HBCU students, alums to lobby for support in D.C.
BY CASH MICHAELS
FOR THE CHRONICLE
A national gathering of students from historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), co-organized by an alumnus of Winston-Salem State University, is scheduled for next week in Washington, D.C., targeting lawmakers to do more to help their schools survive.
Scheduled for next Thursday, April 27, the “HBCU Day of Action” is a rally on Capital Hill geared to “urge the White House, members of Congress, and state and local officials to maintain funding and increase resources for the hundreds of thousands of students enrolled at HBCUs every year,” says the event sponsor, The HBCU Collective.
“Alumni and students play an integral role in preserving and growing our HBCUs,” Winston-Salem State University 2008 alumnus Robert Stephens, a co-leader of the Collective, told The Root.com. “We’re here to make sure our elected officials see and feel the importance of HBCUs –and we’re here to hold them accountable for their support.”
Stephens was WSSU student body president for 2007-08 and has served as a board member for the WSSU Young Alumni Council.
Joining the other over 100 HBCUs from across the nation that will be sending student representatives for the “Day of Action” will certainly be many of the schools from North Carolina, which boasts of at least 10 of them.
Prominent among them will be Robert Stephens’ alma mater, Winston-Salem State University.
“At Winston-Salem State University, we are motivated by our motto ‘Enter to Learn. Depart to Serve,’” said WSSU Chancellor Elwood Robinson, in a statement. “From the time they are freshmen, we instill in our students the need to be active and thoughtful citizens.”
Chancellor Robinson continued, “Our alumni and students play a critical role in ensuring our elected officials understand the important role of HBCUs. We appreciate that they feel passionately enough about what we do at WSSU to advocate on our behalf.”
This year’s “Day of Action” is particularly relevant, given the recent HBCU Fly-in Conference at the end of February, where over 80 presidents and chancellors went to Washington, D.C., at the invitation of N.C. Rep. Mark Walker of Greensboro (R-NC-6), to discuss how the Republican-led Congress, and President Donald Trump, could partner with historically black schools to increase financial support.
However, after the Trump Administration released its budget proposal weeks later, it became clear that HBCUs would not be getting what some felt they were led to expect. While Congress has not yet released its budget for the coming fiscal year yet, thus far, HBCUs are not realistically expecting any more support than what the Obama Administration offered.
Jack Minor, communications director for Rep. Walker, cautions, however, that it’s still too early deter-mine exactly what HBCUs are in store for.
“For us, most of what we are looking for can and would be done outside the scope of the budget,” Minor said in a statement. “For instance, expanding Pell grants to year-round, and focusing on fostering private-public relationships to help HBCU students with more opportunities after school. One other area of interest is any transportation bill that would come through Congress. The [Trump] Administration has noted that this is a place where HBCUs could see advancements to invest in their campuses.”
Shambulia Gadsden Sams, an alumna of another North Carolina HBCU, Shaw University, is also a co-organizer of the HBCU Collective’s April 27th Day of Action.