Durham News: Opinion

Your letters, March 2: The role of HBCUs

Editor’s note: Columnist Bob Wilson’s commentary “State, UNC system must re-examine HBCUs’ role” ( bit.ly/1mwvjNh), generated tremendous reader response. A sampling:

Incomplete picture

While Bob Wilson makes some valid points, he paints a very incomplete picture of the role of HBCUs today.

I would respectfully ask you to consider seeking out someone directly connected with an HBCU – student, faculty, administration or staff – to counter his points. I feel this is only fair.

I have worked at HBCUs (NCCU and N.C. A&T) for 10 years now, and I can assure you that A&T has a very different story to tell about our relevance today. I readily agree that all HBCUs face challenges – many of them. But at A&T we embrace these current challenges as part of our legacy. We have been here for 123 years, and we will be here for at least 123 more.

So, again, please allow someone to tell the other side of the story. We have a lot to say.

Cameron Seay

Assistant professor of computer systems technology

N.C. Agricultural and Technical State University


Still relevant

As a graduate of N.C. Central University, as well as someone who gives money back to NCCU, I can say HBCUs are still relevant.

I don't care what anyone says. Even though HBCUs don’t have enough financial support from alumni, they are doing their best with the resources available to them. And they are producing the brightest and the smartest people. I pray that the alumni reading this, from all the HBCUs, will step up in their giving.

I also don’t agree with Wilson’s saying some HBCUs are on the level of a junior college or a good high school. I pray that future high school students will consider an HBCU when choosing schools. I will do my part to promote not only NCCU, but other HBCUs as well. If they still want to go to N.C. State or UNC, I don't have a problem with it if those schools have what they are looking for. All I am saying, and I have said this to numerous people, is don’t put HBCUs down as if they are nothing

C. A. Pullen


Washington, not Carver

I have read the many comments posted so far and have not seen anyone address an understandable mistake in Mr. Wilson's column. Namely, is was not George Washington Carver who tangled with W.E.B. Du Bois, but the man who hired him to teach and do his groundbreaking research at Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University), Booker T. Washington.

Undoubtedly the two would have agreed with each other on the role of HBCUs, but Carver kept “outside of the political sphere, and declined to criticize prevailing social norms,” according to Biography.com, whereas it was Washington, who, in 1895, “publicly put forth his philosophy on race relations in a speech at the Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta,” arousing the eternal wrath of Du Bois.

Jonathan Kotch


Part of American history

HBCUs produce the majority of black professionals in the workforce and STEM fields. Until all of your “other” schools cannot only become become more diversified but also culturally competent, meaning not treating minorities like stereotypes and having campuses that understand and can communicate respectfully with other cultures, HBCUs will be needed.

Maybe if we stop treating them like they are foreign schools and treat them like they are part of American history and American institutions maybe Mr. Wilson’s perspective of their value would change. Oh and P.S. If we aren't needed, then please explain why UNC G needed N.C. A&T so badly for the joint school of nano engineering

Ashley S Reid

via thedurhamnews.com

Reality, not racism

Whether you like it or not, many of the HBCUs need to go out of existence. They are not functioning at a level to warrant their continuation. This is not racism but reality.

HBCU alumni are partially to blame for the situation our schools find themselves. Their apathy and non-involvement in the schools’ governance and financial well being has been as much a part of these schools' failure as neglect by state governments in the case of the public institutions. As you know, several private HBCUs have closed. Other schools face threat of loss of accreditation.

Let's not be blindsided and myopic about the condition of these schools and blame racism.

Roland White

via thedurhamnews.com

Dispelling myths

Bob Wilson did an interesting article on the role and the future of historically black colleges and universities. As an African-American who graduated from two HBCUs with a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree, I felt the need to dispel some myths regarding why African-Americans attend HBCUs.

Attending elementary, middle and high school in Raleigh, I’ve had my share of shoddy treatment in school. From having my class comments dismissed, minimzed or ignored to spending three days in ISS due to skipping three class periods during one day (one of those periods...lunch). While I was in ISS, I began talking with a girl who was there with her two best friends. They were in ISS for three days as well. When I asked why, she informed me that she and her friends skipped school for a month prior to getting caught.

During my senior year in high school, I consciously decided to attend an HBCU because I wanted to see professionals who looked like me and valued me and my opinions. While a student at N.C. A&T several of my friends worked their way through school rather than have their parents pay for it, so it may have taken them a little longer to graduate. In my case, however, freshman year was a bust, not because the work was too hard or because my brain could not comprehend the material but because I spent more socializing than was appropriate. I did graduate however in less than the six years mentioned in Mr. Wilson’s article.

In 2009, I obtained a master's degree from NCCU's School of Education. I was employed in my chosen field immediately upon graduating, having spent less than $35.000. Working in my new field allows me to have a pretty good salary so I can repay my school loans while my friends who attend NCSU and private colleges spent significantly more but remained in their prior jobs because they were unable to find employment in their new field.

HBCUs need not look “for a new rationale for their very existence” although they should be looking to expound on their past and current rational, which is to give students an opportunity to learn in an environment in which they feel comfortable, valued and appreciated. HBCUs need to be more aggressive with fundraising and alumni of HBCUs, myself included, should make giving back a priority in order to keep the schools open and functioning appropriately.

HBCUs have been the launching pad for many great individuals in areas of politics (Charlotte Mayor Pat Cannon), physics (Ronald McNair), law, sports and sports. It is my hope that 100 years from now, rather than asking “What was an HBCU” students will ask “What would America be without HBCUs?”

Stacey Horne

via thedurhamnews.com