A 2019 Resolution for HBCU Presidents: Write at least one editorial
Every year I make sure that writing is one of my objectives. I tell folks I hate going to conferences and meetings where people say “we need to tell our story better.” No, we need to tell great stories. The problem generally is that we aren’t saying anything.
I often remind people of my hero, Benjamin Elijah Mays, who was the best at telling the story. He wrote hundreds of editorials during his career, back when you couldn’t submit a piece via e-mail or shared file.
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Mays, in a 1951 article entitled “What’s Wrong With Negro Leaders,” wrote “the first thing wrong with all too many Negro leaders, whether on the local or national scene, is fear. Fear makes cowards of us all.” The same is true today. Being a president, especially an HBCU president, is not for the fearful. And I doubt any reputable publications would take an anonymous editorial from a college president (still surprised we don’t know who wrote the New York Times piece). Just know someone is going to have something to say about whatever you write, but write it anyway!
Like Mays, Father Theodore Hesburgh also was very outspoken. And Hesburgh was quick to criticize presidents who were afraid to speak out, indicating that they can’t possibly encourage students to do what they were afraid to do. This 2001 editorial in The Chronicle makes that point clear (it is a must read).
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Lots have been written about how to write good op eds. And there are several good examples of presidential opinion writers: Michael Roth of Wesleyan University, Scott Miller of Virginia Wesleyan, and Patricia McGuire of Trinity Washington (my personal favorite!)
So I want to encourage my HBCU colleagues to make the time to do at least one piece in 2019. In a time when we have seen 2 HBCUs lose accreditation in the last 2 years, and several others in present danger, we need stronger narratives for our sector.
I’m going to try to start tracking this to see if we get more editorials out there. I found a few from 2018 and they are listed below.
David Wilson, Morgan State University
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Mary Schmidt Campbell, Spelman College and David Thomas, Morehouse College
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David Thomas, Morehouse College
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William Harvey, Hampton University
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M. Christopher Brown, Kentucky State University
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C. Reynold Verret, Xavier University
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Rosalyn Clark Artis, Benedict College
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I had eight in 2018, and here are a couple of my favorites:
Walter M. Kimbrough: Hypocrisy is like porn (I know it when I see it)
This past March, I was invited to speak at the University of Wisconsin-Stout as part of a discussion on the…
Opinion: Bill Cosby holds record for gift to a HBCU. That's a shame.
Dillard University President Walter Kimbrough says the contribution to minority students by Dillard and other…
Rap and gown: Hip-hop artists as commencement speakers
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So let’s get started. Here is one recent call for writers: