Like the majority of HBCU alumni, I too joined the collective side-eye of each and every HBCU president that chose to meet with the Trump Administration as the culminating event of Black History Month.
I was embarrassed for us. And I was angry at our leaders.
My immediate thoughts were, “Are y’all that out of touch? Y’all don’t see the setup here? Where do y’all get y’all’s optimism from, because I need some of that.”
I believe that the only appropriate response to Trump or anyone else in his circle if they ask anything is a defiant, “Nah.”
“Would you like to meet with us to discuss…” Nah.
“We were planning to visit your campus on…” Nah.
“I’m lost, can you point me in the direction of…” Nah.
Then I saw this tweet:
The answer isn't President Trump giving us money, the real solution is having an increase in Alumni funding. We have to keep our HBCUs alive
— HBCU Pride Nation (@HBCUPrideNation) March 1, 2017
I am a proud alumnus of North Carolina A&T. I am also ashamed that I have not donated one cent back to my alma mater. While in undergrad, a message that I missed was the importance of students financially contributing back to their university, or the conversation about where the money goes, or even how the school receives funding in order to run. An internal struggle I also face is where do I find additional money to give to the university, when I’m still overwhelmed by debts I still owe for the education I received?
Despite that, does it rest solely on alumni to provide the funds that HBCUs would not receive if they decide to not engage with Trump and DeVos? And if so, is that enough money to cover what HBCUs need in order to operate?
I’m not sure.
What I am sure of is the message that HBCU presidents are sending to their students: They will continue to have a relationship with the White House, despite anyone’s opinions.
Even though the president of Morehouse College, John Silvanus Wilson Jr., had described the meeting as a “troubling beginning” it is clear in his language that he is giving DeVos and the Trump administration the benefit of the doubt, which troubles me. Below is the closing of the report he released to the Morehouse community, where he mentions DeVos’ having “misstated” when saying HBCUs were pioneers of School Choice:
“…Slavery has a long shadow and the school choice debate was not at all alive under the menacing loom of that shadow at emancipation! So, Secretary DeVos misstated that, but that does not mean she should be diminished or dismissed. From listening to her carefully for the last two days, I get the strong sense that she wants to get this job right. She should still have that chance. Only time will tell how much true support this administration will provide to HBCUs.
In general, the meetings were a troubling beginning to what must be a productive relationship. Trust that the HBCU community will continue to press for the kind of funding that educational excellence and national competitiveness require!”
College student bodies aren’t interested in Betsy’s well-intentioned comments, nor whether she is being “diminished or dismissed.” They aren’t looking for a “productive relationship.”
Students want nothing to do with the new administration, and HBCU presidents need to listen.