HBCU DIGEST: Why is the media working so hard this week to shut down HBCUs?

Beshear Calls for Financial Report on Kentucky State University in  Frankfort as Its President Resigns and Lawsuits Escalate in Sexual  Harassment and Wrongful Termination

Within the last two weeks, local media in two HBCU cities have alleged that their anchor institutions are on the verge of closing.

In Frankfort, Kentucky,  a complicated financial crisis may prevent Kentucky State University from opening next fall.  In Miami, headlines suggest that accreditation issues may shut Florida Memorial University down in less than a year

Doomsday predictions may get clicks and headlines, but it’s often at the expense of worrying students, parents, staff, and faculty.  It creates and drives hysteria on campus. We are witnessing how the uninformed media can harm our institutions.  And again, it isn’t personal: they are reporting news as they have gathered information from reputable on-campus stakeholders.  

Let’s call it what it is: politics.  

Let’s dissect the consistencies of the news coming out of Frankfort, Kentucky.  Finances are the focus of the issues at Kentucky State University.  It would appear that it’s a circular blame game that rests upon the former president; but in a quasi-state agency like Kentucky State University, the accountability rests upon the Board of Regents.  And to be clear: the Board of Regents regularly accepted all reports, rewarded, and incentivized M. Christopher Brown, II…until June 11, 2021.  

For Florida Memorial, there simply is no world where schools like Bennett College for Women or even Morris Brown College can stay alive and Florida Memorial does not. There may be concerns about the president’s fitness and character in leading the school, but there should be no concern that FMU risks immediate closure. 

Even with accreditation loss, HBCUs have a pathway to accreditation, fundraising gains, and survival. 

There are too many examples of cash-strapped, accreditation-vulnerable HBCUs surviving over the last two decades.  Cheyney University was in debt for millions of dollars for more than a decade and faced potential accreditation loss; it remains open and in business.

South Carolina State University was facing closure in 2015 over its corrupt board and financial losses; it’s still here.  Savannah State University faced money problems, and today is in no jeopardy. 

Neither of these HBCUs is in imminent danger of closure.  At the same time and at both institutions, student stakeholders need to be prepared to pay what they owe and alumni stakeholders need to be prepared to bridge the gap for their alma maters both in finance and engagement with leadership. 

It wouldn’t hurt if they put these wayward media outlets in check for bad reporting and editing, either.