Our annual year-end tradition continues with the Digest 50, a recap of the top 50 moments, people and achievements over the last year at historically black colleges and universities.
1. A photo opp for the ages. More than 70 HBCU presidents meet with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office for preliminary introductions during an ‘HBCU Fly-In.’ The event drew national attention from supporters as a critical moment for preserving HBCU federal funding and support initiatives, and detractors as a ‘photo opp’ which yielded no additional money for black colleges. But all agreed that the event, a first for HBCU leaders, made black colleges a national topic of conversation for substantive dialog on racial equity, the future of higher education, and political gamesmanship in black communities.
- Trump to sign executive order
- Mixed reaction to Trump presidential visit
- Trump executive order resembles Obama guidance
- Controversy surrounds Trump Supporters’ visit to Howard University
- Who really played HBCUs?
- Trump budget proposal gives HBCUs the ‘Burning Sands’ treatment
- HBCU presidents were fools for going to Washington, but the HBCU All-Stars are cool?
- Was Talladega blocked from Magic City Classic because of Trump?
- HBCU presidents condemn racism, violence in Charlottesville
- There are no HBCUs without racism
2. Betsy DeVos is booed at Bethune-Cookman. Months after the fly-in, US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos made her first commencement appearance at historically black Bethune-Cookman University, where she was roundly booed and disrupted throughout her speech, and which led led to a national conversation on black respectability, political dissent and administrative approaches to campus culture.
- Betsy DeVos is Bethune-Cookman’s commencement speaker?
- On Mary and Betsy, there is no comparison
- Florida NAACP calls for removal of Bethune-Cookman president, board chair
- BCU grads are so petty, and Mary would be so proud
- The worst performance at Bethune-Cookman’s commencement
- Black faculty members pen open letter to Bethune-Cookman graduates
- Bethune-Cookman officials cite protest numbers at 20 students
3. Hampton joins the Big South. The biggest HBCU athletic move in the last 30 years involves one of the most successful programs in modern black college sports history.
4. A rough year for the CIAA. The Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association had a rough year in 2017, first for its response to the controversial HB2 ‘Bathroom Bill’ in NC which many criticized as late and halfhearted, to its stance on halftime marching band performances and eventual reversal.
- Amid black taxes and anti-gay bills, the CIAA has to stand for something
- CIAA to keep tournaments in Charlotte, drops baseball
- Why did the CIAA cancel halftime marching band battles?
- CIAA reverses course on halftime marching band restrictions
5. Central State is HBCU of the Year. Central State University was named the 2017 HBCU of the Year, after making substantial gains in enrollment, finance and workforce development for its students. Months after the announcement, the city announced a new annexing plan with the City of Xenia, to increase its earnings and partnerships with civic organizations.
- Central State captures ‘HBCU of the Year’ honors
- Central State civic annexation plan is major step for HBCU development
- Central State removed from Ohio fiscal watch status
- Central State economic impact nearly $50 million more than UNCF estimates
- Central State president secures $2 million for STEM scholarships
6. Cheyney Survives. A threat of losing accreditation, dwindling enrollment numbers and mounting debt were not enough to shut down the nation’s oldest HBCU, which now has a year to demonstrate strength in raising money and administrative organization.
- Cheyney faces accreditation show-cause
- Task force report brings Cheyney one step closer to closure
- Pennsylvania approves $30 million debt forgiveness plan for Cheyney
- In life or death, Cheyney offers valuable lessons on HBCU sustainability
- Aaron Walton named permanent Cheyney president
- Understanding Cheyney’s accreditation reprieve
7. Maryland HBCU Lawsuit headed to arbitration. A federal judge rules that Maryland’s illegal system of separate-but-unequal support for its four public black colleges will be resolved by an independent special master.
- Maryland gives us all we need to know about Democratic opposition to HBCUs
- Between 2013-16, Maryland illegally spent $550 million to avoid investing in HBCUs
- The struggling Baltimore community college that may determine the fate of Maryland HBCUs
- Federal judge to appoint special master in Maryland HBCU lawsuit
- Maryland doesn’t oppose HBCUs; it opposes HBCU influence
- Jarrett Carter Sr. discusses the Maryland HBCU lawsuit
8. Delaware State out front on DACA, DREAMERS debate. Delaware State University was the first historically black college to join a coalition of colleges to enroll and grant scholarship support to children of undocumented citizens. With changes to the federal government’s policy on immigration and residency status, DSU was in the spotlight for facing an enrollment drop of nearly 100 students, and tuition losses of nearly $8 million.
