We welcome organizers from Wilmington, DE annual HBCU Week, and discuss Harris-Stowe State University and how to fight HBCU slander in the media.
When executive leadership turns over at an institution of higher education, context matters. In some instances, executives who’ve served long tenures retire with preparations made and accreditation, financial solvency, and steady enrollment all neatly packaged to deliver to the next CEO. When that next executive emerges, the product of a dutiful national search involving boards, alumni, and key stakeholders, institutions continue to enjoy the responsible and predictable growth that serves the educational and employment needs of students, faculty, staff, and the economic needs of the region.
Trustees at Lincoln University of Missouri last week named Jerald Woolfolk as the school’s 20th president. She brings an HBCU pedigree as a student, graduate and former administrator, and the unaminous vote for her appointment, trustees say, was a faith in her skills to grow student enrollment and to fundraise.
Less than a month after the Missouri Department of Higher Education identified more than 900 degree programs at state colleges and universities classified as underperforming, including 57 out 72 programs at historically black Harris Stowe State University and Lincoln University, the higher education oversight body yesterday authorized new performance based funding standards for schools which could significantly impact academic and campus operations at the state’s two HBCUs.
Lincoln University of Missouri journalism professor Will Sites writes for MediaShift today about a new drone journalism program at the university, which is exposing undergraduates to a new element of reporting in a quickly changing global news media environment.
Many university journalism programs are aiming to strike a balance between teaching legacy skills and adopting curricula that include digital innovations conducive to post-graduation employment. We know successful integration of emerging technologies into the classroom will likely expedite a student’s entry into the profession. At the same time, we can no longer think the latest …
Everything about the grant-funded initiative speaks to what HBCUs urgently need now and in the future – private funding for training that helps students get jobs once they graduate. But what is heartbreaking about the piece is Sites’ consistent referral to how bad Lincoln journalism students are, and how the drone journalism won’t make them better, but gives them a more enjoyable learning experience.
A few quotes:
“Lincoln is an open-enrollment university. Every high school graduate is given a chance to succeed – we don’t turn anyone away. The majority of students come from inner-city Kansas City and St. Louis – two cities known for failing public schools. Many are first-generation students, arriving with almost no understanding of college life. Journalism majors often struggle to shed bad writing habits or learn the value of newswriting and AP style. But, that’s the bad news.”
“I’ve watched many broadcast students struggle with writing-intensive courses. These students thrive by watching or interacting through hands-on instruction. Drone journalism allows students to actually see journalism in action, to experience the link between documenting and disseminating the news. Students are realizing drone journalism may be a new path to skills and opportunities, and at least one veteran news photographer agrees.”
There are a few other borderline remarks showing Sites’ perceived deficiencies in Lincoln’s mission and operations, but the highlighted points above are the most harmful. As well-intentioned as Sites clearly is about his work and protective of his students, the problem is that he clearly doesn’t know he just submarined them, their program and the university in just a few lines.
These are the takeaways from Sites’ article about Lincoln students:
- From pipeline of underperforming school districts
- Hard to break of poor writing habits and do not understand the art and science of journalism and journalistic standards
- They struggle with course rigor, and are better served with hands-on training in skills beyond traditional requirements for entry-level work in journalism
That’s a Lincoln professor who teaches much of the school’s introductory and advanced journalism curriculum, and oversees its school newspaper – in his own words. For any hiring manager at a broadcast, digital or print outlet who happens upon Sites’ feature, why would they consider looking to Lincoln as a place to recruit minority journalists – something the entire industry is looking to do?
The 2017 ASNE Newspaper Diversity Survey measures the percentage of women and minorities working in US newsrooms.
Why would foundations like Knight-Ridder, McClatchy, Poynter and others find Lincoln’s journalism program worthy of funding, when one of its professors essentially says “we’re too tradition-addled to accept any semblance of change in the way we train our students, who are unprepared when they arrive and largely unwilling to adapt?”
If there are any groups that would be willing to support Lincoln mass communications after such a publicly damning review from one of its stakeholders, it wouldn’t be the kind of transformative support that moves a department to stronger recruitment, self-sustaining grant making, or competitive advancement against other peers.
This is not an indictment of Sites because he is white. He teaches at one of a handful of HBCUs with a sizable population of white students and faculty. This in an indictment of a select number of HBCU faculty, of all races and who at all levels of discontent, screw over their students and their HBCU experience.
