How Alternative Facts Can Create Fake HBCU News

From Inside Higher 

How Alternative Facts Can Create Fake HBCU News

When numbers are misused in a way that reinforces an idea that such institutions are less than most of higher education, we should respond, argues Walter Kimbrough.

February 21, 2019
Dillard University

I have always been of the mind-set that not everyone speaks numbers. People often take numbers and manipulate them to provide an analysis they don’t suggest. Or, more often, people don’t review enough numbers to share a fuller picture of a situation. In this political climate, we’ve seen numbers completely ignored and new ones invented because they support a particular narrative.

Numbers are useful if used properly because they can help provide an understanding of the state of some person, place or thing. As a college president, I am always interested in numbers. How many admissions applications are we converting to admits? What is our current alumni giving rate? What are the records of our basketball teams? (I’m competitive!)

I love numbers.

But I hate when I see numbers incorrectly used as part of news stories. I am even more enraged when the misuse of numbers feed into a narrative that many would like to believe for their own purposes, to support their ideas and beliefs. Unfortunately, I often see numbers misused in a way that tends to reinforce an idea of historically black colleges and universities as less than most of higher education. When I see that happen, I always respond.

Recently, for example, Forbes magazine published a story on its website, “Lower Enrollment Hits Higher Ed Hard, HBCUs the Hardest.”

I want to set the record straight about it, as it reinforced what many people think about HBCUs: that they have no place in 2019.

For starters, the article is based on a faulty premise. It noted correctly that between 2010 and 2016, while all of higher education saw a loss of enrollment of 6 percent, HBCUs faced a loss of 11 percent. Yet during that same period, enrollment at two-year colleges was down 19 percent, and enrollment at for-profit institutions was down 41 percent, almost four times the sector described as being hit the hardest.

I’ve theorized that HBCUs would experience new interest after the 2015 protests at the University of Missouri, which led to protests all across the nation that academic year. While HBCU enrollment still dropped 0.4 percent from 2015 to 2016, it was half the loss of 0.7 percent for all of higher education. For-profit universities’ enrollment dropped 12 percent from 2015 to 2016 alone.

The author of the piece on the Forbes website also cited a 2014 article in the Huffington Post, “No Greater Waste of Money Than an HBCU,” to prove that HBCUs have a reputational problem. She seemingly didn’t understand that the article was a sarcastic one, stating that if philanthropists are simply wasting money, as some argue, they should do so with HBCUs. In fact, the author of that article made the point that it is easy to devalue HBCUs if you only look at surface numbers. This more recent piece, however, was based entirely on such surface numbers.

A more thorough examination of why enrollments at HBCUs declined would have addressed systemic problems. For example, did any events disproportionately impact black students and cause these numbers to drop? Of course. In 2011, the U.S. Department of Education changed the requirements for qualifying for the Parent PLUS loan, and for several years, fewer students qualified. While Bennett College was cited for its struggles in the story published by Forbes, there was no mention of how the college went from having 63 percent of their Parent PLUS loans approved in 2011 to only 18 percent in 2012.

Perhaps the story could have explored how many black families don’t earn a living wage, so abrupt changes in the Parent PLUS loan, or more recently, the ending of the Perkins Loan program, combined with Pell Grant increases not being indexed to inflation, limit opportunities for college. Here in New Orleans, 53 percent of all families are struggling to get by -- either living in poverty or living as ALICE (asset limited, income constrained, employed). And of those, 69 percent are black families, while 30 percent are white families.

In fact, the story could have been about the resilience of HBCUs, despite the wealth inequality and the Parent PLUS changes. It could have been about how wealth inequality more severely impacts black students and is limiting their opportunity to attend any college or university. Black student enrollment declined 15 percent between 2010 and 2016, and over 3 percent alone between 2015 and 2016.

These are objective factors that impact enrollment for all colleges. But they more severely affect the population that overwhelmingly attends HBCUs. Instead of looking at the whole picture, the story painted a misleading view of an entire sector. The fact that the author offered Cheyney University as a flagship, undoubtedly a significant institution historically, rather than Howard University, one of the largest HBCUs with an endowment of almost $700 million, puts an exclamation point on the problems of this type of reporting.

Despite all of the obstacles, there is considerable interest among many students today in attending HBCUs. With the continuation of incidents of black students being challenged at colleges where they are enrolled, more and more students and parents are taking a new look at HBCUs. And it doesn’t hurt when one of the biggest stars on the planet, Beyoncé, does an HBCU-themed performance at Coachella.

I have said over and over that I hate when those in the HBCU community proclaim that we need to tell our stories. Not only do we often fail to tell our stories, we sit quietly when false stories are shared.

Today, we need a modern, data-driven and unapologetic fact-checking approach to present HBCUs in a fair and accurate light. Yes, like all of higher education, we have challenges -- significant ones based on the economic factors impacting our primary population. But we can’t ignore it any longer when those challenges are presented in the worst possible light.

