Most HBCUs Skip White House Summit

 

The White House Summit is just the latest flap between Trump and HBCUs.

The White House Summit is just the latest flap between Trump and HBCUs.

By Free Radical

The annual White House Summit on HBCUs usually draws a large section of Black college presidents and representatives. However, at this year’s summit, only about a quarter of HBCUs were in attendance.

On the surface, it may seem odd as the yearly gathering provides rare opportunities for college executives to wrangle much needed federal resources for their institutions. Yet these are uncanny times and an uncanny administration.

Despite President Trump’s early courting of HBCUs, the relationship between both sides has quickly soured.

Earlier in March, dozens of HBCU presidents visited the White House to meet with the newly inaugurated president. Yet many left that conference only with empty promises to show for it.

One of the few statements Trump have made regarding HBCU funding came in May when he questioned the constitutionality of a program that helps HBCUs get low cost loans.

Yet his loudest megaphone has been his actions as all of the budgets and spending measures he has proposed failed to include any significantly increased funding for HBCUs.

Along with his campaign that many have considered racially divisive, many HBCU representatives were also dismayed at his response to the Charlottesville white supremacist demonstrations.

According to NPR, Grambling State University president Rick Gallot, who did not attend the summit, considers Trump’s disinterest an unintended advantage. In his estimation, presidents only play a marginal role in the success of HBCUs. “HBCUs relationship with Congress is more important. They pass the budget.” He continued “The administration apparently doesn’t understand how urgent the funding problem is.”

Michael Lomax, head of the HBCU advocacy group, the United Negro College Fund, did attend, yet was severely disappointed. “We went to the meeting with the expectation that it would be a substantive meeting. Unfortunately we didn’t have that kind of substantive discussion.”

Further frustration emerged in some camps by Trump’s recent pick to head the White House Initiative on HBCUs, Johnathan Holifield. The former NFL player and current tech businessmen has no experience in higher education leadership and never attended an HBCU. Critics say this reflects a troubling trend of Trump placing individuals who have little familiarity with departments they are heading. One example is Ben Carson whose only claim to head HUD was that he once lived in public housing and Betsy Devos who though she heads the education department, never sent her children to public schools.

Devos also has no experience with HBCUs who will be impacted by her policy decisions

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