A video of President Donald Trump signing an executive order on historically black colleges and universities has generated plenty of attention and controversy, but it has also spurred a viral video starring one of the nation’s most visible HBCU advocates.
United Negro College Fund President and CEO Michael Lomax was among the invited guests for the Oval Office signing, and walked a fine line between presidential stoicism and perceived shade during President Trump’s remarks.
Here is Dr. Lomax’s official statement on the order.
“A new HBCU Executive Order issued in the first 100 days of the Trump-Pence administration is a step in the right direction to promote the critical mission of HBCUs, which have created the nation’s foremost African American leaders for 150 years and counting. The president has set a high bar; however, we await the opportunity to see if the administration will meet their pledges, specifically as it pertains to funding for HBCUs.”
“We must continue to work with the administration and with Congress to ensure that these historic institutions get both the recognition and the additional resources they deserve,” Lomax said. “Today, the president said he pledges to do more for HBCUs than any other president has done before, and we look forward to partnering with him to ensure this is a reality for the deserving students and faculty of HBCUs.”
Dr. Lomax’s remarks are part of mixed sentiments shared by presidents who attended the two-day HBCU Fly-In. Morgan State University President David Wilson was among the first to publicly critique the new order.
Dillard University President Walter Kimbrough did not offer thoughts on the order but wrote about the missed opportunity for President Trump to hear from HBCU leaders directly about important issues. Dr. Kimbrough was among several presidents who were slated to present during the White House meeting, but whose time was cut due to scheduling shifts and cabinet speakers’ presentations.
I’m still processing that entire experience. But needless to say that threw the day off and there was very little listening to HBCU presidents today- we were only given about 2 minutes each, and that was cut to one minute, so only about 7 of maybe 15 or so speakers were given an opportunity today.
So this is what I was going to say today in my 2 minutes. The UNCF will also share my comments. But it is important that I share in advance of Tuesday’s speech by the President because I am discussing specific funding that benefits ALL college students, but especially those at HBCUs.
Others spoke about the historic nature of the meeting and the unprecented participation of HBCU leadership.
In a statement, Lincoln University of Missouri President Kevin Rome expressed hope for federal support on the issue of matching grants for the historically black public land-grant institutions, which are forced to forfeit millions in federal funding from the US Department of Agriculture when states refuse to match appropriations for agricultural and agribusiness development.
“Despite the mandate for a dollar-for-dollar match, our schools have been forced to return millions of dollars. This disparity costs not only the land-grant operations, but our universities as a whole,” says Rome. “We are working on the state levels and making strides, but we have a long way to go before we are fully matched.”
Philander Smith College President Roderick Smothers offered positive reviews for the meeting at large, acknowledging the diverse reaction among his presidential peers, but saying that his ‘gut feeling’ was that the Trump Administration had genuine affection for the mission and work of HBCUs.
“They had clearly done their homework on our institutions,” he told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “They seemed genuinely interested in the agenda for HBCUs.”