Tag: HBCUs

Black Kids Dream Of Playing HBCU Baseball

By Michael May 3, 2021 Off

While the Face of Black College Baseball Grows Whiter and Whiter

When I was a high schooler in Macon, Georgia, I dreamed of playing collegiate baseball at Georgia Tech in Atlanta during the early days of school desegregation. In 1969, the year I graduated from the majority white high school that I had integrated four years earlier, there were no Black American baseball players on the Georgia Tech baseball team. read more

Tuskegee University Poised To Pick New President Despite Growing Dissension

By Michael May 3, 2018 Off

Tuskegee University is poised to announced the selection of the university’s eighth president this weekend. However, a growing number of alumni are calling on the university to slow down and start the search process over.

Last week, the university announced it would soon select one of two candidates to emerge from the search process. The two candidates are Dr. Lily McNair and Dr. Jack Thomas.

According to a press release from the university, “Dr. Lily McNair,… currently serves as provost and senior vice president for academic affairs at Wagner College — a private liberal arts school of 2,200 students located on New York City’s Staten Island. A clinical psychologist by training, Dr. McNair’s higher education career includes other academic and executive appointments at Spelman College, University of Georgia, the State University of New York at New Paltz, and Vassar College.”

That same press release announces Dr. Thomas as follows:

“Dr. Jack Thomas,… currently serves as president of Western Illinois University — a public university of about 10,000 students based in Macomb, Illinois, with an additional metropolitan campus in the Quad Cities/Moline area. With an academic background that began with teaching English, his rise through the academic and executive higher education ranks includes more recent appointments at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and Middle Tennessee State University, in addition to WIU.”

Dr. Thomas is currently seeking the presidency of a liberal arts university in the Midwest. He is one of five candidates being considered for that post.

“Some people are going to complain no matter who they pick,” said Simon Newbold, a Tuskegee alum with university administrative experience.

But Dr. Zelma Payne is not just any old alum. Payne is a member of the Tuskegee class of 1953. She has been lobbying younger alumni to resist efforts by the university to name either of the two finalists.

In an epistle circulated to younger alumni, Dr. Payne writes:

“My recommendation is to campaign for Dr. Morris to stay at least two years so we can take time to find a person with potential who can help Tuskegee University meet the critical problems we face.”

Since June of 2017, Dr. Charlotte Morris has served as the university’s Interim President. This is Dr. Morris’ second stint as Interim President of one of the nation’s oldest Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Following the retirement of Dr. Benjamin Payton in 2011, Morris served as Interim President until Dr. Gilbert Rochon was hired in 2012. Rochon abruptly resigned following the board’s annual fall meeting on campus a few years later.

Last year the Tuskegee University Board of Trustees failed to renew the contract of Dr. Brian Johnson after it learned that Johnson had applied to become the Chancellor of North Carolina Central University, a position Johnson did not receive. Morris was brought back out of retirement and has served as Interim President while the Board searched for a replacement for Dr. Johnson.

“We don’t need to get into a situation as the past two Presidents who had no knowledge of how to run a university such as Tuskegee,” Dr. Payne explained.

The school was founded in 1881 by Louis Adams, a mulatto shopkeeper and political operative during the period of Reconstruction following the Civil War. At that time the school’s mission was to provide educational opportunities for the children of Tuskegee who were first generation post enslavement.

The original mission has long since expanded to include educating students from around the globe in science, technology, and the arts. Tuskegee, as other HBCUs is in a daily struggle for the resources it needs to continue providing a superior education to its students.

“Neither Thomas or McNair have a record of raising money while motivating faculty to advance their programs,” Payne pointed out.

“Bottom line,” Payne said, “we need more time to search for a leader with stature and aggressiveness to make contacts with corporations, foundations, etc.”

“I wish I was young like some of these young people, I would get in my car and be down there every day resisting the final decision on these two. This selection needs to be stopped pronto,” Payne said.

Unfortunately, for Dr. Payne, younger alumni are reluctant to get involved in the nitty-gritty politics that is necessary to get the attention of the Tuskegee Board of Trustees.

Harold Michael Harvey is an American novelist and essayist. He is a Contributor at The Hill, SCLC National Magazine, Southern Changes Magazine and Black College Nines. He can be contacted at hmharvey@haroldmichaelharvey.com

Hooray Black Colleges Receive Boost in Omnibus Spending Bill

By Michael March 23, 2018 Off

Good news for the nations Historically Black Colleges and Universities. When President Trump signed the Omnibus Spending Bill today little did he know, he approved a 14 percent increase in federal funding for HBCUs.

