PERCEPTIONS, PERSPECTIVES, AND ADAPTIVE BEHAVIORS
OF SELECTED BLACK FRESHMEN AT A SOUTHERN
PREDOMINATELY WHITE UNIVERSITY
JOYCE TAYLOR GIBSON
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN
PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS
FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
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
TABLE OF CONTENTS
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 . . . . .
II. REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE .
Overview . . . . .
Who Is This Black Student in H
Problems Of Black Students .
Adaptive Behaviors . . .
Developing Perspectives . .
. . . . o . .
. . * *
. . * .
Institutional Response to Black Students
Theoretical Framework. . . . . .
Summary. . . . . . . . ...
III. THE WINTER TERM FRESHMEN . . . . .
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. .
IV. DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS. . . . . .
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
V. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS. . . . . .. . .. 217
. . ... 154
. 0 .
A SIGNATURE POSTCARD FOR PARTICIPATION IN STUDY . . . . 230
B INTERVIEW GUIDE .. .. . .. . .. . . . .. 231
C FRESHMAN ADAPTATION QUESTIONNAIRE . . . . . . . 233
D PERCEPTIONS OF STUDENTS IN PILOT STUDY. . . . . . 252
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
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
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
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
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
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
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-
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.
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.
In anthropology, data collection is not separate from data analysis.
Kimball and Burnett (1973) express the point of view as follows:
...as 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.
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.
REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE
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; -
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
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
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.
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).
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
3. When black issues arise in class discussions, some blacks are
asked by professors to speak for all black people on the
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,
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.
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
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
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-
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
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.
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
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.
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).
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
THE WINTER TERM FRESHMEN
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
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
She is a hard worker, but is not strong in math...Janice is
a desirable student...is 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
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
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 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
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,