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Abdulalim A. Shabazz Born: May 22, 1927 Birthplace: Bessemer, Alabama
A.B. (1949) in Math. and Chemistry from Lincoln University (PA); M.S. (1951) in Mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Ph.D. (1955) in Mathematics from Cornell University thesis: On the Distribution of Eigenvalues of the Equation: Integral of A(S-T) PHI (T) with Respect to T Between Lower Limit -A and Upper Limit A=Rho (Integral of B(S-T)); advisor: Mark Kac
: Distinguished Professor of Mathematics at Lincoln University (PA) URL: email: ashabazz@lu.lincoln.edu


In three years (1949), Abdulalim A. Shabazz (also known as Lonnie Cross, and Lonnie Shabazz) earned a A.B. in Math. and Chemistry from Lincoln University (PA). Two years later he earned an M.S. in Mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1951). A Ph.D. (1955) in Mathematics from Cornell University followed.

From 1952-53, Shabazz was an Assistant Mathematician with Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory (Buffalo). He was a Research Mathematician with the Metals Research Laboratory of the Electro Metallurgical Co. (Niagara Falls) in 1955. Dr. Shabazz was appointed as Assistant Professor of Mathematics by Tuskegee Institute in 1956. From 1957 to 1963, Dr. Abdulalim A. Shabazz served as Chairman and Associate Professor of Mathematics at Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta). Shabazz shocked the mathematics community when he announced, in 1961, that he was a member of the Nation of Islam. He was appointed Director of Education for University of Islam #4 in Washington, DC in 1963, a position he served in until 1975. From 1975 until 1986, Dr Shabazz taught in Chicago, Detroit, and in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. In 1986, Shabazz returned to Clark Atlanta University where he served as Chair from 1990 to 1995. Contrary to numerous awards, below, controversy has apparently marked the recent career of Dr. Shabazz as he was removed, in 1995, from the department chairmanship of Clark Atlanta despite outstanding successes in educating numerous graduate and undergrate students in mathematics at Clark Atlanta University, Atlanta, GA. From 1997 until 2000 Dr. Shabazz was Chairman of the Mathermatics Department at Lincoln University (PA). He was removed from the Chair position at the Historically Black College for advocating more Blacks be hired as faculty (text of an interview is below). He is remains Distinguished Professor of Mathematics at Lincoln University.

SIGNIFICANT AWARDS
  1. American Association for the Advancement of Science. AAAS presented him with the 1992 "Mentor Award" for his leadership in efforts to increase the participation of women, minorities, and individuals with physical disabilities in science and engineering.
  2. He received the National Association of Mathematicians Distinguished Service Award for his years of mentoring and teaching excellence.
  3. He also is a 1995 recipient of the QEM/MSE Giants in Science Award.
  4. President Clinton awarded Dr. Shabazz with a National Mentor award in September 2000.
  5. In 2001, the Association of African American Educators awarded Shabazz with its Lifetime Achievement Award for outstanding work with African Americans in mathematics.
RESEARCH


Area of Research Interests: Analysis:

SELECTED PUBLICATIONS


Generalizations of two well-known results on Hermitian forms, Proceedings of Dynamic Systems and Applications, Vol. 1 (Atlanta, GA, 1993), 301--305, Dynamic, Atlanta, GA, 1994.

web page references: Dr. Shabazz (communications); Black Mathematicians and their Works .

SUMMA's Shabazz web page: http://www.maa.org/summa/archive/shabazz.htm

Black Math Guru Removed as Chairman

The Black World Today interview with Abdulalim Shabazz

11-10-00 By James C. McIntosh, M.D.