Many of the Black schools were founded in the first 50 years following the Civil War. There are 100 HBCUs still in existence. Many of them are in dire need of financial assistance to keep afloat. Last month Concordia College in Selma, Alabama announced they will close their doors following this academic school year, just four years short of a century providing education to Black Americans. read more

Retired Colonel Floyd Griffin Seeks Board Chairman Post At Tuskegee

By Michael February 27, 2018 Off

Floyd L. Griffin, a retired Colonel in the United States Army has announced his intentions to seek the Chairmanship of the Tuskegee Board of Trustees. This position will become open in March and is expected to be filled during the Board’s annual spring meeting.

If successful Griffin will replace corporate attorney John Page, who has chaired the Tuskegee Board since 2015.

Recently, Page has been the target of concerned Tuskegee alumni. They have waged a letter writing campaign to the Board of Trustees not to nominate Page for another term as chairperson of the Board.

In a letter to the Board, Griffin said he decided to seek this position after he had “been inundated with telephone calls, emails and letters from members of the Tuskegee family…”

“The morale of the alumni is down. There is a sense that the chairperson of the board has a condescending attitude when addressing members of the alumni community. This sentiment was also expressed by civic leaders of the city of Tuskegee,” Griffin wrote.

In the schools 137-year history only one other Tuskegee alumni has been chairperson of the Board of Trustees. At other elite HBCUs, the chair of the board is an alumnus.

Also, less than half of the members of the Tuskegee board comes from the ranks of the alumni. This is not the case with other HBCUs.

Griffin, 73 years-old and a Milledgeville, Georgia Mortician said that his candidacy will address this disparity head on. He pledged his tenure as chairman will seek to develop younger alumni on the board to succeed him.

“I pledge to work to improve relations with all Tuskegee alumni to stop the bickering between the board and concerned alumni,” Griffin wrote.

The family of the university’s first principle, Booker T. Washington, has submitted a letter to the Board of Trustees announcing their support of Griffin as the next board chairman.

In a letter signed by Marshall Cabiness-Washington, the oldest living male descendant of Washington, the family expressed their support in Griffin:

“Everything about Floyd Griffin reminds me of the thousands of illustrious early Tuskegee alumni who were the personification of “that old Tuskegee spirit,” Cabiness-Washington wrote.

“It is my firm belief, and the belief of the family of Booker T. Washington, that Colonel Floyd Griffin is right person, at the right time, to be the leader and guide of the governing body of our illustrious alma mater, Mother Tuskegee,” the Washington family wrote.

Harold Michael Harvey is an American novelist and essayist. He is a Contributor at The Hill, SCLC National Magazine, Southern Changes Magazine and Black College Nines. He can be contacted at hmharvey@haroldmichaelharvey.com

Tuskegee University Alumni Group Seeks Ouster of John Page As Board Chair

By Michael February 20, 2018 Off

Tuskegee, Alabama, (Cascade Press) A group of Tuskegee University alumni have issued a letter to members of the Board of Trustees requesting that the Board elect a new chairperson when the board meets on March 24, 2018.

Corporate attorney John Page has been the chairperson of the Tuskegee Board of Trustees for the past two years. According to Board rules, the board can reelect Page to another two year term or they can nominate a slate of candidates and hold an election to fill the chairperson position.

An unsigned letter from the Concerned Tuskegee Alumni was obtained by Cascade Press over the weekend from Dr. Clarence Jones, a high ranking official in the Concern Tuskegee Alumni group. read more

Can John Page Restore Tuskegee’s Legacy?

By Michael June 9, 2017 Off

Last week the Tuskegee University Board of Trustees put to an end campus rumors that Dr. Brian L. Johnson, the university’s seventh president would be leaving his job on June 30, 2017.

He will.

Guy Rhodes, Editor and Publisher of the Tuskegee News opined last week that Johnson’s situation at the university was on shaky ground from the outset.

Rhodes’ editorial on the brief tumultuous tenure of Dr. Johnson outlined alumni criticism of Johnson from the start of his tenure.

Top on Rhodes’ list is the fact that Johnson was, “Hired when he was 40 years old with no experience as a University president.”

Johnson’s age would not have been so much of a factor, Booker T. Washington was only 25 years old when he became the first Tuskegee Principal, however, in a different century, Johnson’s youth coupled with the fact that he did not have any indicia on his resume that he could manage a legacy university was a protend of problems to come.

