Earlier this week—in spite of calls from Rep. Alma Adams, the Congressional Black Caucus, UNCF, and others to postpone the 2017 National HBCU Week Conference—the conference was held Sept. 17–19, as originally scheduled.
Trump did not attend, nor did several HBCU college presidents, news outlets have reported. KCCU reports that only 29 college presidents showed up, according to Michael Lomax, CEO of the United Negro College Fund. There are roughly 107 historically black colleges altogether.
Some business did get done, however. This week Trump appointed Johnathan M. Holifield, a business consultant who played for one season with the NFL, to lead the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Holifield is a graduate of West Virginia University, which is not an HBCU, according to USA Today.
Rep. Alma Adams, founder and co-chair of the Congressional Bipartisan Historically Black Colleges and Universities Caucus, released the following statement after the Holifield announcement.
“This appointment is a first step for the White House as they strive to repair their relationships with HBCU leaders and members of Congress,” said Rep. Adams. “As co-chair of the Bipartisan HBCU Caucus, I extended an invitation to Mr. Holifield to come to Capitol Hill to learn more about the Caucus and our legislative priorities. I look forward to working with him to advance meaningful change for our HBCUs.”
The Los Angeles Times reports that Trump hasn’t made any appointments to the President’s Board of Advisors on HBCUs.
After his inauguration, Trump had promised to make HBCUs an “absolute priority.” Although many had ridiculed his meeting with HBCU leaders in February as a photo op, some leaders had hoped Trump would keep his promises.
But there is frustration that little headway has been made, especially in light of steep cuts in state financing—which are hurting colleges across the board.
According to Rick Gallot, president of Grambling State College in Louisiana, the state legislature has slashed higher education funding from 55% to 27%, he is indirectly quoted as saying in KCCU.org.
(The state must have a hefty prison budget, though, since it is known as the prison capital of the world.)
HBCU leaders and others continue to take Trump at his word. But as John King, president and CEO of the Education Trust said at the Black Enterprise BE Smart HBCU Summit in February, words aren’t enough. Watch what this administration does.