As the country this month celebrates the commencement of the Obama era and annual observance of Martin Luther King’s birthday and legacy, many events conspire to remind us much remains to be done. Nowhere are such reminders more pressing and consequential than in the higher education community.
Take Republican Georgia State Sen. Seth Harp’s proposal to merge two historically Black universities with two traditionally White institutions. Framed as a money-saving proposal that will promote racial harmony, the plan would have Savannah State and Albany State universities combine with local competitors but emerge as survivor schools.
“Now is the time for us to really work to heal the wounds of segregation. My proposal helps this process,” Harp told Diverse associate editor Tracie Powell, as reported in “Battle of the Wills.” “There will still be historically Black colleges and universities. I can’t dilute the history of these schools; the history is written. It’s there.”
Harp has found support from an unlikely source — Pulitzer-award-winning Black journalist Cynthia Tucker. She argues this is a chance for HBCUs to forge a new tradition of helping all students, not just Blacks.
While some see this as a step forward, especially since the HBCUs will remain open, there is also much at risk in this process, if history is any guide. Many public HBCUs and TWIs are making efforts to diversify their ranks. This dramatic proposal warrants close scrutiny as we ask what kind of institutions will evolve over time after such a merger and whom will they serve.
Also in this edition, Diverse senior writer Ronald Roach talks with Molly Corbett Broad who, as president of the American Council on Education, is the face and voice of the leadership of the nation’s higher education community. Broad spells out her vision for how ACE can provide leadership on diversity in American higher education, including her organization’s effort to help empower chief diversity officers on college and university campuses. In “A New Era of Diversity,” Broad speaks about the optimism that’s been building in higher education circles about the promise Obama’s presidency holds for the nation’s colleges and universities.
We are entering a new political era with the futures of millions of young people at stake. You can be assured that whatever unfolds in the months ahead, Diverse will bring you unmatched coverage of the issues that affect you and your institutions.
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