority

students provided the researcher with a list of black freshmen accepted

for admission to the Winter term. The researcher suggested that he relay

the general nature of the study to the new students and inform them of

the researcher's intent to contact them. This was done and facilitated

the introduction of the study to the students. Fifteen students were

contacted by the recruiter and were receptive to being contacted by the

researcher. This type of sampling is called purposive. "The basic

assumption behind purposive sampling is that with good judgment and an

appropriate strategy one can hand-pick the cases to be included in the

sample and thus develop samples that are satisfactory in relation to

one's needs". (Sellitz et al., 1959, p. 520)

A letter explaining the study and introducing the researcher was

mailed to the students in December. Included in the letter was a stamped

post card addressed to the researcher, which requested the student's

signature if she or he agreed to participate in the study (see Appendix

A). Eight of the fifteen students responded affirmatively, and five were

eventually chosen to assist with the study.

One week after their arrival on campus, the researcher contacted

each student by telephone to arrange individual appointments to discuss

their participation in the study. All five of the students agreed to

participate in the study and gave their permission for the researcher to

tape interviews and to observe them in various campus activities.

Instrumentation and Data Collection

The researcher developed a semi-structured, free response, interview

guide which was designed to stimulate discussion with the students about

their activities, interactions, and feelings as they were adjusting to

the University (see Appendix B). Students were asked questions and given

the freedom to respond as they wished. This guide was used in weekly

interviews with students for a ten-week period. All interviews were

arranged in advance and were conducted at an appointed place and time

at the mutual convenience of the student and researcher. Four students

lived on campus and met with the researcher in their dormitory rooms, or

a lounge or lobby of their living areas. The fifth student lived off-

campus, and arranged meetings with the researcher in the student union or

other places on campus. A common interviewing procedure was followed

with each student. All interviews were taped on a portable cassette

recorder. The weekly interviews lasted for thirty minutes.

Data were also collected for the study through administration of a

questionnaire developed by the researcher. Using items from (1) a ques-

tionnaire developed by Jones, Harris and Hauck of Bucknell University

(1975), (2) the Arts and Sciences Faculty of the University of North

Carolina at Chapel Hill (1978), and (3) some original ones of her own,


the researcher created a semi-structured, open-ended survey of students

to seek data under the following headings (see Appendix C):

(A) Demographic Data

(B) Entrance and Orientation to the University

(C) Academic Advisement and Registration

(D) Classroom Experience

(E) Study Habits

(F) Personal-Social Experiences

(G) Black-White Relations

(H) Administrative-Student Relations

The questionnaire was administered to each student individually

after the final weekly interview. These data were collected for compari-

son with the data gathered in the regular weekly interview, as one means

of verifying their reliability.

The third method of collecting data was through observation of the

students in some of their campus settings. The researcher was able to

act as a participant observer with the students during weekly interviews,

through unscheduled interaction at campus activities, and during pre-

arranged class visits during the two quarters.

The last method of data collection was examination of the official

documents published by the University which explained or described cer-

tain policies, programs and activities which were in effect or were prac-

ticed during 1977-78, the period of the research. The documents consisted

of the Undergraduate Catalogue, the Student Handbook, and the annual

report of the Special Support Services. In addition, student records and

the winter and spring issues of the daily student newspaper were examined

and analyzed. All data were collected and analyzed by the researcher.

Data Analysis

Continuous Phase

In anthropology, data collection is not separate from data analysis.

Kimball and Burnett (1973) express the point of view as follows: always, data collection and analysis, substantive
conclusions, and problem formulation, and expansion of
conceptual tools were all intimately connected. (p. 49)

The data in this study were analyzed as they were collected. A

continuous review of information was conducted as it was collected,

especially from the interviews and the participant observation. These

data were then compared to the data from the questionnaire. As a more

complete picture of each student evolved from week to week, individual

personal experiences were compared and reviewed. The difference in data

collected from each student were reviewed, and special attention was

given to student perceptions, about similar events, and their reactions

to common variables in their environment, i.e., faculty, the registration

process, examinations and the like.

The perceptions and collective perspectives of the students evolved

as the analysis occurred and are reflected in the findings reported in

Chapter II and in the analysis presented in Chapter IV. In this latter

chapter specific student perspectives on peer relationships, academic

performance, and university officials are described in the sections

entitled "Make New Friends, But Keep the Old," "If I Study More, My

Grades Will Improve," and "I Didn't Know We Had a Dean of Students".

A comparative analysis was also made of the data pertaining to

students' behaviors in small groups and social systems. Data were

collected in which students described their relationships within groups

and social systems prior to attending college, and those they created

after entering the university. Using Homan's (1950) methodology for

studying the small group as a means of understanding people and their

relationship to society, the researcher utilized the three elements of

(1) activity, (2) interaction, and (3) sentiment in analyzing the

students' relationship to others and their environment. The focus of

this phase of analysis was on peer group and kin groups--those estab-

lished prior to entry to college and those established after entry. The

social system as defined in anthropology was also a guide in this phase

of the analysis. The system is defined by Arensberg and Kimball (1972)

in this way:

A system is seen as composed of a number of individuals
united by ordered relations, existing in time and space,
each individual responding in a customary manner towards
others within the system (or outsiders or events which
impinge on the system), the nature of interaction (ordered
relations and custom) being an expression of the values
affected by the situation or event which stimulated the
response. (p. 270)

This examination of the human groupings revealed vital information about

adjustments and behaviors of students to the campus. The adaptative

group behaviors of the freshmen are also described in Chapter IV.

Model Building

The integration of early findings with those later discovered is a

major challenge of the community study method. With all the data

collected and analyzed, it was still difficult to determine which data

were most appropriate to synthesize in order to present a clearer picture

of student perceptions and perspectives as these unfolded during the

course of the research. Comparisons were made in this study of the pilot

study data, the findings of other researchers and the data from the

students studied here in order to help clarify and answer the questions

raised in the statement of the problem. It is through combining ideas,

data and insight into a descriptive, understandable model that new

hypotheses are developed for further research. Arensberg and Kimball

(1968) referred to a "living" model that evolves from the community study

approach, as opposed to one that is hypothetical or confirmed. They

expanded this definition to distinguish it from other types of analysis.

Primarily it is a method of thinking about facts, organization,
priority and relevance. It is empirical, inductive, and
examines behavior through events in time and place. It is
concerned with the qualities of items or traits and their
relationship with other traits within the stable or changing
conditions of the several environments--physical, cultural, and
social--within which they appear. (p. 695)

The combined analysis of the case studies was the basis for model

building in this study.

A Look Ahead

Before turning to the data of this study, Chapter II presents a

literature review of black student adjustment at four year institutions,

citing problems of students and university personnel; descriptions of

adaptative behaviors of black students on predominately white campuses;

and a theoretical framework for studying adaptation. The initial view of

students' perceptions, perspectives and behaviors is described in

Chapter III which reports the findings for each individual, and in

Chapter IV which examines the students' collective perceptions and

perspectives. The understanding of these which emerged after the study

was completed is reviewed in Chapter V, which also presents the

conclusions of the study and recommendations based on these conclusions.




Since the advent of equal educational opportunity in higher educa-

tion, research on minorities in this setting has been voluminous. Most

research has been about the black minority student (Bayer, 1972, Nieves,

1977) and has emphasized admissions procedures, compensatory education

programs, and various problems of black and white student interaction.

Although these topics are important, and to some degree influence a

student's perceptions and behavior, the focus here is limited to how

black freshmen adapt to everyday life in their new campus environments.

This review was also limited to studies at four year institutions. In

this chapter, the reader will find

(a) A review of current characteristics and problems of black

students who attend predominately white institutions, including

a special study on blacks attending a southern university,

(b) Descriptions of studies that reveal behavior patterns and

adaptive modes exhibited by black students on predominately

white campuses and how students develop perspectives to handle

problems they encounter,

(c) A summary of the historical and current response of predomi-

nately white institutional personnel to black students, and

(d) The theoretical framework used in studying the adaptation,

perceptions, and development of students' perspectives on

adjusting to college.

Who Is This Black Person in Higher Education?

One of the most thorough descriptions of black students who attend

predominately white campuses is found in William Boyd's book,

Desegregating America's Colleges--A Nationwide Survey of Black Students,

1972-73 (1974). This study was the first national survey of black

students who attend predominately white colleges. The study was historic

for this reason, and also because it was conducted by a core of black

professionals. Similar studies have been limited to one campus and have

been conducted by a single black or white researcher (Astin, 1975; -

Willie, 1972).

Nine hundred and ninety personal interviews were conducted at 40

public and private colleges and universities across the country. Boyd's

sample included 785 black students, and 194 black or white faculty

members and administrators. The findings present the general character-

istics of black students, and then provide details about the interaction

of black students, black faculty and the administrators of colleges and

universities in the Northern, Southern, Eastern, and Western United

States. The study clearly attacks the myth of uniformity of character-

istics among black students. Too many personnel in higher education view

the following description as the norm for all black students:

He is "Mr. Special Admit": poor, ill-prepared, in need of
remediation, "high risk" in that he is likely to fail (and
to demonstrate rather than fade away quietly), and "street"
rather than "middle class" in value system and life style.

(Students may be considered "special admits" at any given
school because they possess one or any combination of these
characteristics). (Boyd, 1974, p. 4)

As a rule, black students are grouped, labeled, and are rarely perceived

as different from each other at the PWI's. In addition, few campus

administrators and faculty take time to view the many similarities

between black and other students. Boyd stated this about these


In order to understand black students as a nonmonolithic
group and to be able to respond to their needs more effec-
tively, it is necessary to explore in some detail the areas
in which great similarities exist as well as those whose
great diversity is the rule. This is particularly important
because some of the areas where no majority exists...are
ones which have been used as "proof" of uniformity among
black students. The areas in which the largest majorities
exist, on the other hand, have received little attention
because they tend to apply equally to all students regard-
less of race. (p. 5)

Boyd found very few similarities of a striking nature among black

students. At least 80 percent of the students in his study were

unmarried and graduates of public high schools, maintained "C" averages

and participated in classes at least as much as other students, and were

usually able to obtain adequate help with their problems by using some

combination of the resources available to them (p. 5). More importantly,

at least two-thirds of the students shared some obvious, and some less

well-known characteristics which heavily influenced their careers in

higher education.

Characteristics pertinent to this research with citations on each

topic of recent research by others follow:

Black students were dependent on financial aid as their primary

source of money for funding their college educations. Sixty-eight


percent of the students in Boyd's study were dependent on loans, scholar-

ships or veteran's benefits to support their schooling. Twenty-nine-per-

cent listed scholarships as their primary source of aid, and 20 percent

received primary funding from their parents. Nineteen percent received

loans from sources outside the institution. Obtaining sufficient aid is

critical to the student's survival in school (p. 5).

In his study of college dropouts, Astin (1975) found that blacks were

much more likely than whites to check financial difficulties (43 percent

versus 27 percent) as the reason for dropping out of college (p. 17). The

reason for this is clear--a greater proportion of black students come from

low income families which are unable to contribute significantly to their

education (Astin et al., 1972; Bayer and Boruch, 1969).

Centra (1970) also found that black students relied heavily on

scholarships for financial support. Two-thirds of the black students in

his study on freshmen received some scholarship money, and 16 percent

received at least three-fourths of their support from scholarships. In

contrast, only one-third of the white students were supported by scholar-

ships. Twenty-seven percent of the black students received no parental

support, and 24 percent received a quarter or less of their college

expenses from their parents, whereas 43 percent of the white students

received 75 to 100 percent of their college expenses from parents.

Centra's sample, however, differed significantly from Boyd's in that 85

percent of his sample came from small, private colleges with very small

black populations. Still, the pattern of funding education was similar in

both studies.

In his 1972 study of characteristics and trends of black freshmen,

Bayer found that 25 percent of the black students as opposed to 10 percent

of the white students were very concerned about finances for college.

(p. 16)

Most black students must work to supplement their primary source of

funding. Working is more the norm than the exception for black students

attending college. In Boyd's (1974) study 73 percent of the students

held at least one job. Fifty-four percent worked 11 to 20 hours per

week, and 20 percent worked 21 hours per week. (p. 6)

Bayer and Boruch (1969) found in their American Council on Education

(ACE) report on freshmen, that two-thirds of the black students in the

study worked full or part-time, as opposed to one-half of the white


Black students feel inadequately prepared for college. In Boyd's

1974 study, 71 percent of the students felt that they would prepare them-

selves differently if they had the opportunity to do so again. Consist-

ent with this feeling, 52 percent rated their college preparation as fair

or poor (p. 7). Similar findings are reported by Hedegard and Brown

(1969) in their study of black and white freshmen at the University of

Michigan. Black students felt they were less well prepared academically

than the average white student.

