An HBCU Love-Hate Thang at Lincoln

When you love it so much, you have to leave it.

When you love it so much, you have to leave it.

Many of us have the feeling, that unique position where you love your HBCU so much that you hate to see all that has befallen the campus. Sometimes you have access to the gritty details of the corruption, the politics, the ego and the mismanagement that burdens the campus with the worst kind of outcome — underperformance.

And sometimes you just get a feeling, an uneasy sense that inequitable resources and a lack of investment from graduates like you, have left the school in a terrible position that invites bad overview not from incompetence, but from crisis management.

This seems to be the case at Lincoln University, where alumni for several years have questioned capital planning, spending, academic development and the treatment of students on campus. Everyone from the board chairperson to the former and current president have been held to account for the struggles of The Lincoln University.

And now, one of those alumni has posted an open letter to the university making the case for its future and against its internal struggles.

This is the open letter written in the hearts and minds of HBCU lovers all over the world, and the final gasp of support for an institution before all hope, typically, is lost.

Advocates like Griffin-El, who usually have served in student leadership, faculty or administrative roles and can spot the differences between a lack of resources and an abundance of ignorance from a mile away, have often gone through multiple stages of work to break through to their institutions.

When you get ignored, or are redirected to an unresponsive chain of command, when you pay your alumni dues and recruit for the institution and build a deserved self-entitlement to be heard as a stakeholder, the overwhelming feeling is that the institution doesn’t want to be better and doesn’t need your support to get there.

Logistically, it is a lot more difficult to improve dorms, food service and other campus issues than alumni and students may believe.

Reallocating funds to capital improvements, buying out of a bad food service contract or hiring more housekeeping staff, even if financially feasible, means that the expenses necessary to make up for those costs comes at the expense of endowment savings or from student tuition. That means more loans, more out-of-pocket expenses for families, and a higher burden of support for alumni fundraisers and recruiters.

These realities were addressed last week in a letter from university interim president Richard Green to the campus community, in direct response to an online petition being circulated by students.

Unfortunately, this action may be the byproduct of complaints by a small number of people whose objections are not founded in facts. The student concerns were not brought to the attention of the Student Government Association (SGA) or to university administration until the online petition was circulated.

Over the last few weeks, a campaign based on misinformation has misrepresented the facts, with the use of outdated or unfounded claims against the University and its board Chairwoman Kimberly Lloyd. We are also concerned that students and alumni — who are not fully informed about university operations, best practices and the impact of the recent state budget impasse — have been misled.

But in reality, there are ways that administrators can make incremental corrections to glaring campus needs. Cleanliness, food preparation and presentation, and communication about budgets does not require extra money; just hard work and a commitment to responsible governance.

Some of it is a lack of money, but most of what ails HBCU communities is the lack of transparency from executives who believe that administration is both insight and execution, without input from customers and stakeholders.

And then, the power of one taps into the passion of another and then groups of others with the same experiences. And for better or worse, this is what defines the HBCU experience for far too many stakeholders.

A love-hate thang.