HBCU Chancellors and Presidents Go to Washington

It was an eventful week in Washington for historically Black colleges and universities. On Monday dozens of HBCU presidents met in the Oval Office with President Trump. Then the HBCU leaders met with the White House Domestic Policy Council, Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and were able to voice their concerns about the need for additional HBCU funding.

On Tuesday the president signed an executive order that transferred the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities from the U.S. Department of Education to the Executive Office of the President. That day, the HBCU leaders met with members of the legislative branch at the Library of Congress.

The effort to strengthen ties between HBCUs and the new administration stumbled when administration spokesperson Kellyanne Conway repeatedly referred to HBCUs as “HCBUs.” And Secretary DeVos referred to HBCUs as “pioneers of school choice,” ignoring the fact that African Americans had no choice whatsoever about where to attend college in the era when HBCUs were established.

HBCU leaders had come to Washington hoping for a big financial commitment from the administration but came away empty handed, at least for now. Upon their return to campus, some HBCU presidents faced criticisms from members of their student bodies for kowtowing to a President who is very unpopular in the Black community. At Howard University in Washington, D.C., someone spray-painted “Welcome to the Trump Plantation. Overseer: Wayne A.I. Frederick,” referring to the university’s president.

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