2/14/2020, 6 a.m.
The last few days haven’t been the greatest for HBCUs.
The disappointing news comes from around the nation, with one report striking close to home at Hampton University.
Here’s the news in a nutshell:
• Hampton University’s School of Pharmacy, which touts itself as the No. 1 producer of African-American pharmacists in Virginia, lost its accreditation from the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education.
State law requires pharmacists to hold degrees from an ACPE- accredited institution. While provisions are being made to protect students currently enrolled in Hampton University’s pharmacy program, students after the Class of 2023 will be out of luck.
The loss of accreditation also may affect Hampton’s eligibility for federal funding, including student aid.
Hampton’s program has been on probation since July 2017 over its curriculum and its graduates’ low 73 percent pass rate on national licensing exams. Nationally, about 89 percent of all graduates from accredited programs pass the test on their first try.
While Dr. Anand Iyer, dean of Hampton’s pharmacy school, indicated the accreditation decision will be appealed, it is a blow to the university, one of the gems among the nation’s 101 public and private HBCUs.
It also may have a detrimental ripple effect on the health care of black communities. Studies have shown that health disparities experienced by African-Americans — African-Americans suffer with higher rates of stroke, heart disease and some cancers than Caucasians — and the lack of African-American health care providers in the United States may be linked.
• The president of Mississippi’s Jackson State University, Dr. William B. Bynum Jr., was arrested in a prostitution sting last weekend and tried to hide his identity. The 57-year-old, who has led the university since 2017, was charged with procuring the services of a prostitute, false statement of identity and possession of marijuana.
He has resigned as president.
He’s also a former president of Mississippi Valley State University.
Also busted in the sting was Shonda McCarthy, director of Jackson State University Art Galleries.
• On Feb. 5, the president of Texas Southern University in Houston, Dr. Austin Lane, was ousted for failing to report fraud allegations in the university’s law school admissions process and directing a former official to violate university policy.
Since their founding after the Civil War, HBCUs have given hundreds of thousands of African-American students an opportunity to obtain higher education when virtually no other colleges would. Today, HBCUs often are more affordable and more nurturing for students, many of whom are the first in their families to go to college. They ensure that every student has a chance to succeed and is prepared for a career in any number of fields.
That is the case at Virginia Union University, an HBCU that provides a bright spot of news during this current drought.
VUU, which traces its roots to 1865 and classes taught in a former “jail” that held enslaved people before sale and/or transport, celebrated its 155th anniversary last week. One of its theology school alumni, Virginia Delegate Luke E. Torian, was the keynote speaker. He personifies the success graduates can attribute to their HBCU education and the critical leadership roles HBCU graduates have in communities and states across the country.
Delegate Torian is pastor of First Mount Zion Baptist Church in Prince William County and most recently became chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee in the Virginia House of Delegates. He is the first African-American to hold that post on a committee that sets funding priorities for the Commonwealth through the budget.
His committee currently is working on a $135 billion spend- ing plan for 2020-22 that will impact the lives of all Virginians, including in the areas of education, health care, public safety and social services, just to name a few.
“Like those who came before us, we were created for good work,” Delegate Torian told the audience at VUU’s Founders Day Convocation.
We agree, and expand that to mean that HBCUs were created for good work. We only hope that the poor choices and decisions of some officials won’t permanently harm HBCUs today.