By Craig Bates
After enrolling at Greater Valley State University, Scott James’ afro was the first thing to go.
(ATLANTA) It’s one of the unloved stepchildren of the country’s historically black college and university system, but Greater Valley State University hopes a drastic pilot program will change all that. The school, which shares its home with Spelman and Morehouse colleges—but is worlds away in terms of prestige— is one of 17 HBCUs to introduce the Carlton Banks Society.
The colleges hope the Society, introduced last fall, will make white acting and speaking black students feel more comfortable on their campuses.
“When ‘A Different World’ came on TV in the ‘90s, suburban black kids flocked to the black ivies—Hampton, Howard, Spelman and Morehouse—and the surge in enrollment has continued ever since,” says Sindiswa Franklin, Greater Valley’s dean of admissions. “But those students never considered us. We did a study and learned those kids just didn’t think they’d fit in here.”
The Carlton Banks Society helps white speaking and acting black students, who typically hail from middle- and upper-class suburban families, acclimate to a different kind of black life.
An orientation week etiquette class offers guidance on the proper way to eat fried chicken (without utensils) and the expected way to greet a fellow black person in passing (always nod, whether you know them or not.)
Each CBS student undergoes a fashion makeover. Upon arriving on campus, the young men are required to relinquish all belts and swap their chinos for low-riding denim. The ladies receive a $50 Visa check card and are taken on a fieldtrip to Southwest Atlanta’s Greenbriar Shopping Mall to become acquainted with some of the local Apple Bottom and Baby Phat retailers, beauty supply shops and nail salons.
In addition, each student receives an iPod nano, preloaded with the latest hip-hop hits, but programmed to reject downloads of any neo-soul, alternative or classic rock artists. A pocket dictionary helps explain unfamiliar terms like “case quarter” “boughie” and “shawty.”
So far, results of the program, which students attend for a semester, have been positive.
“I wish someone had taken me by the hand like this in high school,” said Scott James, 18, a freshman at the school, who grew up in Livonia, Mich., outside Detroit. “I got teased so much by the black kids because of the way I speak.” He laughed. “I mean, because of the way I speaks. It’s an ongoing learning process.”
Student Claymore Tyler agreed that James had made progress.
“When Scott first got here, he was wearing his pants around his waist like a Herb,” said Tyler, 21, a sophomore from Atlanta. “I still sometimes catch him at the store tryin’ to buy a belt. But now I just give him a look and he know what up.”
One first-year participant gained so much from the CBS she has even adopted a new name.
“Well, my name is still pronounced like ‘Gloria,’ but I spell it different now,” said the newly christened G’Loryah Reuben, 18, from Pittsford, N.Y., a tony suburb of Rochester. “I feel more down.”
Note: This article is satire, brought to you by the creative minds at The Peoples News. It’s not real, but we hope it made you think.
© 2008 The Peoples News