Saturday, December 29, 2007

The HBCU Blues - Fisk University

Fisk University is in some deep financial trouble. They need to get the Fisk Jubilee Singers back on the road earning money for the college's coffers. Fisk is currently battling in the courts for the right to sell a portion of the university's art collection that was donated to them by artist, Georgia O'Keeffe. I am extremely troubled that a historically black institution would have to resort to looting it's own resources in order to raise money.

Where are the black alumni of Fisk University? Why isn't the university lobbying to have the campus named a historically protected site? Fisk is the home of numerous educational firsts, including being the first HBCU to earn a Phi Beta Kappa charter. Why aren't HBCU's working together to develop strategies to improve their financial stability as well as their overall institutional survival? Black folk need to start paying attention the academic and financial battles currently being fought on HBCU's across the nation. I have numerous issues with HBCU's, but I love the African American traditions that are built and nurtured on those campuses and HBCU's still remain the only opportunity for many African Americans to get a college education.

Fisk University alumni, Dr. W.E.B. DuBois has got to be shaking his fists and shouting down at the university's administration from the heavens above.


Mes Deux Cents December 29, 2007 at 9:12 AM  

Professor Tracey,

This is really troubling. My oldest sister went to Fisk. She lives in Europe now, so i'm not sure if she's even aware of this.

Thanks for the info, I'll pass it along to my sister.

wisdomteachesme December 29, 2007 at 10:52 AM  

see, u have said a mouthful when you speak on the hbcu's getting together and helping each other. but the $$ issues at each one are SO great!

i graduated from hampton when it was called institute--when the new pres. got there he went into a 'business mind' mode of raising money for hampton--investing what they had.

but i am privy to problems with a few other small hbcu's here in NC--and it is a huge mess--the lack of funding for 'basics' on the campuses are outrageous!

hbcu's presidents are having a very hard time raising money and people that care--the alumi does what it can i guess--the financial problems in america hits on all levels.

corporations could pull out these hbcu's if them so choose too--but they do not. i know of several that have made small donations to one in particular. but more is needed.
bake sells will not work!

it is a shame to witness the crumbling of these fine institutions.

i strongly feel that black students should go to them--they always want to go to white schools--and there is nothing wrong with that--i would always push them toward the black schools--as you cannot rec' that kind of education anywhere else--the benefits of going to a black school are tremedous!

this is a good starting place for you to maybe research and post all the financial issues from as many hbcu's that you can.

i bet that not many people know about the problems

SheCodes December 29, 2007 at 11:46 AM  

Ugh. I can't begin to tell you how many historically black organizations are rife with financial mismanagement. Sadly, financial literacy is sorely lacking in a lot of our establishments.

Selling the art collection is a temporary fix and will not solve the problem. Their problem is that they think that the art is an asset. And it is not.

Wealthy people know that assets are financial vehicles that continuously bring money in. Poor people think that assets are something that they can sell. (source: The Cashflow Quadrant by Robert Kiyousaki)

They need to call up Senator Reverand Floyd Flake and ask him for some advice. He single-handedly saved Wilberforce University from the brink of financial ruin. In 3 years, he took them from a 5.5 million dollar deficit to a 330k deficit.

Yep, that's the man for them to call.

Randi523 December 29, 2007 at 2:14 PM  

Professor: can I respectfully ask what are your issues with HBCUs?

I do hope that Fisk U. can get back on track financially soon. Just like some celebrities stepped up and helped Juanita Bynum pay back taxes on her house, some of the alumni and members of the Black community should help out this historic university.

Has to auction off art...sad, sad, sad.

Professor Tracey December 29, 2007 at 3:50 PM  


Please let your sister know, I would be greatly interested in finding out if she has ever been contacted for funding raising by the school at all.

Wisdomteachesme -

Are you in the triad? I just spent the last 6 years in Greensboro. I'm well aware of the HBCU's there. Stories to tell!

Shecodes -

Thank you for saying it better than I could. They should call Dr. Flake and Johnetta Cole as well. She turned around Bennett College.