My pastor often references Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who once said, “God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

I am always going to speak. The question is: Who is with me?


Walter Kimbrough is president of Dillard University.



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Focus Retriever

Gov. Hogan discusses HBCU settlement with black caucus






Maryland's black lawmakers urge Gov. Hogan to meet with them to help settle long-running HBCU lawsuit

From the Baltimore Sun


The clock tower of Holmes Hall is reflected in a window of the library on the campus of Morgan State University in Baltimore on Nov. 8. 2007. (KIM HAIRSTON / Baltimore Sun)

Pamela Wood Contact Reporter
The Baltimore Sun

January 18, 2019 1:10 PM


Maryland’s black lawmakers are asking Gov. Larry Hogan to meet with them to discuss settling a long-running lawsuit that alleges the state fostered segregation at its public universities.

Members of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland delivered a letter Friday to Hogan’s office, seeking the meeting “to resolve what we view not as a legal matter, but rather, a matter of political will.”

Representatives from the state’s four historically black universities — Morgan State and Coppin State universities in Baltimore, Bowie State University, and the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore, in Princess Anne — accused the state of allowing well-funded programs at historically white universities to undermine similar programs at the HBCUs.

The lawsuit was first filed 12 years ago, and the courts ruled in 2013 that the state’s actions did perpetuate segregation.

Members of the black caucus asked for a meeting within 10 days, but Hogan’s office said the governor would discuss the lawsuit when he has a meeting with the group on Feb. 7.

“We remain interested in reaching an agreement that will conclude the case in a way that is fair and equitable for Maryland’s college students,” Hogan spokeswoman Shareese Churchill said in a statement.

Earlier this month, a federal appeals court issued an order telling both sides in the lawsuit to meet to work toward remedies. The court set a deadline of April 30.

Members of the black caucus have met with lawyers from both sides and hope to act as intermediaries to bring the parties together, said Del. Darryl Barnes, a Prince George’s County Democrat who chairs the caucus.

“The black caucus is unified in our request that the HBCU lawsuit be settled,” Barnes said.

In the letter to Hogan, Barnes wrote that the governor’s previous offer of $100 million over 10 years is “woefully inadequate” to settle the case. He noted that a similar lawsuit in Mississippi in 2002 was settled for $503 million.

The lawyers for the universities previously sought to have some academic programs transferred from traditionally white universities to the historically black universities. They also proposed creating programs at the HBCUs to attract a diverse student body and sought more money for scholarships and marketing.

Fourth Circuit Orders Maryland to Negotiate With HBCUs

FROM THE AFRO/January 6, 2019

By Deborah Bailey, Special to the AFRO


Fourth Circuit Orders Maryland to Negotiate With HBCUs

The US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered plaintiffs representing alumni and graduates of Maryland’s four HBCU’s to the negotiating table for a fourth time, Wednesday.

The order is another attempt at mediation with the State of Maryland to end a discrimination lawsuit that has lasted more than a decade.

After two hours of oral arguments before a three-judge panel, December 11, Judges Steven Agee, Stephanie Thacker and J. Harvie Wilkinson, wasted no time issuing an order January 2, for the parties come to an agreement by April 30, 2019.

“The Court is of the firm conviction that this case can and should be settled,” the court order stated. “Otherwise, the parties will likely condemn themselves to endless years of acrimonious and divicine litigation that will only work to the detriment higher education in Maryland.”

HBCU advocates widely hailed the appellate court order.

“The judges’ order is welcome,” said Michael D. Jones, partner at Kirkland & Ellis LLP, who along with Jon Greenbaum represented the Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education. The plaintiffs represent alumni, students and supporters of Bowie State, Coppin State, Morgan State and University of Maryland Eastern Shore. The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law has represented the Coalition in what has become widely known as the Maryland HBCU Equity Case for the past 12 years.

“The Fourth Circuit reaffirms our long-standing commitment to mediate in good faith,” said David Burton, president of the Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education. “We trust that the State of Maryland will now do the same.”

“It certainly is not a big surprise to me that the Fourth Circuit is saying to the State: Come to the table with a serious proposal, and to the coalition, come to the table and decide to work it out,” said Morgan State University President David Wilson.

The Appeals Court placed restrictions on the parties urging them to move rapidly and make serious progress toward settlement. The fourth Circuit Mediator will “report his view of the good faith progress of this mediation every 30 days,” to the court. Only the court’s Chief mediator can recommend extension of the April 30 date for settlement talks.

HBCU advocates won’t be standing by quietly waiting for the April 30 deadline. The HBCU Matters Coalition, a statewide advocacy group marshalling support for Maryland’s HBCU’s, is gearing up to hold several events, making sure State officials feel the pressure to follow through on the Appellate Court order to make a serious offer that will settle the case.

