Betsy DeVos was such a divisive figure as a potential candidate for U.S. Secretary of Education that Vice President Mike Pence had to break the tie among democratic and republican senators on her confirmation.
Being a billionaire, a pro-charter school advocate, and a supporter of the Trump Campaign credentialed her in the eyes of enough lawmakers to get her nomination through Congress and into the history books as a wounded, nearly sole survivor of life and politics on Trump Island.
One side of DeVos’ ED tenure put many HBCUs in a position of stability with forgiven loans, grantmaking, guidance on accreditation, and deregulation on borrower defense for graduates. The other side was confusing regulations on campus sexual assault monitoring and adjudication and support for for-profit institutions.
So how will the Biden-Harris Administration look to undo, undermine, and untangle the policies which yielded mixed results for historically Black colleges over the last four years? The easy answer and the one most in keeping with the president-elect’s rhetoric is to make HBCUs a central part of higher education policymaking over the next four years.
The next education secretary is the best representation of how committed the administration is to that goal.
Tennessee State University President Glenda Baskin Glover is one of several HBCU presidents whose names have emerged in that very conversation, which for the first time in history, is thoughtfully embedding the views and advice of the HBCU community in a presidential transition.
Glover, in her roles as an HBCU president and the national president of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., has been at the center of fast-developing concerns of higher education and its contexts for diverse student bodies. At Tennessee State, she maintained the school’s resilience and appeal as state officials tore apart higher education oversight boards and developed new policies to encourage more community college attendance, both actions that siphoned students and money away from TSU in short order.
Simultaneously, TSU has continued to create new programs and maintain its status as one of the nation’s most productive institutions for research, agricultural training and extension, and liberal arts education.
Through AKA, Glover has marshaled a historic amount of private giving and corporate support for unrestricted HBCU funding, annually raising more than $1 million in single-day campaigns for the last three years.
The Biden-Harris Administration has a chance to move appointing trends over the last 12 years from secretaries having limited or no education experience to a capable and proven practitioner in the role. A Glover appointment would be more than a reliable, professional choice. She would represent a symbolic ‘thank you’ for the legions of Black people, particularly Black women, who galvanized a historic effort to change the tenor of American politics.
Let’s suppose that the Biden-Harris Administration is serious about building back better and addressing racial and socioeconomic equity issues within the context of pandemic recovery. In that case, there is no better selection than a president who has worked with and raised money for vulnerable institutions serving vulnerable student populations in times and with stakeholders that have long been adversarial towards HBCU progress.
If we were good enough to help save and advance a presidential campaign, we should surely be good enough to help run the country.