The Mis-Education of the Negro…..

Sometimes posts in the comments section are so good, they deserve to be on the front page.  From Tony:

This is a horrible situation that WSSU and other HBCUs find themselves in at this time. However, it appears to me that the key ingredient that should be shown in a “leader” at an institution of higher learning is toughness–with compassion, idealistic–with ideas, an inspired person of vision–with tenacity. What bothers me about Reaves comments or his perspective is it blames but does not provide solutions. This is Ego at full throttle.

I read an earlier post from the Wednesday meeting where Reaves apparently said there is no history of fundraising at WSSU. Of course there isn’t one. Any WSSU alumnus over the age of 48 knows that Doug Covington hired the first Advancement person around 1978. Secondly, if the school is in such fiscal staits (as once was Hampton, Bennett, Spelman etc.) then should not the Chancellor get off his duff and get out there and use his “magnetic personality” to bring people to the aid of WSSU? If you know the challenges that Johnetta Cole faced at Spelman and Bennett; William Harvey at Hampton then you will know it can be done (the raising of funds and goodwill). You must have a strong desire to do this.

Now, obviously Reaves has certain attributes that make him an attribute to a college/university but the leadership role may not be his best. His skills may be best used as an assistant that crunches numbers, handles the day to day duties of a Provost and is the tough guy that fires recalcitrant employees. But in terms of persuading and/or telling WSSU’s story in a meaningful way…well this may be his shortcoming. Maybe a younger, more visionary Chancellor is needed. Apparently the college needs new, fresh ideas, for tough times. I used to keep abreast of the Winston-Salem body politic and I thought that Nat Irvin would have been a suitable choice for the leadership position at the college.

There is a political dance every leader must do with constituents, students, politicians, the holders of money etc. But if you have a refined manner about yourself then you can traverse that gulf. I have met Reaves on two occasions and he can learn a bit from say Harold Martin, when it comes to handling people. Martin was perfect, nobody is, but he at least had the personality and grace to begin meaningful dialogue.

Someone said that Reaves was a truck driver before going back to school to get a degree. Nothing wrong with that. But all too often some people with this experience still have a chip on their shoulder about their self worth, how they were viewed and how they stack up to more intelligent educators. So, on one hand they extol the virtues of education, uplift etc. but on a deeper level they in fact despise the more educated, genteel of the race. All too often these kind of black people hate people (black, white, red) who think they know more than them. Please understand that anybody in a leadership position, that is a true role model, for black youth (or any youth regardless of ethnicity) that refers to other black people as a “Spook” or “Nigger” is one who hates him or herself. The books “The Mis-Education of the Negro” and “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” addresses this malady in great detail.

There is something to be said for plain speaking men and women. The bigot Jesse Helms was such a person. But a crass, plain speaking, man or woman, who does not better an institution or organization is an abomination to intelligent men and women.

It is unfortunate that Erskine Bowles (who knows nothing about the struggle of African Americans, comes from a privileged class, is a millionaire, does not understand the role of education in society) would allow incoming Chancellor to declare I will be here for five years! You can not build any worthwhile institution or organization in five years. The only institution you can build in 5-years is a subservient one that has no true connection to it’s constituents and the world at large. Harvey has been at Hampton 20+ years. Benjamin Mayes made Morehouse great because he stayed longer than 5 and was dedicated and had a long term plan.

There is some give and take required in running a college with many, many, personalities. But it is fool hardy and dangerous for any one individual to have “the buck stops here” attitude of a dictator. If in fact there is not some common ground found in the relationship between leadership and constituents there will be a horrible end and much wasted effort. So, that after Reaves five years (he said it in his inauguration speech) is up, he will retire to the warmth of Florida and WSSU will have to start over again (as it did during the Schexnider years).

But the role of the Chancellor is to make prudent, wise decisions, and to raise some money and find new friends for the college. If neither of these take place, it is because friends have not been asked or the individual does not have any friends!

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Published in: on May 20, 2009 at 1:18 am  Comments (9)  

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  1. A humble response:

    First, let me agree that the situation that HBCU’s currently find themselves is bad. I predict that as affirmative action gets eroded by the high Court things will get worse, but that is a conversation for another time (or you can find my essay on the topic in scholarly journals).

    To the point, you claim that a Reaves needs to be tough, compassionate and “idealistic–with ideas, an inspired person of vision–with tenacity.”

    Let’s talk tough. First, he had the toughness to step into an educational institution and shake things up. He had the toughness to tell a bunch of faculty and staff who believe in the status-quo that their bar was set too low and that things needed to improve. What did he get for that toughness? He got this blog from a bitter person whom hides behind the guise of truth and reform to undercut anything good the Chancellor does.