Dr. Abdulalim Shabazz the legendary mathematics professor recently cited by President Clinton for his mentoring in the fields of science and mathematics has just been removed from his position as Chairman of the department of mathematics and Computer Science at the historically Black College, Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. Dr. Shabazz

An interim chairman, mathematician, Dr. Goro Nogase, a Japanese immigrant, has been selected to replace the imminent teacher. With Dr. Shabazz's removal, Lincoln University has lost its last African-American chairman of a science department at the university. What's the story? Simply read the charges below submitted by Lincoln University Dean Of The School Of Natural Sciences, J. O. Chikwem. The seven charges levied against Dr. Shabazz read more like compliments than criticisms. Accusations such as forbidding the use of screening exams, making faculty discuss racial injustice at mathematics departmental meetings and attempting to circumvent university hiring procedures (to hire Black instructors) help paint a picture of the man who has apparently labored and fought hard to achieve the spectacular results he has in the area of mathematics education.

Shabazz has personally been credited with training directly and indirectly nearly half the Blacks who earned doctorate degrees in mathematics in the United States. Ultimately Dr. Shabazz's accusations will stand as a greater testament of his service to African people than any other awards he has received, including his recent presidential citation. What follows is the word for word interview with Dr. Shabazz by The Cemotap Drum, the monthly newspaper of The Committee To Eliminate Media Offensive To African People, based in Queens, N.Y.

Drum: Dr. Shabazz, can you tell us in your own words what are the allegations that have been leveled against you, that have resulted in your removal as the Chairman of The Department of Mathematics and Computer Science at Lincoln University?

Dr. Shabazz: Recently Dean of The School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, J.O. Chikwem submitted to the Vice President of Academic Affairs, a memorandum containing a number of allegations of problems of which he says he learned in a meeting he held with faculty of my Department while I was away in Washington receiving The Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring.

Allegation 1. reads as follows, "Faculty of the department complained about the cessation of placement tests by Dr. Shabazz and his refusal to entertain any discussions on the issue. They observed that weaker students are therefore not given the opportunity to improve their mathematical skills. They report that Dr. Shabazz views the placement tests as not reflective of the students ability and that remedial mathematics is degrading to minority students."

This accusation of course is not coming from the majority of the faculty and is of course inaccurate. The accusations came in the main from one white adjunct professor by the name of Laurellen Landau Treisner who submitted a list of grievances, which include most of these later submitted by Dean Chikwem. Chikwem and others wanted me to apologize to Dr. Treisner for her grievances, all of which either were untrue or not wrong. I of course refused. The issue of screening tests and my opposition to them are nothing to apologize for. I have carefully reviewed the literature and experienced, firsthand, the impact of using standard placement tests to determine if students can perform College level mathematics. The techniques I have developed to make this determination without the testing I utilize to greater success than the testers. The majority of the faculty in my department agrees with me. The supporters of this roadblock method of teaching are taking advantage of a mathematical fallacy called Pascal's paradox that is quite easily disproved.

Drum: What is Pascal's Paradox type teaching?

Dr. Shabazz: In this type of teaching a person is told that it can be proven that he cannot walk across the room. The so-called proof is that before you can walk across the whole room, you must walk across half the room and before you can walk across half of the room you must walk across half of that and so on and so on. The simplest proof you can offer is to walk across the room. Dr. Treisner and those who think like she does, do not need placement tests to teach the students mathematics. They need a placement test to avoid teaching the students mathematics. I can create a longer list of students who would have been screened out by these tests that I ultimately sent to earn their PhD degrees than Treisner can create of those who even earned bachelor's degrees in mathematics and went through the placement test, remediation roadblock she and her supporters propose. I was brought to the University to produce students with excellent skills in mathematics. I must use and teach my faculty to use techniques with a record of success, not follow the advice of those who predict failure, see failure, have failed everywhere they have seen dark skin. These naysayers desire to obstruct not only the students, but those who know how to teach the students. As for the allegation that I find remedial mathematics as degrading to minority students, this is Dr. Chikwem's understanding of another nameless person's understanding of what I have said.