HBCUs have for decades quietly suffered a unique phenomenon powered by a small but persistent and powerful group; faculty who plainly do not understand or who vehemently reject the idea of open enrollment and the students served by its construct. This phenomenon isn’t just for white professors at HBCUs; it is more commonly found among faculty members hailing from African Diaspora nations, who cleverly disguise their disdain as “tough love” in the name of adequately training up the black leaders of the future.
Many students accept poor and harsh treatment from this small number of professors and add their experiences to the chapters of campus lore, usually titled “Professor XXX is mean,” “tough but fair,” or “I can’t stand that motherf*cker.” Most of those students who hate it are immature, unprepared and unwilling to work, but it also negatively shapes the classroom environment for mature students who want to work hard but need academic support, and those who are acutely ready for college curriculum.
At its best, this HBCU sub-culture gives students a bad learning experience, and feeds low morale among faculty. At its worst, it becomes public vitriol for sites like RateMyProfessor.com, Twitter and Facebook rants, and professors’ public musings about the declining nature of HBCU competitiveness.
Institutions of all types, from community colleges to Ivy League schools, let in a percentage of students who aren’t ready to be there. The less selective an institution is, the greater the likelihood for students who can’t understand the lack of compassion from professors, and professors who can’t understand the lack of grit from students when it comes to subpar academic performance.
But beyond all of these cultural issues is this article, which if it had been published in the Kansas City Star would have caused an uproar among HBCU advocates. Sites would have been called a racist, students would have been viewed as academic pedestrians, and Lincoln viewed as an academic wasteland.
All of those charges would’ve been unfair and without context. But all of them would have been born out of a distorted view of the HBCU mission, who it serves, how it works, and how its deliverables are defined.
Sites doesn’t seem to be a racist and Lincoln students don’t seem to be dummies. The professor’s article seems to inadvertently read that way. It should prompt all of us to work towards a bird’s-eye view of why HBCUs remain an essential part of our communities, and how we all can do more to perfect their missions.
And we shouldn’t need a drone to reach that kind of cultural vantage point.
Lincoln University is perched high on the hills above Missouri’s capital city, but the school is often overlooked by state government.
Lincoln, ignored by federal officials and state lawmakers, faces budget cuts year after year and must regularly reduce the number of faculty and programs as a result.
The Lincoln University Board of Curators have announced Michael Middleton as Interim President of Lincoln University. Middleton, who most recently served as Interim President of the University of Missouri System, will hold the position until a replacement for outgoing President Dr. Kevin D. Rome is named. Rome’s last official day with the university is June 15 and Middleton will spend time on campus prior to his departure.
Middleton was appointed by the University of Missouri Board of Curators as Interim President of the four-campus system in November 2015, following a semester of turmoil that resulted in the resignation of several key system officials. Lincoln Curators say his proven leadership during uncertain times will serve the university well.
“It is important to have at our helm someone who can help steady the waters in our current state,” says President of the Board of Curators Marvin Teer. “We are going to take our time in finding the 20th President of Lincoln University, so we needed to be certain the university would be in good, capable hands during this transition period. Based on his entire career, we have found just what we need in Mike Middleton.”
His law career led him to the nation’s capital, as a trial attorney with the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, and then later as the Assistant Deputy Director of the Office of Civil Rights within what was then the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. He would also serve as the Director of the Office of Systematic Programs for the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC), as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights in the Department of Education, and as Associate General Counsel of the EEOC’s trial division, before returning to Missouri as the Director of the St. Louis District Office of the EEOC.
Middleton, who earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Missouri in 1968 and is a 1971 graduate of the University of Missouri School of Law, made history in 1985 when he returned to his alma mater as the first full-time African American professor within the School of Law. Following his time in the classroom, Middleton served as Interim Vice Provost for Minority Affairs and Faculty Development, and finally as Deputy Chancellor, from which he retired in August 2015. He is known as a leader with a strong focus on policy and regulatory compliance, as well as operational performance and dispute resolution.
“Interim President Mike Middleton will bring the stability Lincoln University needs as we face the unique situation of searching for a President in the midst of grappling with budgetary and other concerns. Though he comes to us only temporarily, the Board is certain his time in this role will have a positive long-term effect on our historic institution,” says Teer.
Kentucky State University’s faculty is divided on its confidence in the school’s board of trustees and its board chairman. Executive drama is not foreign to college campuses, and specifically HBCUs; but it is not everyday that a black college finds itself embroiled in controversy because of race-based tension.
The school now has a caucus of black faculty members, who maintain that their interests as the racial minority among the academic ranks is being overshadowed by the majority-white faculty senate. They say that a recent no-confidence vote in the board and its chair is split along racial lines, and illustrates massive division which threatens the potential of its present and future prestige.