In a 1976 study of black students at the University of Florida,

Taylor (Note 2) found that black students chose poor academic preparation

as the second biggest problem they experienced in adapting to the pre-

dominately white campus. Nieves (1977), Crossland (1971), and others

concur with these findings.


Bayer (1972) found that despite good high school grades, 53 percent

of the black freshmen in the 1971 ACE study felt they needed tutoring or

remedial work, particularly in mathematics.

At the University of Maryland at College Park, Brooks and Sedlacek

(1972) found that all but 16 percent of their 1972 black freshmen

indicated an interest in the tutorial or remedial help programs. (p. 2)

Very little data have been recorded about whether black students

actually receive the help they indicate they need. However, Boyd's study

(1974) reported that a majority of students do not feel they have

received any special help, even though many were admitted under special

programs which supposedly provided such services. Seventy-three percent

of the students believed they received no special or preferential treat-

ment in any phase of their experience at college. Sixty-six percent said

they received no academic help whatsoever (pp. 7-8). However, Nieves

(1977) and others (Taylor, Note 2; Hazeur, Note 3) report that black

students often do not use the services they know they need.

They simply do not avail themselves of the services
provided--perhaps because of the class and ethnic gulf
between them and most counselors, perhaps because they feel
their problems are outside the ken of white counselors,
perhaps because they feel the counsel they receive is too
abstract, not directly applicable to their problems.
(Nieves, 1977, p. 5)

Black students are confident of their ability to succeed. Their

confidence in succeeding is seen as admirable, yet somewhat unrealistic

by some educators, especially in light of the admitted need for academic

assistance. Hazeur (Note 3) stated that young black freshmen envision

college as an extension of high school and are not aware that they will


need better study habits and skills to cope on campus. Harper (1971) and

Nieves (1977) concur with this observation.

Boyd's (1974) findings also reflected this paradox. His study found


Seventy-nine percent of those who received help feel that
they didn't need assistance, and 77% believe there was no
likelihood of their dropping out of college. This confi-
dence was also reflected in their views on study habits--
72% felt that their study habits were as good or better
than those of other students. (p. 7)

Though working against seeming insurmountable odds, increasing numbers of

black students have matriculated at predominately white institutions,

perhaps because of this "unrealistic confidence". (p. 21)

A majority of the black students are poor, urban, first generation

college students. Sixty-five percent of the students in Boyd's study

came from families that have incomes under $10,000. Sixty percent of

these were first-generation college students, or the first in their

families to attend college. Of the students in the study, 59 percent

were from families in which neither parent had attended college. These

students were more likely to require substantial financial aid than those

whose families had incomes exceeding $10,000. Students from families

with incomes higher than $10,000 were more likely to attend college than

those from families with incomes less than $10,000, and were also less

likely to need substantial financial aid.

Hedegard and Brown (1969) found that the median income of the white

students in their sample was between $12,000 and $14,000, as opposed to

$6,000 to $10,800 for black students. They also found that 70 percent of

the fathers of black students had completed no more than a high school

education and were employed in unskilled or semi-skilled occupations.

Seven percent of the white fathers were semi-skilled or unskilled

laborers, and 55 percent had some graduate or undergraduate degree.

Bayer and Boruch (1969) reported similar finding.

Boyd's (1974) data indicated that a majority of black students

during the time of his study were enrolled in urban institutions in the

Northeast and the West. Moreover, 80 percent of these students were

enrolled in major urban areas, which were close to home (p. 29).

Female students differ significantly from black males in regard to

family background and academic behavior. Boyd found that twice as many

females (22 percent) as males (11 percent) indicate that both their

parents attended college. Also, 23 percent of the females as opposed to

15 percent of the males reported family incomes of $15,000 or more. This

may be one reason that there are more black females enrolled in higher

education institutions. (p. 18)

Another reason females outnumber males is related to the male role

as breadwinner. Often, due to the poverty of black families, the males

are seen as potential workers to increase family income for survival and

drop out of primary and secondary school to work. Consequently, twice as

many females as males identified their families as their primary source

of financial support (Boyd, 1974).

Academically, males fare less well than females in predominately

white campuses. Boyd (1974) found that 31 percent of the females made

"B" averages as opposed to 21 percent of the males, and that 56 percent

of the males versus 46 percent of the females reported fair or poor

academic preparation for college. In addition, females have more contact

with faculty than do males. Yet the females report the contact as pri-

marily negative and discriminatory. Of those males who were in contact

with faculty, 37 percent as contrasted with 46 percent of the females

described faculty contact as negative (p. 18).

Strader, Brooks and Sedlesack (1974) also confirmed a higher percent-

age of black females as having interaction with faculty than did males.

Most of the students have never attended any other college. Sixty-

nine percent of the students in Boyd's (1974) study had never attended

other colleges. Of those students who had attended other institutions,

over half were enrolled in public community colleges. Sixty-eight percent

had considered attending black colleges, which to date have been suffering

declining enrollment due in part to the increase in blacks in tradition-

ally white institutions.

Black students still tend to major in traditional areas such as

social sciences. Despite a national trend in job opportunities away from

the social sciences and education, and towards the business and technical

fields, the majority of black students major in the social sciences or

education. Twenty-eight percent of the students in Boyd's (1974) study

were majoring in the social sciences, 15 percent in education, and 15

percent in business (p. 9).

Drifting towards fields other than education seemed to be character-

istic of all students, according to Bayer's 1972 freshmen study. Black

students were more likely to major in business, the social sciences,

education, and the health fields, while non-black students tended to

major in the physical sciences, engineering, and the biological sciences.

A decade later, Astin's (1972) study of freshmen majors confirmed that

black students are moving out of the traditional non-technical areas.

A large majority of black students aspire to graduate education,

though many have less than "B" averages (Bayer, 1972; Boyd, 1974; Centra,

1970). This seemingly unrealistic yet admirable desire to attend

graduate school has often been interpreted as the mechanism by which

blacks can bridge the gap which exists between employment opportunities

and salary differences between blacks and whites (Boyd, 1974).

Southern Study

This section describes a summary of findings in a study completed in

1970 at the same institution where the study reported herein was

conducted. Shenkman, the author, studied the first group of black

undergraduates accepted at the university. His study was designed to

determine how the new students were participating in the life at the

university. In so doing, he also documented characteristics, problems,

and other aspects of their lives on campus. Through interviews and

questionnaires he was able to collect data from half the black population

enrolled at that time. The following summary was selected from his study

of the 70 students.

A majority of the black students at the university come from
low income families. Only one quarter of all black students
have parents who are able to completely finance their
college education. Half of the black students are receiving
financial aid.

The great majority of black students at the university are
from the state. The majority come from predominately black
neighborhoods and graduated from predominately black high
schools. While in high school these students were extremely
active in all facets of extracurricular activities.

A majority of the friends of black students at the univer-
sity are attending predominately black colleges and univer-
sities. The major consideration of black students who
decided to attend the university was a financial one. The
major reason for black students wanting to attend college
was preparation for making a living.

Black students felt most favorable about professions, had
moderate opinions of white students, and felt least favor-
able about administrators. Very few acts of discrimination
were reported having been committed by professors, white
students, or administrators in spite of a general feeling of
their being prejudiced.

Virtually all black students expressed a desire for more
black students, more black faculty, more black administra-
tors, more Black Studies Programs, and greater opportunity
for nonfaculty black personnel. The desire for more black
students, however, was most often expressed (pp. x, xi).

Relatively few white individuals or organizations have made
positive overtures in the direction of black students. The
extremely small number of black students at the university
makes it possible for blacks to be ignored without creating
an unassimilated minority which conceivably could constitute
a threat to the stability of the social system of the
university. In addition, black students are ambivalent as
to whether or not they wish to be assimilated into the
mainstream of campus culture.

Blacks date, study, and socialize mainly with other blacks.
Nonacceptance by whites plays a relatively minor role in
explaining this phenomena. Blacks simply feel more comfort-
able around other blacks than they do with whites. More
than actually participating to a greater extent with whites,
black students would like the option of being able to do so.

In order for Blacks to feel that they are first class
citizens in the social system of Orange University, they
must enjoy all the perogatives that true first-class
citizenship implies. There must be enough black students at
Orange University in order to give Blacks a representative
voice on campus. There must be more Black professors at all
academic levels in order to eliminate the feeling that
whites are the sole disseminators of knowledge and erase the
suspicions and fears that this type of thinking generates.
Finally, there must be Blacks in positions of power and
authority. A group cannot feel that it is of equal status
with other groups in a social system unless it has members
of its group in positions of prestige and leadership. These
leaders cannot simply be leaders to the members of that
group, but also must have authority and control over all
participants in the social system. (p. 164-165)

Shenkman's observations were the same as Boyd's regarding black

students' income (poor and dependent on aid), their home background

(urban), their family status in school (first generation) and their

feeling unprepared for college.

Problems of Black Students

The studies cited thus far have focused on the characteristics of

black students attending white colleges. What about problems in

adjusting? Some indeed arise from the differences between the new black

student and the traditional white student. However, many others are due

to the expectations of the new students about the campus as well as those

of the staff and faculty who are to receive them.

Gibbs (1973) provided an excellent summary of expectations of white

staff and administrators, and those of black students that reflect

problems they eventually faced in adjusting to each other on the campus.

Staff Expectations of Black Students

The staff related to black students on the basis of a set of

explicit and implicit expectations they held. In the absence of actual

contact, status expectations functioned as substitutes for knowledge.

An example of their expectations follows:

1. Black students would be assimilated into the University

community without needing any substantial alteration of academic

structure or programs


2. Black students were expected to compete academically with white

students who generally had superior high school preparation and

adequate study skills

3. Black students were expected to blend into the social-cultural

life of the campus, and

4. Black students were expected to be overly grateful for having

been given the opportunity to obtain a quality integrated

education (p. 463-464)

Black Student Expectations

As first generation collegians, many black students did not have

clearly defined college expectations. They had not undergone what

Hattenschwiller (1969) has described as anticipatory socialization to

prepare them for the complexities of college life. That is, they had not

discussed it with persons knowledgeable about it, or read about it enough

to understand fully what it meant to attend college. Black students


1. The university to be very flexible in responding to their

individual needs

2. College courses to be a continuation of high school work, and

were often confused by the qualitative and quantitative

differences in courses and study assignments

3. A greater diversity of activities and lifestyles at college

4. To have a greater contact with the black community surrounding

the campus, and

5. That they would contribute as much to the university as it

contributed to them, and this would benefit the institution

(p. 464-465)

The expectations of these two groups led to identifiable problems for the

students. These problems included

1. Difficulty in establishing meaningful personal identities

2. Conflict in interpersonal reactions with black and white


3. Problems in developing long range goals

4. Sexual and aggressive feelings, and

5. The problems of autonomy with no guidance (p. 465-466)

Nieves (1977) suggests that although problems which minorities

report are also characteristic of the average college student, they are

more severe because of the minority student's lack of preparation and

unrealistic expectations. (p. 2)

Some of the attitudes and feelings bred by such problems include

Feeling unentitled to college. Minority students often
report this feeling on attitude surveys, and faculty members
concur. Students often express self-depreciating opinions
by pointing to their inadequate academic preparation, low
grade averages, and low achievement scores. They also say
they feel uncomfortable with nonminority students and
faculty members because they are made to feel inferior,
unrespected, and different.

Loneliness and isolation. Many students feel a pervasive
stress stemming from insufficient opportunity to relate to
other minority group members on white-dominated campuses.

Unrealistic goals. Minority students enter college with
even less of a general idea of what they want to do than
traditional students. Minority students' aspirations and
career goals are either unrealistically high or
unrealistically low.

Fear of performance evaluation. Arriving on campus with a
long record or poor performance on nationally normed tests,
school grades, and other measures, minority students fear
failure and adopt avoidance behaviors rather than the
achievement-oriented actions that are essential to success
on the college campus.

Alienation from the dominant culture and style. Minority
students do not hve the benefit of the lifelong expectations
that accept the demands of college as the next, natural step
in personal development. They do not know what to expect.
Indeed, for most minority students, college environments
contain unfamiliar manifestations of racism.

