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Putting Our Issues on the Agenda

Putting Our Issues on the Agenda

In an academy ripe with scholarship as mind-boggling and varied as a president’s “to do” list is long, determining what will be the biggest issues to watch this new academic year was difficult, at best. With the higher education world taking on so much — from affirmative action to student retention, keeping pace with technology and even simply making sure the campus lawn gets mowed in time for move-in weekend — it was pretty tough figuring out what we’d set forth as the important stuff on the agenda.
So we put the question to the experts. Everyone from education association leaders to college search committee members, department heads and faculty researchers weighed in on what were some of the heftier items on their plates. That’s an important thing. Because Black people have seen that if we leave it up to our nation’s mainstream political, social and educational leaders, the issues that matter most to us get little more than a nod.
With affirmative action fading from the country’s discourse just in time for us to choose a new chief executive, we should be reminded of the significance of stridently voicing the issues that matter to us most. It’s imperative for us all to make our own check list of concerns and then shout them from the proverbial rooftops whenever anyone is listening. Because if we let them, politicians and today’s other agenda-setters will run from the sticky subjects. We’ve got to keep them uncomfortably aware that we won’t sit down quietly when our matters are ignored or given short shrift.
We all know the yarn about the wheel that squeaks the loudest.
That’s why it’s significant when members of the Congressional Black Caucus drill vice presidential nominee Joseph Lieberman about his seemingly schizophrenic stance on affirmative action. And that’s also why it’s critical that Black higher education leaders have greater access to America’s leaders. Even the ones who haven’t always championed their causes — like we’ve seen recently with Oklahoma Republican Rep. J.C. Watts’ HBCU Summit and Texas Gov. George W. Bush’s campaign stop at historically Black Dillard University.
The latter two events were viewed by many as a last-minute, thinly-veiled Republican attempt to court Black voters just before the election. But I think most of us realize that the Black college community is sophisticated enough to see through politicking.
Dr. William Harvey, director of the American Council on Education’s Office of Minorities in Higher Education says in our cover story, (see pg. 24) that scholars have an obligation to stay ahead of the curve. To add to that: scholars of color — indeed, Black folks in general — have an obligation to stay ahead of the curve ball. Politicians will throw them all the time. But higher education, it’s myriad issues and the entire Black community can still hit a home run when we speak up for our concerns.

Jamilah Evelyn

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