#HBCU Conference Cancelled: #HBCU Advocacy in Limbo for 4-8 Years?

#HBCU Conference Cancelled: #HBCU Advocacy in Limbo for 4-8 Years?

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In their typical late-on-a-Friday-on-a-holiday-weekend fashion, Team Trump (in this case the Department of Education) dumped this in inboxes at exactly 6:30 p.m. tonight:

“Responding to suggestions and feedback from many key stakeholders, the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) will modify its planned conference to best meet the current needs of HBCUs, their students and the broader HBCU community.”

Translation: The annual HBCU conference due to happen on September 19 is cancelled.

Again, Department of Ed: “This more intimate HBCU Week will feature a series of strategic meetings for students and leaders to share their perspectives on the opportunities and challenges facing the HBCU community. The events will also focus on how the Administration can best work with and support HBCU schools and students.  

Translation: A bunch of people said they weren’t coming and if we’d had it a big hotel it would have been instantly embarrassing. 

Department of Education: “These conversations will also inform how to best structure a larger-scale and highly beneficial HBCU Conference at a future date. HBCU Week events will be held at the White House, including a convening of national HBCU stakeholders and the announcement of this year’s HBCU All-Stars. The Department of Education will also host a meeting of the HBCU Capital Finance Board, the first such meeting since 2015. Administration leaders will also provide updates on programs important to the HBCU community.”

Translation:  We’re having it at the White House to control who attends.  The Capital Finance Board will yammer on private/public partnerships but without key stakeholders present this too could be a bust. 

The Thurgood Marshall College Fund’s statement on the “postponement” of the annual HBCU conference.  

“Thurgood Marshall College Fund (TMCF) supports the decision of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and the White House to postpone, not cancel, the 2017 National HBCU Week Conference.  Any suggestion that we are no longer advocating for a strong relationship with the Trump Administration and Congress due to TMCF’s recommendation to postpone the National HBCU Week Conference is completely false and misleading. TMCF will continue our substantive and positive working relationship with the entire Trump Administration.”

How? If no one is meeting. If advocates and members of Congress can’t even to decide whether to meet, much less what to meet on, how? Can HBCUs withstand eight years of unfocused and confused policy limbo? We’re about to find out. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus announced in June they will not meet with the President.  Trump announced he wanted to meet with the CBC quarterly.  Will CBC members fail to attend the White House HBCU meetings? The White House has not selected an HBCU Czar yet with a July deadline already passed. The White House has also signaled, by way of proposed budget cuts, that HBCUs are not a top priority.  

Bottom line: Four to eight years of neglect and confusion. With several HBCUs in financial trouble will they survive? 

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Lauren Victoria Burke
Twitter: @LVBurke / Lauren Victoria Burke is an independent journalist who analyses politics and justice reform. She created Crewof42.com, a blog that covers the work of African American members of Congress, in 2009. Ms. Burke has also been a staffer for the Senate Democratic Policy Committee and Director of Communications for Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN). She has had a very diverse career in politics and media and appears weekly on NewsOneNow with Roland Martin. She has also appeared on Hardball with Chris Matthews, Politics Nation with Al Sharpton and Up with Steve Kornacki on MSNBC. She is also a contributing writer for NBCNews.com and TheRoot.com Ms. Burke was born in the Bronx, New York and grew up on Long Island. She holds a B.A. in History from The American University. E-mail: LBurke007@gmail.com. Instagram: LVB325.

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