- Delaware State welcomes second cohort of undocumented immigrant students
- With Trump DACA repeal looming, Delaware State students in focus
- Delaware State President Harry Williams discusses DACA discontinuation announcement
9. Spelman emerges as the conscience of the HBCU community. In May, an anonymous Twitter account sparked a national conversation on the role of colleges in prohibiting and responding to allegations of sexual assault. That conversation turned into a difficult revelations about gender identity politics and cultural obstacles to keeping campus’ safe in the Atlanta University Center. Months later, college leaders announce plans to admit transgender students, and last month students concluded a hunger strike protest aimed at increasing food access for fellow students.
- ‘Raped at Spelman’ increases scrutiny of Morehouse rape culture
- Despite administrative efforts, rape culture persists between Morehouse, Spelman
- Spelman to admit transgender students
- Howard, Spelman launch ‘My Sister’s Keeper’ reproductive justice efforts
- Morehouse, Spelman hunger strike ends
10. Xavier Professor Discovers Breast Cancer Treatment Breakthrough – XULA Biology Chair Subha Ireland was part of a research team which this fall discovered a new plant-based ‘super cocktail’ which may limit the number of women who choose to get preventative mastectomies or who experience severe side effects associated with breast cancer treatment.
11. Louisiana eyes big changes for Grambling State. New programs and enrollment goals were announced this year for GSU, and could be signs of success or struggle for the campus.
- For its future, Grambling deserves support beyond nursing reboot
- City of Grambling’s financial future in question
- UL System announces new graduation goal, Grambling must triple output
- Contrary to Gallot’s support, UL System putting Grambling in harm’s way is not fake news
- Grambling to establish cybersecurity degree program
12. North Carolina A&T breaks sponsored research record. The Aggie research machine outpaced its annual performance standards, with more than $62 million earned in grants and contracts during the 2016-17 academic year.
13. HBCUs work to overcome racial infighting on diverse campuses. Kentucky State University and Lincoln University of Missouri were two campuses where racial tensions impacted administration and news coverage of their issues.
14. Supreme Court gerrymandering decision empowers HBCU voter blocs. Justices ruled two districts in North Carolina as unlawfully designed to ostracize black voters. As voting power shifts throughout the south, the decision could make HBCUs more of a central hub for mobilizing, educating black voters.
15. HBCU alumni giving on the rise. Hampton University’s Day of Giving campaign netted the school more than $1 million in a single day, one of several story lines outlining how graduates are elevating the conversation about HBCU fundraising capacity and busting the myth that HBCU supporters don’t give back.
- Hampton ‘Day of Giving’ raises $1.28 million in 24 hours
- Millennial graduates part of $7.2 fundraising mark for NCCU
- Fisk fundraising increases counter HBCU philanthropy stereotypes
- Texas Southern raises $800k at inaugural fundraising gala
- Private giving, grants to HBCUs increases by $51 million in 2015
16. HBCUs join campus free speech debate. After Betsy DeVos’ appearance at Bethune-Cookman, HBCU students around the country made their opposition to politically controversial speakers loud and clear – launching black colleges firmly into the national campus free speech debate.
- Mixed reaction to governor’s speech at South Carolina State
- Protestors shut down speech at Texas Southern from controversial lawmaker
- Lawmaker blocked from speech at Texas Southern plans lawsuit
- Texas Southern interim law dean resigns following free speech controversy
- For HBCUs, today’s disinvited speaker could be tomorrow’s legislative loss
- Why Howard students disrupting James Comey is essential to HBCU progress
17. Southern Human Jukebox inks million-dollar sponsorship deal. One of the world’s most famous marching bands put its brand to work this fall, signing a multi-year, million-dollar marketing deal with a local fast food chain.
18. Omarosa and HBCUs. Omarosa Manigault-Newman has a brief, controversial tenure with HBCUs in 2017 as one of the direct liaisons between the HBCU community and the White House. From sparring with alumni to organizing the annual conference, the former Trump staffer was never far removed from conversations on White House-HBCU engagement.
- Is this the end of the White House Initiative on HBCUs?
- Community divided on White House HBCU conference
- HBCU All-Star petitions for cancellation of White House HBCU conference
- HBCU leaders, advocates call for cancellation of White House HBCU conference
- Amid controversy, White House postpones HBCU conference
- Department of Ed maintains Title III review processes for HBCUs
- White House HBCU Liaison Omarosa Manigault to resign in January
- On HBCUs, Omarosa had a complicated relationship with Truth and Service
19. Third time a charm for Larry Robinson at FAMU. The three-time interim president finally gets the nod as the permanent choice at Florida’s flagship HBCU. But not without controversy.
- Florida State President John Thrasher endorsing Larry Robinson for FAMU president is nothing good
- FAMU alumni increase push for Larry Robinson as permanent president
- In Larry Robinson, what is FAMU waiting for?
- FAMU receives presidential search waiver, moves closer to appointing Larry Robinson
- Larry Robinson named FAMU permanent president
20. John Wilson fired at Morehouse. Controversial HBCU leader John Wilson was fired as president of Morehouse College, following years of whispers about dissatisfaction over his tenure. His departure created a public and messy fight between students, media, and alumni of the college, searching for a way to maintain tradition while accepting hard truths about the future of HBCU leadership.
