In loco parentis

In loco parentis September 14, 2015

Xavier University of Louisiana produces more black medical school students than any other institution in the United States. More than big state schools, prestigious private schools, more than anyone. The reason is simple: they have taken care of their students like parents.

Nikole Hannah-Jones tells the story at the New York Times:

Marybeth Gasman, an education professor and the head of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Minority Serving Institutions, which does research on and assists colleges that serve large numbers of black, Latino, Asian and Native American students, has carefully examined Xavier’s program and says no school is better at developing students’ shared responsibility for one another’s success. ‘‘It is dumbfounding to see,’’ she said.

She describes Prof. J.W. Carmichael, who has headed the pre-med program since its inception in 1970.

Former students told me again and again that Carmichael’s involvement was something akin to fierce parenting; he believed in his students and would not let them fail. He would stand in the hall, near a wall decorated with the photos of smiling Xavierites who had become doctors, and reprimand students who professors reported had missed a class or a deadline. Students had to turn in cards signed by their professors showing how they had done on quizzes. Carmichael would send letters to parents on brightly colored paper saying, ‘‘Your child wants to go to medical school,’’ but warning that for some reason, the student hadn’t done x, y and z. If that didn’t work, he would pick up the phone and call a student’s home. ‘‘There is a constant monitoring,’’ Francis said. ‘‘We expect you to learn, and if you need support, you are going to get it.’’ He has a name for this system: love and pain.

This is a success story, even though there are not enough black doctors in the United States and even though black students are underserved by colleges and universities in this country. Read the whole story, including Hannah-Jones’ helpful analysis, here.

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