Reality TV draws bad picture of HBCU life

Imagine being bored on a Thursday evening, sitting in your room flipping through the channels. You happen to stop on BET. Out of nowhere, you hear the crying shouts of ‘Hey no-drawers, no drawers!’ coming from the television. This yelling was directed toward Kinda, the perceived promiscuous freshman from BET’s “College Hill.”

People watching may be tuning in to see what the black college experience is like. However, some people feel television shows like this do not entirely portray historically black colleges and universities in the correct way.

Assistant Professor of Journalism Kenneth Jones was somewhat taken aback after having seen only the promos for “College Hill.” He wonders whether high school students who watch a show like “College Hill” will want to attend a HBCU.

“There is college life, and then there is black college life,” said BET senior vice president of music programming and talent Stephen Hill in an interview at, “and those who have been around historically black colleges and universities know there are social, cultural and attitudinal differences from more mainstream institutions,”

A black student attending an HBCU will more than likely see more people like himself than if he went to a more conventional college.

“Seeing television shows on HBCUs, you see more down to earth people, people morally on your level, people who interact with you better and have been through some of the same problems as you,” said Deontre Henderson, an 18-year-old freshman pharmacy student from St. Petersburg.

Henderson does not see anything wrong with the portrayal of HBCUs in reality television, but has a problem with the cast. Watching a show like “College Hill,” or maybe even “Doin’ Da Fool” on UPN, people can see a portion of a student’s academic life – and definitely his or hers social life.

“The people they pick are wild and portrayed wrong,” Henderson said. “They pick the good girl, the quiet girl or the flirt.”

It seems students are noticing that these shows would rather capture the social aspects of HBCUs rather than the academic side. Perhaps it makes for better ratings. After all, “College Hill” did have a 1.4 audience rating (1.4 million viewers) with the premier of “College Hill” in 2004, the highest-rating debut of a series on BET in its 25-year history, according to

To Jones, “College Hill” looked like “a big high school lacking discipline and scholarly effort.”

As a professor of media, Jones feels the media has a lot to do with this unconstructive portrayal.

“It’s a direct result of a way to make more money,” Jones said.

After viewing “College Hill” or “Doin’ Da Fool,” high school students with aspirations of attending an HBCU may think twice about where they want to spend their academic careers. On the other hand, it may be a recruiting tool.

Nakima Isler, 23, a sophomore nursing student from Brockton, Mass., thinks these reality shows may help with recruitment.

“I think it will help because you can be around your culture,” she said.

“It’s so opposite from a white college.”

Isler can attest to this having coming from West New England College, a majority white school. When Isler came to FAMU, she first thought about the band and the parties, as opposed to the educational side.

Reality television shows about HBCUs give black students something to identify with.

Whether the portrayal of the school looks correct is up to the individual and how they see themselves and their school.

Contact Shayla Cooper at