- John Wilson out early at Morehouse
- John Wilson: ‘I remain as president.’
- Morehouse chair clarifies leadership transition plans, Wilson to remain as president
- Morehouse SGA president: ‘Morehouse is in a state of confusion’
- Morehouse board officers, president resign in massive leadership transition
- Morehouse students, faculty speak out against presidential ouster
21. North Carolina Central’s David Bailey becomes a national hero. Capitol Hill Police Officer David Bailey saved the lives of several federal lawmakers in June, becoming the face of bravery in a growing culture of random gun violence.
22. Alabama State breaks off a business relationship with Steve Harvey. A business partnership between the school and the iconic comedian burned up less than a year after it was established, thanks to a public feud over money owed, services rendered and a president fired.
- Confusion over Alabama State-Steve Harvey relationship
- Alabama State: Partnership not tied to $250K speaker series proposal
- Alabama State breaks relationship with Steve Harvey
23. HBCUs join national black male teacher training initiative. A $1.5 million grant from the W.K Kellogg Foundation helped to create a new program at five HBCUs, aimed at increasing the number of black male teachers in secondary systems in underserved cities and towns nationwide.
24. Enrollment up at HBCUs nationwide. A spike in first-year and transfer enrollment at several HBCUs creates excitement among HBCU advocates nationwide.
- Freshman enrollment spikes at several HBCUs
- With record enrollment, North Carolina A&T expands as nation’s largest four-year HBCU
- Elizabeth City State posts first enrollment increase in seven years
- Grambling enrollment passes 5,000 students for first time in four years
- Winston-Salem State enrolls largest freshman class in nine years
25. Kentucky State launches center on race, education and democratic ideal. Formed by KSU president M. Christopher Brown II and led by Historian Crystal deGregory, the Atwood Institute for Race, Education, and the Democratic Ideal is a new-age research center designed to analyze the role of black colleges at the key intersections of American self-awareness and identification.
- Kentucky State Board approves new research center on race, education
- HBCU Story Founder Crystal deGregory to lead new research center
- The Urgency and Fear of Now: The Atwood Institute and the Future of HBCUs
- Why We Are Here: Introducing the Atwood Institute on Race, Education, and the Democratic Ideal
- Atwood Institute Director Crystal deGregory
26. Ruth Simmons leads PWI-to-HBCU leadership movement. Former Brown University President Ruth Simmons was named as interim and eventually permanent president of Prairie View A&M University this year, leading a surge of leaders from the Ivy League and large state PWIs joining black college executive ranks.
- Ruth Simmons named Prairie View A&M interim president
- Michael Middleton named Lincoln interim president
- Former Ivy League Dean David Thomas named Morehouse president
27. HBCU scientists speak. STEM professionals with roots at historically black colleges and universities joined the Digest’s ‘Voices of STEM Excellence’ series this year, the first series of its kind exposing black college science and tech talent.
28. Georgia college mergers threaten future of state HBCUs. A consolidation plan for Georgia Southern University and Armstrong State University has Savannah State University, and puts into question the merger of Albany State University and Darton State College.
- How the Georgia Southern-Armstrong State consolidation will kill Savannah State.
- Did Georgia build up Albany State to justify killing Fort Valley, Savannah State?
- Is the University System of Georgia misleading the public about Albany State’s enrollment?
29. Sex and weed at Southern University. Southern University claimed major national headlines for business and scandal in 2017. In March, SU became the nation’s first historically black college authorized to produce medical marijuana for research and for healthcare enterprises – a move which could net the cash-strapped millions in revenue. Three months later – the school was rocked by allegations of a former executive and student being involved in a sex tape scandal, which pulled back the layers on students and alumni complaints involving campus oversight.
- Why didn’t we know Southern is trying to grow weed on campus?
- Sex tape scandal rocks Southern
- Southern alumni call for investigation of student affairs
- Southern vice-chancellor Brandon Dumas fired, will appeal
- Brandon Dumas sues Southern for wrongful termination
- What if there is no saving for Southern?
30. BET Debuts ‘The Quad.’ The network’s controversial depiction of life at an HBCU brought viewers a scandal-charged look into administration, student culture and social issues – but not before drawing the ire of prominent HBCU leaders.
- Hampton president slams ‘The Quad’ in letter to BET president
- NAFEO president latest to appeal for changes to ‘The Quad’
- Dis Tew Much – Reviewing BET’s ‘The Quad’
31. NBA Players Association announces Top 100 HBCU player combine. A partnership between the SIAC, SWAC and NBA players launched the first training combine exclusively for Division I and II athletes from black colleges.
