HBCU Bureaucracy – Black Folks Working Through Red Tape
Faculty and staff at Coppin State today protested layoffs, alleging that the cuts are a result of bloated executive salaries and financial mismanagement.
An interesting thing about black institutions – when times are lean, most call for executives to take the fall. The reasoning? The university would save more money if it jettisoned the people with the highest salaries and the lowest management IQ’s.
Problem is, without big money makers, there can be no culture where an HBCU can raise more money, enrollment or profile – all the things that maintain and create jobs on the campus. Executives do the jobs we don’t want to do, we can’t do, but we love to critique in breakroom rants. Critiques that, in a sadistic way, motivate us to do better for students and for the community.
In a weird way, it’s the red tape that holds us all together.
Most HBCU employees, executives included, often do the work of three people at half of the pay they deserve, considering the lack of resources around them. From housekeepers to chancellors, the expectation is better and faster – innovation and personal fulfillment be damned.
It is a beautiful struggle for professional satisfaction within the larger, grossly underfunded mission of the HBCU to save and preserve the race through higher education. Some people give their lives to this fight, enduring the inefficiencies of thread-bare budgets and the resulting frustration of knowing what it takes to get to the next level, but having neither time or money to accomplish the goal.
Combine this pain with the heartbreak of being laid off by executives who don’t seem to show an appreciation for frontline angst, it makes for protests like the one today at Coppin – the “little guys” feeling like the big shots don’t care.
Without the little guys stretching themselves and their resources to the limits of respectable work, would the HBCU be in the place it is today? Without those employees and faculty members saying to themselves and others “it’s not about the president or these VP’s, it’s about these students” would HBCUs still change lives?
Probably not. And without the campus executives crafting the relationships, showcasing the research and interfacing with government, the HBCU would suffer an accelerated, more humiliating demise.
There’s nothing right about malfunctioning bureaucracy, but the HBCU brand of bureaucracy is not worse or more intolerable than any other institutional crap. And it doesn’t mean that most HBCU leaders don’t care or don’t know what they are doing – it means that resources make that much of a difference.