What If BET Had Actually Done ‘College Hill’ the Right Way?

Less interpersonal drama, more focus on institutional value and impact on students, less conflict, and more compassion. It is easy for anyone to be a backseat, rear view producer on a long-defunct reality series from the network that brought us ‘Cita’s World,’ but it is also hard to not look back with fondness about what ‘College Hill’ could have been.

Especially since so many HBCU alumni still resonate with the show’s brand and potential nine years after the network canceled the popular, yet controversial series.

Tiffany Brockington, Director of Engagement for this publication, recently visualized what a ‘College Hill’ reboot could look like.

There’s a lot to reject about even the idea of a ‘College Hill’ redo. Black Entertainment Television, to begin, may not even deserve a shot to redeem itself with another turn at the HBCU content wheel, given the way it swung and missed at strikes one, two and three with the original of this show, and its fictional comeback ‘The Quad.’

There is a constant push from black folks to show the world that we are human, beautiful and ugly too. But we still have to navigate space where our ugliness, in some political, social and economic circles, makes us unworthy in the eyes of outsiders. We need to have a conversation about who creates HBCU content and how, and why black people who love black people get caught in and support the stereotype that the only content we’ll accept is dramatic stereotype-rich visuals and messages.

But until the majority of black folks actually act on the idea we like to misrepresent, which is that we want desperately to have balanced content on the airwaves, we have to figure out ways to sneak the message of HBCU allure into homes and classrooms in some way. HBCUs are too far down on enrollment, even with increasing numbers, to avoid the truth that people, black white or otherwise, like ratchet content.

We need representation in mass media to make the point about HBCU value; Beyoncé showed at Coachella what can happen with even just a glimpse of what ‘A Different World’ was able to deliver more than 20 years ago.

Bama State Style came close and it is still trying to find its footing. ‘Tell Them We Are Rising‘ outright flopped and watered down our culture to bare thread narratives of angry students, stifling administrators and white antagonism. Perhaps if ‘College Hill’ had been produced with more nuance and care, it would have created a better expectation for how HBCUs should be represented in major network productions and projects.

But those networks now have to play catch up, because several home-grown outlets are already doing the work to make up for their damage, and the resulting void in representation.

There are millions of exceptional stories and uncomfortable truths to be told from 100-plus campuses. But the focus is figuring out how to get our own people to take pride in what is being done to share these stories, rather than hoping networks like BET and shows like ‘College Hill’ to suddenly do the right thing by a predictably fickle audience.