32. Talladega Marching Band performs in Trump inaugural parade. In one of the most controversial moments of the year, the Marching Tornadoes performed in the parade and earned shade from virtually the entire HBCU community.
- Talladega’s board chairman is a Trump real estate customer, and now it all makes sense
- Talladega performs in Trump inaugural parade
33. Presidential Changes Continue at High Rates. A common theme over the last five years continued in 2017 – HBCU presidents and chancellors changing addresses within the sector.
- Southern Provost to be named Kentucky State president
- Tashni Dubroy resigns as Shaw president, named Howard COO/EVP
- Roslyn Clark-Artis named Benedict’s first female president
- Delaware State elects first female board chair, named interim president
- Kevin Rome to be named Fisk president
- HBCU Executive Transactions – 2016-17
34. Prairie View A&M students elected to city council. Two students won seats on Prairie View’s city council, demonstrating the power of student voting presence and potential impact on governance at all levels.
35. Howard University heads west with Google partnership. Howard University announced a new partnership with Google, creating a residency program for undergraduates to move one step closer to careers in computer science.
36. Johnny Taylor leaves the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. The lightning rod HBCU advocate left the largest nonprofit advocacy org for HBCUs this fall, leaving behind a legacy of outspoken legislative and industrial commentary, fundraising and coalition building on behalf of HBCUs.
- If the HBCU community can’t keep Johnny Taylor, just who can we keep?
- Delaware State President Harry Williams to lead TMCF
37. Protests, partnerships and promotions – the NFL-HBCU relationship continues to grow. From the Super Bowl to the Draft, the NFL worked its relationship with black colleges throughout 2017.
- Grambling’s Chad Williams gets his NFL Draft call
- HBCU alums named to inaugural list of full-time NFL referees
- NFL to host social activism bootcamp at Morehouse
- Amid social justice payout controversy, donations to HBCUs hang in the balance
38. Paul Quinn forms partnership with Lyft. The international rideshare company agrees to share profits from student-initiated rides in support of scholarships at the college – a unique fundraising model from the campus breaking all of the rules on HBCU administration.
39. Morehouse reigns supreme in international debate. The forensics team from Morehouse College won its fourth international debate title in six years in March, affirming its spot as one of nation’s best training hubs for debate and rhetoric in the country.
40. Big changes at Jackson State. Jackson State saw the arrival of a controversial new president, the firing of a band director, and a historic appointment in its Air Force JROTC program.
- Did Jackson State hack its own presidential search?
- Sonic Boom of the South Director O’Neill Sanford fired
- Incoming Jackson State president grilled by faculty, students
- Jackson State Air Force ROTC makes history
41. Lincoln nursing graduates perfect on licensure, postgraduate employment. Seventeen nurses graduated from Lincoln University of Missouri’s undergraduate nursing program in December 2016, and all passed the national licensure exam and earned positions in hospitals and health care practices in the region.
42. Virginia Union appears in NCAA national championship game. A heartbreaking loss to the top team in the country did not diminish the Lady Panthers’ incredible run to the NCAA Division II women’s basketball title game, and its second appearance in the Elite Eight or better in two straight years.
43. Florida Memorial awards posthumous degree to Trayvon Martin. In a nod to social justice and the continuing relationship between the family of Trayvon Martin and the university, the slain teen receives a degree from his mother’s alma mater.
44. Kara McCullough crowned Miss USA. The South Carolina State University alumna became the second HBCU graduate in as many years to take the prestigious title.
45. Wilberforce bounces back. A new federal grant for graduate study and a scathing presidential rebuke of an Ivy League HBCU ‘expert’ put the once-embattled private HBCU in national headlines throughout 2017.
- Wilberforce awarded $2.4 million rehabilitative counseling grant
- Wilberforce president fact checks UPENN professor on HBCU leadership training pipelines
46. Bowie State-Virginia State proves to be HBCU football game of the year. A CIAA rivalry game between two nationally ranked teams and eventual playoff participants gives Division II black college football a major boost.
47. Celebrities show love to HBCUs. NBA players and famous rappers were among the prominent pop culture figures to show love to black colleges this year.
- NBA All-Star James Harden donates $100,000 to Texas Southern
- Chance the Rapper tweets about attending Clark Atlanta
- Clark Atlanta hosts Chance the Rapper at Chicago Football Classic
- Is Shannon Sharpe the HBCU hero America has been waiting for?
48. Howard leads HBCUs in Peace Corps volunteers. Again. HU holds the title for the sixth consecutive year in student and alumni global social service.
49. Clark Atlanta student-athletes finish careers with perfect GPA. Out of 130 total fall graduates who competed in sports, ten percent of them finished with 4.0 grade point averages.
50. Netflix and HBCU. Black colleges got major coverage by way of the streaming service’s ‘Burning Sands’ feature film in early 2017.