Monday, May 12, 2008

Morehouse College - A Disturbing Milestone - A White Valedictorian

Somehow in 2008, Morehouse College has ended up with it's first white valedictorian in it's short 141-year history. Don't get me wrong. Joshua Packwood deserves to be highly celebrated for his achievements at Morehouse College. He put in the hard work and the dedication necessary to succeed in college. Yet, a large part of me finds this "celebration" to be an extremely disturbing moment.

What in the hell are the brothas doing at Morehouse? Where are the brothas with the perfect 4.0 g.p.a.'s and the extensive study abroad experiences? Where are the brothas interning on Wall Street and being Rhodes Scholar finalists? Where are the brothas with the same grades, same experiences, and the same opportunities "fighting" to become valedictorian of their alma mater?

Instead of explaining how the white guy "navigated" a predominately black campus, someone should be trying to figure out why Mr. Packwood's competition for valedictorian didn't seem to be present.


Anonymous,  May 12, 2008 at 6:46 AM  

I'm sure Morehouse could put together some impressive numbers and accomplishments of the Black men of Morehouse class of 2008.

Miss Pinky May 12, 2008 at 8:48 AM  

The article didn't spell it out, but it would be interesting to see if in fact Packwood did have competition and if so, what qualifications did his competition have.

Professor Tracey May 12, 2008 at 9:41 AM  

Sorry Ladies,

None of that explains how he ended up valedictorian. The odds of this happening meant someone fell down on the job. If there are ten white guys in this graduating class I would be shocked. And it doesn't matter if Morehouse canpput together some "impressive" numbers, there is only ONE valedictorian! I for one would like to know how the hell that happened at an HBCU. I wonder how mand "first-time" black valedictorians are at predominantly white colleges this semester?

Professor Tracey May 12, 2008 at 9:49 AM  

And another thing, why are folks so happy about this at Morehouse? This great for one person, white kids aren't going to start running to Morehouse. And whatever happened to black pride?, why are we always so proud to hand over our traditions and opportunities in our spaces when we still have to fight like dogs for a little bit of space in the predominantly white arenas?

Miss Pinky May 12, 2008 at 10:08 AM  

"And another thing, why are folks so happy about this at Morehouse?"


It seems, from the article, Moorehouse saw this as some kind of validation of their academic program that a white guy who could have went to Harvard chose them instead. I think one of the black students interviewed even said that..if the school was good enough for Packwood, then it was good enough for him. I think THAT is a core issue. Black people still seeking validation from "outside sources."

New Black Woman May 12, 2008 at 10:38 AM  

I only have one question: what propelled him to enroll at Morehouse? Most whites I know turn their noses up at the idea of attending an all-black college.

Anonymiss May 12, 2008 at 11:35 AM  

Prof. Tracey,
I see your point.

Professor Tracey May 12, 2008 at 11:45 AM  

Damn, Pinky, you just made this thing even worse for me. LOL!

Miss Issues May 12, 2008 at 12:12 PM  

This may be to counteract the media reporting blacks having a better chance graduating at prestigious white colleges, such as Yale and Harvard than black ones.
It use to be the another way around, but it comes down to financial aid. I've known a lot my black friends who college dreams got dashed at places like Morehouse, Hampton and Howard.

Anonymous,  May 12, 2008 at 1:43 PM  

I wasn't attempting to "explain" anything.

I can appreciate and agree that the issue that by sheer numbers alone, there 'should' have been a Black valedictorian but I appreciate that hundreds (I don't know their class size) Black males received a college degree on that day. And not being valedictorian won't hurt their chances of success in the future.

I also agree with you Miss Pinky.

Professor Tracey May 12, 2008 at 2:57 PM  

I hear you Symphony, but this is not about just getting a degree. It's about the pursuit of excellence, being the best. That's the so-called point of HBCU's, where blacks can shine amongst themselves. If a white person starts shining best in that area, what does that say about the rest?

Anonymous,  May 12, 2008 at 6:35 PM  

Totally agree. I hate low expectations. I got on my Upward Bound kids about that. And I throw my son's sloppy homework away in his face and make him do it over.

I just feel less than a 4.0 doesn't mean someone didn't strive for excellence.

Our kids consistently fail more because of low expectations and parenting and less because of school funding.

