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Recapturing the Good Things

Recapturing the Good ThingsThis is not the first time Black Issues has taken a close look at the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO) over the years. But it has been our first close look since Dr. Frederick Humphries, former president of Florida A&M University, took over the reigns of the 30 plus-year-old organization approximately six months ago.
We covered with NAFEO in 1999 (June 24), “Can NAFEO Find Its Direction?” At that time, many Black college presidents expressed concern about the organization — its relevance, high membership dues and lagging conference attendance. Former president of the University of the District of Columbia, Dr. Julius Nimmons, was quoted as saying, “The organization is languishing, it is faded. We’ve got to recapture those things that were good.”
Other college presidents said NAFEO was not addressing serious issues facing Black colleges such as the increased competition to attract African American students. Others interviewed for the article were beginning to turn to organizations such as the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, and the American Council on Education — organizations that “once wrote off our clientele,” said then-president Dr. Henry Ponder.
But with new leadership often comes new energy and a new spirit. For many organizations, new leadership is “just what the doctor ordered” to give them a boost and turn things around. Last year, as rumors circulated about Humphries being the likely next president of NAFEO, many people said if anybody could turn things around for the organization, Humphries would be the man for the job. He is credited with transforming Florida A&M University into the nation’s leading producer of African American baccalaureates. In addition, the Tallahassee-based university leads HBCUs in attracting the highest number of National Achievement Scholars.
But Washington is a different town, and instead of focusing on the welfare of one university, you’re dealing with over 100. Humphries appears to be up to the task and has many ideas for reorganizing NAFEO. Editor-at-Large Cheryl D. Fields spoke with Humphries recently about his plans for the organization. One of his priorities is to broaden the base of involvement among college administrators in addition to the college presidents in the organization. He has already increased the percentage of paid memberships, drafted a new legislative agenda and is aiming to raise $1 million by the end of the year. All in all, Humphries is trying to stabilize the organization to make sure NAFEO is around for another 30 years.
Speaking of staying around for a while, summer’s popular pastime sport — baseball — wraps up our feature section. Sports writer Craig T. Greenlee looks at the future of Black college baseball. African American participation in college baseball is approximately 7 percent compared to football and basketball, which boast participation rates of 42 percent and 57 percent respectively. African American participation rates in the major leagues has been on the steady decline since 1994, now at about 13 percent.
HBCU coaches say Black student-athletes have many more options nowadays. FAMU coach Joseph Durant says there’s so much emphasis on basketball. “Seems like everybody wants to be like Mike,” he says. Yet and still, don’t look for Black college baseball to completely disappear any time soon. The game as we have known it, the coaches say, will just be different.  Hilary Hurd

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