Bush Launches HBCU Advisory Board
With much fanfare, President Bush in February named 21 individuals to a Black college advisory board that seeks to strengthen links to the private sector and increase HBCU involvement in federal grants and contracts.
Dr. Benjamin Payton, Tuskegee University president, will chair the President’s Advisory Board on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Other members of the panel include the presidents of Prairie View A&M University, West Virginia State College, Jackson State University, Norfolk State University and Ohio State University.
Similar advisory boards have operated since the 1970s, including those under former presidents Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, according to Payton.
But by giving the new board high visibility, Bush is ushering in a new era of HBCU policy-making, Payton says. “I don’t think any one of these advisory boards have been presented as forcefully as has been done by President Bush.”
Members of the panel were sworn in at a White House ceremony Feb. 12 at the start of a two-day conference for Black college presidents sponsored by the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Bush met with the panel members for about an hour, Payton says.
The president established the board through an executive order that sets an ambitious agenda for the panel. It calls on Cabinet agencies to identify and carry out activities to improve HBCUs through several means, including the designation of a senior official to work with HBCUs and a requirement that federal departments submit an annual plan to improve HBCU linkages.
“The administration’s commitment to your schools is serious and genuine,” Education Secretary Roderick Paige told the presidents. Paige is a graduate of Jackson State University, an HBCU in Mississippi.
Departments also are encouraged to work with HBCUs on internships, summer and permanent job opportunities, student and faculty exchanges, doctoral fellowships and other activities. Each agency’s annual plan must have “clear goals” for how the department will achieve the objectives.
“To help the nation, HBCUs must have targeted attention to move forward,” Payton says. The advisory board has not yet held its first meeting, but Payton says he is particularly interested in issues such as increased support for graduate education at Black colleges. Currently, about half of graduate students are foreign nationals, he says. “We have to look at the talent that is loyal and true to this country.”
The advisory board will prepare an annual report on the involvement of HBCUs in federal programs and make recommendations to improve the private sector’s role in helping Black colleges on issues such as institutional development, fiscal stability, technology and infrastructure.
Leonard H.O. Spearman, director of the White House Initiative on HBCUs, will serve as the advisory board’s liaison with Paige and the White House.
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