MusicLover May 12, 2008 at 7:28 PM  

I don't really see the big deal. The only reason this guy is getting media attention is because he is a white person that attended an HBCU, not because he was necesarily smarter or better than the black students. Why do you assume that there weren't black men fighting to be valedictorian? If he had the highest gpa out of his senior class then there were obviously black men who were right behind him.

Professor Tracey May 12, 2008 at 8:26 PM  

@Musiclover & Symphony -

If they were fighting for it, the valedictorian would be black, just based on the numbers. And valedictorian is not just based on gpa. It's all the additional expereiences and activities. And that's the part that concerns me.

Black students even at HBCU's miss the study abroad opportunities and the internships. Black students often fail to see the bigger picture, not because they are not capable, it's just not an educational habit we have picked up yet.

I teach at a predominantly white all-male college, that has never had a African American valedictorian in it's 175 year history and Morehouse is flipping the script in 141?

I'm sorry, but this just should not happen. It should be a matter of pride. Low expectations will never be acceptable to me. particularly coming in second at an HBCU.

wisdomteachesme May 12, 2008 at 8:38 PM  

prof you said= "of HBCU's, where blacks can shine amongst themselves. If a white person starts shining best in that area, what does that say about the rest?"
and if i go by this statement my comment is=
those students at morehouse need to work harder.

Just because it is a black college does not mean it should not have to raise it's standards of effectivness. black students in general do not do the best they can. they have to have the drive to do better. and they do not-like it was when i was in school. You need someone to come in and get rid of negative complacenty.
Get the slack off.

Gifted and talented people get into ruts if not mentally stimulated enough in a positive way. and the way the college students now were taught when in high school that is the reason. to many students want instant success also. it's a 'slackness' that is accepted. 'just enough' is accepted and given and no one calls them on it.
*seen it--left it alone--*

when students came in thinking i had to tell them which colors to use in their designs-(out of 75) with all heart these children don't know how to think--they expect you to tell them each and every step to take and how to take it--they have no creativity--no cognative thinking skills--they can't color out of the lines!

I think it's a good thing that he went there. and for the black students that go to white univ. who do not reach the status that he did at morehouse-apples and oranges. too many reasons why he would succeed based on his educational background - of being prepared.

instead of those students that may be put off or offended at this guy grad with honors as he has...i say Work Harder! they too can achieve that. it's obvious that the level of teaching from the professors and curiculum is there in order to obtain the level.

Miss Issues May 13, 2008 at 9:14 AM  

Prof Tracey, you are so right. But there is also a problem of not knowing the definition of delayed gratification. Many blacks students still want to wear the best clothes and have designers things while they are in college. A lot of black students have rent and car loan payments. So, regarding internships, they balk at the idea of working for free.
I attend an HBCU for my undergrad and am now attending a predominantly white institution for grad. Encourage internships and study abroad opportunities. HBCUs, I feel to their disadvantage are working like 4 year trade schools.

Naima May 13, 2008 at 10:19 AM  

Aren't HBCU's trying to diversify? Maybe he was made valedictorian to attract more white students. I am sure they had to be some science major who had better grades than him.

Randi523 May 13, 2008 at 11:44 AM  

I attended my sister pinning ceremony and graduation from nursing school (yay!) 2 weeks ago. It alarmed me that even though this was a community college with majority Black students (my sister, BTW, already has a BS in Psychology-just wanted to put that out there), ALL of the students on the panel getting awards for the nursing school, even the Florence Nightingale award, which the student body votes for, were White. Even the speakers/announcers, etc. were White, positions that I bet anyone could fill, but only the White students WANTED TO.

I love my sister, but I know my sister, and her response could probably speak for all of the other Black graduates: "All that matters to me is that I got my nursing degree." Yes, that's important, and to be commended (my sister and our family went through a lot of trials and struggles during her tenure at nursing school, and she made great grades despite all of that), but what happened to the pursuit of EXCELLENCE, not just getting a degree.

And, forgive me, but I'm not excusing this lackadaisacal attitude towards excellence with lack of funding, etc. Those before us did it, with many obstacles than we have as college students today (Prof. Tracy, you've had Words for Warfare quotes from many of them).

I remember when I was attending "Fair Dillard" :-), many students asked me over and over again: "You're a Chemistry and Math major-why are you doing all of this 'other stuff' (i.e. taking other classes outside of my major, volunteering, internships, etc.)? You just need to get your degree; that's all I'm worried about." Perhaps this is the sentiment at Morehouse and several other colleges among some Blacks.