In other words, it is hearsay, as is most of the material in his memorandum. What I have said is that enrolling a student in a whole course of nothing but arithmetic is degrading, demoralizing and unnecessary. In 1986 when I came to a department at Clark Atlanta University in which nearly all of the students were placed in such classes, I was told the same thing. My reply at that time was "give me your very worst ones and I will show you that they can achieve excellence in the mathematical sciences." By 1990 even the naysayers learned enough from my results to make me the chairman of the Mathematical Sciences Department. By 1995 the worst of the naysayers could offer no arguments only opposition. The Mathematical Association of America, however, cited that department as one of the top 10 for students in America. Drum: That brings us right to Dr. Chikwem's second allegation, "Faculty complained of Dr. Shabazz putting pressure on them to give students higher grades than they earned in order to encourage them to study mathematics. This results in grade inflation; students get good grades and still cannot solve basic mathematical problems. Many faculty believe that this practice hurts the students instead of helping them. They also believe that Dr. Shabazz evaluates faculty based on the grades given to students."

Dr. Shabazz: The unquantified, unspecified word, faculty, is Dr. Chikwem's devise for obscuring the fact that this complaint is a groundless distortion and comes in fact from Dr. Treisner's earlier "gripe list." No faculty could ever say that I asked them to give a grade that a student did not deserve. I will not, however, allow to go unchallenged a faculty member whose eye is on a career as a gatekeeper and roadblocker and getting paid for teaching easy courses to students they feel deserve no better. I evaluate faculty on how well they teach the students, not grade the students. The purpose of the grade should be to reward hard work and achievement based on the students' abilities and progress. That does encourage students but not just to feel good but also to continue to work hard and to continue to achieve more. That is not grade inflation it is the technique of encouraging excellence. Teaching at a Historically Black University is not a career for pessimists, bean counters or the myopic. I am pointing at the moon while Drs. Chikwem and Treisner are talking about a speck of dirt they imagine to be under my fingernail.

Drum: What about Allegation 3. "Decisions on curriculum changes and text book selection are often carried out by Dr. Shabazz without the consultation of other faculty. This has resulted in some course syllabi being changed in the middle of the semester."

Dr. Shabazz: Again this allegation comes right from Treisner's false gripe list. I believe in discussing everything of importance including textbooks at departmental meetings. We have more meetings than most departments and at these meetings I have made clear that one of my requirements is that textbooks must teach college level mathematics and not be white supremacist in nature. If they begin with history of mathematics as most of them do, they cannot present a false strictly European origin of mathematics. They must also not exclude dark faces, if they contain faces of people in the illustrations. My approach to the teaching of mathematics is wholistic. Everything is done to address both the skills and the esteem of the students we serve. I am willing to discuss the textbooks and the curriculum until the cows come home. If after the discussion, however, a faculty member contrary to the departmental decision wants to still use a textbook outside of the restrictions we as a department have set or if they want to dummy down the curriculum, I have no choice but to issue that faculty member a directive. No faculty member other than Dr. Treisner has taken such a position or had to be issued such a directive. Even in the case of Dr. Treisner the change occurred mid year and not midsemester.

Drum: The next accusation almost needs no defense but for the record how do you respond to the accusation that you used to talk about White Supremacy at departmental meetings instead of mathematics. Dr. Chikwem writes, "Departmental meetings do not often address issues relevant to mathematics and computer science. Many meetings become forums for motivational speeches as well as lectures by Dr. Shabazz on racial injustices against African Americans. Sometimes, relevant literature on these issues are (sic) distributed to faculty. Many faculty (members) view this as insensitive and a major cause of tension in the department. Dr. Treisner's allegation of harassment and hostile work environment partly emanates from this practice."

