Maryland HBCU Advocates Press for Lawsuit Resolution, Threats Piling Up Against Savannah State, and Florida's Governor is Falling in Love with FAMU

Yesterday I told you that it would be a good idea to subscribe to the Digest to ensure your instant access to interesting HBCU news. Tonight is an example of why you can’t go wrong in following that advice.

Every now and then I get a letter from an attorney asking for certain content to be removed from the Digest. Usually, the request is made to help an individual who may have earned less-than-favorable coverage from the Digest to apply for jobs where heavy media vetting may be set back by outdated news items. Most times, I am happy to oblige.

Yesterday, I received my very first cease and desist letter from an HBCU, the name of which I won’t disclose because, you know, ethics.

Here’s the full communication.

Typically, independent journalists like me would and should be frightened by a letter like this. ‘Weighing next options’ basically suggests ‘cut it out or we’ll sue you.’ The problem is that this particular letter, at least by the typical legal standards of cease and desist language, never outlines what I reported that was misleading, malicious or not factual.

I’ve done dozens of articles on the school in question, and the most recent pieces have all covered the university’s financial and infrastructure shortcomings caused by its own executive shenanigans. Most, if not all of those articles have been supported with actual documents that have never, with this letter included, been questioned as inauthentic or exaggerated by me.

This isn’t me being a jerk to that school, it is simply requesting that the school at least send some details about why I may be facing legal action, and why silencing me is more important than saving the school?

Because from where I sit, the same internal pressure that forced this incomplete cease and desist letter to my door is going to be the same pressure that permanently shuts the school’s doors. And that will be front-page news everywhere.

So, please subscribe. If not to support honest coverage of HBCUs, then to help me out with my legal defense fund.

—JCS


Students, Alumni Testify in Maryland Legislature to Support Historic HBCU Funding Bill

Students and alumni of Maryland’s historically black colleges and universities assembled in Annapolis yesterday to support a historic bill that would make the schools’ resources more comparable to those at predominantly white institutions in the state.

The bill, introduced by Maryland Speaker of the House Adrienne Jones, seeks to grant HBCUs more than $570 million in appropriations, designed as a solution for a decades-long lawsuit between students and alumni of Bowie State University, Coppin State University, Morgan State University and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, which has not yielded a settlement or award since the black college advocates successfully won the suit in 2013.

From the Washington Informer:

Kayla Moore testified Tuesday in Annapolis on how she participated in an exchange program while at Coppin State University in Baltimore with students at Frostburg State University.

Moore recalled that the state distributed more money to Frostburg to deal with pregnancy and opioid challenges in their respective communities.

“Our state is struggling to fill our schools with qualified, diverse educators, but we will never meet this need if we continue to essentially divest from our four [historically Black colleges and universities],” said Moore, 23, a second grade teacher at University Park Elementary in Prince George’s County. “Doing so poses a negative impact on graduating high school seniors who want to be educators in Maryland, ultimately stunting the recruitment of diverse educators from our state, for our state.”


Faculty Race Question Underscores Growing Trouble at Savannah State

Students and faculty at Savannah State University are questioning the racial composition of faculty across several departments, most notably its political science and homeland security programs.

From an email circulated to several media outlet members:

The Political Science Department at SSU has purged all black faculty in the department. The Program coordinator and the department chair are white. The program coordinator is a white republican from the Midwest who tries to convince black students that they misunderstand their history. He uses republican-based materials for his classes. He opposes courses in African American politics and has moved to eliminate the course from the department.

A review of the department’s faculty listing shows a number of instructors and professors who publicly identify as African American or natives of African diaspora nations. While perceptions of faculty representation aren’t the core issue at the university, they are part of a growing narrative about SSU’s falling stock both inside and outside of its campus borders.

Enrollment at the university has dropped more than 20 percent in the last four years. The university’s student center was closed as a result of insect infestation, nearly a year after a new health professions building opened at the consolidated Georgia Southern University.

More than a year after former SSU President Cheryl Davenport Dozier announced her plans to retire, the university remains under the interim leadership of a University of Georgia System appointee.

Leadership, resources, and culture are in question at an embattled HBCU while a geographically-proximate PWI is just beginning to thrive. Is there anyone or any group who can step in to recognize the problems and raise public awareness of the threats facing SSU, or are the distractions suitable enough to keep students, alumni, and supporters from the real task of preserving the institution?


Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Loves Him Some FAMU

Florida A&M University is on time and under budget for a student services building that had received partial funding in recent state legislative sessions, but earned full funding under the signature of new Rattler BFF Governor Ron DeSantis.

DeSantis toured the site of the new building on the FAMU campus yesterday and remarked on his budding positive relationship with the flagship HBCU through the support of the construction, FAMU’s rivalry with Bethune-Cookman University in the Florida Classic, and other areas of engagement.

From the Tallahassee Democrat:

DeSantis said a small business study released last week shows Florida ranking third in the country for black entrepreneurship — and he hopes to raise the state’s ranking to No. 1. The study was conducted by Fitsmallbusiness.com.

“I think FAMU, with what they are doing here, can be a part of fueling that,” the governor said. “We really want to keep that going. I’d like to be No. 1. We’ll work with FAMU, we’ll work with the Legislature, to continue to expand opportunities for folks.”

Some HBCU advocates may hate it, particularly in the age of Trump; but survival and expansion of HBCUs will only come with legislative bipartisanship outreach. For most HBCUs in the south, that means consistent outreach to republican candidates, elected officials, and organizations to ensure that HBCUs needs align with their political objectives.

It’s hard to argue against it when at state and federal levels, the practice seems to be working so well.