Michael May 13, 2008 at 12:57 PM  

Juan over at Highbrid Nation put me on to the white valedictorian of Morehouse story. Seems like a lot of people are upset. Lol, some people didn't even know white people were allowed to attend Morehouse. Honestly my opinion is that this is good for race relations. If us black people wanted to be fully embraced in American culture, we have to fully embrace the rest of America in ours.

Professor Tracey May 13, 2008 at 1:25 PM  

Michael -

Why do black folks always have to be the ones doing what's good for America? What about the predominantly white colleges that fail to have diverse faculty and students? What about the same treatment in their spaces? And when have black people EVER not embraced white folks in our culture? Hell, did we ever have that option not to embrace them? They always excluded us by choice and then still expected to join our space as well!

Attorneymom May 15, 2008 at 6:12 PM  

Wow, Professor Tracey, this is the most you have ever responded in the comment section of your blog. LOL. I think.

Danielle May 16, 2008 at 4:41 PM  

Paul Robeson was valedictorian at virtually all-white Rutgers University in 1919. He also graduated Phi Beta Kappa and was inducted into Rugers's honor society. It's great that white guys are catching up...

Naima May 19, 2008 at 11:02 PM  

Did you hear this guy was actually the co valedictorian with a black man named Josh L Harris?

kntdc May 22, 2008 at 4:22 PM  

As a graduate of Morehouse College I'm offended by the tone of your blog entry. For someone who professes to be a conscious African-American, it's unfortunate that you'd swallow whole the mainstream media's attempt to characterize the students at Morehouse as slackers, ne’er-do-wells, and/or failures. Anyone who has ever spent time on Morehouse's campus would know that the only thing that differentiated Mr. Packwood from other students is his race. Morehouse consistently produces two or three Rhodes Scholar semi-finalists every year. Morehouse has actually produced three Rhodes Scholars (Mr. Packwood was only a semi-finalist) who were all African-American. Many students at Morehouse turn down full rides at Ivy League institutions for the experience our institution has to offer. Morehouse annually produces scores of young men who go to work at prestigious Wall Street companies, and is a feeder school for the most prestigious graduate schools in the nation. Where are the Morehouse students who are excelling in every way imaginable? On Morehouse’s campus. Of course this article makes no mention of the countless Morehouse Men who achieve great things. TO hear some about these men, and for a different take on this issue here’s an insightful article on this moment:

Professor Tracey May 22, 2008 at 8:34 PM  


First, the mainstream media had nothing to do with my post, I always speak my own mind on my blog!

Two, don't come on this blog questioning my black consciousness, you are welcome to your opinion on the issue at hand, but don't make cracks about me!

Three, Mr. Packwood was the valedictorian. In all your whining, you still offered no explanation for why that happened.
HBCUs exist for the SOLE purpose of black students to thrive in their own environment, when a white person starts beating you in your own space, that is a problem!

Four, at no time did I ever say that some brothers at Morehouse have not succeeded, but the TRUTH is that someone dropped the ball at Morehouse this year. Mr. Packwood was significantly out-numbered and walked away with one of the college's top honors - the real question is why aren't you offended by that very REAL fact!

Laurence May 25, 2008 at 3:00 PM  

Err I'd just like to point out, that the salutatorian, Shannon Joyner, had a 3.99 GPA and was pretty much the perfect student. The only reason he didn't have a 4.0 GPA was because of ONE A-minus grade...

Quite frankly, you can beat down on the black guys at Morehouse all you want but quite frankly, its not like this guy Packwood came in and absolutely wiped the floor with everyone. If a guy of Packwood's ability came to Morehouse, its gotta be expected that he's going to be somewhere near the top.

To be the valedictorian, its about quality not quantity, the amount of black guys at the college has absolutely nothing to do with it. Just because he was outnumbered, doesn't mean that he's automatically going to get beaten. There were quite a few Summa Cum Laude graduates at Morehouse this year, and the fact that an extremely talented, ivy league standard student such as Packwood was among them, says more about the quality of the College and its students rather than any supposed notion of "dropping the ball".

The fact that this is the FIRST time this has ever happened in over 100 years, shows that in order to be at the top at Morehouse, you have to be good enough to be at the top at any top institution, including the Ivy league ones that Packwood turned down.

