#ILoveMyHBCU: Are HBCUs Dying?

Over the past few years the media has made bullying a modern epidemic. Parents all over the nation are making second efforts to teach their children how to deal with bullies at school. The government and local authorities are trying to figure out how to discipline bullies. And it can be a serious matter.

But what do you do when it’s not students being accused of bullying but rather the schools themselves?

Well, as crazy as it sounds, that’s exactly what’s taking place at Tuskegee University, an HBCU (Historically Black College and University) in Tuskegee, Alabama.

“#ILoveMyHBCU, But…”

A group of students from Tuskegee University has decided to take to Social Media using the hashtags #ILoveMyHBCU and #MyTuskegeeExperience.

While the hashtags may sound innocent and cordial, the students are speaking out against the school’s administration and accusing them of engaging in a pattern of bullying behavior.

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Clauses #31 and #32

The students cite the text from the 2014 Student Handbook (clauses 31 and 32) as evidence, claiming they are in fear of being removed from school for even the smallest tweet or Facebook post that expresses any dissatisfaction or disdain for the university.

31. Misconduct via Internet or Mobile Devices. Any student who participates in the transmission of negative images regarding the University or any aspect of campus life including—but not limited to—text messages, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, et cetera, shall be in violation of Campus Codes of Conduct and punishable by suspension or expulsion.

32. Anonymous Publications. Anonymous publications are prohibited. Any student publishing or aiding in publishing or circulating or aiding in circulating an anonymous publication will be subject to disciplinary action.

Students #217 and #145

Flying in the face of these clauses (which some consider oppressive codes of conduct), the following sentiments are directly from current students at Tuskegee University.

Students are identified by numbers to protect their identities.

-Student #217-

Since its inception in 1881, Tuskegee University has been acknowledged as a venerated place of higher education, societal progression, innovation, and the overall advancement of minority individuals in all aspects of life. Conversely, in the passing years, it seems as if the latter statement has been essentially overlooked, with an apparent disregard for the betterment and refinement of the Tuskegee University student body and academic community. As a matriculating student at Tuskegee presently, I refuse to lie dormant and allow such a travesty to transpire. The history of this esteemed institution is far too precious; The teeming potential of the current student body is incalculable; The necessity of historical black colleges and universities in 2014 is indubitably vital to societal achievement. The #ILoveMyHBCU project identifies areas of lethargy, indolence, and torpor within the HBCU community, with hopes of initiating a conversation with the leaders and administration of these universities, to begin rectifying these issues to resultantly bring about a change for the better! This project establishes a system of checks and balances. Everything is not okay at OUR institutions. There are problems that exist, and these problems need to be addressed. William Faulkner said it best; “Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world….would do this, it would change the earth.” How about we begin this revolution at Tuskegee?

-Student #145-

Intimidation, mistreatment, oppression, harassment, and victimization are some of the common synonyms association with bullying. Tuskegee University was founded on knowledge, leadership, and service in 1881. However, under the current leadership Tuskegee University is not living out what the founders believed in. Students no longer have a safe avenue to express themselves, so we ask, who can we turn to when our institution is the bully? Who will care about us? The current administration has repeatedly shown that they are only concerned with continuing their antagonizing tactics while tearing the university apart. We felt that this was the only way to finally express ourselves. Unfortunately, for our safety and to avoid any repercussions from the current administration we felt that it was best to shield our faces for the time being. While at the same time letting our voices be heard through our words. We will fight for Tuskegee because we love Tuskegee, we repeat, we love and respect this institution for everything it has done and look forward to much better days that are hopefully in the near future. However, we are unable to respect and we refuse to tolerate the secret tactics and motives behind the current administration. We first demand an immediate change to the Student Handbook, specifically the board should expunge clauses #31 and #32 today. Additionally we demand answers and accountability from the administration about where we are headed as an institution.

Does the university really have to keep their students quiet to protect their reputation?

HBCU’s are higher-education institutions that were established pre-1964 in an effort to serve black communities. But apparently these students of Tukegee University don’t think they’re being served very well. And this is understandable considering that under these clauses even the students’ text messages are subject to scrutiny and surveillance.

But does the university really have to subdue its students to protect its reputation?

Should students be required to suppress their sentiments of dissatisfaction with the school? Or is this HBCU fighting against what may soon be the fate of every HBCU?

photoCarl L Miller is an entrepreneur, filmmaker and Social Work Fellow at the Harvard Law School Criminal Justice Institute. In his spare time Carl plays golf, searches for lost treasure…and you know those cats that firefighters rescue from trees? He puts them back in the trees.

  • Sho Baraka

    The utility of all HBCUs can not be put on trial because of the incompetence of one university. I love Tuskegee and will always love it, however while attending that TU I remember missing out on basic opportunities that friends and relatives were experiencing at their respective schools. I shouldn’t have to worry about building conditions and day(s) long registration processes. Not to add the fact that other colleges seemed to be miles ahead of us in educational curriculum. I’m forced to take a reading class while my counterparts are learning how to start businesses. The Miseducation of the Negro at its finest. Grace to those students. Fight well for the education you deserve. #Ilovemyhbcu but…

  • Gil Laury

    Interesting how it doesn’t seem like much has changed since my time at Tuskegee from 98-02 in terms of how students are living & being treated. Tuskegee was a very interesting school and the “experience” for me was rooted in meeting different people from literally all over the country. The experience of struggling due to incompetent faculty or ridiculous rules like they did back when I went is & was uncalled for. Hopefully the use of social media will help to change things…wish we had social media like that way back when.

  • Enneirda07

    As a recent Tuskegee grad, I’m not surprised at these students’ observations. To answer the question, are HBCUs dying, I would say no, but only because we continue to enroll in these schools. We desire to go to these schools because our grandparents went there yet we complain about how the school hasn’t changed instead of leaving. It’s like continuously going to a restaurant where you’re ignored or a store where the clerk follows you around instead of shopping somewhere else. As long Tuskegee and other HBCUs have a steady stream of incoming students paying their hard earned cash (or Sallie Mae’s) , they have no reason to change.

  • lesmaha

    There’s an important piece about how the politics of respectability affects the culture of HBCU’s, and that conversation must continue. But the basic upkeep of campuses; being on top of curricula; that needs resources. Alumni and others must continue to invest financial and other resources into HBCU’s in order for them to serve our communities. And HBCU’s must seek out funding as well. Many smaller schools with small to tiny endowments are suffering in the “new normal,” and not all will survive–regardless of the population they are serving. If we care about these institutions, we have to support them–and as alumni, that means supporting students who are trying to make change; and remaining active and vocal about the directions our schools take.

  • Beck J

    The problem is the board and poor leadership. Funds are not properly managed and the students are not the first priority. Many of the major contracts are going to friends of the board and new administration. It is a shame because students are walking away with a huge amount of debt and are not properly prepared to enter the work force. Not only are students ignored but employees are intimidated and are afraid to speak out because of fear of back lash from management and the board. First; the board needs to go…they are great people but past their time. Management needs to be replaced because they are not trained or supported; so they lack the skills to move the University forward. It would be a travesty to see this University fail but it is way off course and support of a minority organization is no excuse for accepting ineptness and waste. I transferred and completed my education at another University; I don’t regret that I did.