Attribution of control to external rather than internal
sources. Minority students feel that they have little
control over events in their lives but must simply respond
to outside forces. Some students have described themselves
as "unsuccessful salmons swimming upstream". (pp. 2-3)

These attitudes and feelings are basic to the average minority

student attending college on predominately white campuses. This list is

by no means exhaustive, nor does it imply that these are feelings

experienced by every minority student attending predominately white

schools. Ballard (1973), Brown and Stent (1977), and Harper (1971)

report similar problems and feelings of black students on predominately

white campuses.

Expectations and perceptions of minority students about their new

campus experience were sometimes indistinguishable. The pilot study of

black students from different academic classifications revealed that

they had retained perceptions brought from home, and gained new ones

after entering college. Although there were no freshmen in the pilot

study, some of the perceptions were similar to those of the freshmen.

The following is a summary of the perceptions of the students in the

pilot study. The exact quotes from which the summaries were made are

presented in Appendix D.

Social Peer Relations

1. Black students tend to separate themselves socially from others

(whites) on campus.

2. Sometimes black students do not help each other and turn to

whites before asking help of other blacks.

3. Black fraternities and other (black) organizations are very

helpful in the socialization process into campus life.


1. Black students feel pressure to perform "by themselves" without

help (to study) from others. (This is believed to be an attempt

to prove that blacks are not inferior and that they can make it

without assistance).

2. Some black students who don't attend classes take advantage of

others who do by pressuring them to share notes.

Special Admissions Program

1. The Special Admissions Program (SAP) has improved over the

years and is an important service for black students.

2. Peer counselors play an important role in the SAP, especially in

helping students understand the (university) system and to

utilize the resources on campus.

3. Most black students would not be at OSU without the Special

Services Program.

Academic Advising

1. Academic advising at OSU is inadequate, and many faculty are not

helpful at all.

2. Some black students do not seek professors for academic advice

because they are viewed by their peers as "begging for points"

or "trying to be the teacher's pet," and thus not having much

pride as a black person.

Faculty Relations in Class

1. Some Black students have experienced racial prejudice in the


2. Often times, a black student's comfort in the classroom depends

on the extent of their experience with whites prior to attending

the university.

3. When black issues arise in class discussions, some blacks are

asked by professors to speak for all black people on the

specific issue.

4. Some students have been told by professors that they can only

earn predetermined grades in their classes.

Adjusting to Black/White Situations

1. Black students who attended integrated high schools had an

easier time adjusting to the university than blacks who attended

predominately black high schools.


2. Organizations, like ROTC, helped some black students get used to

being around whites.

3. Some black students deliberately chose a predominately white

school, to learn how to cope with the racial situations which

they believed they would eventually encounter in the work world,

after graduation.

Family Influence

1. The families of most black students are very supportive of their

educational pursuits, in a moral and financial sense.

2. Many students feel that their parents' limited educational

experiences prevent them from understanding some academic

problems they experience on campus. Since these experiences are

difficult to explain, students are left to fend for themselves

or find support from other sources.

Adaptive Behaviors

A large university campus is a microcosm of the general society.

Thus, the adaptive behaviors of blacks in the predominately white

American society parallel the behaviors of black students on the predomi-

nately white campuses. Pettigrew's (1964) description of the three

models of response that blacks have to oppressive American society are

very much like the behaviors that Gibbs (1974) and Willie (1977) observed

and documented among black students on predominately white campuses. The

reactions of these black students are not unlike the culture shock


experienced by many international students who attend American institu-

tions for the first time (Proctor, 1970) or Asian and Africans in

European universities (Ballard, 1973). Valentine (1971) has suggested

that black Americans' commitment to survival has forced them to deal

successfully in a bicultural society, i.e., in their own black culture

and that of the mainstream culture; having a commitment in both cultures

requires certain adaptive behaviors for coping with life (p. 143).

On the other hand, students' adaptive behaviors are influenced by

their environment, the campus milieu. University personnel including

administrators, students, faculty and staff, collectively, and individu-

ally, influence to some degree how comfortable or uncomfortable students

are in their environment. The curriculum, social activities, and pro-

grams reflecting the institution's philosophy have varying effects on

students as they attempt to fit into campus life. This section will

include a review of the black student's adaptive behavior in the new

campus environment, as well as the campus response to them.

Many educators have described the tension, misunderstandings and

problems between the two groups, which were in conflict during the

1960's. Perhaps more than others, the feeling of alienation is the

cultural problem which underlies all others, i.e., feelings of not

fitting into the major activities of the university. Ballard (1973)

depicts the current picture very well, though his reference is to an

early time when he was among the few black scholars attending

predominately white institutions:

This theme of alienation among Blacks who had the singular
chance to attend white institutions persisted in the pre-
World War I, and pre-World War II periods. Many seemed to
feel themselves in four-year exile in a strange and alien

white world which cut them off from their roots. From the
memoirs of such persons as J. Saunders Redding,, one gains a
sense of the way in which all Blacks--including the middle
class--viewed the prospect of education in an environment
which refused to acknowledge their existence. (p. 5)

Other characteristics describing the feelings of black students on

predominately white campuses included depression, anxiety, feelings of

failure, loss of self-esteem (Mackey, 1973).

Harper (1971) spoke of the "related, intricate, and rigid bureau-

cracy" which adds to the gap between students and their own environment,

which prevents the students from meeting their basic needs, i.e., love

and belongingness, self-esteem, and self-actualization (p. 257).

Thomas F. Pettigrew, Harvard sociologist, is noted for his book,

A Profile of the American Negro (1964). In the book, his discussion of

the Negro American's reaction to this relegation in the United States as

a second class, inferior human being by the majority, white society,

provides insight into how black students on a white campus might feel as

they become adjusted to the campus. The three modes of behavior

described are:

Moving toward the oppressor. Persons utilizing this means of coping

with society are seeking full acceptance as equal human beings. Racial

integration is the aim, and is reflected in national predominately black

organizations, such as the National Association for the Advancement of

Colored People, and The Urban League (p. 58).

Moving against the oppressor. This mode is characterized by aggres-

sive reactions against the oppressor, as well as avoidance reactions to

the mainstream society. (p. 35)


Moving away from the oppressor. In this last major mode of coping

with whites, Pettigrew identified four categories: passivity and with-

drawal, social insulation, passing, and extreme escapism.

1. Passivity and withdrawal. In this category, blacks generally

behave in a fashion typically misunderstood by whites who mis-

take the passive acquiescence shown by blacks as indifference.

2. Social insulation. Characterized mainly by those blacks who are

of the middle class, this category is demonstrated by those who

can effectively stay away from their poorer brothers and sisters

and the uppity whites through economic means.

3. Extreme escapism. Most of the escape routes exhibited by blacks

are similar to those common to the general society, but to a

higher degree--alcoholism and drug addiction. These drugs can

place a person in another world without the problems and

pressures of racism, unemployment, and the general unhappiness

of the poor.

Almost a decade after Pettigrew's classic, Gibbs (1974), a psychi-

atric social worker, utilizing his model, documented similar patterns of

behavior exhibited by black students at Stanford Ifniversity. In her

study, of forty-one cases, 22 were female and 19 were male. The vari-

ables used to analyze her data included socioeconomic status of the

student's family, the extent of the student's exposure to high school

integration, the student's ability to handle academic tasks, and the

student's feelings of self-adequacy. The patterns discussed from the

student's behavior were coping patterns directed toward the resolution of

the conflict generated by ethnic or sociocultural marginality. The first

three modes of behavior found in the student population are basically the


same as those Pettigrew (1964) found, and have been called mode of with-

drawal, mode of assimilation, and mode of separation. However, Gibbs

(1977) found a fourth behavior, a mode of affirmation, which is found to

a lesser degree in students than other modes, yet appears to be one which

students can move towards, once they are more comfortable with themselves

and their new environment. The four modes are described below:

1. Mode of withdrawal. The mode of withdrawal is characterized by

apathy, depression, feelings of hopelessness, alienation and

depression, culminated in the student's wish to avoid contact

with the conflict-producing situation, i.e., to withdraw.

Withdrawal was the predominant mode, with 21 students (51

percent) exhibiting one or more forms of this syndrome and four

(10 percent) obtaining medical leave due to the severity of

their symptoms. Thus, for this specific sample, the student

from a working-class or lower-class family who attended a

predominately black high school had difficulty in handling

academic tasks.

2. Mode of separation. The mode of separation is characterized

by anger, hostility, conflicts in interpersonal relation-

ships which may be expressed as rejection of whites, con-

tempt for middle-class white values and behavior patterns,

and active protests against white institutions and customs.

[Among the five students who selected this mode, two were

involved in assaultive behavior, and three were involved in

militant protest activities which caused property damage on

the campus.] In this sample, the mode of separation seems

to be the second most likely choice for the non-middle-class

student who did not exhibit the withdrawal syndrome.

3. Mode of assimilation. The mode of assimilation is charac-

terized by social anxiety, desire for acceptance and

approval, conformist behavior, compensatory overachievement,

and heightened sensitivity concerning ethnic references and

cues. Those students who avoided all contacts with other

blacks and who made deliberate efforts to conceal their

racial identity were in this category.

4. Mode of affirmation. The mode of affirmation is character-

ized by self-acceptance, positive ethnic identity, hyper-

activity, high achievement motivation, and autonomous self-
actualization behavior. Nearly one-fourth (ten cases) of

the students developed this pattern of response to a con-

flict which, for most of them, was expressed in terms of

their inability to live up to their own ideal expectations

due to conflicting sets of pressures from blacks and whites.

These students attempted to merge those elements of black

and white cultural patterns that were syntonic with their

personalities and goals. In general, they had positive

feelings about their own ethnic identity, yet they were open

to new experiences, new values, and new skills that would

contribute to their successful adaptation to the college


Among the 9 students from professional and 18 from white-

collar families, one-third of each group developed the

affirmative mode. One (1) of the 11 working-class students

(9 percent) was in this category, and one of the 3 students from

the lower-class developed this pattern. Seven of the 21

students who attended integrated high schools and 3 of the

20 from predominately black schools demonstrated the affirm-

ative mode.

Gibbs found (as did Pettigrew) that a majority of the population

chose the withdrawal mode for coping. Those choosing this mode also had

predominate feelings of inadequacy. Recognizing such behavioral patterns

in a student population could be critical to understanding them, and to

trying to effect change to enhance their matriculation.

Chester Hunt (1975), a sociologist, also identified three patterns

by which black students adapt to white campuses and constructed a typo-

logy based on these patterns. He approached black student group adjust-

ments from the perspective of the university and its response to the

student demands, which varied and often seemed extreme. The three cate-

gories the separationists, the cultural pluralists, and the integration-

ists. Hunt defined these as follows:

1. Integrationist--those persons wishing to erase any reference

to ethnic identity.

2. Separatist--those persons wishing to remove themselves as far

as possible from any association with other groups.

3. Cultural pluralist--those persons wishing to preserve ethnic

identity and to function to a considerable extent within their

ethnic group, at the same time participating in the larger

society (p. 138).

It is interesting to note the similarity between Hunt's (1975) work

and that of Gibbs (1974). His category of Integrationist is analogous to

her Mode of Assimilation. The other similarity is his category of

Separationist and her Mode of Separation.

The category of pluralist is the only one that differs from others

cited heretofore, and is analogous to the Gibbs mode of affirmation.

This mode appears to be one of the most ideal and most effective coping

styles that could be adapted by students. It is comparable to what

Valentine (1971) referred to as a bicultural model of behavior, which

often is not recognized by whites in America. He explained this dual

socialization and its importance for adjustment and coping in the

mainstream culture:

The idea of biculturation helps explain how people learn and
practice both mainstream culture and ethnic cultures at the
same time. Much intra-group socialization is conditioned by
ehtnically distinct experience, ranging from linguistic and
other expressive patterns through exclusive associations
like social clubs and recreational establishments to the
relatively few commercial products and mass media produc-
tions designed for ethnic markets. Yet, at the same time,
members of all subgroups are thoroughly enculturated in
dominant culture patterns by mainstream institutions,
including most of the contact of the mass media, most
products and advertising for mass marketing, the entire
experience of public schooling, constant exposure to
national fashions, holidays, heroes, etc...