Rhodes points out that Johnson’s fate at Tuskegee perhaps was sealed when the Tuskegee Board ousted Gen. (Retired) Charles E. Williams as it chair.

Board members in an off the record conversation two years ago, told this writer, that Williams pushed Johnson through by acclamation as members were preparing to leave for the airport.

This brings us to John Page, a corporate attorney who was selected by the BOT to replace Williams as its chair.

Page is fond of saying he grew up in the ghettos of New York and that he could relate to Dr. Johnson’s recitations of having grown up in rat and roach infested tenements in North Carolina. Page was a staunch supporter of Johnson’s. He boldly defended Johnson against financial contributing alumni who called for Johnson to be replaced several years ago.

It was with reluctance, the university’s statement of Johnson’s departure, seemed to say in announcing that the BOT declined to renew Johnson’s contract when it expires later this month.

Now, it is on the shoulders of John Page to steer the BOT through the search for a new leader.

Can Page do it without meddling in the selection process like Gen. Williams?

The future of the university depends on smart leadership unencumbered by personal egos or agendas. Does Page have what it takes to hire a good president that will serve the university for more than three years?

Page’s brief tenure as board chair is not without criticism. Alumni contend that Page, a graduate of a Historically White University, also known as, PWI’s, does not know, understand or respect the HBCU legacy. They cite the condescending, ghetto-esque tone he often strikes when speaking before student, administrative and alumni groups.

“If you would not speak to a group at Auburn like that, or at one of your corporate board meetings, like that, then don’t speak that way to a group at Tuskegee,” one alumni said.

Also, Page comes under fire from alumni because he will not release a financial statement on the university. Last year Page told a group of concerned Tuskegee alumni in Atlanta, Georgia that he was reluctant to release a financial statement because the university was involved in a large number of lawsuits and he did not want to get that information into the hands of the plaintiffs who are suiting the university.

Perhaps, this is a corporate lawyer trick to hide information from disclosure in the discovery phase of litigation. In any event, alumni argue they are entitled to see the assets and liabilities of the university. Page says that far too few alumni give to  preserve the legacy of the university and thus are not entitled to know its financial status.

Graduates argue they would give more if the university would release information for them to determine whether the BOT is a good steward of its financial resources.

The crux of Page’s leadership hinges on whether he releases a financial statement certified by a public accountant. So far, Page has been stubbornly litigious in refusing to release a financial statement.

One graduate argues that Page’s own school, Pace University, annually releases a financial statement that is available to anyone in the world who has an interest in reviewing them.

Concern alumni view Page’s refusal to release a financial statement when his alma mater does, is another piece of evidence that he does not respect the HBCU legacy and believes that a HBCU institution and its alumni are not entitled to the same respect and information as a Historically White University.

Does John Page have the right stuff to follow the Tuskegee trajectory set in place by Lewis Adams in 1880?

Harold Michael Harvey is an American novelist and essayist, the author of Paper puzzle and Justice in the Round, edited Easier to obtain Than to Maintain: The Globalization of Civil Rights by Charles Steele, Jr.; and the host of Beyond the Law with Harold Michael Harvey. He can be contacted at haroldmichaelharvey.com.

Johnson Kicks “Skegee” In the Teeth

By Michael May 30, 2017 Off

On his way out as president of Tuskegee University, Dr. Brian Johnson kicked the proud “Skegee” machine in the teeth.

Three days after rumors surfaced that Johnson was out as president of the “Skegee” family, the university is yet to issue an official statement about current leadership of the university.

This has not stopped Johnson from getting his side of the story out.According to a local television station in Montgomery, Alabama, Johnson confirmed to them that he was no longer president at the school that alumni affectionately dub as “Skegee.” The television station said Johnson declined to appear on air, but that he confirmed he was out as the school’s president.

Two days later a news report of his departure was published in diverseeducation.com. The headline read: “Tuskegee University Fires Johnson.” This was the first indication that Johnson was fired from his duties at “Skegee.”

The Diverse Education article was written by Jamal Eric Watson, a former professor of English at Mercer County Community College in New Jersey. Watson quotes “a source familiar with the situation.”

According to Watson’s unnamed source, “several trustees were angry to learn that Johnson has interviewed for the top post at North Carolina Central University (NCCU), which is located in his hometown of Durham, N.C.”

Watson writes, that Johnson “is reportedly a finalist for the [NCCU] job.”

According to Watson, Johnson declined to interview for his article. However, given the slant of the information about Tuskegee, Johnson appears to be the source of Watson’s information, as the article seems to be a parting shot by a disgruntled former employee.

