HBCU alumni respond as the Trump Administration does it again and Black folks walk away felling used, tricked and uncertain about Trump's motives
By Niele Anderson
In the month of February White House Correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks April D. Ryan continually pressed the White House about their agenda for HBCUs. Through a series of push backs the opportunity presented itself with the support of controversial, HBCU alumni and Whitehouse Director of Communications for the Office of Public Liaison, Omarosa Manigault.
Mixed emotions were felt after the meeting with Morgan State University President David Wilson tweeting:
Tashni-Ann Dubroy President at Shaw University
Posted on Facebook:
“Regardless of the outcome of our meeting, what mattered is that over 80 presidents went to the White House to meet with President Trump and advocate for HBCUs, for our students, our alumni, our faculty and our staff. Shout out to my fellow HBCU prezzies who were called to serve. I have mad love for the presidents who could not make it today, or who chose not to attend. Regardless of your decision or your circumstances, we are in the good fight together.”
Morehouse College President John Wilson Jr., called the meeting “troubling.” Grambling State University President Rick Gallot shared, more than 90 percent of the students at Grambling are eligible for the federal Pell grant, and added he would like to see the program strengthened and made into a year-round opportunity.
The President of Dillard University Walter M. Kimbrough stated he was “still processing that entire experience”. He was scheduled to speak to an audience which included Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and VP Mike Pence. He was allotted 7 to 15 minute to speak. He wanted to use his time to talk about Pell grants. But that was quickly squashed when an announcement was made that they were being summoned to the White House to meet with Trump. Which turned into nothing more than a photo opportunity and chance for Kellyann Conway to slightly spread eagle on the president’s couch in front of the HBCU presidents.
The next day they were called back for an additional photo-op with Trump signing an executive order calling for $25 billion for infrastructure, college readiness, financial aid and other priorities. With no real funding allocation. It also moved the HBCU White House Initiative from the Department of Education to the White House which more than likely Omarosa will oversee.
President Ronald Reagan created the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities by executive order in 1981. In 1989, President George H.W. Bush established a Presidential Advisory Board on HBCUs, and in 2002, President George W. Bush transferred the initiative from the White House to the Department of Education. Under the Obama administration the Initiative attempted to build bridges for the HBCU colleges and businesses which would lead to experience and more job opportunities.
Although Omarosa is not a favorite in the African American community having her oversee the program will hopefully be better than the Education Department. Department head Betsy DeVos’ who obliviously, praised HBCUs as “pioneers” in school choice that gave black students more options to pursue higher education.
Majority of HBCU’s are in red, or Republican-controlled states, and the colleges are heavily reliant on federal and state funding to survive. During the time HBCU’s were created they were not created for a better choice but rather the only option to segregation and racism.
Wilson, president of Howard went on to say, “HBCUs were not created because the 4 million newly freed blacks were unhappy with the choices they had,” he said. “They were created because they had no choices at all. That is not just a very important distinction, it is profoundly important.”
While the debate continues we decided to catch up with some HBCU alumni’s here and Los Angeles to see what they thought of the White House visit:
Jacquelyn M. Horton- Hampton University
I’d prefer my school stay as far away from this administration as possible. Hampton has been unbought and un-bossed since 1868. We’ve been doing a great job of expanding on our own. I don't trust the current administration and don't won't their fingerprints anywhere near Hampton and our great institution. I don’t have a problem with HBCU presidents meeting with the current president because it’s good to know what's going on. But I do think they should stay as far away from partnerships as they can. This is really a time for us to up our giving campaigns. We have to give more so the schools won't need the Feds help.
Ronald R-Tistic Turner - Florida A&M University
“I’m not mad that the Presidents of any HBCU’s accepting the meeting with Trump, but I still see it as a photo op that will not lead to any true progress or change. I don’t believe this current administration has our best interests in mind.”
Marion Kendrick- Alcorn State University
I don’t feel much was accomplished during the summit. I believe the statements made by Betsy DeVos showed a lack of education about the history of HBCU’s and the plight of minorities to be admitted into institutions of higher learning. I feel bad for students who rely on Federal Aid, because they may someday be forced to withdraw from school due to more budget cuts. I’m moreover fearful because Betsy Devos lacks the insight about struggles of minorities in this country which lead to the founding of HBCU’s from the start. In addition, Mrs. Devos nor her children received a public education, which further bolsters her ignorance regarding the needs of students needing assistance such as financial aid and other funding.
I don’t feel like my school alone can do much to change this. I think it will take a collective effort made by all schools and alumni members. We, as HBCU alumni members, must start giving back and helping more to raise funds for our institutions instead of only showing up for Homecoming and Classics.
Zoltan Sharif- Grambling State University
As the president of the University, I understand why Gallot took the meeting at the WH. And since Grambling is in need of money and in search of it at both the state and federal level, as a steward, he's not likely to be in a place where he can be opinionated and speak freely. I would much rather he reach out to Alumni and present us with a plan that we can get behind and support.
Sherri McGee McCovey- Spellman University
As a proud graduate of Spelman College, I was pleased that President Mary Schmidt Campbell informed the student body and Alumna of her plan to attend the White House visit along with other HBCU Presidents. While I do not agree with the current administration on many issues, I think it was important for the Presidents of HBCU's to have a seat at the table to voice the concerns of our Historically Black institutions of higher learning and what is needed to ensure they obtain the funding needed to keep these hallowed doors open. I was disappointed after the visit, however, to get a follow-up email that the visit did not seem to be productive in addressing concrete ways to address the concerns. It is my personal opinion that the visit was nothing more than a Black History Month photo-op. Only time will tell. But I don't expect much.
Alex Martin Johnson- Morehouse College
As an alumnus of Morehouse College, while I am appreciative of the initial meeting and believe that HBCU presidents have an enormous responsibility to position their institutions to draw down both federal and private dollars, it was my hope that the meeting would have been more than a photo-op. The President and his Secretary of Education would benefit from actually engaging in substantive conversations around the challenges that HBCU's face and the significant contributions they make to this nation. Morehouse College should forcefully hold this administration accountable across the board and refuse to participate in any additional meaningless photo-ops that attempt to normalize this President and his administration.