    You say there has been no history of alumni giving but “Doug Covington hired the first Advancement person around 1978.” So, over thirty (30) years does not constitute a history long enough to determine alumni giving? Get real. Quit making excuses for the true fact that WSSU alumni do not donate money to their alma mater. You could wait a hundred (100) years and the result would not change but maybe you need more time.

    You site Bennett College as a model of what the Chancellor should do. Come on! Bennett College has an enrollment of around 700 and don’t offer enough classes on their campus for their students to graduate without them walking over to A&T. That is not the model. Bennett could fold as a college before the Obama administration is over.

    You want a person who is compassionate. Well, the Chancellor did host a forum to discuss important things like: the budget, attrition, and athletics. Did the Chancellor that to hold a forum? Of course not, in fact, most Chancellor’s at major universities have no need to speak to rouge disgruntled groups of people who contribute nothing more than their cynicism and hate. (Note to the blog administrator: you are so interested in numbers – compile a figure of the total alumni donation dollars of the readers of your blog. My humble guess… $100; but, that may be high).

    You also want “an inspired person of vision.” The Chancellor wants to change the very nature of the institution to a place of higher learning. Not higher learning for the sake of saying it but a true university where students enter, graduate, and become successful. He is not alone in this regard. There are may faculty and staff within the institution who believe the same thing. However, this vision is lost because some people would rather the Chancellor get fired than for him to address the low graduation rate (second note to the blog administrator: why have you not written about the graduation rate but harp of graduation speakers you enjoyed and table cloths you used). The supporters of this blog have no vision or their vision is so narrow to the firing of the Chancellor that they are blind to real issues at the university.

    You went on to write about the Chancellor being a “truck driver before going back to school to get a degree.” This is just a crab in the bucket statement is I ever heard one. In your same letter you write how “Erskine Bowles (who knows nothing about the struggle of African Americans, comes from a privileged class, is a millionaire, does not understand the role of education in society)” made a bad decision hiring the Chancellor.

    Which is it? You don’t like rich, non-white, privileged people involved in the university AND you don’t want someone who is an African American who pulled himself from the boot straps and obtained an education part of the institution as well. It’s contradictory and comes off as stupid.

    You end with the idea that the Chancellor has no friends. Believe me, if you think he wants friends who don’t care about a 13% graduation rate, only care about athletics, complain about things they truly like, and do not donate any money to the university than you are a severely misguided individual.

    • Deacon 1,

      Thanks for your reply. To your point: “He got this blog from a bitter person whom hides behind the guise of truth and reform to undercut anything good the Chancellor does.” That is flatly incorrect. I have presented facts to the public, and, they are facts. There is no intentional misinformation on this blog. In fact, I complemented the Chancellor on his Wednesday night community event…..he handled that the way an experienced leader under fire should have. The truth is that he refers to black people on this campus as “spooks” (and continues to do so….ask any of his VCs who will tell you the truth) and sits by while a senior administrator refers to folks as “Niggers”. Don’t you think that kind of undercuts his credibility just a tiny, tiny bit? I’ve no problem with increasing the academic standards at all. I’ve no problem with telling the truth about fundraising. I do have a problem with arrogance, indifference, and intimidation. Unfortunately that’s what we have going on at WSSU. Thanks for the comments and, please, keep bringing your point of view to this conversation. Open discourse is always positive (and, by the way, if you are so against me publishing this blog without my name on it, then why do you post comments without yours? I’ll make you a deal: When you reveal yourself publically, I’ll think about doing the same 🙂

  2. When speaking of Bowles, clearly he is a white male. The point remains the same.

  3. Deacon1,
    Thanks for your comments. You seem to have an axe to grind or you must be getting kickbacks from somebody. I take it you eat quite regularly at the Chancellor’s house, hang out with the Chancellor or clean up the mansion. In slavery when the “Massa” was sick it was not uncommon for the slave to be sick also. “Massa I’se sho is sick cause you sick too.” I would not knock the work of Bennet because…their endowment is larger than WSSUs. Second, when Dr. Cole came to Spelman and Bennet they were in dire fiscal straits, but the first thing she realized was they needed money. What did she do? She went out and beat the bushes for cash and resources. She (Cole) had the charisma and friends to do it. Usually, there are enough administrators (most very high paid)to run the campus.

    If the commencment speaker, Hill Harper is not giving money or knows people who will money/resources back to WSSU then the people running WSSU are not very smart. In the real world of business–not faux business (colleges)–you help somebody then they help you; you work deals to benefit your corporation. Business is political and politics is business. If this is not so, Erskine Bowles–a banker/politician–would not be running an institution of higher learning. If this is not so, then another businessman (C.D. Spangler) would not have been a previous President of the UNC higher education system.

