Describe it how you will. You can say Southern University at New Orleans dodged a huge bullet, if you like. What matters is that SUNO will get the opportunity to continue as a public HBCU, offering the dream of a college degree to students at a very affordable price. By virtue of politics at its purest, SUNO was eliminated from the controversial Louisiana House and Senate bills to merge the university with the University of New Orleans. The bill's primary author, Jim Tucker, lamented that he didn't have the votes to push the bill through. So, instead of stating his case before the legislature, he ungracefully bowed out.
HBCUs truly need to learn from this experience. There are only 100-plus HBCUs in America, a few of which are cash-strapped and easy pickin's for culturally insensitive conservatives. Understand that some conservative types choose to be culturally insensitive. Others are so busy with their heads buried in statistics that they completely miss the human element of educating students.
What HBCUs across America should learn is how to make the argument for their existence more effectively. As long as these proud institutions don't match up with majority institutions on paper, stat line readers will continue to attack HBCUs as if they are completely devoid of responsibility and accountability. That's unfortunate because I have never met college graduates as proud as the ones who graduated from HBCUs. Pride, however, only gets you so far. The next step is for HBCUs supporters to steer the national discussion about HBCUs slightly away from race and toward the need for students of all cultures to have the option to be educated in a way that helps them build confidence in their abilities. Why? Because there are those communities outside of the Black community that benefit from HBCUs' sensitivity to their needs.
The most used graduation rate formula will continue to be used against HBCUs. As of now the formula only includes those who start college in the fall as full-time freshmen. All others are counted out of the formula, including transfer students. America, however, doesn't see that. All they see is the number on paper, and judgments are cast from there.
HBCUs have the daunting task of redefining quality in higher education.That means turning America's attention to having more appreciation for equal opportunity in higher education. It also means that all associated with HBCUs--administrators, employees, students, alumni, and boards--have to adopt an "all hands on deck" mentality. Improvements cannot be made casually but with the same urgency we have when we're in trouble.
It is that special time of year for folks grabbing degrees and taking on the world. As a university employee, I have the honor of watching hundreds of these great folks work their way to dreams, and here are some things I would love to tell each and every one of them as they move on to bigger and better things in life.
I'm divorced but I'm not one of those bitterly divorced folks. I love to see and talk to happily married couples. One half of a celebrity couple that I truly enjoyed meeting was Paula Patton.
In 2006, during a post-Katrina clean-up, Paula took her time to help out a great group called the Katrina Krewe. It was during the filming of "Deja Vu" with Denzel Washington. During the clean-up, I stopped in the WYLD van to promote the effort and interview her for a sec. After walking away from me, she doubled back and said, "Hey, my husband is trying to get his music out there. Will your radio station play it?"
I asked, "Who's your husband?"
"Robin Thicke," she said.
"As in the son of Alan Thicke?" I asked. "Yeh, he has a pretty nice song I heard called 'Lost Without U'. He'll be alright. We'll play his stuff. Just give it some time," I said with a smile.
In a lovingly childlike manner she said, "Please get your station to play it. I really want him to take off."
So, as I see Paula climb the celebrity ladder with the release of "Jumping the Broom", they have a new child, (and of course Robin is doing great) it just makes me happy to say I met her at the beginning of their climb.