In a state which will embrace any reason to dissolve leadership and capacity in the name of austerity, it is a storyline which threatens the culture at large. Not just because Kentucky’s view on higher education is in flux, but because this is a similar story playing out at campuses across the country.
Lincoln University of Missouri faculty is recovering from a similar dispute with academic construct as a backdrop. The headlines depict issues with administration, tied mostly to academic programs being canceled and reinstated. But like Kentucky State, the real story lies in the growing division between diverse sets of faculty, administrators and the impact these differences have on curriculum, student advancement and ideas of shared governance.
All faculty members have ideas about how the academic enterprise should foster strong systems of tenure and promotion, research, and professional development for undergraduates. But the resource problem at HBCUs appears to be so profound and so bleak, that it is now translating into racial distrust and blame.
Black students, faculty and executives are questioning if white faculty grade students too harshly or want them to learn subjects which do not culturally enrich their lives and identity. White faculty question if shared governance is a reality for resource-challenged schools within an unprecedented climate of executive turnover.
Both sets of fears are legitimate, but only one fits the common HBCU narrative and that stokes the division of schools like Kentucky State, Lincoln and other schools with uncommon racial composition. It is not very different from the hundreds of racial rebellion episodes we saw at predominantly white schools just a few years ago, when black students grew tired of being marginalized by fellow students and faculty, and grew impatient with the lack of representation among teaching and operational leadership.
But black students at Ivy League and larges public white institutions had a distinct advantage in their appeals for equity. They opposed long-standing attitudes against black and minority students which damaged their right to feel welcomed as students on campus. They never made a case that they received inferior teaching, inferior equipment or disparate access to resources. They never suggested they were taught differently or deprived of opportunities outside of social comfort as a result of their race.
At HBCUs, no one has the right kind of resources. No one has a big enough budget, enough technology or enough support to truly capture and deliver the essence of the HBCU mission. But instead of campuses holding communities accountable for not sending their children, instead of holding the state accountable for drastic budget cuts and historic underfunding, we take the easier route and start saying “things would be easier if there weren’t so many white people on campus,” or by saying “things would be so much smoother if these black folks would keep this class, hire this president, or appoint this board member.”
Black students and faculty ask for attitude adjustments at white schools that no amount of money can buy, and white faculty ask for curriculum, leadership and infrastructure leverage at black schools which will never be able to afford it.
Higher education is nothing without its traditions, even to its detriment. And every campus is shaped by the cultures, rituals and values that are shaped as much by race as they are by the concepts of workforce development and human improvement. But HBCUs are different in that our disagreements, our breakdowns and our challenges, all contribute to harmful ideas of irrelevance and why we should look towards PWIs for our educational salvation.
Too many of our institutions do not have the numbers in enrollment, endowment or industrial impact to project a sound future, beyond the noble idea of access and opportunity for marginalized communities. Kentucky State and Lincoln are drawing attention away from the real issues of how diminished enrollment and public funding allows bad practices in human resources, research and governance to publicly flourish. And when they do surface for the public to see, they become fodder for dangerous interpretations on the value and direction of these campuses, all without any conversation on the real issues at hand.
Everything has always been about race in this country, and it always will be. But it’s time for campuses to understand that diversity in the HBCU context is an asset, not a challenge to be overcome through tests of wills. Black and white faculty better quickly realize that the more they fight and divide, the more they wade into political sesspools based upon empty promises and false ideas of progress, they stronger they push our schools towards the brink of merger or closure at the hands of rich, white guys with no attachment to black colleges.
And that’s not something from which economies can easily recover, or of which history will favorably judge.
Three years after earning state approval to offer an undergraduate degree in nursing, Lincoln University’s inaugural class of nurses has achieved perfection in earning professional licenses and employment following graduation.
All 17 of the program’s December 2016 graduating class have passed the National Licensure Examination (NCLEX) and have secured positions in hospitals and medical centers throughout the Mid-Missouri region.
“I am extremely proud of the accomplishments of the December Graduating Class of 2016. The success of the first BSN cohort of graduates reflects the hard work and dedication of the nursing faculty and staff. We look forward to continued excellence in the future,” says Dr. Ann McSwain, Dean of the Lincoln University School of Nursing.
The four-year nursing degree program replaced Lincoln’s long-standing associate’s nursing degree in 2014, following increasing research signaling a shortage of professionals in the nursing industry throughout the country, and specifically in Jefferson City, MO.
What does an increase in enrollment mean exactly? For some, it means increased interest in a campus or its degree offerings.
