Fooled ya this time, didn’t I?
That’s my response to a reader who mockingly asked if it was time for my annual column lambasting CIAA schools and alumni for spending millions in a week at a basketball tournament in Charlotte – even as some of the member schools struggle to keep their doors open?
A check back through the N&O’s archives showed that, yes, I’ve written such columns the past two years, criticizing the schools for ignoring their shaky economic straits while alumni drop beaucoup bucks on plane tickets, expensive Yak – that’s cognac to the uninitiated – and jacked-up hotel room prices in the Queen City during the CIAA’s annual basketball bacchanalia.
But not this year. I’ve got just two things to say: Boogie down, y’all.
And make mine a double.
Who needs HBCUs?
Who needs Historically Black Colleges and Universities, anyway? So what if many of them were founded soon after slavery and have survived Jim Crow, depressions, recessions and other indignities, yet continue to account for the overwhelming majority of black graduates and business and civic leaders?
So what if they can’t survive a period when there’s a brother in the White House and more blacks are prosperous than at any other time, relatively speaking?
It is obvious that having a good time and spending about $30 million in Charlotte is more important than providing scholarships for deserving students who might not otherwise be able to afford college. The need for bright students became apparent last year, when the CIAA got bamboozled into a new six-year deal with Charlotte that netted it only $1.4 million per year, $400,000 more than the previous deal.
A freshman econ major could’ve told CIAA conference commissioner Jacqie Carpenter that that comes out to less than $90,000 per school. Chump change.
Even before the UNC Board of Governors revealed its desired new direction – rightward, ho! – and forced out President Tom Ross, it had revealed its hand and its lack of regard for HBCUs: a bill was introduced in the legislature last year to shutter Elizabeth City State University. That proposal was withdrawn, but it can be re-introduced.
Anyone who thinks it won’t be – or that HBCUs don’t still have a bull’s-eye on their backs – is deluded.
Being good stewards of their resources is about to become more important than ever for the leaders of these schools, as the Board of Governors is likely to tighten purse strings across the system. We all know what that means for the historically black colleges and universities.
An unsympathetic Board of Governors is not the only problem HBCUs may face. Columnist George E. Curry of the National Newspaper Publishers Association noted recently in a column called “Is Obama Trying to Kill Black Colleges?” that if President Obama’s proposal for two years of free community college for whoever wants it becomes reality, HBCUs could be adversely affected – since community colleges and HBCUs both court the same students.
Instead of going to Charlotte and spending millions on plane tickets, food, booze and hotel rooms – I did tell y’all that Charlotte jacks up its prices for you, didn’t I? – these HBCU alumni should be going to Washington to march on the White House, demanding that President Obama do more to ensure they get a fair shake – or at least see if they can get some of that cheddar he’s slicing for community colleges.
Do executive of these universities really think putting on a good tournament – dribbling, in essence, while Rome burns – is going to combat the challenges their schools face?
No. So, while y’all are down in Charlotte fertilizing its economy, don’t give a second thought to your alma maters back home, withering and dying.
C’est la vie, homes. Just remember, though, HBCU alumni: the last one to leave your alma mater shouldn’t forget to turn off the lights.