    Mind you there is a difference between an astute businessman and the bookkeeper that counts his money. So, which is Donald (Reaves), a serious businessman or the bookkeeper? Businessmen know how to raise money and have their underlings give their all, even when times are tough. Bookkeepers know how to count coins and fret over change and changes on a balance sheet.

    For the money and influence raised in the WSSU Chancellor’s residence he might as well move back to Banner Avenue; better yet move back on campus. Save the tax payers some dollars, and then turn that big house into student housing where it can get some good use.

    Have you ever noticed that many influential persons and institutions have a political “Ram” in the bush–somewhere? It is no mistake that schools like Western Carolina, Appalachian State, NCSU, UNC etc. have lobbyist working for them. Larry Womble a WSSU graduate is trying. Pete Oldham, a former WSSU employee, really was involved in using political intrigue to get some appropriations for WSSU.

    The Chancellor (DJR) told everyone at his introduction that he had never been South before. This in the land of sweet tea, fake cordiality, politics, syrupy smooth talking, manners and going to church. You don’t have to possess any of these traits if you are independently wealthy or have serious contacts in the Northern, Western or Eastern United States. But to not have these traits, be egotistical and then come off as a hardass (who thinks the locals are a bunch of dumb southern hicks)is pretty stupid. I listend to Reaves’s inaugural address and he said: “I’m not from here, so what…?” What he was saying was “none of you pay my salary…so F&** off”.

    DJR tells you what he is going to do during his five year tenure. Read here http://www.wssu.edu/WSSU/About/Administration/Office+of+the+Chancellor/ There are eight priorities. The 7th is increasing fundraising. Who? Him or the Advancement staff. Nobody has ever asked DJR for a list of his fundraising or if he did any. The 5th priority is to *manage* the transition to division 1 athletics. Notice the word *manage*. Not to raise funds, sequester funds, locate, build or grow funds…but manage. This is at the heart of why Chico Caldwell got fired. He did not locate, grow or sequester funds (from anybody except Curtis Richardson) and he definitely did not manage the funds in a prudent manner. Speaking of Chico, Reaves told Chico before and during the MEAC basketball tournament (held in Winston-Salem) to tell everyone (fans, alumni, general public)”WSSU (like the other MEAC schools) does not have the money to go Division I. Chico refused. Chico refused and was fired! Not only that, but DJR told Chico several years ago if he didn’t raise a minimum of $500,000 annually then he was toast. Any of the current coaches can tell you this is so.

    • Deacon,
      You are quite right. I witnessed and heard the same thing from DJR. I don’t use his title because he has not earned it. As a matter of fact he told Chico that he was responsible for fund raising not him. See, he came to enjoy a semi retirement life at the expense of the North Carolina taxpayers. I understand that the folks at the University of Chicago threw a party after he left. We are in touch with some of them and they might be joining the blog. They have tales to tell. You might check his bio, its patted with claims that he serves on their boards. What a joke, did someone ever checked his credentials? We will provide a list of them in the near future.

      • Please do.

    • “Chico refused and was fired! Not only that, but DJR told Chico several years ago if he didn’t raise a minimum of $500,000 annually then he was toast. Any of the current coaches can tell you this is so.” Very true but it’s hard to raise money when the leadership can’t effectively communicate with the community, they refuse to acknowledge and cultivate the channels through which money flows in Winston-Salem (see not black people) and, even though large sums of money don’t flow through the local black community into the school, the Chancellor and his family refuse to interact with the community in any meaningful way. I would bet you a dinner on the Chancellor’s fine linen (linen that, by the way, have now been purchased by Aramark….nice way to cover that spending of the Mrs/Dr. Reaves, Chancellor) that the Chancellor and his family spend less then 5% of their off the clock time shopping, volunteering, or serving on boards that directly impact or otherwise advance the very community that makes up 80% of the student body that pays their bills!!! Has anyone, anyone at all, seen the Chancellor or his family at a church service on Sunday morning in the two years that he has been at the school? Say what you like (and clearly, the chancellor has the right not to go to church) that mistake alone is an affront to people in the black and broader educated and monied community in almost any southern city. While church attendance shouldn’t be a part of any job description, it should certainly be part of the “common sense” quotent for effective and lasting leadership of a southern HBCU. Golf on Sunday morning….not such a good idea for a public figure?

  4. If the media is following this blog please ask the university for the 2007 internal audit and see what you find out.

  5. Chancellor Reaves, why did you tell Revonda Rann when you found out the university had been paying for alcohol with tax payers money against state policy that you didn’t want to deal with the problem because you were just arriving on campus, the trustee meeting was in Setember 2007 and you arrived on campus August 17, 2007. Chancellor this can be proven no maqtter how much you deny it and it will be proven. Nigel Alston new about it and was a party in covering it up.


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