Author: Brennan E. Wells
The first installment of “How Students’ Silence is Bought at HBCUs” the focus was tailored to the perks that only a select few obtain at HBCUs. These perks were defined as academic or monetary benefits that were unearned. Perks ranging from “elected” positions that carry considerable compensation to fees taxed onto the student body only to be used to benefit the aforementioned select few. Building upon part I, part II aims to shine a light on the unparalleled privileges that are granted to a select few in the student body and the drastic effects this has on HBCUs and the quality of black education at these institutions. Additionally, for the purposes of definition, the term privilege shall be defined as political cover.
Some may have had the experience or may be fortunate enough to avoid it all together, but in some instances when you are seeking financial backing, whether that may be for educational purposes, housing or transportation a financial institution may request that you have along with your signature a cosigner. This cosigner agrees in principal, should you the original signer, default on the repayment of the loan you are requesting that the cosigner will assume liability of the loan and in essence pay it back. In the same way, a cosigner acts in this common financial practice so too does this practice play out for select students who are privileged at HBCUs.
The political cover the”select few” receives at HBCUs act in the same way. For instance, when a student is facing financial trouble the privileged individual is afforded the opportunity to tap into their network and are directed to a person, with the guide of their “cosigner”, to another individual with the authority to alleviate that privileged student’s financial burden with “just released” or “found” scholarship dollars. This is a prime example of the effects the political cover privileged students receive. As is too often the case, quid pro quo, in which you do for me and I do for you, privileged student are beholden to this “cosigner” for a favor at another appointed time. More often than not, this favor is silence.
Being close to influential individuals on campus means you are privy to information and operations on campus that are hidden from the student body, so to keep these secret dealings hidden from view students’ silence is pivotal. Now the average privileged student will want to protect his relationship. Who wouldn’t want to do the same right? So once again, the truism holds, that you do not bite the hand that feeds you and the cycle continues.
Subtly more so than the first example is the way in which this privilege is extended from the financial to the social. Students who are placed on this pedestal have heightened social and their own political capital within the student body. When an appointed time comes for a leading student voice to speak out on issues affecting the student body, the same privileged students are emboldened to come forward and speak for the student body. Additionally, the political cover granted to these select students grants, them in turn, the title of “student leader”. Moreover, the added benefits range from bolstered confidence, dating opportunities, self-esteem, to high-quality letters of recommendation from influential persons on campus and protection from student code of conduct violations.
Academically, perhaps the most devastating effect of the political cover of privileged students are the instances when opportunities of advancement beyond the university are presented to professors, such as internships, fellowships, graduate school opportunities, conference appearances, and scholarships. When professors are presented with these opportunities for students to advance professionally or academically they will look to the same privileged students whose work may or may not be worthy of such opportunities. There is no open advertisement nor an equal chance to benefit from the connections professors have beyond the university. This hindrance to the average student or high achieving, but not privileged student affects their employment after graduation and whether or not that employment is comparable to their achievements.
When factored in with the premises advanced in part I of this expose and in preparation for part III of the expose we see the beginnings of an elite class at HBCUs. An elite class that is isolated from the concerns and issues that plague the student body at large. And we have experienced from society at large, that when an advantaged class of persons is protected in this way, the beginnings of inequality begin to emerge. So much so, that African-Americans ignore homeless students on campus, students that go hungry, and allow corporations to build trusts on campus and financially ruin their African-American brethren.
The final piece of this expose will highlight the third tool used to silence students at HBCUs, publicity. Along with third chapter of this expose will be the recommendations to dismantle or at the very least halt this epidemic infection that is rotting the Black Brain trust, historically black colleges and universities.
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