I'm heading down to Morehouse this fall and I'm going to be part of the Honors Program. I'll let you know if the guys down there really are as inept as you think... you know... with all those Phi Beta Kappa candidates and what not...

Professor Tracey May 25, 2008 at 7:04 PM  


First, no one has "beat down" the brothers at Morehouse. I have said repeatedly that there are brothers doing well at Morehouse. Don't get mad at me for expecting black men to STRIVE for excellence. If you want to finish second to the white man, that's you!

The numbers do matter - this is a black institution!!!!! There are hundreds of predominantly white institutions that have NEVER had a person of color as valedictorian and black folks are celebrating the achievement for a white student? Please! You should be offended that the media has failed to celebrate the achievements of past black valedictorians!

Second, I know quite a few brothers that have failed out of Morehouse, so let's not be delusional. Morehouse is not Harvard or Yale. It's an HBCU, not an Ivy league institution.

Further, let's get real, most hite students are not attending Morehouse because they think its a great school, they are getting full scholarships and cheap tuition!

Hell, the guy that recruited Packwood didn't even know he was white, Packwood had to tell him. Only at an HBCU would such a thing happen!

Good luck to you at Morehouse in the fall, maybe you will be the brother to Mr. Packwood's younger brother from being the valedictorian in 2012!

And just a small word of advice from a long-term college professor, stop using the phrase "and what not." It doesn't exist as proper phrasing when discussing because nobody know swhat in the hell exactly is the "what not" you're talking about!

Laurence May 26, 2008 at 5:43 AM  

Thanks for that professor, a few things you just pointed out that I never knew before...

1. That you're psychic... honestly, I never knew that one guy could read the mind of all the white people who've ever been to Morehouse. Good going on that I suppose, guess Morehouse really doesn't have a reputation as a seat of higher learning

2. That I should be getting incredibly aggravated at the media for doing what it does all the time... focusing on cruel/unusual/unsavory stories from across the country. Honestly, if I had to get angry over every time the media does something like this I wouldn't make it to graduation due to heart failure.

3. That numbers always matter. That no matter the quality of those students or institutions, sheer weigh of numbers always wins out. Quick question though... how many of these PWI's do black students actually want to attend OVER a HBCU?

4. Surely as a Black professor, as a member of the black community, you can recognise the stature of Morehouse as one of the HBCU elite. Evidently this is not the case, and that Morehouse shouldn't be lauded for all its work... simply because its a HBCU

5. "only a HBCU" would let this happen? I guess that means that only the HBCU's would recruit students based on their ability alone and only look at race as an afterthought. Does that make sense?

6. That English rhetorical phrases (I'm from London, England)such as "what not" are not part of the American lexicon... even for a professor.

As for Packwood's brother, I wish him all the best and hope to see him graduate in 4 years. However professor, if you are so naive to believe that us men of Morehouse are going to just sit around and let another person become the Valedictorian, then I suggest you re-examine your expectations of the class of 2012. I know that I for one aim to be the Valedictorian, and I know that others will aim to do the same.

Professor Tracey May 26, 2008 at 10:45 AM  


For someone that has yet to set foot on a college campus or to earn a college degree, I think you could strongly benefit from listening a bit more to the folks with experience. You talk mighty big for someone that knows absolutely nothing.

You can be offended if you want to, but you need to do your research on college rankings. Morehouse is not Harvard or any other Ivy League, that's a fact. Period! It's not Howard University for that matter either! It's a solid liberal arts institution and there's nothing wrong with that.

Morehouse is not better than Hampton, Spelman, Grambling, Florida A&M, Tuskegee, North Carolina A&T, North Carolina Central, or Bennett, so what HBCU elite are you talking about? All HBCU's are unique and interesting institutions. You should spend some time at those intitutions before you start talking!

You clearly don't know much about American higher education, most people attend state institutions, it's cheaper and it's local. Most students in America are glad to go to college period! It's a select few in America that actually have the knowledge and means to know a particular institution that they want to attend.

And you clearly don't know a damn thing about the history of students at HBCU's. Many students that "want" to be at "elite" HBCUs are children or siblings of alumni. Some are athletes that play football and basketball because they didn't get recruited for Division I sports or didn't meet the grades for other institutions. And yes, there is a good percentage that want to attend an HBCU. With that said, most students at HBCUs are first time college attendees and are lucky to be at college, no matter the institution.

