Alumni of The Lincoln University of Pennsylvania staged protests against university president Robert Jennings and the university’s Board of Trustees earlier this month, raising awareness for their efforts to halt the razing of four historic campus buildings.
Azikiwe-Nkrumah Hall, the Bond House, Cresson Hall and Houston Hall are the four buildings slated for demolition, according to the Lincoln University Heritage Initiative. The group, comprised of alumni members, is seeking a meeting with Jennings to discuss alternatives to razing the buildings, which they allege is a part of the university development plans under Pennsylvania’s Keystone Opportunity Expansion Zones.
The KOEZ plans allow for tax-free commercialization areas throughout the commonwealth, particularly in under-resourced areas, with the goal of job creation and economic improvement in these communities. LUHI members say that development of an historic district with the campus buildings as a tourism centerpiece would benefit the financial goals of the university, and of the region.
“Pennsylvania currently receives $1 billion annually from historic and cultural tourism. In addition, tax credits and grants are available to adapt the buildings for the current use and needs of the university,” says LUHI President Carol Black. “Of the 15 historic buildings, only four are not being currently used and are in need of repairs.”
“If the university and president talked to us, we could together determine the best use of the buildings and develop educational programs that would provide an income stream to pay for the repairs.”
The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission outlines five determinations for a building to be considered for the commonwealth and national historic registry programs, which include, among other considerations, the facet of history a property represents, its ability to physically illustrate the historic period in which it was built, and the significance of the history it represents.
According to Robert Ingram, President of the Lincoln University National Alumni Association, LU’s standing as the nation’s oldest historically black college gives their concern additional merit.
“This story I believe speaks to the tough choices and values the products of our HBCU’s as well as the administrators and other stakeholders must make today.”
Demolition plans were initially made public in May 2013, when Jennings revealed campus expansion and revitalization plans in the university’s 2013-2018 strategic plan. The razing of Azikiwe-Nkrumah Hall is included in Goal 4 of the plan, but no other buildings are listed for demolition.
Dr. Jennings did not respond to email and telephone requests for an interview.