Chiquita Jackson started this school year at the University of Kansas with a historic opportunity: She was elected to serve as the first president of the Multicultural Student Government. The University of Kansas MSG was born in the in fall, 2015 following the student protests and hunger strike by black students and boycott by football players at the University of Missouri. In 2015, the student government at the University of Kansas became a contested site of race and representation; in response, students of color created a separate governing body, the Multicultural Student Government, in 2016. Jackson was elected the organization’s president in 2017, making her both the first to lead the organization and one of the few black women leaders on campus.
But by February, the story turned bleak and messy. Jackson, a 23-year-old senior majoring in political science, was removed from office after only one semester. Two black men led the effort to remove Jackson from office. Anthonio Humphrey, former vice president of MSG, said that she mishandled funds, behaved disrespectfully toward members and was unfair to other racial minorities. This ultimately led to the organization’s call for her resignation.
Ariana Jenkins, a recent graduate of the University of Kansas, said misogyny played a role in ousting Jackson. Jenkins pointed out that a former chief of staff for the organization had been accused of mishandling funds but was given an opportunity to make repayment. Unlike Jackson, that student is a man. “He was given the chance to reimburse MSG, but Jackson was not given that same chance,” Jenkins said. “The protocol in the entire removal process was very messy. There was not enough time for them to highlight the points in which they were trying to dismiss her from the presidency.”
The challenges to Jackson’s leadership exhibit the obstacles that black women face on college campuses when they find themselves in positions of power. Regardless of whether they are students or administrators, when black women are leaders in academia, they are forced to face the twin hurdles of racism and sexism. This kind of resistance to their leadership, along with institutional barriers, may contribute to the dearth of black women leaders on college campuses: Only 7 percent of student body presidents in the 2017–18 school year were black women, according to an American Student Government Association database. In 2016 only 5 percent of college presidents were women of color, while 25 percent were white women, according to the American Council of Education.
Where Are the Black Women Leaders?
Despite being underrepresented in campus leadership, black women receive a majority of higher-education degrees earned by all black students, earning 68 percent of associate’s degrees, 66 percent of bachelor’s degrees, 71 percent of master’s degrees and, 65 percent of doctoral degrees, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.