Everyone who knows me knows I am a HUGE supporter of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). I actually chose one over an Ivy League School (UPenn). The nation’s first HBCU, Cheyney University was founded in 1837 in my home state of Pennsylvania. So, when I read the numerous accounts of what Lincoln University’s (another Pennsylvania HBCU) President Robert Jennings had to say about young women “not putting themselves in situations where they could be raped” and noting that 3 women falsely accused men of rape last year because their relationships did not “turn out the way they wanted” and that “men will use you up” I was wounded!
The entire incident represents a kind of “infantilization” that we have seen before on HBCU campuses. Some years ago, the Hampton University president suspended some students for staging a peaceful protest against George W. Bush and upheld a decision that prohibited students with dreadlocks from admission into their business school. And, while I recognize that many students in HBCUs represent first generation college students and their parents take seriously the notion of, “in loco parentis” (in place of the parents), federal law requires that students 18 years of age or older be treated as adults. I know my parents expected the university to act as a parent to me and back in that era colleges could police the activities of their students–especially their female students–more deliberately. We had curfews, dress codes, dormitory visiting rules, and single sex dorms. But we no longer live in that era!
First and foremost I am bothered by the fact of “separate” convocations! Lincoln University started as a male only institution but realized the value of the co-ed environment from intellectual, social, and financial perspectives. Why isn’t the whole campus community involved in a convocation that takes up the timely and important issue of campus sexual assault? Indeed, everyone is vulnerable around this issue. A few years ago I had to counsel with a young man who had been raped. The incident was as devastating for him as it would have been to anyone who underwent such trauma. However, if there is some reason for separate, single-sex convocations because of the “sensitivity” of the subject matter then the women should have had the opportunity to request a woman speaker of their own choosing.
Lincoln University is a school with a proud tradition. It counts among its alumni, Nnamdi Azikiwe, the first president of Nigeria, Horace Mann Bond, educator, Maria Louis Bustill, mother and teacher of Paul Robeson, Oscar Brown, Jr. actor, playwright, director, Langston Hughes, poet, Cab Calloway, band leader, Thurgood Marshall, the first African American Supreme Court Justice, Kwame Nkrumah, the first president of modern Ghana, and many more. For its current president to not be savvy enough to realize that young women do not need to be lectured or patronized and that young men do not need to be “protected” from scorned females plays into the worst stereotypes we have about all of us.
We have just witnessed the election of a Congress that threatens to take away our health care, cut spending on social programs, and thwart immigration. These are the issues that should have our attention. But no…”now we got to deal with this…ish!”
Stay Black & Smart!