Prairie View A&M should proceed with caution in partnership with Texas A&M

Flagship institutions in the Texas A&M University System will collaborate for research, academic expansion, and faculty development in a new partnership announced yesterday.

The partnership will engage students, faculty and researchers in socially responsible activities that address local, national or global problems. Among the new initiatives in planning will be a faculty exchange incentive program to encourage participation to teach on both campuses; shared courses, education abroad and internship opportunities for students; and a central fund to share notable scholars who attend both campuses.

Another facet of the agreement will be shared community outreach, whereby research and service at both campuses can benefit local communities and the state at large. Cooper said such activities can run the gamut from agricultural extension services, to Panthers for Healthy Communities – a health, nutrition and wellness outreach program –  to cultural and art exchanges.

Initiatives like this always provide a cultural benefit for the predominantly white institutional partner and too often very little return for the historically Black institutional partner.

Texas A&M will receive the public benefit of supporting a smaller, lower-resourced Black institution to which none of its faculty or students are likely to transfer for degree completion or new jobs. The same can’t be said for PVAMU stakeholders, who have long excelled in research and industrial training outcomes without the same resources as those of the system’s flagship campus in College Station.

While most of the programming appears to be outside of programmatic changes, PVAMU leaders will have to be cautious about the possibility of evolution. If the partnerships evolve into units applying for research grants and federal funding, PVAMU has to be ensured that opportunities for project leads and faculty serving as principal investigators are equitable to those TAMU may seek out.

They also have to be wary of the ways in which Texas lawmakers can use these programs as foundations for new degree offerings that empower TAMU with shared PVAMU resources, while siphoning away appropriations and talent from the smaller schools. Cautionary tales in North Carolina with the Elizabeth City State University-University of North Carolina pharmacy program, and in Tallahassee with Florida A&M University and Florida State University’s shared engineering program, should always give pause to these kinds of unions; especially with the forthcoming and curiously timed presidential transition at Prairie View announced just a few weeks ago.

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