Morehouse President on White House Meeting, HBCU Executive Order: “A Troubling Beginning”

The president of Morehouse College expressed his disappointment with the infamous HBCU executive order announced this week, saying that he’d had “high hopes” for what President Donald Trump’s administration could produce.

“There was much advance chatter about [the executive order] being ‘historic,’and there were many signals from key Trump administration officials that they would surprise HBCUs with favorable treatment,” Dr. John Wilson Jr. said in a statement to the college Thursday.

But things didn’t go as expected.

Many leaders from Historically Black Colleges and Universities met at the White House Monday, a day before the Trump administration announced an executive order that moved the HBCU initiative from under the Department of Education to the White House. Critics called the shift merely symbolic, considering Trump’s vow to do more for HBCUs than any previous presidents. There was no additional funding attached to the executive order (Wilson said he was expecting at least $500 million to be allocated to the schools).

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Stopping short of fully criticizing the White House for the high expectations, Wilson said that the order’s impact remains to be seen. He added that the meetings in Washington “were a troubling beginning to what must be a productive relationship.”

Nothing more signifies that troubling beginning than the comments by Education Secretary Betsy Devos, who used HBCUs as an example of “school choice” after the meeting.

Wilson was quick to correct her: “HBCUs were not created because the 4 million newly freed blacks were unhappy with the choices they had. They were created because they had no choices at all,” he said. “[I]f one does not understand the crippling and extended horrors of slavery, then how can one really understand the subsequent history and struggle of African Americans, or the current necessities and imperatives that grow out of that history and struggle?”

Despite the rocky start, Wilson also made it clear that this was not the end of his discussions with Washington about HBCU interests: “Trust that the HBCU community will continue to press for the kind of funding that educational excellence and national competitiveness require!”