Raising the Black Student Admittance Rate

Photo courtesy of Journey Sherman

When I was first admitted to Georgia Tech, I was thrilled but knew it would be a culturally different experience than from Georgia State, where I transferred from. I was going from a predominantly Black university to one that was predominately white. This switch felt like walking into an alternate Jordan Peele tinged reality. I had no idea what my new social life would look like and if I would even have one here.

The first rude awakening I had in regards to what my Tech experience would look like was going to Wreck camp. I was the only Black camper out of about 150 and there were maybe two Black camp counselors in attendance. Luckily, one of them happened to be my counselor. She and I had an unspoken awkwardness at first for obvious reasons. The lack of diversity was never spoken about during my time at camp and I felt ashamed that I was glad it wasn’t. My experience at Wreck camp helped breakdown most of the anxiety I had about racial tension when starting at Tech. We did exercises where we stood up if we agreed with a certain statement. Statements like “Stand up if you feel like you don’t belong at Tech” or “Stand up if you think you were admitted by accident” resonated with me and I promised myself I would be honest, so I stood up. Then, something amazing happened, I saw that there was a large percentage of individuals across different races to stand up for both of these questions. Although I was alone in my complexion, in that moment I felt like I was among friends.

The camaraderie I witnessed lingered within me for a while, but at the end of my first week of classes, I felt more disconnected from campus than ever. I realized that the ‘brother/sisterhood’ experience was superficial and no more than indoctrination with no real depth to it. I was sold a lie. A fantasy. A delusion.

How was I supposed to feel at home in a place that disproportionately doesn’t let people that look like me in? The Black student population at Georgia State was roughly 42% while at Tech the Black students only make up a whopping 7% at a little over 1,100 students. Atlanta is the second largest majority Black metropolitan in the country with 34% of the nearly 2 million citizens in the city identifying as Black. Georgia Tech is literally sitting in the middle of a Black mecca and not even one out of ten students are Black. It is disgraceful. There is a major flaw in the admissions system that needs to be dealt with. Black students should not be overlooked as scholars and only equated to how fast they can run or their arm span. When you think of Black students at Tech, it should be foregone conclusion that you first think of Black student-athletes. It reiterates the misconception that the only way Black students could have gotten into Tech is through their physicality and athleticism.

This week Georgia Tech Athletic Association has revealed its “diversity, equity and inclusion pledge” in order to better support Tech athletes in their strides to make social change. This pledge will become an integral part of the “Gold Code” which all Tech athletes must abide by. This is a step in the right direction, but it is coming from the wrong people. It is all well and good that the athletics department wants to stand up to discrimination and racism within itself, but Tech needs to think bigger picture.

Our institution has the power to overcome the systemic discrimination within our own admissions processes. We need to ask ourselves what the obstacles are for Black applicants or potential Black applicants of Tech.

By expanding our outreach to a wider array of schools and not just at the predominantly white suburban high schools. More recruitment efforts should be made at schools that are in urban areas that are physically closer to Tech as well. Many Black high school students end up not applying to Tech at all because it may seem too out of reach either academically or financially.