For instance, Watson does not cite any members of the Board of Trustees as his source, but discloses inside information – “several trustees were angry” – that only a member of the board or Johnson would know.

Additionally, the article cites financial woes of the university presumably to make “Skegee” an unattractive school for an experience university president to consider taking over the helm.

While the financial information cited is a matter of public record, it is not easy to find. More than likely this information was provided by someone at the university. Since the university has not issued a statement on Johnson’s status, ten will get you nine, that Johnson is the source of this information.

If not convinced consider this: In three years the Tuskegee Board of Trustees have never released any details about Johnson’s contract. The board never wanted alumni to know what type of contractual control they could exercise over Johnson’s tenure. Many have speculated that Johnson was under a five year contract and was thus at the mercy of the board until the assumed five-year deal had expired.

According to Watson’s article, “The Board of Trustees has decided not to renew Dr. Brian L. Johnson’s annual contract, effective July 1, 2017.” Absolutely no one outside of the board of trustees and Johnson knew that Johnson worked on a year-to-year basis.

This information could only be known by Johnson or the board.

Also, Watson’s article appears to be self-serving on Johnson’s behalf as he cites a pledge Johnson made to give $100,000 to the university over a five year span. Watson states the pledge was made to encourage alumni to give money to the school.

However, when the pledge was made, no such implication was made to alumni. This is a blatant attempt to shame “Skegee” alumni by suggesting that graduates are not providing financial support to the university. Moreover, there is no record that Johnson came anywhere close to donating the $100,000 he pledged to donate.

Here is the rub, the majority of the money raised during the three years that Johnson was president was raised by the Tuskegee National Alumni Association (TNAA).

Many of TNAA’s members remain blindly loyal to Johnson in spite of fact that he did not published a financial report in either of the three years he was president, that after he fired the school’s SAC consultant, he failed on two occasions to file a plan that was acceptable to SAC, and that he leaves with the school’s accreditation still hanging in the balance.

Moreover, Watson intimates that Johnson leaves Tuskegee by making good on a pledge to increase student enrollment from 3100 to 10,000. Nothing could be further from the truth. The linchpin  of Johnson’s plan to increase student enrollment was an online course offering. Watson fails to mention that the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools failed to approve the online course of study as proposed by Johnson. Today, Tuskegee’s enrollment remains at the same levels they were when Johnson was hired.

A “Skegee” alumni, Ransom Juno Woodson, Owner and Curator at the Roberson, Flud-Nessen and Black Collection, believes Tuskegee’s board dropped the ball in hiring Johnson and urges North Carolina Central University not to make the same mistake, said:

“From the very beginning Johnson lacked the skills required to manage the complexities associated with leading a University. NCCU, don’t make the same mistake as the Tuskegee University Board of trustees.”

The Tuskegee Board of Trustees is probably missing a few teeth this week after they steadfastly defended Johnson against the hue and cry of alumni activists, who urged them three months into his presidency to fire him and get a more seasoned president. Instead, the board hired a trainer to help Johnson learn how to become a university president.

Then Johnson repays them by interviewing for a job with another university. No wonder several trustees were “angry” with him.

The board sided with Johnson, pushing aside faithful alumni; and now that Johnson is gone, the grads who were “kicked to the curve, are as they were before Johnson came, still “Skegee” grads. This should serve as an object lesson to all HBCUs: Presidents come and go, but alums are always with you.

Harold Michael Harvey is an American novelist and essayist, the author of Paper puzzle and Justice in the Round, Easier to obtain Than to Maintain: The Globalization of Civil Rights by Charles Steele, Jr.; and the host of Beyond the Law with Harold Michael Harvey. He can be contacted at haroldmichaelharvey.com.


HBCUs Face Trouble In Trump Era

By Michael December 9, 2016 Off

HBCUs are in trouble. On the last day of the recently concluded campaign to select the nation’s 45th President, Barack Obama, President No. 44, took to the airwaves to exhort African Americans to get out and vote for Hillary Clinton.

He appeared on the Tom Joyner Morning Show. Joyner, a graduate of Tuskegee University, hosts annual scholarship drives. He donates the proceeds to HBCUs. The President jokingly told Black voters that if Donald Trump was elected President he was “coming after Michelle’s garden.” He followed this joke with what seemed like another joke. He said that Trump needed to be defeated because the Historically Black Colleges and Universities would be in trouble if Trump was elected.

