A debate brews among Black Ivy League students over representation on campus


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By Uwa Ede-Osifo

Some students have formed groups for what they call multigenerational African Americans, in an attempt to take up space and be counted on elite campuses where Black students overall are underrepresented, regardless of where they or their parents were born. (Chantal Jachan for NBC News)

Michaela Glavin did not feel a sense of belonging in the Black community when she arrived as a freshman at Harvard.

The Black student body was warm and welcoming, but as a multigenerational African American — a descendant of enslaved Africans brought to the U.S. — she said she felt like “a minority within a minority.” 

“The descendants of slavery on campus are woefully underrepresented,” said Glavin, now a junior. 

Black and Latino students have long been underrepresented on Ivy League campuses as a whole, even when these colleges practiced race-conscious admissions. So when the Supreme Court in June struck down affirmative action programs at Harvard and the University of North Carolina — effectively ending the systematic consideration of race in the admissions process — experts sounded the alarm that enrollment at elite colleges could drop for Black and Latino students

But African American students (and in this article, we’re using African American to specifically denote descendants of enslaved people) at Ivy League schools are concerned about a more nuanced shift: Admissions officers may be missing or ignoring the difference between descendants of enslaved people whose families have faced centuries of educational and economic racial disparities, and Black immigrant families who still face racism but are likely to be less tied to generational economic hurdles that can make elite educations unobtainable. 

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