In this month’s roundup, the recent Supreme Court decisions impact HBCUs, the first-ever HBCU hockey program was announced, and students learn more about firefighting.
June 14, 2023- July 11, 2023
HBCUs Celebrate Juneteenth
June 19 (known as Juneteenth) commemorates the day that the news of emancipation reached enslaved Black people in Galveston, TX in 1865. The federal holiday sparked celebrations nationwide, including a concert at the White House where four HBCUs were invited to perform and celebrate on the South Lawn.
Other Juneteenth celebrations included an HBCU Alumni Reunion Block Party in Houston, a career fair at Prairie View A&M University and a webinar on the legacy of HBCUs hosted by the US Department of Education.
“We are deeply thankful to the President and First Lady for their recognition of the importance of Juneteenth and Black Music Month,” said Omar Dickenson, choir director at Hampton University. “We eagerly anticipate delivering a soul-stirring and unforgettable performance that will resonate with audiences, inspire unity, and leave a lasting impact on this momentous occasion.”
First-Ever Men’s Hockey Team at an HBCU
Tennessee State University announced a new men’s ice hockey team, which will be the first-ever ice hockey program at an HBCU. As part of a partnership with the NHL’s Nashville Predators, TSU will begin with an ice hockey club program with a goal of having a Division I men’s and women’s hockey team in 2024.
TSU President Glenda Glover stated that the creation of a hockey team is part of a continued commitment to bringing new opportunities to students in areas where they have traditionally had limited or no access. The institution is in the process of hiring a director of club hockey operations who will oversee the hockey program.
For Athletic Director Mikki Allen, the hockey program at TSU is a catalyst for change in the sport of hockey. "Together, we celebrate the power of collaboration as we dismantle barriers, diversify the game, and propel hockey into a new era of inclusivity… This partnership serves as a catalyst, driving change and ensuring that the game we love embraces the beauty of diversity."
President Glover hopes that while TSU will be the first HBCU with an ice hockey program, it won’t be the last.
A Boost in Enrollment
With the Supreme Court ending affirmative action, one of the ripple effects could be a boost in enrollment at HBCUs nationwide.
One of these institutions is Clark Atlanta University, which saw its enrollment increase from just over 700 students last year to 1,800 this year. Even prior to the Supreme Court decision, HBCUs have been seeing a rise in interest and enrollment. Now, more prospective Black and Latinx students may choose the welcoming environment of an HBCU or HSI over an Ivy League institution.
Assistant History Professor at Virginia State University Cheryl Mango says that the original mission of HBCUs remains relevant today. “For 200 years, [HBCUs] provided safe spaces inside a society struggling with racial inequities where Black scholars can study and debate what human rights should look like.”
Dr. George French also spoke on the opportunity presented to HBCUs as a result of the Supreme Court decision. “We need additional resources, as the HBCU community, to meet the needs of students. Not just financial, but programmatic… when our minorities are turned away from PWIs, based on this decision, they will have nowhere to go, unless we build the capacity at HBCUs.”
“These Kids Can Play”
The first-ever Swingman Classic took place on Friday, July 7, when baseball players from 17 HBCUs played at T-Mobile Park in Seattle, WA. The opportunity for these young players to play in an MLB stadium came to Ken Griffey Jr. in the middle of the night. “I just threw out a very big idea … but it was one of those things that needed to be done.”
Part of the reason why this showcase had to happen was to hopefully increase the number of Black players in the MLB. Only 6.2% of US-born players are Black, which is lower than the 7.2% of Black players last year. “Everybody knows the numbers,” Griffey said, noting there are no players from an HBCU on a current MLB roster. “Everybody sees it. Just the opportunity for these decision-makers to come down and watch these kids — that means something. These kids can play.”
The American League team defeated the National League team with a score of 4-3, with the help of Alabama State’s Randy Flores. The players felt gratitude towards Griffey and all those who helped make the game possible. “Now, we can do stuff that they couldn't do back in their day. So there's a huge opportunity to be on this platform and continue to go on a path that he paved for us,” said Keanu Jacobs-Guishard from Grambling State. “This is a big opportunity for me, too, and I'm very grateful for it."
Training the Next Generation of Firefighters
With wildfires becoming more common, a new initiative between HBCUs and the U.S. Forest Services is working to train the next generation of firefighters.
The U.S. Forest Services partnered with Florida A&M University, Southern University in Louisiana, Tuskegee University and Alabama A&M University to train and educate 20 interns on firefighting this summer. The program will educate students in different areas including forestry, ecology, agriculture and firefighting. The opportunity to learn how to fight forest fires also aims to increase the amount of Black firefighters which is drastically low.
According to the U.S. Forest Service, only 1.3% of firefighters are Black and less than 1% are Black women. With climate change becoming more apparent and affecting Black peoples’ lives, the initiative believes in the importance of having more Black firefighters on the frontline. Stephanie Love from the USDA called the initiative a mission-critical area of the Forest Service. “These four HBCUs have some of the top agricultural programs at HBCUs in the nation. So, it just makes sense to align our efforts and move together in the same direction,” Love said. “We’re trying to create a pipeline of students who are pursuing this natural resources education and forestry and fire.”
This news roundup focuses on the trends impacting Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and other Minority Serving Institutions (MSI). Each month, we highlight the policy, process and programmatic changes happening nationally and among these institutions and how the colleges and universities are responding to them.