A prominent advocacy executive for historically black colleges and universities is the latest leader to write to Black Entertainment Television President Debra Lee seeking changes to its weekly HBCU-themed drama ‘The Quad.’
In a letter dated Feb. 22 and acquired by the HBCU Digest, National Association For Equal Opportunity in Higher Education President and CEO Lezli Baskerville wrote to Lee for NAFEO to serve as a consulting resource to writers and producers of the hit series, which drew criticism recently from Hampton University President William Harvey for what he called “a missed opportunity” for the show to showcase a balanced view of HBCUs.
“Because many who watch BET use the information they receive to vicariously experience aspects of life unknown to them, but alluring, ‘The Quad’ should strive to a greater degree to educate students and families about real college life,” Baskerville wrote. “To the extent that ‘The Quad’ might be adapted to present a balanced view of college life, and HBCU college life in particular, the viewing audience would learn that HBCUs are a cost efficient, excellent environment for their professional and personal development.”
“The administrators, faculty, and staff are teaching students the appropriate curriculum, but also how to be both independent and interdependent. The students are learning how to be on their own, but also to be at their best – to test their boundaries, take risks, study hard, serve the campus and neighborhood community, and to party, sometimes with a purpose. They are learning to be safe, respectful of themselves and others. These are things at which ‘The Quad’ fails to even hint in passing. By these failings and others, ‘The Quad’ casts HBCUs in a negative and false light, and BET misses a tremendous opportunity to use ‘The Quad’ to entertain, inspire and educate – a model that would most assuredly be attractive to current and additional advertisers.”
Baskerville, whose organization represents all public and private HBCUs and predominantly black institutions, was among several executives present during the recent ‘HBCU Fly-In’ held over the last two days in Washington D.C. and was among the select group invited to the signing of President Donald Trump’s executive order on historically black colleges.
Lee, along with ‘Quad’ star Anika Noni Rose and show creator Felicia D. Henderson, have expressed disappointment with the criticism of the show, and have emphasized its role in telling human stories that are authentic to HBCU campuses and audiences.
“I was expecting and we have received very strong opinions,” she said. “So while we’re doing well in the ratings and critics love the show, there are people who have that experience who don’t like what we’re doing,” Henderson told MadameNoire.com in an interview. I did expect very strong opinions, but I can’t say that I did expect people not to see the good in the storytelling. That’s what surprised me.”