Rutgers hosts Black on the Banks, a conference program for the university’s 250th anniversary

People discuss the conference in front of Voorhees Hall on Nov. 7. (Yiyi Zhang)

“Black on the Banks,” a public conference program on the struggle for equity and access in higher education, featured African-American alumni from Rutgers College and Douglass College.

The conference took place on Nov. 6 and 7. The two-day session was contained of five discussions.

The five topics were “African Americans in a White University, Part 1: Black Student Life at Rutgers College and Douglass College, 1961–1965,” “African Americans in a White University, Part 2: Black Student Life at Rutgers College and Douglass College, 1966–1971,” “Intercollegiate Athletics and Black Students at Rutgers College in the 1960s,” “African American Students and Academic Life at Rutgers College and Douglass College in the 1960s,” and “Protest, Rebellion, and the Transformation of Rutgers and Douglass.”

Leon Green, one of the panelists, told his story. He said that he struggled a lot when he studied in Rutgers. Even though Rutgers was almost an ivy league college, he still felt black inferiority. They wanted to change that situation, change the system and defend themselves. They wanted to let people know that they are intellectually equal.

Maxene Vaughters, another panelist, said that she tried to find qualified black faculty and get more black students. However, many highly accomplished black people are not acknowledged and this problem still exists.

The audience raised their hands with Jocelyn Francis ( the woman raising her hand in front of the screen), one of the panelists of the conference. (Yiyi Zhang/Nov. 7, 2015)

“There’s a profound need for enhanced communication. There’s a need for those African Americans who are on campus and all of us as well to have a way to communicate with each other so we can identify objectives to accomplish,” said Bill Davis, a staff member in the African Studies department.

“One of the objectives which will be hopefully accomplished is strength African Studies department,” Davis said. “Because of the curriculum structure, the courses don’t satisfy core requirements which has lead to reduced students in the African Studies Department. So we need to find a way to make it correct.”

“Second point is that within the past 18 to 24 months, at least four significant African American who have been in the campus for 15 years have been removed. Three have been terminated and one has been resigned. We need to figure out how we going to have a role and a voice in expanding what takes place in student life. There are a lot of conversations going on about students’ not being here. I do think that there are multiple facts that contribute to it. I do think we have to be more creative in how to engage them.”

“We have fewer black faculties than Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan. Our black students percentage is lower than the percentage of black people in New Jersey. How can that be after we worked so hard for 50 years?” Douglas Greenberg said. He is the organizer of the conference program.

“Beating Michigan in black faculty numbers is much more important than beating Michigan in football,” he said.

Voorhees Hall in Rutgers University, where “Black on the Banks” was held on Nov. 7. (Yiyi Zhang)