In any case, biculturation strongly appeals to us as a key
concept for making sense out of ethnicity and related
matters: the collective behavior and social life of the
Black community is bicultural in the sense that each Afro-
American ethnic segment draws upon both a distinctive reper-
toire of standardized Afro-American group behavior, and,
simultaneously, patterns derived from the mainstream
cultural system of Euro-American derivation. Socialization
into both systems begins at an early age, continues through-
out life, and is generally of equal importance in most

individual lives. The obvious ambiguities and ambivalences
of all this are dramatized and sharpened by the fact that
mainstream Euro-American culture includes concepts, values,
and judgements which categorize Blacks as worthy only of
fear, hatred, or contempt because of their supposedly innate
characteristics. This is part of what radical and national-
istic Afro-Americans mean when they refer to the "brain
washing" of their people. (p. 143)

The adaptive mode chosen by students are important, because they are

the means by which students function on the predominately white campus.

Recognizing the modes and understanding their relationships to successful

matriculation are critical for university personnel.

Developing Perspectives

Becker, Geer and Hughes (1968) define perspectives as "a coordinated

set of ideas and actions a person uses in dealing with some problematic

situation, to refer to a person's ordinary way of thinking and feeling

about acting in such a situation" (p. 35). These ideas and actions are

generated in a special context. A more detailed description by Becker

and Geer points this out:

Perspectives grow and persist in the course of students'
interaction with one another and with college function-
aries. They are not individual responses to the problems
of college life, but collective ones--calculative in the
sense that the understandings contained in the perspective
are held in common and the actions contained in it are
intelligible within that framework of understanding. They
are collective, too, in being embodied in interaction, as
students teach, learn and transmit them in the course of
the routine activities of college life. (p. 36)

As black students enter the new predominately white environment, their

perceptions and expectations, whether clearly defined or inaccurate, are

the basis on which they develop perspectives about their new lives on

campus. Because many new black freshmen are first generation college


students, they do not have the experience of other students who have the

advantage of learning from family members of the complexities which

Hattenschwiller (1969) described.

The perspectives which students develop about their academic and

social lives were of primary importance in this study. Students'

individual perspectives were identified, but their collective, group

perspectives as black freshmen were of greater even interest to the

researcher. Their collective freshmen perspectives are unique--just as

those of sophomores or seniors would be. Becker et al. (1968) expand

on how these perspectives are developed:

The perspectives thus exist as a more or less codified set
of ideas and conventional practices, sometimes being expli-
cit, sometimes almost totally implicit. Students may deduce
the proper course of action from its ideas when they are in
the company of the students, or they may adopt practices
suggested to them by others and later find the justification
in their perspectives...Some students, thoughtful analysts
of the circumstances of their own lives, can state student
perspectives in a general and theoretical way. Others, less
thoughtful or less articulate, simply state or act on the
practical conclusions to be drawn from such an analysis, but
their actions and statements imply the more generalized
statement. (p. 37)

Students develop perspectives as their lives evolve on campus, especially

in relation to their peers. Perspectives are composed of three elements,

which are characteristic of those which students adopt: (1) definition

of the situation, (2) activities, and (3) criteria of judgement.

The first element, the situation, is a description of the character

or features of the situation in which some action must be taken. In

defining the situations, students most consider their goals in trying to

solve a problem, the organizational systems or people involved, the

rules--formal and informal--which affect their actions, and the reward

and penalties incurred by taking certain actions. Students, as a rule,


are aware of the impact that the various experiences that influence their

lives have on each other, and the way they define situations. That is,

they know that their dorm life, home life, participation in clubs,

friendships, all influence each other. Their academic and social lives

are influenced then by all aspects of their lives at school, not just the

academic and social activities in which they are involved.

The second element of perspectives is activities. Activities are

any actions in which students become involved. Individual or group

actions with formal groups or organizations on or off campus may be

classified as activities. Activities are dictated by the individual

interests of the students, their peers, and even their families.

Criteria of judgement is the last element in analyzing perspectives,

and is defined as the standard against which judgements are made. Peer

standards, those of the faculty, or those established by the administra-.

tors, can all be used by students to make certain judgements about them-

selves or others. It is, however, the rewards of the system, such as

grades, which are used as criteria of judgement by students, more than

other standards. A final quote by the team of Becker et al. (1968) from

their book Making the Grade summarizes how students use the elements in

developing perspectives:

The picture one should have then, is of students going about
their daily activities, arriving at joint definitions of
situations and problems, working out solutions in light of
their common understanding of the situation, and engaged in
what seem to them to be appropriate actions. (p. 37)

In this study, the analysis which revealed the perspectives and

problem solving behaviors of these freshmen depended equally on their

historical experiences prior to attending college, and their new college

environment. The perspectives developed by students were primarily

situational, that is, to solve a particular problem. Some long range

perspectives were identified, but the nature of these were different from

the ones developed day-to-day.

Institutional Response to Black Students

Just as students' adjustment to the university is affected by the

things, i.e., background, characteristics, which they bring to the campus

environment, what they encounter and meet on the campus also influences

their adjustment. Burns Crookston (1975) described an ideal environment,

a campus milieu for student development, which reflects an area of human

and group interaction which each student faces on entering the


What is our milieu? For our purposes it is more than the
physical environment in which the institution is located; it
includes the intellectual, social, esthetic, creative,
cultural, philosophical, emotional, and moral environments
as a totality; it includes the interactions among the indi-
viduals in all such groups. Milieu involves the interface
between and among all those groups that comprise the insti-
tution and the interface of these groups with outside groups
and environments. And it involves the impact of outside or
inside forces on the milieu, whether embracing or retard-
ing, whether interactive or oppressive, whether collabora-
tive or competitive. (p. 46)

The three major groups with whom students interact in this milieu

from the inside are administrators, faculty and their peers (Astin, 1968;

Peterson et al., 1978). A student's perception is influenced by his or

her reaction to those groups and the level of involvement with them

(Feldman and Newcomb, 1969).


As cited earlier, the majority of American institutions of higher

education were ill-prepared to receive black students; they were not

prepared for a student whose academic, social and cultural needs were not

the same as the white, middle-class students who were in the majority

(Ballard, 1973; Harper, 1971; Napper, 1973). As the chief administrator,

the president must set the tone for the university regarding policies

that affect black students. His/her commitment and support, or the lack

thereof, will be reflected in the entire institution. Presidents were

often targets of black student anger and were the main negotiators in

conflicts when demands were made of institutions (Proctor, 1970;

Peterson et al., 1978). In their study of several higher educational

institutions with programs for the disadvantaged student, Astin, Astin,

Bisconti and Frankel (1972) commented on institutional commitment:

Institutional commitment refers not just to the administra-
tors' attitude, but to the attitude of the entire academic
community. The benevolent apathy of those outside the pro-
gram that characterized so many of the case-study campuses
breeds frustration and resentment in the special students,
who all too frequently interpret indifference as hostility.
However well-intentioned the cause of ignorance--the admini-
strative belief that publicizing the program attaches a
stigma to the participants--its results are destructive.
Moreover, the stigma is felt anyway. If understanding is to
be fostered, regular students and faculy members should be
given more information about the special program and the
students enrolled in it. Their active enthusiasm can and
should be enlisted, and their awareness of reciprocal
benefits increased to achieve those goals; provisions should
be made for greater interchange of students and personnel.
(p. 233)

According to Peterson et al. (1978), this commitment from the highest

administrative level of the institutions was not perceived by black


students nor other members of the university community when blacks were

first admitted to predominately white campuses.

Student Affairs administrators usually had more interaction and

experience with black students than faculty and other administrative

personnel. This was due primarily to the nature of their responsibili-

ties, i.e., the adjustment of students to the non-curricular affairs of

the university (Peterson et al., 1978). Housing personnel, financial

aid officers, orientation staff and other student services personnel were

involved with many aspects of the black student's entrance into the

university. Cross (1975) and others have strongly advocated shifting the

burden from student affairs to the whole system to enhance the student's

chance for survival.

Many student services departments were responsible for hiring the

first black administrators in the predominately white universities. At

some institutions positions were created in order to hire someone to work

with black students; others recruited black staff for regular positions

already established. These black staff, wherever they were employed,

tended to be empathetic and supportive towards black students, who

responded the same to them. The black administrator in student affairs,

at times, was the only trusted resource for black students on the

predominately white campus (Napper, 1973; Ballard, 1973).

Faculty/Classroom Experiences

White faculty were often the least interested in helping black stu-

dents adjust to the predominately white campus and offered great resist-

ance to any change in curriculum or teaching style to accommodate these


new students. Black students can recount numerous incidents of negative

and degrading references to blacks in class, or a total disregard for the

role of blacks in society (Astin, 1978; Peterson et al. 1978). In seek-

ing help from professors, blacks were often "treated like welfare clients

by bursars and financial officers" (Ballard, 1973, p. 70). Again, the

onus was on the student to change and measure up to the standards already

set before he was allowed to attend the institution.

Astin (1968) in his study of the college environment stated that

although the student spends less time in the classroom than in other

campus activities, the classroom experience is one of the most influen-

tial experiences during the undergraduate years (p. 50). Many black

students then are indeed undergoing difficult experiences in some of

their classes.

Peer Environment

The peer group has been defined as the most powerful and influential

in a student's life on campus (Sanford, 1967; Astin, 1968). Most stu-

dents seek acceptance by fellow students and are eager to fit within a

group of their choice. Black students have the same feelings and need to

belong (Harper, 1971), but have the unique distinction of color and

history that separate them from most other groups on campus. Black

students fall into what Trow (1962) labels the non-conformist, sub-

culture at institutions, that has its own values, norms, and activities

outside other typical culture groups.

White students, like their administrators and faculty, were dis-

appointed when integration did not automatically occur. The newly


recruited black student was militant, not grateful for admission, demand-

ing, not acquiescent, and unwilling to compromise in the face of defeat--

all of which were unexpected by their white counterparts (Hunt, 1970;

Peterson et al., 1978).

Early in the 1960's many black and white students marched and sat-in

together, demanding changes in administrative policy. Soon, however, the

split was precipitated both by the prevailing Black ideology of
"separatism" and by a basic distaste among black students for the whole

lifestyle of the white "radical" (Ballard, 1973). More importantly,

demands of black students were for changes in concrete, mundane issues

regarding financial aid, admission and the curriculum, while white

radical demands were more diffuse and involved forces outside the

university. (Ballard, 1973)

Green (1971) emphasizing the need for administrators to take note of

black students' demands, suggested that meeting the need of black

students did in fact address some general education problems that needed

solving. He cited these ills that needed attention:

1. Neglect of undergraduate teaching

2. Lack of curricular innovation

3. Failure to relate classroom instruction to society's problems

4. High student attrition, and

5. The arbitrariness of certification and credential systems

(p. 31)

Today, the interaction between the two student groups has not

changed significantly. In the May issue of the Chronicle of Higher

Education, Middleton and Sievert (1978) cited these comments from


students and faculty (of both races) about the increasing racial tensions

and lack of black-white interaction on campuses were cited:

There are a lot of people--both black and white--who would
like to see what it's like on the other side, but never take
that step.

There's a lot of peer-group pressure to stick with your own
kind--a lot of distrust on both sides. The (whites) don't
speak their language and they (blacks) don't speak ours.

They (minority students) won't even talk to you. About the
only time anything gets going between us is during Black
Awareness Week. (p. 11)

Peterson et al. (1978), in their 13-campus study of institutions

with increasing black enrollments, found several patterns of racial

climates on the campuses between black and white student organizations:

Fully integrated. The organizational and activity patterns
of black and white student groups involve mixing of races
and accepting of the other race's interests and concerns.

Racially tense. The organizational and activity patterns of
black and white student groups assure mixing of the races,
but attitudes between the races are positive and accepting.

Racist. The organization and activity patterns of black and
white student groups involve separate racial patterns, and
attitudes between the races are negative and/or antagonistic.
(p. 205)

They found that most campus organizations were moving away from the fully

integrated, pluralistic patterns.

The data indicate that the traditionally white university faculty,

staff and students were not expecting to change to accommodate the new

black student. They were unprepared, "though not necessarily unable to

respond to the campus needs of their student populations" (Green, 1971,

p. 29). This does not mean that the traditionally white institutions

cannot or will not change to meet the needs of black students. What it

means is that there is much more work to be done by the personnel in


these institutions, both black and white, in order to create an environ-

ment conducive to learning for all students.

Theoretical Framework

This examination of black students' perceptions and adaptive

behaviors embraces three sociological theories and a major anthropologi-

cal perspective on culture: Cooley's (1910) theory on the social self,

Mead's (1934) symbolic interaction theory, Homan's (1950) reference group

theory, and Kimball and Burnett's (1973) perspective on the individual's

cultural world view. It was within the framework of these works that the

researcher was able to develop this study, and interpret the data

generated from it.

