More than 60 presidents of HBCUs traveled to the White House to meet with Vice President, Mike Pence, and Department of Education Secretary Betsy Devos on Tuesday to discuss issues facing these historical institutions.
These black leaders were promised an opportunity to detail the hardships HBCUs have faced and how they would like to work with the current administration to alleviate these issues. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Instead, as detailed in a blog by President of Dillard University, Walter Kimbrough, all the leaders got was a photo with Trump and a brief moment to throw out a few words about HBCUs.
So basically a waste of these black folks’ time.
Don’t get me wrong. I understand the importance of having a presence and keeping an open line of communication with the current administration, because like so many of the respectability politics advocates say, we at the very least need a seat at this man’s table. But it hurts to see the president of one the most highly esteemed universities, Howard University, be used as a photo-op and a token.
Let me be as transparent as possible, since it seems the president of my beloved university is struggling with his own transparency. I’m a graduate of Howard University. A damn proud graduate at that. I made the decision to attend Howard because of its legacy of excellence, to protest of all things wrong and to fight for all things right.
So when I learned President Wayne A.I. Frederick agreed to host DeVos, fresh off of being sworn in as the new education secretary, without notifying Howard students or any of the actual student body leaders, I was a bit disheartened. But I kept faith, because why agree to shuck and jive if there’s not some huge financial gain.
It hurts to see the president of one the most highly esteemed universities, Howard University, be used as a token.
My friends and I saw the shaming, chuckled it off and moved on with our lives; figuring Frederick had to be doing this for a crap ton of federal funding.
Then news broke that HBCU presidents were invited to the White House for a meeting. I hoped the presidents would meet with the administration and have a productive conversation about the importance of HBCUs and why it’s vital to increase support for these institutions through financial means.
Since that didn’t happen, current Howard students decided to make their frustrations public by expressing their frustrations with Frederick with graffiti covering the campus with phrases like “Wayne Frederick doesn’t care about black people.” And I was happily here for it.
I was proud to see current students publicly hold our university president accountable for his lack of transparency with the student body. They were fed up and so was I.
They were fed up with a having a president who enjoys kee-keeing it up with one of the most racist, xenophobic and misogynistic presidents in our history.
They were fed up with being told they need to sit in the chair Trump was holding out for them at his table so they can feed on the scraps DeVos and Trump threw at them.
So they decided to let their frustrations be known and they have every right. By voicing their opinions, they aren’t ignoring the struggle HBCUs are facing. Hell, they’re living in those “struggles,” so they don’t have the luxury of ignoring them.
All the upset students and Howard street artists are demanding is that their president tell them what the hell he’s doing and what he’s hoping to accomplish. This protest is something that should be encouraged by our community and fellow alumni, especially since past students have protested presidents because they couldn’t get some chicken.
I applaud other university leaders, like Dillard’s Kimbrough and (excuse me while I struggle with this) Hampton’s William Harvey, for coming forward and letting the public and their student body know why they chose to take the meeting and how they were bamboozled.
Now, if only my own president could keep it a buck with me.