The 2020 HBCU Presidents’ Resolution: Write More Than Last Year

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At church Sunday (1/5/2020), my pastor Rev. Shawn Anglim at First Grace United Methodist Church talked about a resolution he has made every year for the past 16 years- to stop saying unnecessary things. He says he has failed every year, but every year he fails a little less.

Last year I made a resolution for my colleagues to write at least one editorial in 2019. I shared a number of quotes from presidents over the years saying we have to use our voices in the public sphere. My favorite was from Benjamin Elijah Mays, who 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.”

Recently Ryan Craig’s December 20, 2019 editorial for Inside Higher Ed reminded me of my resolution. He writes

The existential question facing higher education in 2019 isn’t about taking a political stand, or doing anything brave or controversial besides speaking out — vocally and repeatedly — for critical thinking, reason and sense. Colleges and universities stand little chance of making sense to students when they’re continuing to base their value proposition on sense but are too blinded by their parochial interests to defend it.

His article links a POWERFUL piece by Scott Sherman for The Nation in February of 2013, “University Presidents — Speak Out! Where are their voices on the major issues of the day?” At a minimum I hope every college and university president reads this article- applies to us all. The article contains a number of biting quotes:

Sherman: “Think about it: When was the last time a college or university president produced an edgy piece of commentary, or took a daring stand on a contentious matter?”

Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus (2010): “Once upon a time, university leaders were seen as sculptors of society.” Now they “are chiefly technocrats, agile climbers who reach the top without making too many enemies or mistakes.”

Jonathan Cole (2009): “Presidents have done a very, very poor job of using the bully pulpit for higher education… There aren’t many presidents who are fighting against the powers that be.”

Theodore Hesburgh (2001): “We cannot urge students to have the courage to speak out unless we are willing to do so ourselves.”

So, if you know an HBCU president, send them this article and ask them to join me in writing an editorial this year. Look, in education everyone thinks they are an expert. People write all the time about HBCUs who have never held any meaningful leadership position in one, or engaged in serious study.

We’re the experts and we have to see framing HBCUs accurately as part of our job (among a million other things I know). But if everyone does just one we would begin to develop a body of work based on those doing the work.

And yes, you’ll get criticized. Heck I get beat up because I am expected not to challenge the most immoral US president in my lifetime because during his tenure Congress and the Department of Education forgave our Katrina loan (he signed a 600+ page bill which included it but he didn’t know about the forgiveness until we sent him the press release) while at the same time doing long term damage to black folks.

I believe Mark 8:36:

For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? KJV

or the Message translation

What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for?

Nothing. So find something else to be mad at me about.

A number of my colleagues did write last year so allow me to highlight some of their writings:

Michael Sorrell, Paul Quinn College (writes every year)

David Wilson, Morgan State University (also writes every year)

Mary Schmidt Campbell, Spelman College

Dr. Ruth Simmons, Prairie View A&M University

Elwood Robinson, Winston-Salem State University

Larry Robinson, Florida A&M University

Herman Felton, Jr., Wiley College

Ronald Mason, University of the District of Columbia

C. Reynold Verret, Xavier University of Louisiana

James E. K. Hildreth, Meharry Medical College

And here are a couple of mine (I did about 7 not including my blog posts). This first one was about a fight I had with Forbes. They ended up altering the story and the editor of this section called me (cool brother). But some things I can’t let go. This is one.

I still do expert witness work in hazing cases and there has been a lot of news in Louisiana recently.

And risk sharing was a big topic in 2019. Here was my take.

So share this piece with your HBCU president (heck share it with any president). And let’s agree to write a little more than last year!

Happy New Year!

The Prez

Written by

7th president of Dillard University

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