But for black colleges, a boost in students could make the difference in a stabilized or downgrade in bond rating, the fine line between hiring or laying off staff, the slim margin between operating on revenue instead of a line of credit, or having full accreditation status versus warning or probation for financial struggles.
The list of HBCUs reporting enrollment increases in first-year or overall student enrollment increases includes:
Alcorn State University
Alcorn reports a six percent increase in its total enrollment from 2015, and officials cite investments in new scholarship programs as a key element of the student gains.
“The commitment of our dedicated faculty, staff and alumni to our vision of increasing access, affordability and student success has forged our enrollment success,” President Alfred Rankins Jr. said. “Aligning our tuition pricing and scholarship offerings with our institutional priorities, increasing our admissions and recruitment staff, enhancing customer service, strengthening our marketing and branding strategies, and support from our faithful alumni have all contributed to our growth.
Bethune-Cookman University welcomed 1,224 freshmen to campus this fall, a 23% increase and part of an 10.11% overall enrollment jump from the 2015–16 academic year.
“It is essential that we make sure that our students feel our culture of care and genuine desire for them to all succeed. B-CU is a place that these students can truly make their mark,” says President Edison Jackson. President Jackson is also proud to announce that more than 3,000 students now live on campus. Last year, the university could only accommodate 1,800. The completion of two state-of-the-art residence life centers has welcomed an additional 1,200.
Central State University
CSU welcomed 634 new first-time students this fall, a 22 percent increase from 2015. The enrollment jump coincides with the university’s new initiative to reduce out-of-state surcharges for students from neighboring states by 76 percent.
Dr. Stephanie Krah, CSU’s Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, said, “Our recruitment efforts increased the University’s visibility and once they heard about our academic programs, opportunities for growth and value, their interest increased.”
Florida Memorial University
FMU broke a six-year high for student enrollment this fall, with 498 students breaking 2015’s freshman class tally by more than 100 students.
University President Roslyn Artis credits FMU’s summer orientation program that allowed parents and students to work on testing, advising and fiscal clearance as part of the reason for the enrollment in- crease. “For the first time this year we started orientation as early as June to allow parents and students an opportunity to get organized, get cleared and get ahead,” Artis stated. “I commend the outstanding efforts of our Student Affairs team for their diligence in recruitment and professional, high quality customer service that they extended to all of our families and students.”
Harris-Stowe State University
The Hornets welcomed their largest freshman class in school history, with more than 600 students contributing to a two-year, 50 percent total increase in enrollment.
Indeed, students are coming to St. Louis to attend Harris-Stowe from 37 states and 10 countries, including China, Brazil, India, Scotland and Nigeria. This emphasis on out-state recruitment has filled the University’s two residential halls, which are at capacity for the first time. The first facility, the Rev. Dr. William G. Gillespie Residence Hall and Student Center, opened in 2006 and the Freeman R. Bosley Residence Hall opened in 2011.
North Carolina Central University
The NCCU Campus Echo reports on the school’s increase in students, with focus on the school following a national trend of more women enrolling in college than men.
Last year, 742 female students made up 66% of the class, and male students, at 383, made up 34%. This year, the gap increased by 2%, with 752 women and 357 men in the class of 2020.
Shaw increased it freshman class to more than 600 students, the largest in six years and part of a reversal of five consecutive years of declining enrollment.
(Shaw President Tashni) Dubroy credits the shattered records to the university’s enrollment management team, which funneled an unprecedented 9,000 applications. She also notes an intentional effort to use technology to drive the recruitment process. Not only were students able to apply online, but the “robust online portal” also made it possible for transcripts to be electronically uploaded and opened lines of communication between Shaw and high school guidance counselors across the globe, she said.
South Carolina State University
Enrollment at the state’s historically black flagship institution is up 40 percent, and has created a need for additional housing on and off campus.
The increased number of new students enabled S.C. State to exceed its projected enrollment goal of 2,900 with a total of 2,963 students for the fall semester.
However, the number of returning students was down over last year’s total, Clark said. That decrease was due to the school’s new stricter policy that limits how much money students can owe and still return to class.
Virginia State University
Trojan Land welcomes nearly 1,000 freshman to campus this fall, a 30 percent increase from last year’s class.
“We are excited to welcome our newest members to the Trojan family,” said VSU President Dr. Makola M. Abdullah. “It’s a new year and a new season for Virginia State University. I am confident that our faculty and staff will assist the Class of 2020 and the rest of the Trojan student body succeed and transform their academic experience beyond their dreams and aspirations. We pride ourselves as a university whose role is to provide a transformative experience for our students and embrace our role as Virginia’s opportunity university.”