UPDATED: Segregated dorms for males 'who identify as Black' coming to UConn

The University of Connecticut is hoping that black males will graduate at a higher rate if they spend more time with one another, and is building a new residence hall to facilitate just that.

The ScHOLA²RS House—which stands for "Scholistic [sic] House Of Leaders who are African American Researchers and Scholars"—"is a scholastic initiative to groom, nurture, and train the next generation of leaders to address grand challenges in society through the promotion of academic success in undergraduate programs at the University of Connecticut and in competitive graduate programs," the website states.

"ScHOLA²RS House is a Learning Community designed to support the scholastic efforts of male students who identify as African[-]American/Black through academic and social/emotional support, access to research opportunities, and professional development," it continues. "The intent of this Learning Community is to increase the retention and persistence of students using educational and social experiences to enhance their academic success at UConn and beyond in graduate and professional school placement."

"African American males graduate at a lower rate than their peers," Dr. Erik Hines, Faculty Director for the initiative, told Fox61, noting that African-American males graduated at a rate of only 54 percent last year, compared to 82.5 percent for the campus as a whole.

"It is a space for African American men to, one, come together, and validate their experiences that they may have on campus," he explained. "Number two, it's also a space where they can have conversation and also talk with individuals who come from the same background who share the same experience."

The specialized housing does not—quite—constitute a "segregated" residence, as it is currently optional, much like the "affinity housing" that other schools have put in place to serve as a "safe space" for minority students.

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“I was not pleased; my immediate thought was ‘What?’” Haddiyyah Ali, a fourth-semester Africana studies and political science major, told The Daily Campus. “I know there had to be a lot of research that went into it…but just for me coming from a student perspective, my initial thought was what about black women and girls – what about us?”

Noting that only 43 black men will be able to enroll in the program, Ali added that "I will always contest to the fact that black men on the campus aren’t given enough resources, I will in no way dispel that fact, but my questioning isn’t if they need, but is if they need it in this way."

Isaac Bloodworth, a sixth-semester puppetry major, however, ascribed opposition to the plan as simply racist.

"The white portion of the University of Connecticut is probably not ready for it," he speculated. "You have people who are going to go against it because they are just racist and they see this as a form of segregation or that we’re getting better things than they are."

UPDATE: UConn spokesperson Stephanie Reitz provided a statement to Campus Reform seeking to "clarify some misinformation and misunderstandings" about the program, which she described as an effort to reconcile the disparate graduation rates between African-American males and the rest of the student body.

"We know it's not an issue of whether African-American males have the capability to excel in school; rather, it is their environment that sometimes inhibits their potential," she said. "At many predominantly white institutions nationwide, elements of African-American culture are harder to find, which can make some students experience a sense of detachment from their universities."

The new learning community, which she noted is funded through a $300,000 grant and supported by "a substantial amount of research and scholarship," is intended to provide students with the tools to overcome such obstacles, should they so desire. 

She also made clear that "this is not UConn's first learning community with a focus on a specific race or gender," citing programs for Hispanic students and Women in Math, Science, and Engineering as examples, and offering that "if other students are interested in a similar residential experience, we are always open to looking at more communities to add to those already on campus."

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