Randi523 -

I will be sharing my issues with HBCU's regularly on this blog and my new educational website that will launch in a few months, but basically I think too many HBCU's have problems that were originally avoidable and were of their own making. They also move too slowly about EVERYTHING and want a great deal from their professors for very little money. Let me stop myself before I get started!

Mari-Djata December 29, 2007 at 4:53 PM  

This thing happening with the HBCUs of America is just a mirror of what has always gone on in the black community on the larger scale. When black people get their chance to succeed and take it, they usually leave and forget everybody who helped them make it. It is so wrong not to give back to the society that build you, be it neighborhood, college, and especially family. Spelman College is in the exact same place when it comes to alumna giving back. They aren't money hungry, it is just that current students need a little help with financial aid (an issue Spelman sucks on) and scholarships.

Moral of the story: Don't forget where you come from.

Anonymous,  December 29, 2007 at 6:53 PM  

The best way to make money is to run an organization (or school) like a business. You need someone/group whose only purpose to to make money for your school.

That way you aren't beholden to big money donors who want to dictate where the money goes. And thats not to say alumni dollars shouldn't be courted.

Do the schools encourage small donations like $100 annually. I'm sure many people think donations are supposed to be in the tens of thousands at a minimum so they may feel embarrassed or think there $25wont help or be appreciated.

Maybe create a 'Buy a Scholar a Textbook' program where you buy a single book for a needy student.

SheCodes December 29, 2007 at 7:38 PM  


I agree to a certain extent, but how much should alumni be responsible for? I'm paying $685 per month in student loans for my wonderful education -- so until that's paid off, Rutgers and NYU are going to have to wait for donations. I suspect that a lot of people from HBC's are in the same boat.

Universities have many ways of generating income besides tuition and alumni gifts -- I'm sure Professor Tracy can go into it much better than I can -- but I happen to know that NYU gets millions of dollars each year in exchange for medical research and other intellectual assets.

Mari-Djata December 29, 2007 at 9:23 PM  

Of course I mean for the people who can afford it. I don't want any starving college grads, but there are also many business CEOs and well off workers who can contribute. But only if they want to, it is the student's responsibility to get the money and funds to go to that school, but I, personally, wouldn't want to see my college fade away into history even after I graduate. Well off graduates should have pride enough in their school to keep it from financial death.

And as for monetary exchange for researches and the like, it is just that. The money is benificial to the students already attending, but can't go to the struggling students who want to go to college and can't.

Anonymous,  December 30, 2007 at 12:43 AM
Under "Metro Beat" click on Presidential profile about finances at Paine College.

wisdomteachesme December 30, 2007 at 2:30 AM  

prof tracey, not in the triade, but about an hour and 20 min. north on 85. 30 from durham, north.

where are you?

ha, small world....

JJ December 30, 2007 at 8:21 PM  

@ SheCodes

Alumni are the MAIN way universities stay afloat. Period.

Black Alumni don't give. Period.

I'm at FAM undergrad is from UM (miami, florida) we get multi-million dollar endowments/donations from alumni all of the time.

Black alumni have to start giving back. The only people who are going to save out institutions are us.

NoWay December 30, 2007 at 11:54 PM  

I don't give because I am disgruntled that I did not receive any support as far as getting a job so I may be part of the problem. I am sorry but my HBCU made me bitter and I did not feel it prepared me for the real world. White schools help their grads get jobs. It is what it is.

wisdomteachesme December 31, 2007 at 7:42 PM  

well, some white schools help some of their black grads get jobs-not really all of them. not all blacks graduate.
but they are more prone to help the other minorities and white grads in gaining employment.

and you are correct, not everyone has a good experience at hbcu's.

Anonymous,  January 1, 2008 at 12:18 PM

If that link cuts off then search for "Lewis College to be open for now" its on the Detroit Free Press.

Schools like Lewis are extremely important because they are attempting to giving skills to those who aren't going to liberal arts schools.

Education is important and I obviously value it but if you work and honest everyday you shouldn't live in poverty.

Technical schools, specialized skills are very important.

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