Last week, U.S. President Donald Trump made headlines in the educational realm of politics when he hosted Florida A&M University interim President Larry Robinson and more than 60 other Historically Black College and University presidents and chancellors to the White House before signing an executive order.
Reportedly, the executive order is in response to the White House’s initiative to promote excellence and innovation at HBCUs.The action is similar to past executive orders signed by former United States presidents but reports on HBCUS and their funding will be reported directly to the White House as opposed to previously in the Department of Education.
Robinson said he went to the White House to represent the 9,600 students at FAMU and those who may come in the future.
In addition to keeping students in mind, Robinson added, “I’m thinking about the faculty. I’m thinking about how we can present a case that people understand that this is a wise investment in Historically Black Colleges in the nation, particularly Florida A&M.”
Robinson along with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, representatives from several executive departments including the Department of Urban Housing and Development and others gathered in the White House’s Oval Office for a listening session.
White House officials say the meeting was scheduled for the HBCU presidents and chancellors to discuss ways they could improve education and enhance the infrastructure of their schools. But their attendance was heavily criticized and many later questioned why they were invited.
“Many had high hopes about this meeting. There was much advance chatter about it being ‘historic,’ and there were many signals from key Trump administration officials that they would surprise HBCUs with favorable treatment,” Morehouse College President John S. Wilson said in a statement. “
“Historically Black Colleges and Universities are incredibly important institutions, woven into the fabric of our history just about like no other,” said President Trump during the meeting. “Education has the power to uplift. It has the power to transform. And, perhaps most important, education has the power to create greater equality and justice in our lives.”
President Trump went on to commend the HBCU leaders and the universities, citing the importance the schools have had in the role of achieving progress for African-Americans in the nation’s march for justice.
“With this executive order, we will make HBCUs a priority in the White House — an absolute priority. We will pledge our support to you, your mission, and to our shared mission of bringing education and opportunity to all of our people,” said Trump.
Although a monetary value was never indicated on the amount of funding HBCUs will be garnering under the Trump administration, many are optimistic that the meeting was the first step of many in shedding more attention and light to the biggest issues HBCUs face, which is funding.
The meeting brought heightened attention to Historically Black Colleges through media, Robinson said.
“I think we conveyed the message to how important these institutions are, but more importantly some of the initiatives that they can get behind that would be beneficial to both these institutions and agencies and citizens around the country.”
While many are optimistic of the effects the executive order will have on HBCUs, others are not impressed, believing the order does not bring a solution to the issues.
Brandon Johnson, a junior political science major and SGA Senate President, said the order does nothing to address the current issues HBCU’s face.
“As with all policies, if it has no money, it has no bite. While it is considered a nice gesture, the executive order did and will do absolutely nothing in addressing the concerns of HBCU’s.”
Aside from being hosted in the White House during the week, Robinson was also hosted by 30 Florida A&M Rattlers of the Washington D.C chapter of the National Alumni Association.
“They rolled out the red carpet, had a nice reception and I got a chance to talk to them and hear from them about what our priorities are, what our strategies are and what those (listening sessions) were going to be about and the type of things we can do to gather,” said Robinson.