Africana studies professor details struggles of black university presidents
Published: Friday, February 25, 2011
Updated: Friday, February 25, 2011 00:02
Black college presidents at historically African-American colleges and universities have often been demonized in literature and media since the 1930s.
Travis Boyce, an assistant professor of Africana studies at UNC, gave a lecture Thursday to about 20 students at the Marcus Garvey Cultural Center expressing the ordeals these presidents have faced.
Boyce said he believes it is tough to be a college president of any race. But he brought up specific reasons why blacks have faced troubles at the position, which is rooted in black history.
Frederick Patterson of Tuskegee University and Benjamin Mays of Morehouse College started the United Negro College Fund. This fund allowed these and other private all-black colleges to stay afloat during tough economic times.
State schools did not receive this funding. Therefore, when de-segregation happened, many black college presidents at state universities began to fear for their survival.
They surmised the public would no longer see the need for all-black institutions, and schools could be closed. They decided to remodel their schools to compete with the other white-dominated universities. This fear of shutting down has transferred into this era.
"They (college presidents of all black universities) have to be concerned with the reality that their school may close at any time," Boyce said.
Boyce said because they were under-funded, presidents had to find ways to fund their respective schools. Thus, these black college presidents became known as being autocratic.
Boyce said these ideas were something they had to do in order to survive. The presidents put their reputations and legacies on the line to protect their schools, and they were often criticized for it.
Boyce said the institutions that remain need to be better funded. This is because they are historically important and offer students a chance at higher education.
"I think all black colleges still need to be supported. They need to stay for cultural and historical reasons," said Jessica Nacio, a freshman criminal justice major.
Alumna Misti Aas has attended most university-sponsored events during Black History Month. Aas is doing research on black citizens and their stories throughout the University of Northern Colorado's history.
"I think these schools are relevant today because they provide scholarships and opportunities that certain students might not get at larger institutions," she said.