A revolution is needed to halt the decline in black student enrollment at colleges across the country, and students must lead the rebellion, according to educators at a conference on blacks in higher education last weekend at UC Irvine.
"The survival of black students on college campuses is an issue we have to undertake. Otherwise, it will be shaped by default for us, and when that happens, it will be harder to undo," said Marguerite Archie-Hudson, a member of the Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees.
Archie-Hudson and other educators and students spoke Saturday during the UCI conference, which was sponsored by the campus Black Faculty and Staff Assn. and Black Student Union. It was prompted by concern about dwindling black student enrollment, said Colleen Bentley-Adler, a campus spokeswoman.
"They wanted to hear from other campuses. . . to plan strategies to increase numbers" of black students, she said.
Conference co-chairwoman Catherine Cornwell-Jones, a UCI research fellow, urged students to encourage other blacks to enroll and to protest low enrollments.
"If you students are going to have a revolution, you better have it soon," she said, "because there might not be anyone here later on."
American Council on Education statistics show fewer black students are enrolled at colleges and universities now than six years ago, and the numbers could decline even further by the year 2000, Bentley-Adler said.
Black enrollment peaked nationwide in 1976 when blacks accounted for 9.4% of the college population, according to council statistics.
However, eight years later, blacks accounted for 8.8% of enrollment figures, while Latino and Asian populations were increasing, the council reports.
At the nine University of California campuses, blacks represent 4% of student enrollment. UCLA has the highest black enrollment with 6%, while the University of California at Santa Barbara and University of California at Santa Cruz are the lowest with slightly more than 2% each, Bentley-Adler said.
Blacks represent about 3% of students enrolled at the Irvine campus and 4.2% at the University of California at Riverside, she said.
Cornwell-Jones said black student enrollment should be about 8% to be in alignment with the percentage of blacks living in California.
"It's not simply a matter of under-representation, but it's political here and everywhere," she said. "What we are fighting is racist decision-making."