The Social Self

How students view their relationships with others depends in part on

how they view themselves. Awareness of self, according to Cooley (1910)

is one of the first steps in the socialization process, and is actually

an instructive feeling about self, which develops before relationships to

others are formed:

The social self is simply any idea, or system of ideas,
drawn from the communicative life that the mind cherishes as
its own. Self-feeling has its chief scope within the
general life, not outside of it . it is connected with
the thought of other persons; the self idea is always a
consciousness of the peculiar or differentiated aspects of
one's life, because that is the aspect that has to be
sustained by purpose and endeavor, and its more aggressive
forms tend to attach themselves to whatever one finds to be
at once congenial to one's own tendencies and at variance
with those of others with whom one is in mental contact.
(p. 823)

Cooley explained the development of the self in terms of an individual

looking at his expression and appearance in a looking glass. The indivi-

dual sees himself and imagines what others see in his expression or

appearance. These imaginations then influence the behavior of the

individual and how he acts towards others. This phenomenon is well

described in Cooley's 1908 article, "The Looking Glass".

A self-idea of this sort seems to have three principal
elements: the imagination of our appearance to the other
person; the imagination of his judgement of that appearance,
and some sort of self feeling such as pride or mortifica-
tion. The comparison with a looking glass hardly suggests
the second element, the imagined judgements, which is quite
essential. The thing that moves us to pride or shame is not
the mere mechanical reflections of ourselves, but an imputed
sentiment, the imagined effect of this reflection upon
another's mind. (p. 231)

The imputed sentiment comes from the self and is projected on others with

whom the self encounters. This self perception can and often does

influence how one perceives others and is critical to understanding how

students perceive themselves and others they encounter in their campus


The concept of self was shared by a few other nineteenth century

social scientists, including William James, and James Mark Baldwin, but

was not fully developed in many ways, because of the criticism of its

unscientific, subjective nature (Manis and Meltzer, 1972). However,

George Mead's work on the process of self development revitalized

interest in Cooley's theory, and spawned a new school of thought called

symbolic interaction--the second theory on which this study is based.

Symbolic Interaction

Mead's theory of symbolic interaction, as discussed in his book,

Mind, Self and Society (1934), is very important in terms of understand-

ing the meaning of the person, or self. Mead's key supposition (like

Cooley's) was that the human being has a self. Mead, however, went

further than Cooley, and related that the self can act towards itself and

toward others. Furthermore, he stated that this (acting towards self and

others) was the central mechanism by which a person deals with his world.

(Mead's works were organized and presented as a theory from his lectures

and notes after his death. Much of his work has been interpreted and

analyzed by colleagues and other professionals as is the case here.)

Mead (1934) felt that the self was a social process involving two

different phases, identified as the "I" and "me". The "I" represents the

spontaneous, impulsive tendencies of an individual; the "me" represents

the organized, incorporated, other, i.e., definitions, expectations, and

meanings. The interplay between the two gives rise to a person's

actions. Meltzer (1972) has described it this way:

The "I" being spontaneous and propulsive, offers the poten-
tiality for new creative activity. The "me" being regula-
tory, disposes the individual to both goal-directive activ-
ity and conformity. In the operation of these aspects of
self, we have the basis for, on the one hand, social con-
trol, and on the other, novelty and innovation. We are thus
provided with a basis for understanding the mutuality of the
relationship between the individual and society. (p. 11)

Coombs and Snygg (1959) in their book on Individual Behavior described

the phenomenal self as the aspects of the perceptual fields to which we

normally refer to when we say 'I' or 'me'. In common with Mead's (1934)

idea on self, they felt that maintenance of this phenomenal self was and

is the most crucial task of man's existence (p. 43). All behavior and

adjustments then could be seen in this light, i.e., maintenance of the

self, thereby offering clues to why individuals behave as they do.

Blumer (1962), in summarizing Mead's concept of symbolic inter-

action, described how people incorporate other individuals and things

into this world:

This mechanism enables the human being to make indication to
himself of things in his surroundings and thus to guide his
actions by what he notes. Anything of which a human being
is conscious is something which he is indicating to himself--
the ticking of a clock, a knock at the door, the appearance
of a friend, the remark made by a companion, a recognition
that he has a task to perform, or the realization that he
has a cold. Conversely, anything of which he is not con-
scious is ipso facto, something which he is not indicating
to himself. (p. 146)

This premise of "indication" is also the basis on which an individual

begins to interpret the actions and meanings of things or objects outside

himself. Through this interpretation, he or she can role play or take

the role of others in order to view himself or herself from the perspec-

tive of the generalized other, which implies defining one's behavior in

terms of the expectations of others. The interpretation and ensuing

action is defined as symbolic interaction. It is distinct from an indi-

vidual reacting to pre-existing objects in an environment Blumer con-

tinued in his definition of symbolic interaction:

The term "symbolic interaction" refers, of course, to the
peculiar and destructive character of interaction as it
takes place between human beings. The peculiarity consists
in the fact that human beings interpret or "define" each
other's actions instead of merely reacting to each other's
actions. Thus, human interaction is mediated by the use of
symbols, by interpretation, or by ascertaining the meaning
of one another's actions. (p. 145)

Thus, the individual acts on interpretation, of objects and other

individuals with whom he must encounter in his world. These deliberate

acts are preceded by what Thomas (1931) and Stebbins (1967) referred to

as a stage of examination called the definition of the situation. In

other words, defining the situation helps one determine how he will

behave in the situation. This "defining" also aids in determining how

one behaves towards certain individuals and groups.

The next theory is from the field of anthropology, and describes why

different people define the same situation in different ways.

Cultural World View

How one responds to others, and to his environment, identifies him

or her with a particular school of thought, social group, or culture.

Hill (1977) reports how one's perceptions of things are influenced by

one's environment, genes and culture.

Man's concepts of objects, properties, events and relations
(as symbolized in part by the vocabulary and syntax of his
language and the utterance formulated with it) are the means
by which he decodes signals from his environment and con-
structs instructions for how to respond to them. In human
behavior, the symbolically represented and conveyed concept
has in large measure replaced the gene. Man's codes are
cultural, as well as genetic. . Of course, linguistically
(and otherwise) symbolized concepts are not only mechanism
for decoding, representing, and transforming experienced
reality, and for constructing instructions to others. That
in turn implies some degree of standardization of both
concepts and symbols. Concepts and conceptions encoded in
symbolic media can be decoded only if the transmitter and
receiver operate within a common code. (p. 4)

Without a common code, concepts cannot be understood, or decoded. Each

group or society defines the code (language as well as actions) for its

members and others interacting with them. When the transmitter and

receiver are not operating within a certain code or culture, then

perceptions, relationships, and responses to the environment are

necessarily perplexing.

How one codes and decodes is directly influenced by one's culture.

Kimball and Burnett (1973) described this cultural perspective in their

volume on Learning and Culture:

The cultural world into which each individual is born and
comes to maturity provides him with a conceptual framework
which permits him to organize his experiences in a meaning-
ful manner. He learns to identify things, the relationship
between them and him, and specifies his own behavior in the
events in which he participates. . It makes meaningful
to him the natural phenomena, the rhythms of nature, and
the origins and future of life. This system is thought and
its body of knowledge is called the world view. It gives
to the members of each specific society their distinctive
perspective. . Hence the meaning of items, acts, or
events must be sought within the context of each specific
culture. (Introduction, p. xi)

As the authors implied, the cultural world view of an individual is

critical to perceptions of everything and everyone with whom he or she

interacts. Reality is defined then for most people, the way their

culture has shaped them to see it.

Black students represent one of America's largest sub-cultures,

which within its boundaries has several sub-cultures, each with its own

world view (Valentine, 1971). Students who represent this sub-culture

have many perceptions of themselves and others that are reflections of

their culture, and which differ from those students or groups in the

majority at predominately white universities. On the other hand, they

are also influenced by the majority culture in which they live. In

addition, when they become students, they join yet another "culture,"

i.e., the student culture, where common characteristics and goals

influence their perceptions.

Kimball and Burnett's (1973) reference to the world view can be

thought of in terms of a perspective unique to certain groups. Since

group perceptions and perspectives are important in this study a look at

reference groups was necessary.

Reference Groups

In trying to determine who the others are with whom students inter-

act when becoming adapted to the university setting, a look at reference

group theory was necessary. It was not until the publishing of Merton's

classic, Social Theory and Social Structure (1957), that social scien-

tists began to use the reference group theory as an analytical tool to

understand man's behavior. Since that time the following two types of

reference groups have been identified most often: (1) the normative

type which sets and maintains standards for the individual, and (2) the

comparative type which provides a frame of comparison relative to which

the individual evaluates himself and others (Merton, 1957, p. 283).

Merton (1957) also identified a third type, which Sherif and Sherif

(1964) described in their study of adolescent behavior. This group is

one to which one aspires to gain acceptance to enhance one's own status.

Trying to belong to a certain group, or attempting to identify with their

norms was the way many of the adolescent boys in their study spent their

time. Seeking approval and/or memberships to groups outside one's own is

not unique to adolescents, but is characteristic of human nature. Use of

reference group theory will be utilized in the analysis of how black

students perceive themselves in relationship to other groups on campus.


This theoretical framework of the study provides a background which

facilitates the interpretation and analysis of the data. How students

feel about themselves, their world, and those with whom they interact can

be understood more clearly after citing theories which relate to these

respective areas.


In the literature review, the researcher found that most black

collegians in PWIs were urban, first generation college students who

believed they were not adequately prepared for college, academically.

They tended to major in traditional social sciences and educational

areas, although a trend seemed to be developing toward business and

science majors, especially with new black freshmen. Few black students

have realistic expectations of what college life is about, due primarily

to their first generation status, and lack of models who were familiar

with college life. Nevertheless, most black students were confident in

their ability to succeed.

Personnel on the PWI campuses were no better prepared to accept and

assist black students, than the students were prepared for the campus.

White faculty, staff, and students expected black students to fit into

the campus scene with little to no change on their part to accommodate

them. Frustration, alienation, and mutual misunderstandings resulted

from the typical unpreparedness of both groups. Too often, the onus was

placed on the black student to adjust with little hellep from the

institutional personnel.


The behavior most typical of the black students in response to the

new environment and personnel was withdrawal. Other modes of behavior

were cited, including one of affirmation in which the student embraced

his own culture while seeking to fit into the mainstream. Coping styles,

perception, and newly developed perspectives all influenced the students'

behavior and hence their ability to matriculate successfully.

Theories which explain the cultural world view, reference grouping,

and interaction of people assisted in the development of new insights

about how the black freshmen adjusted to the campus. Experiences from

their home environments mingled with their new college experiences

certainly made application of theory to finding important in this study.

Chapter III describes the researcher's findings.



This chapter provides the reader with a history of the university

where the study was conducted and an introduction to the black freshmen

who experienced their first two terms there. The introduction to the

students includes the data collected from their interviews, question-

naires, observations of them, and data from the university records at

that time. These data were collected winter and spring terms, or over

a twenty week period and are presented in part as case studies of each


The categories in which data are presented include Family History

and Educational Background; Orientation and Registration; Friends at

Home/Friends at School; If I Study More, My Grade Will Improve; and I

Didn't Know We Had a Dean of Students. Summaries follow each case study.

The Orange State University

Originally founded in 1853 as a segregated educational institution

for white men, Orange State University (OSU) now serves a coeducational,

multi-ethnic population of approximately 32,000 undergraduate and gradu-

ate students. It is located in an agricultural district of 80,000

people, not including the student population. This land-grant institu-

tion is one among three universities in the country offering such a wide


range of professional fields in a single campus. It is the largest and

oldest university in the state system, has several nationally ranked

departments, and is among the top 50 colleges and universities receiving

the largest amount of federal funds in the United States. It has the

largest number of graduate programs in the state, and employs a distin-

guished faculty to uphold its excellence in teaching, research, and

service to the University community. Its school of agriculture, medi-

cine, and law are well known in the South, and have been attended by many

educators, politicians, and professionals in the state.

Historically, the University's admissions personnel have offered

access to persons who (1) could afford to attend, (2) demonstrated their

potential for success by scoring well on standardized state or national

examinations, and (3) attained a high grade point average in high school.

The vast majority of students attending OSU come from middle and upper

middle class white families, thereby creating a significant disparity

between students whose family education and income do not equitably


Things have changed, though, spurred on by the advent of the equal

educational opportunity thrust of the 1960's. By 1970, OSU initiated its

largest experimental programs to enroll freshmen who, because of poor

preparation or some other factor, failed to meet the regular criteria for

admission. The prospective undergraduate students were selected on the

basis that they gave some indication that the normal criteria did not

give a true indication of their ability to succeed in university work.