“It is imperative that we state to Governor Hogan, Attorney General Frosh and the Maryland Higher Education Commission that ‘Justice Delayed is Justice Denied,’” said Marvin “Doc” Cheatham, president of the HBCU Matters Coalition.

HBCU Alumni and students across the state are planning to descend on Annapolis for a massive HBCU Day before the April 30 deadline.

“We will bring nationwide attention to MHEC and its historic economic exploitation and racial discrimination,” Cheatham said. The group plans a face-to-face take-over of the Maryland General Assembly to stress the urgency of a fair settlement.

In January 2018, Governor Larry Hogan issued a letter to the Maryland Legislative Black Caucus, offering to settle the HBCU Equity lawsuit for 100 million dollars. Hogan has offered the settlement money Yo the state’s four HBCU’s over a 10-year period. Each HBCU would receive 2 million per year; nowhere near is the amount needed to address the District Court finding of 14th amendment violations affecting HBCU students, according to lawyers for the Coalition.

Experts have indicated that a more realistic figure to address what the US District Court has said is a “discriminatory pattern of program duplication that put HBCU’s at a disadvantage” would be 1 to 2 billion dollars.

“We remain interested in reaching an agreement that will conclude the case in a way that is equitable for Maryland’s college students,” said Hogan spokesperson, Shareese DeLeaver.




Educational Funding/MD HBCU CASE

Proposed Legislation

Name: The Maryland Historically Black College and University (HBCU) Funding Act

BE IT ENACTED that the amount of __________ in increments of ______________ per year will be provided by the State of Maryland to the General Fund of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU’s) in the State of Maryland. These HBCU’s being Morgan State University, Coppin State University, Bowie State University, and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore Campus.

Before getting to the preparation of the bill a legislative committee should be established to determine the fine points. The proposed Resolution to create such a committee is as follows:
BE IT RESOLVED that a joint House and Senate Legislative Committee be established to determine how to properly fund the Historically Black Colleges and Universities in Maryland. Those institutions being Morgan State University, Coppin State University, Bowie State University, and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore Campus. The revenue streams to be considered are the Maryland State Lottery; casino revenue from table games and video slot machines; and off track betting (OTB); and sports betting.

MD HBCU - 4th Circuit Order




Judges Hear Arguments In 12-Year-Long HBCUs vs Maryland Case

HBCUs vs Maryland | A 12-year court battle over racial equality enters next phase

From WUSA9

HBCUs vs Maryland | A 12-year court battle over racial equality enters next phase

The schools argue they are not getting a fair shot compared to the state's Traditionally White Institutions (TWIs).

Author: Michael Quander
Published: 6:10 PM EST December 4, 2018
Updated: 7:38 PM EST December 4, 2018


ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- A court battle between the State of Maryland and Maryland's four historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) has gone on for more than one decade.

The schools argue they are not getting a fair shot compared to the state’s Traditionally White Institutions (TWIs).

The fight has been 12-years in the making and is not done yet.

Maryland’s HBCUs claim racial discrimination from the State of Maryland.
Representatives from Morgan State University, Coppin State University, Bowie State University, and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore formed a coalition and filed a lawsuit in 2006.

In court documents, The Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education claimed Maryland was violating state and federal laws.

The lawsuit alleged racial discrimination, unfair funding, and that TWIs were duplicating courses from HBCUs.

“There are so many of them that had benefited from stealing - and that’s the best way I can put it — stealing classes for the HBCUs and putting it on their campuses,” Dr. Marvin Cheatham, Sr. with the Maryland HBCUs Matters Coalition, said.

Dr. Cheatham has been at the forefront of advocating for the lawsuit.

“It says that here in the state of Maryland that racism is alive and well,” he told WUSA9.

Seven years later, in 2013, a federal judge ruled in favor of the HBCUs.

“Students who enter Maryland’s historically Black institutions – whether Black, White, or of other races – do not have an equal educational opportunity as those students who attend the state’s traditionally White institutions,” the initial opinion read.
In so many words, the judge said discrimination and course duplication was proven during the trial.

The judge ordered the HBCU’s coalition and the state to go into mediation to create niches or specialized programs and to work out the funding.

However, in 2016, the mediation failed.
The state and the HBCUs’ coalition went back to court in 2017, another plan was developed to find a remedy, and, then, the state filed for an appeal.

The appeal filing means everything was pause until an appeal judge reviews the case.

“Here we are years and years after Brown vs Board of Education. We’re having to fight for our rights again because racism still exists here in America,” Dr. Cheatham said.

The appeals case heads to court in Richmond on Tuesday, December 11th at 9:30 a.m.

However, HBCU supporters are petitioning Governor Larry Hogan to drop the appeal and honor the first judge’s decision.

The state’s Higher Education Commission responded to our request for comment with the following statement:
"Due to the fact this case is currently in litigation, the state is unable to comment on any portion of the Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education v. Maryland Higher Education Commission lawsuit at this time."