African-American at Carroll

By George Sample ’02, ’12G

Back in March, I was attending an early morning John Carroll alumni event when I was told the University was planning to host a panel of black alums to discuss their experiences as Carroll students. The panel was to be one of the events JCU planned in response to the Georgetown report, which revealed that Archbishop John Carroll owned at least one slave. I volunteered to assemble the panel.

Four of the five alums I recruited graduated in 2011 or later. I composed the panel that way because I wanted the audience to view the JCU environment the panel experienced as an environment similar to the one current black JCU students experience. Some of the questions that the panel addressed included:
• Why did you choose JCU?
• How were your academic experiences and relationships with your professors?
• How was your experience with JCU students?
• Would you recommend JCU to others?

I didn’t know what to expect from the panel. I asked them to be candid because the audience came to hear honesty – good and bad – about their experiences. Each panelist had a different viewpoint, but a few common themes emerged.

The panel was generally satisfied with their academic experiences; however, there were times when they felt uncomfortable with the way their professors engaged with them. One panelist had great interactions with her professors for her first year and a half. But once she started taking courses in her major, she noticed a negative change in the way her professors interacted with her.

Another panelist spoke about a professor who had students select music to play in the background of the next class. When it was this student’s turn to pick a song, the professor said, “Oh, you’d know some great jazz for us to listen to.”

The panelists believed the University could have been more active to make sure non-white students felt more integrated into the campus culture. Not feeling like part of the campus fabric prompted the panelists to seek external social avenues, such as Greek organizations on other campuses or additional involvement with their home church. Despite this, most of the panelists enjoyed their overall Carroll experience and would recommend the school to other black students, with the advice to obtain a more thorough understanding of the environment they’re choosing.

The panel discussed the need for thorough engagement with students before they begin their freshman year and during their first few months on campus. This engagement should include all students to help them strengthen their awareness of different cultures and subcultures.

The panelist pointed to specific programs such as the Bridge Program, which provided classes during the summer before students began their freshman year. It was a great opportunity to become accustomed to doing college-level work and build relationships among a small cohort of classmates. The multicultural affairs office offered the program in the past to help diverse students transition from high school to Carroll.

Another recommendation from the panel was to diversify the high schools from which JCU recruits to have more diverse backgrounds and perspectives of students who attend the University.

As for my experience, I’ve had the opportunity to be involved with John Carroll through an array of different roles. I:
• received my undergrad and graduate degrees from the school;
• have served as president of the Alumni Association;
• have served on the Board of Directors;
• have taught a class; and
• currently serve on the steering committee for the Blue Gold Club.

My continued involvement with JCU has provided me with the opportunity to discuss John Carroll with black alums from the ’60s through present day. It’s been an honor to get to know these alumni and discuss a shared experience. Many of the aforementioned views discussed in the panel this past March align with the conversations I’ve had throughout the years. Hopefully, the panel’s conversation can be another step toward a more inclusive experience for all students at John Carroll.

Sample is manager of organizational and employee development for the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District.


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