Magazine lists Duke as 14th best

Black Enterprise, a major national black business magazine, named Duke one of the nation's 50 Top Schools for African Americans Tuesday.

A team of black academics ranked the University the 14th best of more than 1,400 institutions for black students in a special report released in the magazine's September issue.

The placement represents a four-spot drop since Duke placed 10th in Black Enterprise's 2004 survey, and comes hot on the heels of Duke's three-slot slide in the 2006 U.S. News and World Report ranking of best colleges.

Florida A&M University tops the Black Enterprise list, followed by Howard University and Greensboro's North Carolina A&T State University, Harvard University and Spelman College rounding out the top five.

Stanford University, the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University are among the non-historically black colleges and universities that outranked Duke.

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"I think it's inevitable that HBCUs will be rated higher because they offer a different experience," said junior Robyn-Ashley Hall, sitting among four black students in von der Heyden Pavilion Tuesday afternoon. "I would think we have a better environment [for black students] than Penn and Stanford."

Hall added that she had considered those schools but opted for Duke because of its more robust black community.

Hall's friends, however, suggested that the ranking probably had more to do with academics than anything else.

"Duke's going to be in the top 20 because they're good at educating students," junior Morgan McGhee said. "Are they good at educating black students? They're good at educating students."

Others voiced mixed responses to the survey's results.

"[The Black Enterprise rankings] highlight some of Duke's strengths as well as areas where improvement is needed," senior Malik Burnett, president of Black Student Alliance, wrote in an e-mail.

"Among our peer institutions, we boast one of the highest percentages in black enrollment. Areas which need improvement include those pertaining to the need for a more inclusive social scene and an increase in the number of black faculty, who in addition to providing support networks, act as role models for black students on campus."

Mark Anthony Neal, associate professor and director of undergraduate and graduate studies in the Department of African and African-American Studies, said Duke's excellent academic reputation and location in Durham-a predominantly black city-- likely played a role in the showings.

Senior Alexandria Thomas said she disagreed with Neal's assessment of Durham's role, however.

"Even as a black student, I've been told since freshman year, 'Don't wear stuff with Duke on it because people aren't receptive,'" she said. "Whether or not that's true, Durham isn't a big draw for black students."

Hall, McGhee and Thomas all said a strong black community is a result of actions by students themselves and not of University policy, noting they would like to see stronger recruitment of non-athlete black males.

Larry Moneta, vice president for student affairs, said he was pleased with the news and pointed to increased numbers of black faculty, work to recruit talented students of all races and the Mary Lou Williams Center as major initiatives intended to make the University a good place for black students.

"I think the reality is we're doing the right thing," he said.

Moneta cautioned against reading too much into the drop or connecting it to last spring's lacrosse scandal.

"One of the great dangers is we're beginning to link anything and everything to lacrosse," he said. "I absolutely don't think that was a factor."

Burnett pointed to other studies that have yielded high grades, citing a 2003 study in the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education that rated the University as first in the nation for black students.

But Burnett also acknowledged issues with residential segregation, high black faculty turnover and little interaction between black and white students.

"We have come a long way," Burnett said. "But there is definitely a lot of work to be done."


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