Student Affairs Must Take the ‘Ghetto’ Out of the HBCU Experience
The letter below was submitted to the Digest from an HBCU parent. Details on the identity of the student and the institution have been removed.
I am a single parent of a child whom is attending a HBCU. I was so very proud of my daughter attending an HBCU – my daughter was elected to a position in SGA, she’s on the cheerleading squad, and she just made the Dean’s List; all in her 1st semester. But all of this came with a price, as my daughter was very unhappy. She stated the girls and boys were very ghetto, rowdy, hated her for not being ghetto, and most of the facilities were ghetto as well.
She often cried to come home and change colleges-but myself and some chosen alumni begged her to stick it out one year. She has agreed, but I believe it’s the role of parents and the institution to ensure that the students understand that this is ” a learning phase of life.” Ghetto and unruliness will be around you for the rest of your life, and you learn from it; take notes on how to deal with society, roll up your sleeves and accept the challenges…
I ensured that my child understands-NO OTHER COLLEGES HAVE YOUR BEST INTEREST AT HEART.
Regrettably, this is the experience that thousands of students at historically black colleges regularly face. This intersection of youthful immaturity, painful clashes along the socioeconomic strata upon which the HBCU mission is built, and the structural challenges presented by the black college campus, all make for a less-than-favorable experience for many students who are poorly prepared to handle the culture, or don’t want to be bothered with handling it at all.
Are students able to realize the interpersonal responsibilities they have to others and the school? Can they grasp how behavioral and academic outcomes shape institutional perceptions? If not, who then is responsible for taking the ‘ghetto’ out of the HBCU experience?
The answer? HBCU student affairs divisions.
Student affairs is charged with integrating the social, spiritual and service-based experience into the learning environment. For all of the elements of HBCU lifestyle that can be painted as ghetto – long lines, bad customer service, bad behavior among roommates, crime on campus, etc; student affairs is responsible for managing and minimizing risk through oversight of financial aid, business auxiliary, residence life, admissions and public safety. Other factors, such as crumbling infrastructure or community issues of crime and poverty, contribute to students classifying a HBCU campus as ghetto. But overall, students are more likely to deride HBCU culture for on-campus elements that can easily be controlled.
Even at the finest HBCUs, ghetto people and service habits can translate into one-semester stays for both high achieving students and those on the academic fringes. Without well-planned and well-marketed student activities, the black college campus is a breeding ground upon which hormones, boredom and drugs and alcohol shape the student social agenda. Without proper scrutiny and concern for business auxiliary services, employees who don’t value their work environment translate their bitterness into the student experience, and their attitudes become the legends of “crazy cafeteria lady,” “that perverted janitor” or “that crazy mofo in the bursar’s office.”
Even if winning athletic programs aren’t in place, students crave campus traditions that make them feel a part of bigger legacy of excellence and school pride. Without regular opportunities to show school pride on the campus and out in the community, HBCU students will treat the school with nothing to celebrate as something to be disrespected – and in the long-term, unsupported.
Historically black colleges are the opposite of ghetto. They are the premier destination for those students seeking to leave the ghetto behind forever, and those alumni and faculty who want to turn the ghetto into a community of pride and productivity. Young adults should be forced to adhere to a code of ethics and responsibility, but it is the black college student affairs division that must make that mandate worth observing.