You also need to follow the facts, if you're going to respond to things on this blog. For a black college recruiter to spend time on the phone talking to Mr. Packwood and actually make the statement, "don't let them get you down" (refering to white folks)without knowing that Mr. Packwood was white, is hugely problematic. No white college recruiter would do that! My comment had nothing to do with race and admissionsa. Did you actually read the news stories on this case or are you just running your mouth?

And since I been teaching a hell of a lot longer that you have ever been a college student, I know quite a bit about black students. I stand by my original statement, Mr. Packwood should not be valedictorian, period. He earned the achievement, but it says something about what the so-called purpose of HBCUs is supposed to. You can continue to make excuses and talk about who finished second, but in my book that makes you the only naive person.

In America and in the "black" community, we challenge one antoher to be the best at all times, not to settle for second best. HBCUs are about tradition - black cultural traditions. What's next - a white homecoming king, an all-white historicallly black fraternity? It's a slippery slope once you start giving it away!

And lastly, we don't use "what not" in America. As a future black student in the U.S. I still strongly suggest you drop that phrase before you look foolish!

Laurence May 26, 2008 at 11:20 AM  

Thank you for this education professor, as there are clearly some things I didn't realise.

Morehouse College:
-one of two HBCU's to produce 3 Rhodes scholars
-Produced the first mayor of Atlanta, several congressmen, US Ambassadors and black professionals
-One of the top producers of scholars for America's leading graduate schools (the only HBCU on the list, Wall Street Journal circa 2003)
-Was ranked by Black Enterprise Magazine as the top institution for African Americans TWICE, and being ranked as the 4th best HBCU by US News.
ALL of these facts count for nothing by your methodology. Admittedly they slipped up badly on the latest BE rankings, but surely as a professor you should be aware of the anomalous nature of this incident.

- That once again, you are the omniscient source when it comes to the psyche of the college recruiter

- That a slippery slope argument was an acceptable format for a professor

I accept your comment that I have much to learn about the American education system. However, what I do know is that quite frankly, as a student, I am shocked that a supposed professor has sunken to the level of David Horowitz. Making statements without evidence or statistics, and then lambasting those who disagree with them.

Thank you for 'opening' my eyes. I hope that in the coming years, your colleagues in the teaching fraternity will recognise me as a less 'naive' student.

Professor Tracey May 26, 2008 at 11:48 AM  

I tell you what, until you actually earn a college degree or two and learn something about the American college experience, then maybe you can presume to lecture me about the American educational system or about being a professor.

You have a very limited knowledge and even more limited respect for people with more education and experience than yourself. I gave you plenty of information to work with, it's not my fault, you're to ignorant or stubborn to accept them. Try looking at the U.S News Reports on college rankings or Diverse Magazine or The Chronicle of Higher Education while you're quoting stats.

And I don't need to quote endless stats at someone that refuses to acknowledge that an HBCU is not the same as an Ivy League or private PWI institution like Williams College or Holy Cross College or it's all male counterpart, Wabash College. You're the newbie to high education, not me.

Nothing you stated disproved what I wrote about HBCUs. You just quoted a bunch of stats that self-served your argument. You didn't bother to address properly the majority of my response. You are welcome to defend Morehouse all day, it doesn't change the realities and limits of the institution. And I never said it's not a good school.

Further, you need to do a lot more research before you start comparing people to David Horowitz. Just the fact that you invoked his name at all, proves that you don't know what the hell you are talking about! You clearly don't know the work he does because his work doesn't have anything to do with this subject at all. You need to read both Dr. Steele's work before you talk anymore!

Once again, you need to ACTUALLY read the article supplied on this blog about the recruiter, so you will know that facts about the conversation between Mr. Packwood and the recruiter. No one needs to read anyone's mind, it's right there in black and white print. You seem to be the one with ESP, denying the facts because its suits your argument.

I wish you the best of luck with my colleagues, you're going to have a difficult time because you don't follow the facts and you don't want to admit the truth when it stares you in the face. And if you half as disrespectful with your professors at Morehouse as you have been on this blog, you're going to find yourself bounced out of Morehouse with quickness!

Lastly, this discussion has become quite pointless. You seem to know everything about attending college with actually having a college degree and you seem to know everything about being a professor without ever having taught, so there really is nothing further to say here.

Gook luck and best wishes to you at Morehouse in the fall!!!!

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