Robinson to meet Trump Administration, lawmakers

Chancellor Elwood Robinson

Robinson to meet Trump Administration, lawmakers
February 23
00:06 2017

By Cash Michaels

For The Chronicle

On Tuesday, Feb. 28, the presidents of many of the 106 historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) across the nation will convene at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. for what is being called a “fly-in” conference with various members of Congress, and officials from the Trump Administration among others, to discuss how the federal government, under Republican control, can be more supportive.

The Chronicle has confirmed that Winston-Salem State University Chancellor Elwood Robinson will be attending.

According to Jay R. Davis, director of Communications and Media Relations for WSSU, “Chancellor Robinson has accepted an invitation extended to HBCU leaders from the Thurgood Marshall College Fund to attend a meeting with leadership in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 28.”

Davis did not express what Chancellor Robinson hoped to hear while attending the meetings. Robinson is traveling this week and could not be contacted directly for comment.

The Chronicle reached out to the president’s or chancellor’s office at all 10 HBCUs in North Carolina, but only received confirmations of attendance from WSSU, and Bennett College in Greensboro, where Interim President Dr. Phyllis Worthy Dawkins presides.

“I think I can safely speak for all of my colleagues in saying we expect and hope to have dialogue and actions regarding infrastructure support, Pell Grant increases to build a pipeline of college-ready students, Title III funding and other support structures to strengthen HBCUs for the future,” Dr. Dawkins said. “Speaking for myself, I am excited about the chance to meet with members of the Trump Administration to discuss HBCUs and ways we can strengthen them for posterity.”

Dr. Dawkins continued,  “I think it is great that our new president is reaching out to HBCUs just a few [weeks] after taking office, and I sincerely hope his administration will work to ensure HBCUs are given their fair share of federal funding. HBCUs are vital to the fabric of American education, and I hope next week’s meeting is the first of many productive meetings in Washington.”

The convener of the two-day conference in Washington, DC next week is Republican Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC-6), a white conservative congressman who wants to see the “full repeal” of the Affordable Care Act; strongly supports North Carolina’s controversial HB 2 “bathroom law,” and when once asked if starting a war with Mexico was appropriate in order to secure the border, joked that it was, though he seriously added that the National Guard should be used.

And yet, despite his ultra-conservative rhetoric, Rep. Walker, chair of the House Republican Study Committee, apparently has a soft spot for HBCUs.

His wife, Kelly, graduated from Winston-Salem State University with a degree in

nursing; summer interns from local HBCUs work in the congressional offices of  Walker and NC 12th District colleague Rep. Alma Adams; NC A&T University in Greensboro is in his district; and he is a member of the Congressional HBCU Caucus.

Walker has invited House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Ws), South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, Sen. Marco Rubio and other influential Republican leaders to take part in the conference Tuesday to meet with HBCU leaders, and, according to a spokesman, understand the history of HBCUs and their unique role in higher education, and why the Republican-controlled federal government should continue to support their future.

The event is supported by the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, a Washington, DC-based nonprofit group that helps needy students attend the HBCU of their choice. Its president, Johnny Taylor, says HBCUs have no choice but to work with whomever runs Congress, and whomever is in the White House.

To that end, it is also expected that the Trump Administration will issue a new executive order next week, moving the HBCU Initiative from under the US Dept. of Education, to direct supervision of the White House. There have been unconfirmed reports about what else the Trump executive order contains, but at least one N.C .college president is optimistic.

“UNCF and The Thurgood Marshall College Fund have pushed for the White House Initiative on HBCUs to be removed from the Department of Education and placed directly under The White House, led by an executive director; therefore, we are happy to hear this is being strongly considered,” Bennett Interim Pres. Phyllis Dawkins said. “This move, should it occur, will provide direct access to a senior adviser who reports to the President, thereby identifying policy priorities that are important to HBCUs.”

HBCUs reportedly comprise only 3 percent of all colleges and universities in the country, yet are responsible for 27 percent of African-Americans with bachelor’s degrees in science, technology, engineering and math, according to the U.S. Dept. of Education.

While there is naturally some caution, hopes are high that a positive bond can be forged with President Trump. There are still hard feelings from eight years of the Obama Administration that, while HBCUs ultimately saw more funding , also saw Pell Grants cut for black students, and parental qualifications for the PLUS Loan program for college students changed, ultimately disqualifying many parents on the credit bubble, and resulting in many black college students being forced to drop out of school.

HBCU enrollments dramatically dropped, and many schools are still recovering, officials say.

Dr. Ontario S. Wooden, associate vice chancellor for Innovative, Engaged and Global Education at North Carolina Central University in Durham, whose interim chancellor is not attending next week’s meeting, hopes the baggage from the Obama Administration can now be fixed.

“We should be making the same [demands] of the Trump Administration that we did of the Obama Administration – restoring Pell Grants so students have the opportunity  to use them in summer school; looking at the creditworthiness of parents in the PLUS Loan program; and doing something about the relatively high interest rates on those loans,” Dr. Wooden said.

Harold Martin, chancellor of NC A&T University, told this paper last month that HBCUs have to forge a strong relationship with the Trump Administration if they are to survive.

“It is vital that North Carolina A&T State University maintains a healthy relationship with the executive branch,” Martin, named the nation’s most influential leader of an HBCU by HBCU Digest, said.



About Author

Cash Michaels

Cash Michaels

Related Articles


Featured Sponsor

Receive Chronicle Updates

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.



More Sponsors