​HBCU Presidents Kissed the Ring

Author: Brennan E. Wells;

Earlier on Thoughtful While Black (TWB), we offered a piece of new information availed to our staff. A pending Executive Order was forthcoming for HBCUs and it was with great expectation that Black America waited for an unexpected union with a troubled Trump Administration. In the hopes that the President would deliver on a subject outside his purview to cap Black History Month, an Executive Order focused on HBCUs.The stage was set with a multitude HBCU Presidents on last week in place to witness the signing of the executive action. Moreover, the HBCU Presidents were offered unparalleled access to advance their insight into the ills of the HBCU community and ask for a remedy. But as per usual, things did not go according to plan.

First, students were not allowed to come this highly publicized meeting, not even the privileged Howard University students, which ruffled a few feathers at the “Mecca”. In my estimation, I am glad students were not allowed to watch their HBCU leadership underperform in spectacular fashion. Such an experience tends to leave scars that are not viewed by the naked eye. It is safe to say that, when you are confronted with a situation in which the opposite party would rather limit the access of the public, the outcome you are about to experience will not be in your favor.

Secondly, TWB has it on good information that the text of the Executive Order was not available for viewing until last Tuesday, the same day that the multitude of HBCU Presidents was set to leave Washington DC. True to form of an administration that is mired in scandal, the Trump administration released the long-awaited text of the Executive Order, much to the dismay of the HBCU community. Dismay, because the Executive Order did not increase the funding of the White House initiative, merely moving it to the purview of the White House.

Finally, this spectacular display underwhelming leadership from the HBCU community is highlighted in the fact the implementation of the Executive Order in question will be carried out by the Department of Education and the Secretary’s staff. Moreover, the appropriations for the Executive Order and still all of the federal dollars to funnel to HBCUs will still come from the Department of Education. So not only did HBCU leadership make a grand showcase of, what boiled down to, an Instagram photo but managed to move away from the department that allocated all federal dollars to HBCUs.

If at no other time, it is blatantly clear that the time for new strategic leadership with the HBCU community is now. How can so many of educational pedigree men fail at political gamesmanship? Only time will tell the depth of the dearth of effective leadership that is at the helm of our institutions, but for the time being, we can only look in the mirror. For we have failed our community again. Now we await the response from ourselves and our leadership as to how we will chart a new course. All in all, this is a lesson we would do best not to forget.


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