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Hope and History in the Hills of Ohio

Hope and History in the Hills of Ohio

When senior writer Ronald Roach traveled to Ohio to visit the 150-year-old historically Black Wilberforce University, he wondered what he would encounter to connect him to the pre-Civil War history of the institution. Though few landmarks provided visual clues to Wilberforce’s long history, he says he was struck by the palpable family spirit conveyed by the students, faculty and administrators at the oldest, fully private Black higher education institution in the United States. But while Wilberforce is the oldest, it wasn’t the first. Lincoln University and Cheyney University of Pennsylvania both opened before Wilberforce, but neither is currently considered a fully private university.

Having previously met Wilberforce’s president, the Rev. Dr. Floyd Flake, when he was a U.S. congressman representing a Queens, N.Y., district, Ronald saw him recently not as an ex-politician nostalgic about his Capitol Hill days, but as the maverick economic and educational leader he’s been virtually his entire career. In “An HBCU Transformed,” Ronald reports that Flake’s administration has restored financial health to the small southwestern Ohio school, which enrolled some 800 residential undergraduates this past academic year. Four years ago, Flake and his staff found Wilberforce to be $5 million in debt while operating on an $18 million annual budget. With prudent fiscal management, staff cuts and aggressive fund raising, Wilberforce celebrates its 150th year with a clean bill of health and is poised for future growth.

Speaking of finances, Diverse correspondent Peter Galuszka examines how some colleges are looking to cash in on the high risk, high reward world of hedge funds in “Risky Business.” These funds remain shrouded in mystery, in part because they operate largely unregulated by federal securities laws, and because they generally only accept financially sophisticated investors — setting them apart from mutual funds. Peter profiles several universities that have rolled the dice on hedge funds. Some have been burned by the market while others have seen impressive returns.

Diverse correspondent Patricia Valdata speaks with Dr. Jane Buck, the outgoing president of the American Association of University Professors, about her six years heading up the 90-year-old organization. Buck weighs in on a variety of topics, including the importance of tenure-track positions and the issue of shared governance at Black colleges.

We also have several interesting articles in our Noteworthy News section. Check out “All Jokes Aside,” in which Bill Cosby discusses the role community colleges play in breaking the cycle of poverty; New York writer Jamal Watson reports on the controversy surrounding Medgar Evers College’s Black Male Initiative, which has been called discriminatory by a local group; and Ibram Rogers covers the inaugural press conference of a new coalition called Choose Black America, whose stance on illegal immigration appears to be at odds with traditional civil rights organizations.

Hilary Hurd Anyaso

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