(SREB, 1971). One hundred and ten of these students were black, and

fifty-seven were white. Admission of these students, and the initiation

of that program began OSU's commitment to provide equal educational


opportunity to the low income and nigh risk populations. Prior to that

time black students had not been admitted to the University at the under-

graduate level. Black students were first admitted to graduate study at

OSU in 1969.

Since 1970, the University's commitment to equal educational opportu-

nity has grown, and it currently participates in a state-wide admissions

program which allows each state university to admit ten percent of its

entering freshmen class who do not meet the standard admissions require-

ments. To date, the majority of the black undergraduate students at the

University have been admitted through this special admissions program. At

the time this study was conducted, black students (graduate and under-

graduate) represented less than six percent of the total student popula-

tion, yet represented the largest ethnic group on campus.

Students entering under the special admissions program are required

to have a minimum high school average of "C", good references, and a

strong interest in attending college. Most of the students come from low

income families, and often do not have sufficient backgrounds in science

and/or English to compete successfully with regularly admitted students.

Most of these students also do not score well on standardized aptitude

tests, whether state or nationally administered.

In order to meet the needs of the specially admitted students, the

University, with the help of federal monies, established a Special Admis-

sion Program. The purpose of the Special Admissions Program was to

enhance the retention rate of students, and to provide services to aid

their academic and social adjustment to the University. Specifically,

students were offered (1) special orientation to the University, (2) a

trouble-free pre-registration their first quarter in school, (3) personal

and academic counseling, (4) smaller classes, (5) individual and/or group

tutoring services, and (6) individualized grading on examinations in some

of their courses. All of these services were provided for the students

for one full (three terms) school term. This full year did not include a

six week summer orientation to the University which is attended by the

majority of special admission students in the summer prior to the fall of

their freshmen year.

A limited number of students are accepted for the fall and winter

terms without the benefit of the summer term. Students admitted without

the summer orientation usually have stronger academic backgrounds than

those admitted during the summer. However, most of the students are

encouraged to attend in the summer to take advantage of becoming adjusted

to the campus and the curricula without the pressure and the pace of the

regular school term.

The Special Admission Program is part of the undergraduate univer-

sity college program and at the time of the study reported to the Dean of

the University College. A director with a secretary, counselors, and

peer advisors works with faculty and other university administrators to

assist the students admitted under this program. The students' first

introduction to the program, however, comes from an admissions officer

who recruits them to attend the university. The admissions officer who

recruits the majority of the black students who attend OSU is also black,

and plays an important role in introducing them to the university as a


The next section describes the individual situation of the five new

black students who were the subjects of this study. The case study pres-

entations are written to report the findings, without discussion, yet a

synthesis of data has been made in order to make such a report. Major

themes and problems are identified in the summaries at the end of each


Family History and Educational Background


Family history. Butch is the fourth male and the youngest child of

seven born to a black family in the South. His home city is located

approximately 80 miles from OSU. Though his parents were born and raised

in a small town in a neighboring state, they have resided in the home

city for 33 years. Butch was born and raised in the city, which is the

second largest in the state, with over 700,000 people. The family

members include uncles, aunts and cousins from both sides of the family.

They are close relatives, who also reside in various parts of the city,

and visit each other often, on weekends and holidays in particular.

Butch has a medium brown complexion, is approximately 5'6" tall,

wears a medium length Afro hair style, and dresses in a neat casual

fashion. He is friendly, talkative, and is serious about his school

work. His mother was a housewife who died suddenly in June, 1977, from

high blood pressure, the same month he graduated from high school. His

father is a laborer for a warehouse company where he has worked for

several years.

The family's annual income is less than $10,000 and was in the range

to make Butch eligible for financial aid to attend school. Butch is the

only sibling who lives at home with his father; his sisters and brothers

work and reside in other parts of the city.


Education. Butch's parents are both high school graduates who never

attended college. However, Butch remembers constant encouragement from

his parents for all of their children to attend college. Of the six

other siblings, two attended junior college, but only one completed the

Associate of Arts degree. Butch knew of only one relative, his father's

youngest brother, who received a degree from a four year institution.

Butch and his siblings are all very proud of this uncle who graduated

from Howard University, a well-known predominately black institution in

Washington, D.C. Butch reported that his sisters and brothers would

always say to him, "Dad's baby brother went to college, so now you--our

baby brother--you got to go, too, to keep it in the family."

Butch graduated from a public high school that had a black student

enrollment of 40-50% in a total population of approximately 625 students.

At 19 years of age, he graduated from high school with a 2.95 or "C+"

average, and was ranked 51 in a class of 416 students. He did not parti-

cipate in extra-curricular activities, although he had a strong interest

in sports. Butch listed his intended college major as accounting--his

second choice was architecture.

Butch's interest in attending OSU began early in his youth. He

recalled watching scenes of college life at OSU on television, and

dreamed of attending when he graduated from high school:

When I was little, I always used to watch it on TV...and
that's all I could think about--when you graduate, you want
to go to OSU.

Butch was determined to attend OSU. He did not apply for admission to

any other schools. He could not even be persuaded by his peers to

consider attending elsewhere:

Several of my friends tried to get me to go to AU, saying it
had the best accounting program, which is what I want to go
into. They kept on trying to persuade me, but I saw that
this was where I wanted to go.
(AU is the historically black state institution, which many
of Butch's black friends attended.)

Butch visited the OSU campus at every opportunity. This was accomplished

through attending sports events and concerts held on the campus. He and

his friends would look into the classrooms, visit dormitories, and became

quite familiar with the campus.

In February, seven months before his 19th birthday, Butch applied

for admission for the fall term at OSU. He was scheduled to take the

Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) in April, and anticipated graduation from

high school in June of the same year. On the OSU application requesting

additional information and the student's reason for applying to college,

Butch made this statement: "Orange State University is the only institu-

tion in the state that I feel getting along with people will be easy."

In March, 1977, Butch's application for admission was acknowledged by the

minority admissions officer who also offered his assistance to Butch to

facilitate any aspect of the admission process. Butch corresponded with

the admissions officer on several occasions during the next few months,

about housing, reporting SAT scores, and registration for classes.

Early in August, Butch was notified by the admissions officer that

his SAT scores were too low for consideration for fall entrance with the

regular freshmen class. However, he was offered the opportunity to

compete for admission under a state policy which allowed 10 percent of

the freshmen class to enter the university without all of the entrance

requirements. Butch was accepted for admission under the University


Special Admission Program for the winter school term. He and his family

were very happy about his acceptance to State Orange University. Butch

reported that his friends had mixed feelings about his acceptance; some

were excited for him, and others just couldn't understand why he wanted

to go to a "white school".

Despite his lifelong dream of attending OSU, Butch was somewhat

relieved that he did not have to attend until January. When questioned

about his feelings, Butch admitted that he was uncertain about whether he

should be working, or attending school. So he worked from August to

December, as a dishwasher in a restaurant. This experience convinced him

that an education would guarantee him a better job, and reinforced his

interests in attending the university. He spent the Christmas holidays

preceding his attendance with his uncle (the college graduate) and his

family in Washington, D.C. This visit also reinforced hi.s interests in

attending college, and he felt much better about attending school in


And, like I went up to Washington for Christmas. And when I
went up there my uncle, the one that went to school, he just
kept insisting for me to go to school, go to school, go to
school. So, now I'm in. And so far it's been all right.
And I feel like, you know, as of right now, there's nothing
that would keep me from graduating.


Family history. Janice is the oldest of three children born to a

family that has resided in the southern part of the state for the last

twelve (12) years. She was born and raised in an urban city of 25,000

people only 25 miles from the third largest city in the state. Janice

described her family as very close and religious. Both her parents

graduated from high school and have never attended college. Her mother,

a receptionist, and her father, a laborer, have a combined income of over

$20,000. Her father had also worked as a nurse's assistant, and ulti-

mately influenced Janice's choice of pre-med as an area of study.

Janice is a guiet, attractive young woman with dark brown skin,

thick shoulder length black hair, and a medium build. She was shy when

interviews first began, but soon warmed up and very often volunteered

information during interviews. Janice did not know much about college

but had a cousin who graduated from Albany State College, a predominately

black institution in another southern state, and an uncle who graduated

from Rutgers University, a predominately white school in the Northeast.

They talked to her of their experience and encouraged her to attend

school. She was expected to attend college and set a model for her

younger sister and brother, even though she knew it would mean a

financial hardship on all members of the family, including herself.

Education. At 18 years of age, Janice graduated from a high school

that had a 20-40% population of black students. The majority of the

other students were white. She was ranked 105 in a graduating class of

540, and had a final grade point average of 3.1 on a 4.0 scale. The high

school counselor's estimate of Janice's ability to succeed at OSU was

average, yet she described her as an "outstanding minority student".

Other comments from high school teachers gave more of an academic profile

of Janice:

She is a hard worker, but is not strong in math...Janice is
a desirable willing to work and is one of the
better students at the high school. Janice is polite, did
not participate much in class...was considerate of others...
and seemed to understand her coursework.

Janice was not very involved in extracurricular activities in high

school, although she belonged to some clubs and enjoyed spectator sports.

In January, Janice applied for admission to OSU. During that time she

also applied to three out-of-state, predominately black institutions.

She was accepted at two of the black institutions, and at OSU. One of

Janice's cousins had graduated from one of the black institutions which

accepted her and encouraged her to attend, yet Janice was torn between

leaving her family and the excitement of the adventures described by her


She was accepted at OSU for the summer Special Admit Program because

her SAT scores from the winter testing were not competitive for admission

for the Fall class for which she applied. Janice reported that her

decision to attend OSU was based on its reputation as a good school. It

was close to home, and it cost less to attend than the out-of-state

schools to which she had been accepted. Janice knew she would need

financial aid and believed her decision to attend OSU was a good one.

She requested that the University delay her summer admission because she

had scheduled to take the SAT again in May in an effort to improve her

scores. Janice's first child was also arriving in June, and she needed

more time to make adjustments about her life prior to attending school.

Janice's second SAT scores were higher overall, but not high enough to

qualify her for regular admission. She was accepted under the Special

Admit Program for January, a year after she first applied for admission.

In the meantime, Janice gave birth to a baby boy, and received

permission from OSU to attend a local junior college for the Fall term.

She had made arrangements with her mother and grandmother to care for her

son, while she commuted to college. Her family was very proud of her


educational efforts, and also made similar arrangements to care for her

child when she entered the University, which was 300 miles from her home.


Family history. Yvette was the third female and the third of four

children born to a black family in the South. Her two older sisters are

twins, who are married, and do not live at home, and her brother is a

junior in high school. Yvette's parents were divorced and Yvette had a

much closer relationship with her mother than with with her father, but

felt she was close to him, too. Yvette was born and raised in the urban

city of over 700,000 that she calls home. Yvette is a petite, light

brown-skinned young woman with long hair which she wore as a large Afro

or in a long braid around her head.

Yvette's mother, a high school graduate, works as a cook in the

child care department in a junior college in the city where she lives.

Her father, also a high school graduate, attended college, but never

graduated. He works for the Navy, but Yvette was uncertain of his

specific job title. Yvette was uncertain of her family's combined income

(father-mother), yet she did qualify to receive financial aid when she

entered college.

Education. Yvette was a very popular student in her high school

which had a population of over 700 students. Over 50-60% of the students

were black. Yvette was an active member of the school's Honor Society

all four years of high school, was a cheerleader for three years, senior

editor of the Yearbook, a member of the Student Council her senior year,

and a member of the Senior Council. Yvette graduated with a 3.27 average


and was ranked 49 in a graduating class of 350. The counselor recommend-

ing her for college estimated that she could do average work at OSU. She

further commented that Yvette demonstrated leadership qualities and was

active in extracurricular activities while maintaining her Honor Society


Attending college was something that Yvette's parents wanted all

their children to do. Both of Yvette's sisters attended junior college

for a year, but got married before they graduated. Neither had resumed

studies at the time when Yvette was planning to enter college.

Yvette, unlike her younger brother, also had a strong interest in

attending school, and was interested in a pre-medicine curriculum but had

made no final decisions about a major. She was not interested in attend-

ing the junior college at home, and finally applied to three schools; a

small predominately black school in another southern state, the largest

private university in the state, and OSU, which was less than 100 miles

from her home. She was interested in the small black school because she

had a friend who attended and who liked the school. He told her about it

and encouraged her to apply. The private school had a good reputation

for its medical facilities, and OSU was where some of her high school

friends were attending. Yvette reported that she had considered applying

at AU, the traditionally black institution in the state, and explained

her failure to apply in this way.

