The Digest 50: The Top HBCU Moments of 2015
The Digest 50 is a collection of the top news stories and moments from historically Black colleges and universities from 2015. The list is compiled by the editorial staff of the HBCU Digest, and takes into consideration the impact or potential impact each story has on the institution, and in global perceptions about HBCUs.
Some were divisive, others were unifying, but all of these moments were definitive of the year in HBCU culture.
50. Claflin Named ‘HBCU of the Year’—Claflin University took top honors at the 2015 AARP HBCU Awards, held at Hampton University in July. The private HBCU was recognized for substantial gains in research, alumni giving and community outreach.
49. Elizabeth City State’s Stacey Franklin Jones Resigns—Just over a year after legislators in North Carolina attempted to close Elizabeth City State University, the chancellor selected to bring the school back from the brink resigned in December. Questions linger about the timing, and the future of the school facing significant challenges in enrollment and legislative support.
48. Texas Southern Recruitment Video Controversy —In September, Texas Southern University faced criticism from students and alumni after a recruitment video featuring a variety of students of different ethnic backgrounds surfaced, but did not feature any African-American students. Officials said that the video was a draft among several versions of a recruitment asset the university was working to develop.
47. Spelman Alumna Rosalind Brewer Gets Real on Race in Corporate America—Sam’s Club CEO and Spelman College alumna and board chair Rosalind Brewer drew criticism in December for her perspectives on ensuring diversity in corporate settings, but HBCU alumni and students nationwide responded with calls for support from HBCU alumni to renew or secure Sam’s Club memberships in response.
46. Texas Southern’s Joe Anderson Will Run Routes for Food—Former Texas Southern University wide receiver Joe Anderson made headlines in November by posting outside of the Houston Texans stadium holding a sign with a pledge to run routes for food, and that his hunger was for success. Weeks later, he was signed to the New York Jets practice squad.
45. Herbert Young vs. Reggie Barlow—Alabama State University Trustee Hebert Young allegedly attacked former ASU head football coach Reggie Barlow in September, during a deposition for a wrongful termination lawsuit filed by Barlow.
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Top New Year’s Resolutions for HBCU Leadership
Corporations like AARP, Apple and others gave millions to HBCUs. ESPN created and broadcast a bowl game to enhance HBCU football exposure and financial opportunity, when there was minimal financial incentive to do so given its lock on NCAA postseason football. And behind many of these deals were HBCU alumni and Black non-HBCU alums who care deeply about the future of these schools.
Alumni gave to HBCUs in record numbers at several campuses. They took the issue of separate but equal treatment of HBCUs to federal courts. They marched when politicians tried to close schools, wrote letters to local papers and commented on websites, lobbied local and federal government to make policy more conducive to HBCU sustainability, and through social media, email and word of mouth, shared the good news about the things HBCUs got right throughout the year.
Students created a national dialogue on the cultural and academic value of HBCUs during a time of racial animus on college campuses across the country. They endured social media ridicule and editorial criticism in several major online and traditional media outlets, for loudly and proudly saying what most of us have always believed: “There’s no reason to suffer the indignity of racism when historically Black colleges are, and have always been here for us.”
So in 2016, we can only hope for HBCUs and the people who run them, to return the favor. A return to business, and frustration, as usual will mean that our leaders missed the major point about why all of this support happened in the first place. In spite of what the media portrays, what is quantified by data and statistics, and what politics tries to shape, millions of Black folks want HBCUs to stick around. And they are willing to do anything they can to make it happen.
The number one question for the new year—for those HBCUs struggling to attract and keep students, flailing to raise money and sinking in political quicksand; are they willing to do whatever it takes to return the favor? And for the HBCUs in better positions for finance and image, can we expect more innovation in performance and awareness building?
Here are five resolutions for HBCUs large and small in 2016.
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