More evidence of President Obama’s hostility toward HBCUs

GEORGE E. CURRY | 2/23/2015, 2:50 a.m.
As if we needed any more evidence, President Obama’s recent meeting with members of the Congressional Black Caucus revealed a ...
George Curry

(NNPA) – As if we needed any more evidence, President Obama’s recent meeting with members of the Congressional Black Caucus revealed a deep-seated hostility toward the plight of struggling Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

According to Lauren Victoria Burke’s Black Caucus blog, CrewOf42.com, “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.”

It continued, “Several who attended the meeting indicated that President Obama felt that the focus of HBCU’s needs to be on the schools changing their ways of doing business rather [than] on changes in federal policy. Those who attended said he was specifically critical of graduation rates and loan policies. The President also spoke to CBC members on his free community college plan which some HBCU advocates believe will hurt HBCUs.”

Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., a graduate of Clark Atlanta University, told Burke, “He [Obama] said there were some HBCUs that were not good at graduating students and if they did not improve they’d have to go by the wayside. In other words he didn’t show much empathy for struggling HBCUs. It was like show me the numbers and if the numbers aren’t where they need to be, that’s it. It was a somewhat callous view of the unique niche HBCUs fill.”

Rep. Yvette Clarke, D-N.Y., said, “I was concerned about what the president said because it feeds into a narrative about the value of these institutions and whether they are [equipped] to educate our students and what the cost is for doing so.

“Many of these institutions have not had a maintenance of effort on the part of states or the federal government and over time that wears on their ability to maintain standards or even advance beyond a certain level. It was very clear that he doesn’t have the same level of appreciation for what these institutions have done and could do in the future given the right support systems.”

The blog quoted Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., a graduate of South Carolina State University: “it’s for-profit schools where the graduation rate problem is – not HBCUs, the Parent PLUS loan stuff has to do with new rules on credit worthiness and I just think that in the discussion he mangled it.”

Rep. Bennie Thompson, a product of two HBCUs – Tougaloo College and Jackson State University – was quoted: “What we ought to be talking about is: If there are weaknesses at certain HBCUs what do we do to strengthen those institutions?”

Meanwhile, Hampton University President William R. Harvey, who has been chair of the White House Advisory Board on Historically Black Colleges and Universities since 2010, was highly critical of Obama’s approach to HBCUs.

In a speech at a meeting at NASA headquarters in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 4, Harvey said, “I have to say that one of my biggest concerns or regrets is that we are not being used as the advisory board we are supposed to be. All this expertise – more than 150 years at the helm of HBCUs, decades as the heads of major philanthropic organizations, expertise in business, in fundraising and in public relations, connections on Wall Street, in the Ivy League and everywhere else. Yet, we are not consulted when it comes to policy changes and decisions impacting – in a major way – the institutions on whose behalf we are to advocate.