Dr. Shabazz: I am very disturbed that a faculty member insensitive to the circumstances affecting her student's performance and preparation would object to attempts to educate her. In our Department we are not just about the work of mathematics. We are about mathematics education and mental liberation. The major portion of our meeting is devoted to mathematics the rest about issues relevant to mathematics education. It is Dr. Treisner's inability to see the relevance, which is responsible for her poor performance as a teacher. Dr. Chikwem's priority seems to be the comfort of this one lady. For her it appears he would sacrifice a hundred students. What differentiates them from her? How does he set his priorities? I am not trying to create a department of comfort for people simply looking for an easy job-sitting roadblock. I am on the mission I have been on all of my academic life. That mission is to promote academic excellence and liberate the minds of those who come to us to be educated. Faculty unwilling to educate or be educated will continue to be uncomfortable. Excellence not comfort was the priority in the Department of Mathematics and Computer Science while I was chairman. There were those who were uncomfortable when Jackie Robinson entered baseball. However, his entry brought excellence to the game. His entry could never have occurred if those who brought him in only discussed baseball in meetings. They had to discuss the same thing we have to discuss to bring in the disenfranchised masses of students that can perform excellently if they are only not blocked out. We must continue to discuss what is blocking them out and that is the ideology of white supremacy. Dr. Treisner should look long and deeply into the mirror to discover what is making her uncomfortable. I will help her look in the mirror if she only talks to me. She must not personalize comments or literature about white supremacy unless she believes that she is personally culpable. If she is and wants to learn I will help her in the way I will help any student trying to learn. She cannot expect me with 70 plus years of experience in living and over 47 years of teaching to automatically subordinate my views because she disagrees. It is my job with the assistance and advice from faculty as a whole to make decisions. Dr. Treisner must again look into the mirror to determine what makes her feel that we should automatically yield to her views. Dr. Chikwem should also ask himself what is it about Dr. Treisner that would have him adopt her views over mine and over the opinion of so many others?

Drum: What about the accusation that you indulged in unfair hiring practices. Allegation 5. reads "Faculty complained of a hiring practice which violates established Lincoln University policy. In some instances, there were no search committees and in others, the recommendations of the interviewing committee were not followed. This has further resulted in more hostility and suspicion in the department. At least in one instance there was a legal contest."

Dr. Shabazz: Our Department has never violated University hiring policy. Even Dr. Treisner had never held a full time faculty position on a tenured track until I became chairman. Do I try to recruit African American instructors? Of course, but I do so within the procedures and policies of the University.

Drum: Dr. Shabazz, are you the tyrant they say? Allegation 6. reads "Some faculty complained that Dr. Shabazz does not delegate any authority to his faculty. Every decision must be taken by him personally. Therefore, when he is away on his frequent travels, no one makes a decision on any issue no matter how urgent until Dr Shabazz returns."

Dr. Shabazz: The nameless faculty member is again Dr. Treisner who complained in her gripe list that in 1999 I accused her of usurping my authority not for a minor urgent decision but for changing the curriculum and announcing it at a Departmental meeting without my approval. If Drs. Treisner and Chikwem were not so obsessed with screening out students she feels cannot learn and he apparently feels are "weak" potential embarrassments to the reputation of the University, my attention to detail and involvement in all aspects of the Department that can promote academic excellence would be seen as no crime. There are many instances in which I delegate authority. A translation of Treisner's complaint is that not enough authority is delegated to her and sympathizers of the roadblock method of miseducation to subvert the mission of creating mathematics excellence among all the students. Treisner's agenda is to change the curriculum to accommodate mathematics at a level low enough for her to pretend to teach as she stands as a roadblock to the teaching of mathematics to those she considers too low to learn.

Drum: The final Allegation reads, "Some faculty complained that more courses and teachers were needed in Computer Science. Although there are currently eleven faculty in the Department, Computer Science is a fast growing area which needs experienced teachers to cover a lot of the newer areas in the field.

Dr. Shabazz: We do need more teachers and more courses in Computer Science. If I am ever permitted to lead without addressing and spending so much time and writing to naysayers, we will get them. I have trained more chairmen of Departments of Mathematics and Computer Science than we have faculty. Recently even the President of the United States acknowledged my abilities and accomplishments by signing a certificate celebrating and acknowledging my skills as a science, mathematics, and engineering mentor. Apparently mentoring is not what the roadblockers want. That is why I will never apologize to the roadblockers and oppressors of my people-not for a chairmanship not for a thousand chairmanships.

2000 The Black World Today. All Rights Reserved.

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