By Ro Wright, III
Early Sunday Morning, Oct 17, social media was flooded by videos of graphic violence which ended in a mass shooting on the campus of Grambling St. University. As the vast majority of the students and alumni celebrated Homecoming, another element of the crowd sought to endanger the lives of Tiger fans injuring at least 8 and murdering at least one.
Historically Black Univsersities and Colleges (HBCU’s) have historically been known as the pride of the African-American Community. In many ways, these institutions are the last visible landmarks of Black History. Mary McCloud Bethune’s legacy is in the foundation of Bethune-Cookman. By the time you leave the campus of Tuskegee, you will have learned about George Washington Carver, Henrietta Lotts, and the original home of Booker T. Washington is an actual museum on the campus. For decades, it was a statement of pride to attend and graduate from an HBCU.
As the generations evolve, in many ways the legacy of HBCU’s have been decimated.
However, in recent years a collective drive to resurge HBCU enrollment has been very successful. Every HBCU in the state of Louisiana has reported an increase in enrollment in the past five years. Through efforts of the NFL paying more attention to Black athletes, major corporations allocating funds to hire HBCU graduates, and maybe even a Netflix special of Beyonce highlighting HBCU culture which drew nearly 50M views… it all has played a part in the rise of HBCU’s.
On last weekend, a series of shooting sprees plagued the positive rejuvenation of HBCU Culture. Multiple shooting incidents at Grambling in the same week. A shooting at Southern Univerity, as well as Jackson St., and a mass shooting at UAPB all took place in the same weekend. It’s not the kind of news faculty, alumni, or the community at large aspires to hear about instutitions with so much success in the past.
Perhaps, one of the reasons these schools attract violence is due to the geographical location of the schools. Many of our HBCU’s are positioned in areas of the community which thrived 50 years ago but have changed drastically since then.
A notable consequence of poverty is crime and many of the HBCU’s in America are located in neighborhoods that are now lower-income neighborhoods. Many times these areas have high crime rates. Security measures for these campuses need to be a priority.
While many of the universities have checkpoints and heightened security measures, some are still not improving. These campuses are easy targets for violent behavior. Most of these shootings have reportedly been caused by non-students, which send the message that it is quite easy for non-students to enter the campuses.
The standard for enrolling may need to increase. Even though the state has taken measures to raise the ACT Score Standard in the last decade, however, somehow students with lower GPA’s and test scores still seem to get in. Enrollment may need to require voucher letters from someone who can vouch for the students behavior.
Enrollment may have to include more than just test scores but also criminal background checks, just to enroll in college. It seems unfair and uncaused for but the senseless crimes are unfair to the other thousands of students who deserve to be protected as they learn.
In New Orleans, Dillard University, has even put a gate around their entire school and these measures seem to help decrease crime. Whatever measure has to be taken, the safety of the students has to be a priority.
Parents should not worry about the future of Grambling St. Univiersity. President Rick Gallot has done a fantastic job rejuvenating the Grambling culture as well as retrieving grants to evolve the university. His efforts to improve the college should not be overlooked.
Mass shooting are not restricted to HBCU’s. In 1966, fifteen people were killed and 31 were injured at University of Texas at Austin. Who can forget the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech where a young man shot 32 people and wounded 26 others. Since 2002, there has been a shooting on a college campuse at least once per year.
It’s not necessarily a Grambling issue or an HBCU issue but it seems to be an ugly pattern in American Culture where violence and crime has become so normalized that people hear about it and are not even alarmed anymore.
However, for the future of our HBCU’s and the legacies they protect, it’s not just a problem for one university.
It is a problem for our whole collective community because it’s our history and our future tied into our beloved colleges.