After the suicide of a beloved administrator at Lincoln University, a historically Black college in Jefferson City, Missouri, members of the HBCU community discuss the unique challenges Black women endure in higher education and the related mental health issues brought about by such obstacles.
Lincoln University of Missouri released a statement detailing the death of their Vice President of Student Affairs, Dr. Antoinette Candia-Bailey, after she took her own life on Jan. 8.
A post made by Lincoln University acknowledged Candia-Bailey’s significance and invaluable contributions to the university via its Instagram account @LUBlueTigers.
“Dr. Bailey had many friends in the Lincoln University community. As a Blue Tiger community, we grieve with them and send our deepest condolences to Dr. Bailey’s family,” Lincoln University said via the social media post.
Candia-Bailey was an alumna of Lincoln University, a soror of the Alpha Iota chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. as well as a loving wife to her husband, Anthony Bailey, according to her obituary. Candia-Bailey died by suicide only nine months after she started her position in May 2023 causing suspicion about the circumstances that led to her death.
According to ABC News, Candia-Bailey had claimed through a letter she wrote dated Jan. 8, that she faced mistreatment and “bullying” by her colleagues, particularly John B. Mosely, who is the current president of Lincoln University.
In the letter, Bailey provided context about a working relationship that involved incessant and unnecessary negativity and mistreatment. “I couldn’t even finish the meeting because you didn’t hear me. I left in tears. You intentionally harassed and bullied me and got satisfaction from sitting back to determine how you would ensure I failed as an employee and proud alumna,” Candia-Bailey wrote.
Logan Brown, a senior honors political science major and women, gender and sexualities studies minor from Charlotte, North Carolina, considers this to be a result of both misogyny and racism intertwined, known to some as “misogynoir.” The term was coined by black feminist writer Moya Bailey in 2008.
“The unfortunate death of Dr. Candia-Bailey calls to a larger issue of rampant misogynoir inside and outside of HBCU campuses,” Brown said. “For a woman in Dr. Candia-Bailey’s position, there is very little grace given for mistakes made, and perfection is demanded.”
Candia-Bailey’s alleged bullying and suicide have caused many Lincoln students to call for Mosely’s resignation, according to NBC. The situation has also elevated a long-standing conversation and concern about Black women enduring mistreatment in their workplace.
“I’m deeply troubled by Dr. Candia-Bailey’s passing, its impact on the Lincoln community, and the HBCU community as a whole. While I don’t know the extent of the bullying she endured, I do know that any form of intimidation or browbeating is wrong,” JoVon McCalester, an Afro-American studies professor at Howard University, said.
As Candia-Bailey’s death has received national attention, it adds to an ongoing conversation about the mental health of Black women of all ages.
In Dec. 2022, Nursing Research released a paper detailing that Black women are less likely to report various symptoms of depression including feelings of hopelessness and sadness. Alternatively, they have mentioned an inability to experience pleasure, irritability, self-criticism and trouble sleeping.
“Depression in Black women is real! We are not ‘super and strong’ in the sense that we do not feel or hurt. Our accomplishments, degrees and successes do not exempt Black women from mental health challenges,” Lakeiya Dulcio, a Howard graduate student, research analyst and Newark, New Jersey native, said.
According to Columbia University, suicide rates among Black women have drastically increased over the last 20 years, with women aged 15 to 84 experiencing two deaths per 100,000 in 1999 to 3.4 per 100,000 in 2020. Black women and girls aged 15 to 24 had one of the sharpest increases as their rates rose from 1.9 to 4.9 deaths per 100,000 across two decades.
The American Psychological Association also stated that historically Black college and university students of color were less likely to receive mental health resources than their white counterparts.
Giniah Moncrieffe, a junior legal communications major and sports administration minor from Miami, Florida, shared her perspective on the circumstances related to HBCU students’ mental health.
“We do have mental health days, but we don’t have resources being thrown at us for mental health, so I feel like giving us these resources and telling us where to go and telling us what’s available is the best option for a safe space,” Moncrieffe said.
Copy edited by Alana Matthew