The Black Student Union

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1990s Advocates of Culture Appreciation, the Black Student Union

Starting in the 1990s, the Black Student Union at Johns Hopkins has made dedicated efforts for the cultural appreciation of African Americans. The BSU has also worked to advance and improve the experience of many other minority groups at Hopkins.

Cover of the Guide to Baltimore

Cover of the Guide to Baltimore

The Black Student Union began with statistical studies about the racial composition of the Hopkins student body, and they found an increase in both acceptance rate and enrollment of African Americans from 1991 to 1993, which went up from 177 to 255 and 36 to 59, respectively. Such results seemed promising but not satisfying to the BSU members, as they discovered that the second largest student group was the Asian students, leaving the African American group still underrepresented in the Hopkins population. And the increase of the African American student enrollment appeared to be rather limited as the most rapid gain of student enrollment came from Asian students from the west coast. In an effort to strengthen the academic wellbeing of African American students at Hopkins, the BSU had specifically organized “Surviving Academically at JHU,” a series of talks sponsored by the Black Student Union members, study groups, and pre-career forums, as seen in their prospective agenda for research and education in 1993-1994. To create a more cohesive student group and also to better serve the African American student population, the BSU also made special efforts to reach out to the incoming freshmen.

 

Cover of the Handout for the Black History Month, 1996

Cover of the Handout for the Black History Month, 1996

Even more significantly, the Black Student Union played an essential part in the cultural appreciation of many ethnic groups at Hopkins, leading to numerous long-lasting programs. BSU joined campaigns initiated by a report by the Community Relations Committee in 1993-1994, which pointed out the need to strengthen the undergraduate curriculum at Hopkins in both cultural diversity and global studies. More specifically, there was a need to start an African and African diaspora studies program and to diversify the faculty by hiring specialists of African anthropology, sociology, and literature. The gap in faculty and course offering was recognized by the university, which created the Committee on Black, Ethnic and Multicultural Studies to identify the best was to fill the gap. The African Studies Department was then founded following the preexisting programs of Women’s Studies and Latin American Studies. This report had also contributed to other departments at Hopkins, including International Relations and East Asian Studies, which benefited from dynamic innovation in the report’s wake.