Top Ten Scholarly Terms Used to Describe HBCU Culture – Decoded
We use a lot of fancy words to describe the critical need for HBCUs to survive and do well. One of my personal favorites is “changing the socio-economic trajectory of the Black family.” Translation: HBCUs help their graduates make more money, thus helping their children and relatives come out of or avoid poverty.
Nothing wrong with elevated language, but maybe our scholars, media members (myself included) and leaders should work to make it plain in their talk on HBCUs. Opponents of HBCUs point out surface-level failings without mincing words. They use terms like “low graduation rates,” “debt-ridden,” and “unstable leadership” to describe our institutions.
No guessing about what any of that means.
Here’s ten of my favorites – decoded.
10.”Value Proposition” – Translation: The reasons why black students should choose an HBCU over a predominantly white school, or why federal agencies and private corporations should give money to HBCUs.
9. “Urban Institution” – Translation: A HBCU located in or nearby a ghetto.
8. “Suburban Institution” – Translation: An HBCU in the middle of nowhere.
7. “Retention” – Translation: The students you keep enrolled in your HBCU until they graduate; also defined as the number of kids admitted who actually want a degree.
6. “Attrition” – Translation: The number of students who transfer or drop out of your HBCU; also defined as students with parents who didn’t care what they did but had to get the hell up outta their house.
5. “Black Male Initiative” – Translation: A program at an HBCU specifically focusing on improving academic, social and cultural positioning of black male students.
4. “Internal Review” – Translation: Somebody has screwed up and we’re buying time to figure out the right way to describe this mess to the public.
3. “Academic Realignment” – Translation: The elimination of degree programs.
2. “Management Reconfiguration” – Translation: You’re fired. Go home, Roger.
1. “Board of Trustees” – Translation: If you hear this term more than once a year, it’s defined as a group people with little-to-no higher ed experience thinking they know more than a president or chancellor does.