Alabama A&M, Alabama State and Tuskegee had always been an obstruction to Alabama Governor Robert Bentley’s budget aspirations for the University of Alabama and Auburn University, but with his resignation as governor to avoid impeachment for misusing public resources to cover up an extramarital affair, they should no longer be a target for any moral or legal bullying from anyone in state politics.
Since news broke of his alleged affair with a political adviser, and his effort to fire staff and state executives with knowledge of the extramarital relationship, HBCU supporters should have been at the forefront of Alabama residents calling for Bentley’s immediate resignation. We weren’t, but fortunately, Bentley’s lawbreaking was so rampant that even state lawmakers and judicial officials couldn’t stomach it or conceal it as an exaggerated claim within a matter of the heart.
Robert Bentley isn’t the first politician to sidestep in the name of love or to be caught doing it, but he is one of the few politicians to have an active agenda in disrupting HBCU leadership and operations. For years, Bentley used his guaranteed seat on the boards of AAMU and ASU, his power of board appointment, and his discretion to use the Office of the State Auditor to chronically seek and exaggerate financial discrepancies at the schools; all to destabilize leadership and public confidence in the black colleges.
And then the auditor turned on Bentley, and the state’s pursuit of the governor and his side jawn became eerily reminiscent of Bentley’s efforts to throw out Alabama State trustees, to have a vice-president at Alabama A&M arrested and arraigned, and to have AAMU President Andrew Hugine at the center of audit findings which pale in comparison to findings at Alabama and Auburn.
The parallels between Bentley’s administration and that of Richard Nixon, which used corrupt social tactics through “the War on Drugs” to disrupt black families and community solvency, were uncanny. And finally, Bentley may get blocked from any prospects of life in public service and benefits of public governance. But the executives, alumni, students and supporters of the state’s public HBCUs will never get back what he cost them, and now is the time that stakeholders should be seeking justice and repayment for his bad acts and motives.
If white people, those now and formerly in power, were able to convince the state of Alabama that its top executive was a lying, stealing crook driven by sex and greed, it is not a reach to assume that his failings surfaced in professional affairs. There should be a full investigation into his motives and outcomes involving HBCUs, and each of his inquiries into their governance and operations. As taxpayers and concerned citizens, Alabama residents deserve as much say on this potential betrayal of public trust and resources, as they had on the betrayal of the same to protect an affair.
Going down for stealing from the state is not enough. Now is the time for him to face punishment for what he specifically took from black families, institutions and communities as well.