I had a couple of friends who had gone down there and they
told me how much they liked it, but they didn't have what I
wanted. I'm not sure of what I want to go into, but I have
too many friends down there for one thing. And I know I
wouldn't really keep my mind on my work if I go there.

Yvette had applied to OSU in March for entrance in the winter

January term. She had taken the SAT exams in January and asked that her


scores be sent to OSU and the black school her friend had attended. By

June she was sure she wanted to attend OSU and in July she was accepted

to enter the winter term. Yvette reported that her friends at OSU,

including her boyfriend (who was also a student at OSU) influenced her

most in her decision to attend the university.

Yvette's family was pleased that she was accepted and very proud of

her. Most of her friends were also in support of her decision. However,

there were some who questioned her about getting along with whites at

OSU. Yvette responded:

Yes, it was a black friend. But I told her I have been
around whites, and I didn't think they were no better than
I was. So it didn't make no difference 'cause when I was
younger I was raised mostly with whites, you know. I went
to white schools, and most of my friends were white.

Yvette was excited about attending the University and had no doubts

about her ability to succeed. She rated her high school preparation for

college as good, and felt she could successfully compete with other

students at the University. From September to December she babysat, and

helped her mother at home to earn money prior to attending school in



Family history. Claire, who is the youngest of three children, was

born in a small Southern town of 13,000, and had not seriously considered

attending college until her senior year in high school. Claire is a

slim, medium brown-skinned young woman with short black hair. A ready

smile and a friendly easy manner were always part of her carriage. Her


older brother and sister were attending the local junior college, but she

wanted to attend school away from home. Her parents were high school

graduates who never attended college, but they had several relatives who

had completed four year degrees. Claire's parents had always encouraged

their children to attend college and were pleased when Claire made the

decision to apply for entrance at OSU.

Claire's mother is a cafeteria manager, and her father is a laborer

in a paper company. She listed their combined income between $10,000 and

$20,U000 a year. She also worked part-time while attending high school,

and anticipated working in college, too.

Education. Claire graduated from a predominately white high school

that had 10-20% black population of the total 250 students. She was

active in extracurricular activities, including membership on the cheer-

leading squad, the volleyball team, the Student Council, and the Senior

Class Committee. She graduated in the top fifth of her class, ranking

14 in a class of 164.

Since attending college was a recent idea for Claire, she applied

late and could not be considered for Fall admission. She was accepted

for the winter term in January, under the Special Admission Program at

OSU because her SAT scores were too low for consideration as a regular

student. Claire was excited and her family was very pleased with her

decision to attend OSU. She indicated that the main reasons for her

accepting the offer to attend were the University's reputation, and she

had a cousin and some friends already at the school who encouraged her to

attend. She had also applied to AU, the traditional black institution in

the state, but had been discouraged by several people, including her


I though about AU, you know, but a lot of people were say-
ing, No, you don't want to go there, you know, I don't know
S. I guess, I really don't know. Like I told you once
before, My Mom didn't want me to go to AU. I guess maybe
she thought it was an all black college--things might have
gotten out-of-hand. Start partying, then doing no work, or
something like that.

Claire's friends at home were very supportive of her decision to attend

OSU and were happy for her. She was undecided about a major area of

study, but had considered physical therapy and elementary education.

Claire was interested in starting college right away, and wrote the

admissions officer who recruited her to request information about attend-

ing a junior college until she enrolled at the University in the fall.

She was given specifics about the courses she could take, and enrolled in

the Fall term for a speech and math course at the junior college her

sister and brother attended. She commuted from home and earned a C+

average for that term.


Family history. Gordon was a 24 year old, Air Force veteran, who

was released early from the service to attend school at the time the

study was conducted. He is the middle child and only male offspring in a

family of three siblings; he grew up in New York with his mother and one

of his sisters. His step-sister lived with his father in another part of

the city. His parents were separated, so he saw his father infrequently,

and did not know him very well. Both his parents were high school

graduates, and his mother was trained as a practical nurse but has no

college education. She is now a receptionist at a rectory, and his

father was a cab driver. (Gordon's father died during his first term at

the University.)

Gordon had been interested in attending college since junior high

school. His older, step-sister finished college and his younger sister

has taken a few college courses, but was not interested in a degree

program. Gordon's mother encouraged him to attend college, and had

placed emphasis on his attending because she believed "the girls could

learn to type and take shorthand and get a job as a secretary". He had

definite plans to do so, but not right after high school:

Well, see after high school I didn't want to go to college
because I figured that going to college would be easy as far
as going to school and getting good grades, and stuff like
that. And I think today, that would have been true. But I
didn't think that I could fit on campus because I was a
loner. I didn't want to go to school in New York, I wanted
to go in California.

Before joining the service and moving to California, Gordon began working

after high school and completed a computer programming school which he

attended in the evening.

Education. Gordon graduated in the top 10% of his Catholic high

school class. While maintaining a respectable academic record, he parti-

cipated in many extracurricular activities, including basketball, bowl-

ing, cross-country, chess club, and the Afro-American Club. He was a

member of Student Council and was elected the President of his homeroom


There were 10-15% black students in a total school population of

1,000. Gordon believes he was well-educated and prepared for a college

curriculum, and decided to apply to OSU during his last year in the Air

Force. He was encouraged to apply by friends and chose OSU because of

the climate, the reputation of the engineering school, its access to his

home state, and its proximity to NASA, where he eventually wanted to

work. He had been accepted to OSU under the regular admissions program


six months before he was released from the service, yet on his arrival in

August all the necessary paperwork had not been sent to the admissions

office from the Air Force. He had mixed feelings about attending right

away since the papers were missing!

There were quite a few papers missing so I said, "Forget it!
I'll go out and find a job real quick and just work, and sit
out this quarter...I'll wait. And I wasn't really sure I
wanted to start right into school, anyway. I wanted, I
guess I was worried and tense about going to college. I...
there was a fear of failing...of getting in and not doing

After getting settled in his apartment off campus, Gordon found a

part-time job at a convenience store. He would have to work at least

part-time when school started to supplement his savings and the educa-

tional benefits from the GI bill.

Summary: Family History and Educational Background

The five freshmen in this study are not unlike the black students

described in Shenkman's study of 1970, or Boyd's study in 1974. The

majority (4 of 5) were natives of the state and they hailed from

supportive families in which both parents had at least a high school

education. The majority resided in urban areas (only one rural resident)

and all needed financial assistance in order to attend the University.

Unlike the students in Shenkmen's (1971) study, the freshmen in this

study had a variety of reasons for attending OSU, not just financial.

Two were influenced to attend by friends who were already students at

OSU; one entered particularly because of the reputation of the engineer-

ing school and its proximity to NASA; one had been convinced since child-

hood that OSU was the best school in the state and the one where he could

learn and get along with others; and one attended because it was close to

home and less expensive than the out-of-state schools to which she had

been accepted. Each of the students had relatives who had entered

college at some time, and three had relatives who had four year degrees.

All students had identified major areas of interest prior to attending,

although they were not certain enough to make a final decision to declare

a major their first year. Though these students and their families were

excited about their attendance at OSU, at least two freshmen had friends

who were puzzled and curious about why they wanted to attend a "white


The five freshmen attending OSU determined that OSU was the best

option for them. Four of the five had been accepted by other institu-

tions and one only applied to OSU. These freshmen, who all graduated in

the top half of their classes, had attended integrated high schools and

were familiar with going to school with whites. Only two of the five

students had over 50% Black population in their high schools. Three of

the five had successful high school experiences in extracurricular acti-

vities and thus were used to participating in the social arena, as well

as the academic.

Four of the students made a contact at the university through the

minority admissions officer; two (Janice and Butch) had visited campus in

anticipation of their arrival; two (Janice and Claire) had corresponded

with the administration and received approval to attend junior college

prior to their entrance, and two (Yvette and Claire) already had friends


The issue of race which so preoccupied the new students in the 1970

study was not openly expressed as a concern. Each of the students in

this study initially felt confident in his/her ability to adjust to

college life at OSU.

Finally, the determination and excitement about attending college

was ultimately expressed by all of the students; and was reflected

strongly in two of the females, Janice and Claire. Each wrote for

permission to earn credits at a local junior college while waiting to

enter OSU in the winter quarter. Janice had decided school was more

important than being with her son his first few years of life. Both

males, on the other hand, openly expressed some reservations about

attending, despite their interest and commitment to attaining a college


The next stage of events which add to the students' perceptions

about college life at OSU was orientation, registration and their intro-

duction to their residential areas. Perceptions were building and being

confirmed about OSU and its environment prior to their formal entry. In

the next section a review of orientation and the move to campus adds more

insight to their new student status.

The Special Admission Program

The purpose of the Special Admission Program (SAP) was not clear to

any of the students. The four students admitted under the program were

sent information about special services prior to their entrance, yet none

of them attended the orientation held for them. All of them missed the

opportunity to learn more information about adjusting, registration and

advising. The older student (who was admitted as a regular student)

inadvertently registered himself for the SAP courses by changing the


course numbers after he was advised (by a faculty member) to take courses

he thought were too advanced for him. Therefore, because none of them

attended the special admission orientation, the administrators of the SAP

did not shape their understanding of the program as much as the profes-

sors who taught the program courses in which they were enrolled and their

peers who were participating in the program.


Since Butch did not attend the special admit orientation, he was not

fully aware of the purpose of the program or all its services. For his

first term, Butch was registered for a combination of regular and special

admission courses. He vaguely remembered the admissions officer explain-

ing the nature of the program to him, but what he remembered most was

what his peers had shared with him about the SAP:

Like I talked to one of the students from the same high
school in my home town. She made a 4.0 average but she was
on special admissions first quarter. And she says she made
the dean's list, but it wasn't considered special, you know,
because she was on Special Admissions. So I decided that,
you know, I'm just gonna stay on in it this quarter. But
next quarter I'm not going to sign up for special courses.
I'm gonna try, you know, to get in with the regular classes.

Sam, Butch's black hallmate also talked to him about the SAP and

suggested that he choose only regular courses, as he (Sam) had done.

Until these encounters Butch reported that he had not thought about the

difference in special courses and regular courses. As he began to notice

the differences, he made these observations: (1) that the majority of

his classmates were black; and that seemed odd at a predominately white

university, (2) that most of the black people he knew at the University


were on the special program, (3) that the special admissions program was

for slow students, (4) that the program was designed to give more

individual attention to students, and (5) that the only way to be

recognized as completing regular courses was to get off the program.

Butch obviously had mixed feelings about the program. He realized

that the program was helpful to students like him, but he emphatically

stated that he did not consider himself a slow student. Adding to his

confusion were comments from some of his professors who told him that

there was no real difference between regular and special admissions


He said, so far there's no difference in it you know--being
in special admissions class and a regular class. So I say
that if I feel I can do the special admissions (work) and he
says there's no difference, then I mean I'm quite sure I
could do it in a regular class.

Towards the end of the first term, Butch began to think a little

differently about the special admissions program. He reported that the

pace was so fast in the classes, that few students had time to take

advantage of the special grading process. (This process involved the

student re-taking an exam a second or third time on the same material if

the first score was unsatisfactory. A different exam, covering the same

content was administered.) Much of the problem with re-takes, he

explained, was that the student still had to maintain reading assignments

and other homework on new class material, while trying to study for a


The other incident that influenced Butch's thinking about the SAP

involved one of his white hallmates. The hallmate asked Butch for

assistance with his homework after learning that Butch was in the same

class at a different time. On assisting his friend, Butch learned that


not only was his class six chapters ahead of his hallmate's, but that the

special admissions exams were harder than those given in his hallmate's

class. Nevertheless, Butch was convinced that the only way to make it at

OSU was "off the program". He believed he could do well off the program,

as he had done in the program courses.

It's just a feeling I've had ever since I've been in school.
No matter what the class is, I've always been able to make
the grade...So I feel that if I push myself out there (into
regular classes) and just get into things, maybe I can still
make the same grades. Seems that it would be better if I
were on my own. . I'll feel much better.

Butch remained in the special admissions program for the two terms

the study was conducted.


Janice reported that she did not know anything about the SAP. She

had registered for regular courses since she entered, and did not utilize

any services of the SAP. She did not recall receiving any material about

the program in the mail, either.


