In our latest edition of the HBCU Voices of STEM Excellence podcast series, Southern University alumnus Russell Ledet shares his journey from first-generation college student (possibly with a photographic memory) to multiple doctoral degrees in STEM disciplines.
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) has removed accreditation warning statuses from Fort Valley State University and Southern University, affirming full status for both institutions.
Charitable giving and grantmaking to historically black colleges and universities increased for the third consecutive year in 2016, while enrollment declines which had annually exceeded more than 10,000 students for several years were just over 1,000 for the second straight year.
Data released by the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics shows that HBCUs received more than $320 million in private gifts and grants during the 2015-16 academic year, the highest amount of non-public funding coming to the sector since grossing $351.5 million in 2012.
The increase represents just .78% of the record $41 billion given to higher education in 2016, but represents a 20% increase in black college philanthropy over the last two years; a stark contrast to the 24% drop in HBCU giving between 2012 and 2014.
Private Gifts & Grants to HBCUs
2012 – $351.5 million
2013 – $304.7 million
2014 – $265.2 million
2015 – $316.8 million
2016 – $320.5 million
HBCU sector total enrollment declined for the fifth consecutive year since an all-time high of more than 326,000 students in 2010. Attrition numbers increased slightly from 2016, with HBCUs losing a total of 1,305 students in comparison to 928 students a year ago.
But the losses continue a trend of HBCUs moving towards enrollment sustainability, after withstanding annual enrollment declines of more than 9,000 between 2011 and 2014.
Total HBCU Enrollment
2012 – 312,438
2013 – 303,167
2014 – 294,316
2015 – 293,388
2016 – 292,083
Earlier this month, alumni at Texas Southern University and Howard University gave in excess of $1 million gifts in individual and collective donations to the institutions. Last fall, Southern University’s Human Jukebox inked a $1 million sponsorship deal with a local fast food chain, earning philanthropic support for band scholarships, equipment and the Jaguars’ athletic program.
Southern University will welcome an 11-year-old academic prodigy among its student ranks this fall as Elijah Preccieley, a scholastic standout from Baton Rouge, will become a third-generation Jaguar.
His talent and prospects of it being refined at Louisiana’s flagship HBCU are not strange bedfellows. Preccieley isn’t the first genius to bleed blue and gold, and the Baton Rouge flagship campus is singularly responsible for much of the region’s black talent in education, criminal justice and scientific research.
But Preccieley’s commitment almost seems countercultural to the Southern University we’ve come to know over the last two years, a campus which has become embroiled in scandals of sexual misconduct, executive turnover, and crumbling infrastructure.
And these headlines are the backdrop for other headlines about the Southern University System’s plans to grow enrollment to 20,000 students and to lead economic development in Baton Rouge over the next decade – despite every economic, population and political indicator suggesting that such a plan is virtually impossible?
All large organizations of all kinds deal with a ‘Jekyl and Hyde’ existence, particularly those created by and for black folks which receive zero coverage for the good that they do, and overwhelmingly unbalanced coverage for the bad things they do. Black fraternities and sororities pour millions of service hours and dollars into causes benefiting black people around the world, but are most recognized for issues of hazing.
Black churches power black economic and social engineering, but are most easily distinguished by their scandals and perceptions of ‘not doing enough.’
But unlike these private organizations, Southern University and all public HBCUs are held to standards of public disclosure, and by political gamesmanship and economic tides that roll in and out based on the will of voters and the fortunes of industry. Their leadership and financial stability ebb and flow with the will of its members, and even in the midst of scandal, those members still have been conditioned in some respect to believe in the organizational mission instead of the shortcomings of those charged with its advancement.
It’s hard to believe in Southern when we know that lawmakers appoint board members, appropriate funds and create policy with the guiding principle of harming the campus, and that actors on campus who are just outside of the politics to kill Southern, are driven by self-interest and the Louisiana culture of “get yours and get out,” moreso than the importance of Southern to regional economy and Black America’s educational well-being.
We want to cheer for Preccieley, the family who groomed him to choose Southern almost from birth, the SU faculty who have worked underpaid and unheralded for years in training up other prodigies whose names we’ll never know, the alumni who continue to give millions to the idea of Southern, and the advocates who will stand ready to burn Southern to the ground in the event that the state ever considers shutting it down or scaling it back to an unrecognizable version of its former self.
But we really don’t know how to view Southern successes, not because they are rare or undeserving of attention, but because we don’t know if this is a blip resulting from Southern’s life support treatment, or a sign that the school is trying to awaken out of its coma of corruption and negligence from all corners of the campus and statehouse?
Which Southern University should we recognize as the real HBCU system flagship? What should make us believe enough to send students and gifts, and to defend her with our names and individual brands? How do we know if this story or any other positive happening out of Baton Rouge is a sign of resurrection or temporary exhumation?
Days after reports surface about the possible firing of Southern University Human Jukebox marching band director Nathan Haymer, the university confirmed the termination yesterday afternoon.
Multiple sources within Southern University’s administration and alumni federation membership say that an emergency meeting was called this morning between SU System Executive Vice President and Vice Chancellor of the SUBR flagship campus James Ammons, and officials and students from the university’s Human Jukebox Marching Band.
The meeting stems from what sources say was a demand made by the campus’ executive office for Haymer to submit his resignation or to face termination. These allegations come just one month after reports surfaced in local media about Haymer’s alleged efforts to secure outside payments in exchange for scheduling public appearance by the Human Jukebox, charges that Haymer and his representatives have denied and have privately told supporters were actually honoraria standards that are common practice for most auxiliary organizations at colleges and universities.
In a Facebook post published yesterday, Haymer alluded to possible conflict on the campus.
But in a post issued this morning, Haymer outright denies resigning from his position.
Multiple outlets are citing a report from the Southern Digest about the possible resignation, but no official word has been published by Haymer or the university as of this report.
A Southern alumnus, Haymer returned to the university as its assistant director of bands in 2006, and was named director in 2014. The Human Jukebox is the only multiple ‘Best HBCU Marching Band’ HBCU Award winner, and has regularly been earned national coverage for its covers of contemporary hip-hop and pop hits.
Last fall, the Jukebox secured a $1 million sponsorship deal with the Raising Canes restaurant chain.
Last fall, the University of Louisiana System announced a new plan to increase its annual number of college graduates by 2,700 in an effort to boost workforce development in the state. Grambling State University’s numbers would have to jump nearly three times to hold its weight in that plan, and while university leaders waved off the metrics, the current graduation stats tell a different story.
A video of men allegedly waving guns in a Southern University dorm room led to the arrest of three men this week, and the seizure of firearms and marijuana. From WBRZ:
The Hechinger Report recently produced a report on African-American and Latino in-state student enrollment trends at public flagship campuses. The results were a dismal showing of disparities between the kind of access black students have at large, publicly funded research institutions.
Three Southern University graduates made NBA history last week, becoming the first trio of graduates from one institution to referee an NBA game together. [Read more…] about Southern Alumni Make NBA History