After meeting with HBCU Presidents back in February, Trump has made a statement that now has very HBCU associate a little worried and confused.
In a signing statement on the 1.1 Trillion dollar government spending bill, Trump specifically pointed out historically black college and university capital financing program as an “example of provisions in the funding bill that allocates benefits on the basis of race, ethnicity and gender. The statement read:
My Administration shall treat provisions that allocate benefits on the basis of race, ethnicity, and gender (e.g., Division B, under the heading “Minority Business Development”; Division C, sections 8016, 8021, 8038, and 8042; Division H, under the headings “Departmental Management Salaries and Expenses,” “School Improvement Programs,” and “Historically Black College and University Capital Financing Program Account”; Division K, under the heading “Native American Housing Block Grants”; and Division K, section 213) in a manner consistent with the requirement to afford equal protection of the laws under the Due Process Clause of the Constitution’s Fifth Amendment.
Advocates for HBCU’s and legal experts said they were confused by the challenge to the HBCU financing program.
Cheryl Smith, Senior Vice President of public policy and government affairs at the United Negro College Fund said in a statement that the organization is “puzzled by this provision and seeking clarification from the White House as to it’s meaning.
Under the financing program, the education department provides federally backed loans to historically black colleges and universities for the construction of buildings and other facilities.
The bill provides $20 million in federal loan subsidies in fiscal year 2017 to support as much as $282 million dollars worth of financing to the schools.
Following the meeting in February 2017, many of the HBCU presidents stated that it was suspected that the meeting was nothing more than a photo opportunity led by Trump. School presidents even noted that he and his administration did very little listening, giving each president only two minutes each to speak. Those two minutes then turned to one minute each.
Students and Presidents felt that the entire event was only for press and media purposes, being that inviting leaders of America’s black institutions to discuss the legislation for financial investment from the government has been a long standing tradition since the presidency of Jimmy Carter.
The act of inviting these institutions only take place in effort to build favor. It is no secret that Republicans don’t accumulate large support in the black community, hence their desperate need to dangle promises of financial assistance over the heads of the Presidents and hoping to gain that acceptance and support.
Here is what a few students had to say:
There is nothing Donald Trump can do that’ll benefit Black and brown folk because his ideologies don’t include us. Whether it be domestic or foreign affairs, that office does not exist to protect Black people. So it’s no surprise to me that they didn’t get what they expected. It also does not surprise me that so many of our presidents went to the meeting. What disappoints me is that so many of them went with real expectations of a fascist doing something good for Black folk.
We have to be very real with ourselves and realize that many HBCUs have already compromised our agendas. Howard’s president has actively met with Trump’s administration and they have openly anti-Black folks sitting on their board of trustees. On Morehouse’s Board of Trustees sits Dan Kathy, the C.E.O of Chick-fil-a and an openly racist, heterosexist, neo-colonizer and Trump supporter. Many
HBCUs are funded and operated by rich cisgender heterosexual White men. So a meeting with Trump wasn’t the start of our compromising, and it won’t be the last. I think we need to divest from these folks who do not have our best interests at heart for starters.
I’m not shocked. Every president since Jimmy Carter has signed an executive order on HBCUs so I knew it was coming. I was in anticipation of what it would actually look like so my initial thoughts were that this is standard. The question was, what would we actually get out of it for our schools?
People are thinking, “We don’t want our schools to come in cross hairs of this.” They’re afraid about what happens when we become a focal point. Do our schools run the risks of being shut down? Are we going to lose funding? It’s justified angst based upon past experiences. When you say you’re going to make HBCUs a prioritized focus, that also makes people nervous because we really haven’t had a president that has made HBCUs a focus and a priority. When you’re using that language and it comes from the person that said it has people question it’s meaning. This was not about “school choice,” this was the only place that we could go. With often times little access and some buildings crumbling, we still managed to produce doctors, lawyers, mathematicians, entertainers, and engineers. That comes back to protecting. Alumni have to do work and give back in the ways that we should. It also means protecting against policies that could harm our institutions as we currently know them.
While Trump claims that his original statement “does not affect my unwavering support for HBCU’s,” many of the university Presidents and associates feel uneased and confused as to what this could mean for the campuses and their students.