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#BBUM Provides the Perfect Opportunity for HBCUs
Posted By: Eddie Francis on November 27, 2013

The Black Student Union at the University of Michigan has given HBCUs a beautiful Christmas gift. I just wonder who is going to use it in the best health. Amid an active social media conversation about race relations at Michigan, HBCUs have an opportunity to step up and reiterate their relevance to America.

The key to HBCUs' response is the following passage from an article by Diverse Issues in Higher Education:

"'Being soft spoken in class because you don’t feel like you belong, but then get docked points because you are not engaged in class', tweeted one student. Other students tweeted about White students’ use of the n-word in class, 'White students thinking it is OK to use the n-word in the class context.'"

HBCUs have become known as a place where African-American students excel because they feel comfortable in their own skin. Without harsh social or cultural judgment by faculty or staff, African-American students are most likely to reap the benefits of the higher education experience at HBCUs through customized academic and social support. In other words, a black student is likely to excel at an HBCU because he or she feels comfortable taking intellectual risks.

Although it did not bother me to the degree that it may bother other black students, I can speak from experience about my concerns with how I was perceived at a majority institution. My alma mater gave me a nice helping of intellectual and social capital but it still came with a small price. When I meet white alumni and I let them know I am a fellow alumnus, there are times I get either a curious stare or a non-reaction. Frankly, that can hurt, so I understand these students' concerns. HBCU alumni, by and large, welcome each with open arms regardless of their race or culture.

This is not to say that HBCUs are the answer for every black student in America. I decided to attend a majority institution because I had grown up in a black neighborhood, went to a black church, and went to black schools. I was ready for and needed something different, but not every black student needs or wants the same thing. There is a wealth of black students throughout America who can and will benefit from the HBCU experience, and this race relations discussion explains exactly why.

HBCUs have the innate ability to fill their students with impenetrable pride. There is a question as to whether or not these Michigan students, and thousands of others of various cultures at majority colleges and universities across America, will feel the same about their respective institutions once they graduate. Any HBCU that doesn't take advantage of this precious public relations and marketing opportunity is foolish.

Here's what I would do:
1. Plan and roll out a social media campaign ASAP. Form a student social media team to participate.
2. Roll out student blogs about their experiences from the best writers on campus, especially from students who are not black.
3. Take a risk and increase advertising for Fall 2014. There are nervous high school seniors making their decisions NOW and a nice emotional appeal piece would right on time.
4. Get testimonies from students with the highest GPAs about their experiences for marketing.
5. Feature students with high-level internships, such as INROADS, in marketing pieces and press releases.
6. Feature young high-level alumni in marketing.
7. Partner with organizations such as the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, the UNCF, the H.O.P.E. Scholarship, the HBCU Common Ap (Edu, Inc.) and the various HBCU media outlets to roll out PR campaigns.
8. Schedule admissions visits to target high schools ASAP.
9. Get the admissions departments to increase campus tours with student leaders ready to greet visitors.
If you enjoyed this article, Join HBCU CONNECT today for similar content and opportunities via email!
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