Claire learned about the SAP at the orientation for minority

students, and from her peers. When she registered her first term at

OSU, four of her courses were in the SAP and one was a regular course.

She preferred to take the combination, i.e., some regular and some on the

SAP, and followed this pattern her second term as well. However,

Claire's understanding was not very clear!

Well, my understanding is that these (students) who are not
really ready to take, you know, well, how should I say it?
. (not ready) to take those classes, I mean, you know,
that they think they can't handle.

When asked if the SAP courses and services helped students, Claire was

able to respond more definitely.

Yes, a lot of the professors will tell you if you are taking
the courses on the Program, like Mr. Thomas told us. He
said he's not teaching it any different than he would if it
was off the Program, you know. But a lot of people think
he's to help the people who are maybe slow learners or some-
thing like that.

Claire admitted that the Program was a help to her in her adjustment to

OSU and initially felt that courses were no easier, nor more difficult

than her regular courses. From her peers she learned that a student can

take SAP courses the freshmen and sophomore years, and also that the

professors didn't teach courses any differently than in regular courses.

However, after her first term, she was not sure there was no

difference in the SAP courses and regular ones.

I don't know, I really don't know. 'Cause my social science
teacher, he said he doesn't teach any different on the SAP
than he would off. In one class, I think it was a little
harder than the other classes, and that was off the SAP
this term. I don't think it's really any harder. I like the
idea of being in a smaller class like that. But I don't
think there's really too much difference. Cause you cover
more material, you gotta take exams every week, and you
have to keep up or you're just lost. I heard a couple of
other students say that they thought some of the courses on
the SAP were harder.
Claire decided that she would take some courses on the SAP through the

summer term (her 3rd term) and begin taking all regular courses in the

fall of the next year.


Yvette was aware that she had been admitted under the SAP. Three of

the five courses she enrolled in her first term were Special Admission

courses. She explained her understanding of the SAP this way:

Well, to me it's just a program where they limit the amount
of students in the classroom so you can get a more one-on-
one relationship with the teacher.

Yvette reported that she tried to register for a combination of the SAP

courses and regular courses her freshman year. She thought that the SAP

courses were no easier, nor more difficult than regular courses. She

indicated that she believed the SAP courses helped her become adjusted to

the University. Although she did not attend the special admission

orientation, she knew of the services and thought overall that the

program was very beneficial to students.


In his efforts to change the advanced courses selected for him by

his advisor, Gordon changed his 200 level courses to 100 level and,

unknowingly registered for two courses (math and english) under the SAP.

He did not know about the SAP until he went to class. It was there that

he learned about the extra assistance he could receive with his writing

and his math.

Gordon believed the program to be beneficial to him, and utilized

the services on a regular basis.


The students' understanding of the purpose of the Special Admissions

Program varies from one to another. One of the four admitted under the

Program knew nothing about it and did not participate in it in any way.

Two of the other three admitted under the SAP had mixed and sometimes

negative attitudes about it. Nonetheless, they believed it was helpful,

but somehow felt there was a stigma attached to it by their peers and

others at the University. Only one student had a decidedly positive

attitude about Special Admissions, enjoyed the small classes and seemed

to understand more about the program than the others. The older student

was inadvertently enrolled in two Special Admission courses, and accepted

them without attaching a stigma to them. He was grateful to have a

chance to review his math and writing skills since he had not been in a

school setting for some time.

Orientation, Advising, and Registration

At Orange State University (OSU) the orientation to the university

is planned by the University College in conjunction with the Student

Affairs Division. The University College personnel are primarily respon-

sible for the students introduction to the academic milieu; faculty

advising registration, peer advising, and other activities related to

attending classes. The student affairs personnel are primarily respon-

sible for introducing students to the university as a community which

offers resources for survival. These personnel offer students informa-

tion about campus activities and campus resources, such as the counseling

center and the study skills clinic which aid in their adjustment outside

the classroom.

The college and the division work cooperatively and their responsi-

bilities often overlap in helping the new student become acquainted with

the university. All university students are invited to the major campus-

wide orientation, and are expected to register for their classes as a

part of the orientation process. The winter orientation is a signifi-

cantly smaller program, since the majority of the students enter in the


A second orientation is offered by the Special Admissions Program to

introduce the student admitted under the auspices of that program to the

services it provides. Students are contacted by letter by the counselor

in the Program, and given instruction about the services, particularly

the registration process, which is facilitated for them in their first


In addition to the general campus wide orientation and the Special

Admission orientation, the Minority Affairs Office in the Student Affairs

Division conducts a specific orientation and reception for all minority

students regardless of how they were admitted. At this orientation, new

students meet other minority students, including minority student

leaders, minority faculty, administrators, and staff who are employed by

the University. They are given information about University and commu-

nity resources to enhance their matriculation, as well as tips on how to

survive as a minority on campus. Usually, a directory of minority staff,

minority organization, and community businesses and churches are made

available at that time.

This orientation is held at the Afro-American Cultural Center, a

programming unit of the Student Affairs Division. The Center, which has

a library, an exhibition area, meeting rooms, and kitchen, is charged

with providing educational, cultural and social programs to help minority

students maintain their cultural identities. In addition, it has a goal

to teach and share with the campus community at large the contribution of

ethnic people to the society in general. This orientation was usually

held for two hours. Presumably by attending the orientation the new

minority students learn that there are other minority people on campus,

who may act as resources to help them as they begin their journey at the


A new minority student then, could choose to attend up to three

orientation programs after being admitted to OSU. A student admitted

under the regular admissions program might choose to attend the general

orientation and the one sponsored by the Minority Affairs Office,

whereas, a specially admitted student could choose all three programs.

Four of the students in this study had the option to choose three

programs, and the fifth had options for two. The following sections

describe their participation in orientation to the University, and the

introduction to their living areas.


Arrival on campus. In January, 1978, Butch traveled alone by bus to

OSU. He had asked his father not to accompany him because he thought he

could become better adjusted if he went alone. His decision to attend

alone was somewhat influenced by his holiday visit to his uncle's home.

His cousin (his uncle's son), also a recent high school graduate, had

dropped out of college after his first semester as a freshman in a school

near his home in Washington. Butch reported his reaction to his cousin's


I listened at how his Dad did him. I said I don't want Dad
to do that for ME, 'cause you know, that makes you seem like
a little baby'. . His Dad took him up there and all; made
sure he got situated. I mean it seems like you adjust
quickly if you're on your own, than if somebody else is
doing everything for you.

Butch had originally requested a double room in one specific housing

area. On his arrival, he learned that he had been reassigned to a triple

room in another area. He decided to accept this reassignment without

challenge mainly because he would be able to save some money by doing so.

He was the first of the roommates to arrive in the room. Soon after

arriving he was joined by a white male student, and his mother. They

introduced themselves, got acquainted, and continued to unpack. Later

that day, they were joined by the third roommate, a native Puerto Rican.

Butch reported that the three of them got along quite well with each

other from their first meeting. The only problem seemed to be the

tension created by the other roommates eating Butch's food without

telling him, or asking him beforehand. Butch was not sure how to handle

this problem, especially since he was not sure which roommate was

actually eating his food.

Since Butch had visited the campus prior to his admission, he was

familiar with many buildings, and did not feel as lost as some other

freshmen. Nevertheless, he did need some help, and found his hallmates

very friendly and helpful. He and his Puerto Rican roommate met Sam, a

black junior, the only other black student on the hall, who befriended

them and offered to help them around campus. Butch was most impressed

and excited, though, about Joe, a white, 18 year old junior, who became a

good friend of his.

Well, if it wasn't for Joe, I would still mostly be lost, as
far as this area in general is concerned. He's just a good
friend. And like we go out all the time, about 2 weeks ago
we went horseback riding.

Orientation. Butch attended the campus-wide orientation for all new

students. He went by himself and reported that he found the orientation

very helpful, especially the sessions on how to register for classes. He

did not attend the SAP orientation or the one sponsored by the Minority

Affairs Office at the Afro-American Cultural Center.

Registration. Butch initiated the registration process by attempt-

ing to see an advisor. However, after being referred to several differ-

ent offices he soon became rather frustrated:

After I got here and they started sending me around. . I
said I'm not gonna go through all this. . I'm just gonna
deal with Mr. C (the admissions officer).

Butch did visit Mr. C, the admissions officer, who referred him to a

Special Admissions Advisor. The advisor helped him select his courses,

and referred him to the curriculum coordinator to find out which classes

had already been filled and closed. Butch did this, acquired appropriate

signatures for his registration card, and finally registered for four

courses totaling 13 credit hours. The only course he wanted and was

unable to get was a math course. All the math courses had been closed by

the time he registered. He was advised to wait to try and get the course

for the next school term.

The entire registration process took about two hours. Butch was

amazed that he finished in so short a time. It had taken his roommates


4 to 5 hours to finish their registrations. It was not until late in the

term that he learned that specially admitted students had certain classes

reserved for them, and that this made their registration easier and

quicker than regular registration.

Butch's course load at OSU his first term was typical for

entering freshmen: an english composition course, a separate writing

laboratory, a social science course, a physical science course, and a

weight lifting and conditioning course. Butch admitted that he did not

like English, but resigned himself to taking it. He was confident,

though, in his ability to perform well in his classes, and stated that

the physical science course was the only one in which he might not be

able to make an "A" or "B".

For the second term, Butch went through the preregistration process

which was easier and quicker for all students.


Arrival on campus. Janice and both of her parents visited the

University campus in December, a month before she was to attend. They

toured the campus (on their own), checked on her housing arrangements,

and attempted to see the admissions officer who had recruited Janice.

She reported that she and her family were well received, and all of the

people they encountered were very friendly. Their decision for her to

attend was reinforced by their visit.

In January, Janice was again accompanied by both parents to campus.

She received her room assignment, and learned that she had been assigned

two roommates instead of one. Both of her roommates were black


sophomores who were from the same home town, and who had known each other

prior to attending the University. Janice also found that three of her

old high school friends lived in the same dormitory area she lived in.

According to Janice, one of her roommates was responsible for her getting

adjusted to the campus:

'Cause when I got here, she didn't have any classes til like
11 o'clock. So she took me around. She was just great,
cause I didn't know anything. I didn't even know where the
administration building was. She took me around, and
everything. . showed me everything about the dorms, took
me to the Student Union, and the gymnasium...

This roommate also introduced Janice to the other hallmates, and helped

her register for classes.

Orientation. Janice was scheduled to attend the campus-wide orient-

ation for new students the same day she arrived on campus. She was also

scheduled to register for classes that day. She reported that she chose

not to attend the orientation, since she had already been to junior

college and was familiar with the kinds of things that occurred at

orientation. She also relied on her junior college experience regarding

her registration appointment. She was scheduled to register at 2:30

p.m., but advised her parents that she would only "have to stand in line

for a couple of hours, like at the junior college". So they did not

arrive until 4:30 p.m., and found that she had missed her opportunity to

register. She had to register late, the next day, and was very

frustrated by the process which took most of her second day on campus.

Janice did not attend the SAP orientation and did not know of the

services provided for her. She did attend an orientation held by the

Minority Affairs Office, where she met black faculty members, and was

introduced to the history of minority students at the University. She


reported that what she remembered most was the discussion of the ratio of

black to white students on campus, and the description of the problems

black students might encounter as minority students on a predominately

white campus.

Registration. Since Janice had to register late, and had not

attended the SAP orientation, she was not aware of her option to take

courses offered through the SAP. She registered for all regular classes,

using the catalogue and her roommate as guides. She did not see a

faculty advisor during this first registration.

Her roommate helped with the late registration which is a process of

adding a course, one by one, to make a schedule, instead of registering

for 4 or 5 at one time. She helped her find open classes and even stood

in lines with her to get signed up for them. Janice described her

registration day with her roommate asher "worst day at college":

Okay. Well, she said you better get up pretty early to beat
the lines. I said okay. So we got up about eight...I guess
she wasn't frustrated cause she had already been through it
and she was taking me around. So she couldn't say Oh, you
won't get those classes! So we worked it out pretty well.
They had two lines going . I was standing in one, and
she was standing in another, and whoever got there first
added the class.

She registered for a typical freshman courseload including an

english course, a social science course, a behavioral studies course, and

a basic concepts course in physical education totaling 13 credit hours.

She had been careful not to repeat courses she had taken at the junior

college until she could have her transcript evaluated. When she received

permission to take courses at a junior college, she was also given a

choice of courses that would count toward the required curriculum in her

first two years of school. As long as she earned at least a grade of C,