Congressional Republicans Host Fifth Annual Forum for HBCU Presidents
Seventy-seven presidents of historically Black colleges and universities attended the Fifth Annual Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) Congressional Forum in Washington, D.C., on June 8 and 9. The forum, established by former U.S. Congressman J.C. Watts, R-Okla., in 1999, was begun as an initiative for Congressional GOP leaders “to build better bridges and strengthen partnerships within the African American community,” according to GOP leaders.
“Historically Black colleges and universities continue to play a vital role in preparing our future leaders,” said U.S. Senator Rick Santorum, R-Pa., the lead host and sponsor of the forum.
Attendees participated in discussions on the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, funding sources for comprehensive projects to improve the teaching of science and engineering, and a session on legislative resources available to HBCUs. The forum has helped provide the opportunity for HBCU presidents to learn the latest about what the federal government can do to help schools achieve their goals and increase their capacity to meet research, academic and faculty development needs.
Among the speakers who addressed the presidents were Watts, U.S. Education Department Secretary Dr. Roderick Paige, U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department Secretary Alphonso Jackson, and Senate Majority Leader William Frist, R-Tenn.
“To have this partnership (between Congressional Republicans and HBCUs) gives me a great deal of pride,” Frist said in a speech before the college presidents.
In 2003, the year Watts left the U.S. House, Santorum, who is currently chair of the Senate Republican Conference, became the lead sponsor of the forum. Congressional Republican leaders point out that since the beginning of the 108th Congress, Republicans and the Republican-led Congress have created a monthly African American leadership meeting; held an African American Leadership Summit for more than 350 prominent Black leaders from across the country; passed the Global HIV/AIDS bill to help 12 nations in sub-Saharan Africa and two Caribbean nations, Haiti and Guyana; sponsored legislation for the creation of a National Museum of African American History and Culture; and secured $955,000 in funds to restore the Historic Frederick Douglass House in Washington.
— By Ronald Roach
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