Few Students Of Color Make Cum Laude

This year’s Cum Laude Society inductees confirm a trend that has existed at Andover for the past five years. Black and Latino students continue to be underrepresented in Phillips Academy’s Cum Laude Society. Since 2004, only five black students have been inducted into the Cum Laude Society. None was inducted in 2004 or 2006. The percentage of black students in each class of inductees has never surpassed 10 percent in any given year. Cum Laude is based solely on a student’s grade point average over four terms and consists of two waves, once in Senior winter and again in Senior spring. The most recent induction of black students in the first wave of Cum Laude was in 2005, when two black students were inducted. This instance is the only time in the past five years in which black students were inducted in the first wave. Latino students have also been underrepresented in the Cum Laude Society. Only two students who describe themselves as fully Latino have been inducted in the last five years. In addition, two students who describe themselves as biracial with part Latino were inducted in 2004. Since then, there have not been any Latino students inducted. These numbers are in stark contrast to the numbers of white and Asian students inducted into Cum Laude. The number of white students in each wave of inductions has only once fallen below 10 since 2004. The percentage of Asians in each round of inductions has once dropped below 20 percent, during the spring round in 2005. Rebecca Sykes, Associate Head of School, said that “it is the school’s intention to give all students equal opportunity to excel across the entire educational program, as well as athletics and student leadership.” “It’s hard to know whether the problem will correct itself or if it needs specific attention,” Sykes said of the administration’s plans to correct the problem. Linda Griffith, Dean of CAMD, said that there were a number of factors that could have led to the small number of black students in the Cum Laude Society. One factor, Griffith said, was that “a lot of blacks come from ill-equipped schools. This leads to a preparation gap.” Griffith described this “preparation gap” as a difference in the skill sets of students when they begin school at Andover. She also said that black students often had increased stress due to “spotlighting,” the pressure on students to succeed due to their race. She said that spotlighting can hinder academic achievement. Andover’s mentoring programs were created to help students “figure out the Andover way to success,” said Griffith. Griffith also pinpointed these issues to different values of achievement. She said that black students have often stated that they are less concerned with a high GPA and more interested in other non-graded projects, such as community service. Griffith said providing mentorship and academic support was a step to increase black students’ grades. “The goal is to make it possible for students from all backgrounds to qualify for Cum Laude, not to guarantee it,” she said. The school administration has attempted to address the underrepresentation of certain minority groups. Andover’s 1999 Greener study examined at the ability of black and Latino students to “be themselves” and achieve success “alongside their peers.” The research conducted concluded that black and Latino Students were as able to retain their identities as well as other students, and were comparable academically, although some faculty members believed that “black and Latino students do not always challenge themselves by taking upper-level courses.” The study also found that more black and Latino students from Andover later earned advanced degrees than did other racial groups. The completion of the study resulted in 21 recommendations to resolve issues of underrepresentation of black and Latino students in the faculty and student body. The suggestions included funding a Latino advisor for CAMD, recruiting additional faculty of color and reestablishing of an informal math mentoring program for black and Latino Students.