UGA marks accomplishments, struggles during desegregation anniversary

110107 Athens; University of Georgia President of Student Body Josh Delaney, 21, of Fayetteville, is shown next to the Miller Learning Center on the UGA campus Friday afternoon in Athens, Ga., Jan. 7, 2011. Jan. 9th is the anniversary of the day two first two African-Americans registered for classes at UGA. Black students now make up about 8 percent of the population at UGA and we talk with students, professors and administrators about attitudes and climate on campus. Delaney is the third African-American UGA student body president.  Jason Getz jgetz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz

Credit: Jason Getz

110107 Athens; University of Georgia President of Student Body Josh Delaney, 21, of Fayetteville, is shown next to the Miller Learning Center on the UGA campus Friday afternoon in Athens, Ga., Jan. 7, 2011. Jan. 9th is the anniversary of the day two first two African-Americans registered for classes at UGA. Black students now make up about 8 percent of the population at UGA and we talk with students, professors and administrators about attitudes and climate on campus. Delaney is the third African-American UGA student body president. Jason Getz jgetz@ajc.com

Published Jan. 10, 2011

University of Georgia senior Josh Delaney represents what the college has accomplished and what it has yet to achieve as it marks the 50th anniversary of its desegregation.

Delaney, who is black, is president of the student body. Students elected him to be their leader last spring during the same academic year in which they elected a black homecoming king and a black homecoming queen. Those three events, Delaney said, show the general acceptance black students have on campus.

Still, Delaney is sometimes the only black student in his classes. He hears racial slurs from other students. There are places where he and other minority students just don't feel comfortable.

"My grandmother would not have been allowed to go to school here and now I'm the student president, so that alone is pretty remarkable," Delaney said. "I don't want anyone to think we've come so far that we've arrived. I would like to see a day where all students are accepted, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity."

Sunday marks 50 years since the first two African-Americans registered for class at UGA. That act led to the desegregation of other colleges in Georgia and the South. To commemorate the anniversary, the university scheduled lectures and other events through February.

"We are proud of what we have accomplished, but we must recognize that there is still more that we must do," said Cheryl Dozier, associate provost for institutional diversity. "We can't have an excellent campus if it's not inclusive."

Dozier said the campus has become more diverse over the past decade, with the student body now about 21 percent minority.

Just as important, she said, is how those students perform. About 82 percent of the students who enrolled at UGA in fall 2003 graduated by summer 2009. The rate was 77 percent among black students -- the highest in the University System of Georgia. The freshman to sophomore retention rate for black students was 96 percent in 2008, while the overall rate was 94 percent.

This year’s freshman class was the most diverse -- with 29 percent of the students identified as minorities, compared with 22 percent the previous year, according to admissions data. Hispanic students made up 4.3 percent of the class, up from 3 percent in 2009. Black freshmen remained stable at 7.6 percent.

UGA has seen small increases in black enrollment in recent years. Black students were about 5.9 percent of UGA's enrollment in fall 2000 and now comprise about 7.7 percent of the student body. In comparison, black students make up about 32 percent of the student body at Georgia State University and about 6 percent at Georgia Tech.

UGA officials said they're competing for the same students recruited by historically black colleges, such as Morehouse and Spelman.

Black enrollment at UGA flatlined during the early 2000's after a federal judge ordered administrators to stop considering race in admissions.

Officials turned to intense recruiting to change the look of the student body in a state where blacks are about 37 percent of the public K-12 enrollment. Dozier said the campus won't mirror those demographics because students must be college-bound and prepared to attend and succeed.

UGA sends recruiters to middle schools and works closely with guidance counselors at schools with a high percentage of minority students. To entice students to enroll, the university invites admitted students to spend a few days on campus.

From 2001 to 2010, the number of applications from African-American students increased from 973 to 2,004, Dozier said. Of the 2,004 who applied, 717 were admitted and 355 enrolled, she said.

Sophomore Stewart Zellars had heard he might not feel welcome on campus. Some perceive the campus as hostile to minority students, and he attended a high school where there was an equal number of black and white students.

"Obviously, I feel like a minority when I'm walking around campus or sitting in a class, but I don't feel unwelcome here," said Zellars, a resident assistant at Reed Hall. "There may not be that many of us but we're very tight. We're a family and that is probably one of the best things about being here that I didn't expect to happen."

Zellars, an economics major, hasn't had any black professors in that subject.

"I wish I had that," he said. "I wish there was someone like that who I could go to for advice. There are other people here who are great, but that is something I'm missing out on."

Dozier admitted UGA must do a better job hiring minority faculty, but said they are heavily recruited by other institutions. The number of minority tenure-track faculty increased from 11.5 percent in 2000 to 17.9 percent in 2009, she said. During that same time, black tenure-track faculty increased from 5.1 percent to 5.8 percent, she said.

Senior LaTasha Abraham said she's noticed a commitment to improved diversity. Abraham, president of the Black Affairs Council, said minority groups must work together to maximize their impact on campus.

"This isn't just something for the university to work on, it's something we as students need to work on," Abraham said. "You have to be willing to work with individuals and groups that don't look like you."

UGA desegregation milestones

The University of Georgia is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its desegregation. Here are some key dates in the college's history:

  • 1961: Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter become the first African-Americans to register at UGA.
  • 1962: Mary Frances Early becomes the first African American to graduate from the University of Georgia. She enrolled in summer 1961
  • 1968: Richard Graham becomes first full-time African-American faculty member, teaching in the School of Music.
  • 1969: Zeta Pi chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha becomes first African-American fraternity on campus.
  • 1970: Ronnie Hogue, a basketball player, becomes the first African-American to play a major sport.
  • 1971: Five athletes integrate the football team.
  • 1980: The Black Faculty and Staff Organization is formed.
  • 1989: Office of Minority Services and Programs opens.
  • 1991: Hispanic Student Association is formed.
  • 1993: Telvis Rich and Ron Jones become first African-Americans elected president and vice president of the student body.
  • 2002: Office of Institutional Diversity opens.

Source: University of Georgia.

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