It is quite clear that many HBCUs across this country struggle with funding their impactful missions. Indeed, we have seen a mass exodus as many HBCUs over the years have transitioned from private to public. It seems that over this time the mission of HBCUs and priorities have shifted.
There’s a crisis going on with Maryland’s public HBCUs–I would like to focus on Morgan State University (Morgan). This year, Morgan is one of nine HBCU’s celebrating the sesquicentennial of their founding. However, over the years, HBCU’s such as Morgan have forgotten the importance of history.
A couple of months ago, an independent monitor was appointed by U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake to launch distinct high-demand academic programs at Morgan State University, Coppin State University, Bowie State University and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore (UMES).
Daniel Douglas-Gabriel wrote in the Washington Post, “She (The U.S. District Judge) instructed the monitor to provide an undetermined amount of annual funding for marketing, student recruitment, financial aid and any related initiative over the next decade. Blake also insisted that any program proposed by a Maryland university must be reviewed by the monitor to ensure it will not harm the historically black schools.”
Why will the money be appropriated for marketing, recruitment and financial aid rather than teaching, learning, and research? If we want to revitalize academic programs at HBCUs, we need to invest in different teaching, education, and research. Especially in the climate we live in today, where we seem to be even more divided by race, HBCUs must attract world-class faculty. If we do, we’ll continue to see more schools increase their student body.
We must watch this court case in Maryland because it shapes the broader future of other HBCUs across the country. As financial crises persist, many schools are thinking about public status and merging with larger Primarily White Institutions. We need to be sure we are preparing to innovate young minds to serve as presidents of HBCUs because it will take new ideas to leverage the mission of our HBCUs in this survival economy.
Furthermore, we need the brightest African-American minds to teach at our HBCUs. Imagine if Cornel West taught at Morehouse rather than Harvard. Visualize Michael Eric Dyson teaching at Morgan State rather than Georgetown. Ponder Eddie Glaude teaching at Bowie State rather than Princeton. It seems to me that the Black creme de la creme are more concerned about having the biggest salary rather than having the biggest impact.
Mary Ann Fay resigned as an Associate Professor in the Department of History and Geography at Morgan State University, a department that once rivaled other programs throughout the country, led by some of the most prominent historians throughout the globe, including Benjamin Arthur Quarles, Thomas Cripps, and Rosalyn Terborg-Penn. With the push towards STEM-based research and the millions of dollars in grant money that is driving this push, humanities-based programs such as the History Department are being choked out. Fay provides a rare look at this current dilemma at HBCU’s in her Washington Post publication, writing, “Transformation from above must be matched with transformation from below. Today, faculty at Morgan State work within an authoritarian political culture that restricts their autonomy and creativity. There is no faculty senate, and professors and advanced graduate students do not receive sufficient research funding.”
And so, I posit the state needs to adequately appropriate funding that supports teaching, learning, and research in all disciplines at all four of Maryland’s public HBCUs. Morgan State and the others must start properly navigating the raging waters from the inside. It seems that much of the focus is to lean on the government for assistance. This should not be the case as HBCUs were founded to provide Blacks with places to earn a decent education. Are we beginning to lose proper standing of our HBCUs at the expense of integration into the plantation-based structures of White schools?
Robert K. Hoggard, M.A. is a graduate of American Baptist College and Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School. He has written more than 200 articles on HBCUs at HBCU Buzz Inc. and is closely watching the life of HBCUs in a period of social unrest and injustice against African-American people. He is the Counselor in The Arthur O. Eve Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP) at Keuka College.