Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour proposed to merge the state’s three Historically Black Colleges and Universities into one institution. The proposal came after officials were figuring out a way to save money and avoid having to lay off 1000 employees.
One year before, Georgia Sen. Seth Harp proposed to merge two HBCUs with nearby predominately white colleges. Both proposals garnered a strong reaction from supporters and critics of HBCUs. Supporters pointed out the role of black colleges and the apparent racial implications surrounding the mergers. Pundits of HBCUs point out the low graduation rates, the burden these “protected” institutions place on taxpayers and ironically, their racial implications as monuments to “what used to be.” In this instance, both supporters and pundits are dead wrong in what should happen to these schools.
The argument that the existence of black colleges presents a double standard is nothing more than xenophobic propaganda created by those who want to see these schools close. This is due to the fact that historically black colleges are just that, historically black. There is no college in the country, whether predominately white or black that openly rejects applicants based on skin color, doing so is against the law. Furthermore, nothing other ethnic groups from applying to colleges that just happen to be predominately black-other than personal preference. Often times, public colleges offer financial assistance for students who are considered in the ethnic minority. This further nullifies the exclusion argument made against HBCUs.
When merger discussions arise, supporters of black colleges dash to rescue with emotionally charged petitions-which ultimately does nothing to keep these schools running. Very seldom do supporters retaliate with monetary support, which speaks much louder than words. Alumni donations and private contributions would help offset budget shortfalls these already under-funded institutions must endure. Even with this in mind, HBCUs still have trouble keeping their doors open and at the end of they day their “supporters” are at fault.
Former Florida A&M President Benjamin Perry warded off the FAMU-FSU merger in the 1970s. Before Frederick Humphries came to FAMU, he did away with the proposed Tennessee State and UT-Nashville merger in the 1980s. So the idea is not foreign to our beloved campus.
With states struggling to find revenue, “merger talk” will continue to rear its ugly head. As supporters, we cannot expect our schools to depend on legislative handouts to survive.
If we claim to love black colleges as much as we say, then it is time to put our money where our mouth is, and support our own.