In the midst of what most have characterized as a chaotic (to be charitable) first month of the Trump presidency (failed Muslim ban, millions protesting against Trump globally, General Flynn ousted as National Security Adviser, alternative facts, and of course the burgeoning Russia scandal), a potentially fascinating meeting was allegedly proposed; Trump sitting down with several presidents of Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Sean Yoes (Courtesy Photo)
Given the daily struggle the Trump White House seems to have with veracity, initially many weren’t even sure if the offer was real. Or if was true, whether it would simply be another Black History Month photo op for the 45th president.
However, an hour-long conversation with Morgan State University president, Dr. David Wilson on First Edition, Feb. 16, shed new light on what could be a critical moment connected to the plight of America’s Black colleges and universities.
“I can confirm that the meeting is indeed going to take place,” Wilson said. Morgan’s president also provided some historical context to a potential Trump executive order on HBCU’s.
“What is being proposed by the current president is nothing new. The HBCU executive order creating the White House initiative on HBCUs, was actually started with former president Jimmy Carter. And each president after President Carter; Reagan, Bush 41, former President Clinton, Bush 43 and former President Obama, have all reauthorized that executive order,” Wilson said.
“And so, my understanding is that what the current president is working on is the continuation of that executive order that goes back to President Jimmy Carter. Basically, what the order has said in the past, is there should be attention on the part of the federal agencies toward making strategic investments in HBCUs.
One of the scores of HBCU presidents invited to the meeting, which is set to take place on Feb. 27 and Feb. 28 is Dr. Roslyn Clark Artis, president of Florida Memorial University, a private, four year, liberal arts school with a current enrollment of about 1,200 students, in Miami Gardens, Fla.
“I would like to think that any support to be directed toward the historically Black college and universities will be viewed as a smart investment,” Artis said during a recent interview with CBS.
“I think in the political discourse, I think we can have differences of opinion. We can engage in intelligent dialogue and debate…We are always open to a well thought out dialogue on the issues. I would like to believe that the president’s savvy, business savvy, and therefore recognizes an investment when he sees it,” Artis added.
Wilson described one of the overarching goals of the meetings with the Trump White House.
“The purpose…is to sit down with the domestic policy advisers in the White House and share with them the needs and opportunities for further investments in this genre of institutions that quite frankly, gave rise to the Black Middle Class in this country,” Wilson said.
The obvious question is, does Wilson plan to attend?
“I have thought about that for the last couple of weeks or so. I have registered, but along the way, I am still in consultation with a number of major constituents at Morgan. I am planning a dialogue with the members of the Morgan State University national alumni board and presidents of clubs. Also…I’m meeting with our student leaders to hear their perspective on this as well,” Wilson said.
“But, at the end of the day I certainly think that it is an opportunity for HBCUs to set an agenda and not to be placed in a position where we are reacting to someone
else’s agenda. And so, if I in the end…if I am raising my hand and saying yes, I am going to go, it will be with very clear goals in mind. I’m not interested in any photo opportunity, that’s just not who we are at Morgan,” Wilson added.
“And so the first goal would be to insure that there is a clear appreciation and understanding of the great history, role, legacies and contributions that historically Black colleges have made to the competitiveness of America. That would be the first goal that I would want to pursue in going to this meeting because there cannot emerge…I don’t want any quote, unquote alternative facts to emerge about our institutions that are not necessarily accurate. If you are not at the table, you could very well be on the menu.”
Sean Yoes is a senior contributor for the AFRO and host and executive producer of, AFRO First Edition, which airs Monday through Friday, 5 p.m.-7 p.m. on WEAA, 88.9.