HBCU DIGEST: It's official: Biden Administration has HBCUs in the rearview mirror

If we needed another sign that the Biden Administration is slipping on its promises to the HBCU community, look no further than its inactivity on the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

As of Oct. 2, Biden officially grabbed the title of ‘late’ on appointing someone to lead the initiative and is now two weeks later than former President Donald Trump on filling the seat, which the 45th president filled on that day in 2017 by naming former executive director Johnathan Holifield.

At the time, everyone said Trump was late and didn’t care to engage with HBCUs beyond Oval Office photo opps and cursory mentions of a commitment to Black colleges. Now that Biden is later than even Trump was on pairing personnel with policy, what will the community say about this administration?

The historic answer would be ‘nothing.’ The surprising answer among today’s leaders might be a little louder than the silence of the past. Taking their cues from members of the Congressional Black Caucus and painful lessons from the Obama Administration, an increasing number of HBCU presidents and chancellors are speaking freely on the danger posed by an inattentive or disengaged White House on HBCU policymaking.

But the discontent doesn’t seem to phase the Biden Administration. The White House today established a new initiative — the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Black Americans. This isn’t new territory for Biden. While serving as Vice President, the Obama White House reaffirmed the WHI-HBCU, but also created the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans.

It is very easy to defend two initiatives designed for better educational outcomes for Black people; yes, there are that many Black folks that need better access to quality education in K-12 systems and beyond, and yes, HBCUs are important to the nation’s socio-economic and political imperatives.

The problem is that Biden, Vice-President Kamala Harris, and many other Democrats didn’t make “equity, excellence, and economic opportunity for Black Americans” a centerpiece of their campaign; they made HBCUs the talking point. And Black folks responded in kind with their financial and voting power last November in critical races nationwide.

We no longer have to quietly and respectfully push this administration, or any one that follows about HBCU support; every politician who knows his way around Washington knows that HBCU stakeholders have more than earned our way into policy prioritization.

But if Democrats really know it, why do we keep having this same conversation every time they are in power?