Happy President’s Day for HBCUs? Not Likely - Higher Education
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Happy President’s Day for HBCUs? Not Likely

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You would think with the first Black president in our country’s history, there would be more of a lovey-dovey relationship with HBCUs.

Apparently not.

“President Obama was critical of Historically Black Colleges and Universities during a meeting with members of the Congressional Black Caucus this week according to several in attendance. The February 10 meeting was the first group gathering with the Black Caucus and the President since June 2013.”

That’s the lead of Lauren Victoria Burke’s blog post.

The first meeting since 2013? I guess there’s no sense of urgency.

It wasn’t necessarily a closed-door session, but you likely didn’t get in without an invite.

Among those who attended, several told Burke that Obama felt that the focus of HBCUs needs to be on the schools changing their ways of doing business rather than on changes in federal policy. They also told Burke that the president was critical of graduation rates and loan policies. The president then used the opportunity to lobby Congressional Black Caucus members on the free community college plan, which some feel will hurt HBCUs.

Burke reported one caucus member said the president appeared tired. The following morning, Feb. 11, would be the day President Obama would request additional military options against ISIS from Congress.

“You could look at the President and tell that at any moment he was going to fall on his face. He was falling asleep. He probably didn’t know what he said. I didn’t take it as an offense because I don’t think he really knew what he was saying — placing HBCUs all in one basket. But he was critical of HBCUs,” a senior member who was at the meeting said.

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The chair of the President’s Board of Advisors on HBCUs, Hampton University President William Harvey, reportedly stood up for HBCUs.

Harvey said HBCUs weren’t asked for input on the community college plan. He also criticized the lack of funding for HBCUs.

This was one of those meetings you rarely hear about in the media. I worked on the Hill years ago, and there were events like this all day. Few made news. Some were just part of the process, the wheel of politics. The president has to show concern. People need to meet. And then they all agree to kick all the cans of concern down the road to the next meeting.

But these are critical times for all institutions of higher learning, HBCUs or otherwise.

If I were an HBCU administrator, teacher or student, I know what I’d do now.

I’d call my member of Congress. Maybe even write the president. Let them all know just how critical a role you play, and how vital HBCUs still are in this day.

Even with a Black president in the White House.

Emil Guillermo writes on issues of race, culture and politics  for the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (www.aaldef.org/blog). Like him at www.facebook.com/emilguillermo.media; Twitter @emilamok.

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