The reason this statement appeared to be another joke is because in eight years in office President Obama did not lift a significant finger to support the legacy of HBCUs. Last year Hampton University’s President William Harvey (no relations to this writer) scolded President Obama on his lack of support and vision for sustaining the country’s Black Colleges and Universities. Also, the U. S. President squandered several opportunities to save Morris Brown College in Atlanta, Georgia.

Morris Brown lost its ability to receive federal financial aid for its students in 2002 over unstable financial conditions. The school is still standing, but only on one foot. It services 40 students, according to a report a year ago in the Atlanta Journal and Constitution. Its students graduate without benefit of an accredited bachelor degree. Many of the 100 HBCUs are one fiscal quarter away from where Morris Brown is today.

President Obama was right to sound the alarm. He knows that he is leaving office without tackling the serious issues confronting HBCUs. He knows that if the first African American to serve the country as President did not find the time to place these institutions on solid fiscal grounds, then Donald Trump likely would not find the time either.

During the early stages of the campaign season only Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein raised the issue of protecting these schools. But graduates of these institutions were more intent upon electing the first Democratic woman president, simply for the sake of electing a Democratic woman president, than preserving the higher educational institutions in their communities.

They paid scant attention to Sanders’ and Stein’s planks for sustaining the HBCU educational experience. When it came time for the primary vote, only a few of them cast their ballot for Sanders and less than 10 percent of them bothered to vote for Stein in the general election.

In fairness to Clinton, very late in the summer – long after Sanders’ and Stein’s proposals – she rolled out a $25 billion plan to invest into HBCUs.

President-elect Trump recently unveiled his program for the African American community. In it he plans to protect the Black church. Only God knows what would possess the President-elect to think that the Black church needs to be protected. Perhaps, he thinks that the Black church could be a tool that he uses to keep the African American community in a state of limbo. Whatever his reasoning, his plan does not include protecting HBCUs.

As it turns out, the outgoing President was correct. Trump’s educational policy, especially as it relates to Black colleges, is non-existent. Last week a group comprised of 140 college presidents, some representing HBCUs and some representing historically white private institutions sent a letter to the President-elect asking that he lead the way in creating less bullying and tension among diverse groups in America.

Meanwhile, the three HBCU Presidents, who head up schools in Atlanta – Spelman College, Morehouse College, and Morris Brown College – met several weeks ago to discuss ways to receive more financial aid for their students during the Trump era. They were cautiously optimistic, yet worried.

All three of the Atlanta area college presidents are relatively new to their jobs. Herein lays the crux of the problem at HBCUs. Gone are the days when a college president served 20 or more years. It is difficult for these institutions to raise money when the business community does not sense stability at the top. Many of the problems confronting HBCUs stem from the lack of funding.

Grambling State University in Louisiana has had seven presidents in the last 10 years.

Their last full-time president, Willie Larkins, was fired this summer after completing seven months on his contract.

Alabama State University suspended their President, Dr. Gwendolyn Boyd, last week after two years on the job. Dr. Boyd has been summoned to what essentially amounts to a due-process hearing on December 16 before the schools Board of Trustees, at which time it is expected she will be fired.

At prestigious Tuskegee University, students and alumni have demanded that the board of trustees remove Dr. Brian Johnson over a “warning notice” the university received from its accreditation agency. Chief among the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools complaint is the school failed to submit an audit report of Title IV funds, the life blood of any HBCU. Johnson is in the first quarter of his third year.

The future looked bleak for the HBCUs before Trump derailed Clinton’s dream of shattering the glass ceiling leading to the White House. A bill introduced on March 23, 2016 by Rep. Alma Adams, (D-North Carolina), H. R. 4857, the HBCU Innovation Fund Act, which will set aside $250,000,000 to establish a program to make grants to promote Innovations at historically Black colleges and universities, was given a 1percent change of being enacted by PredictGov. According to its website, PredictGov “provides updated predictions for the more than 9,000 bills currently under consideration, assigning each a chance of being enacted.” This Bill has not come out of committee.

Now, after the election of Trump, the future of HBCUs is very unpredictable. The President-elect was able to campaign without speaking out on the issues. He spent most of his debate time throwing mud on his opponents and little or no time in discussing policy issues. It is anybody’s guess what a President Trump will do to save or push over the edge what began as the nation’s premier schools for the education of African Americans.

Harold Michael Harvey is an American novelist and essayist, the author of Paper puzzle and Justice in the Round; and the host of Beyond the Law with Harold Michael Harvey. He can be contacted at haroldmichaelharvey.com.