Dr. William Small

As long as the Legislature has control of the educational policy development apparatus, and black leadership in this state finds no urgency in pressing for institutional competitiveness, South Carolina State University will continue to suffer from the pattern of discriminatory practices that has historically restricted its institutional competitiveness.

As long as alumni, in high places, and the leadership chosen for the institution cannot demand essential qualitative improvements in program and facilities, “homecoming” will continue to be the most significant event in the academic year.

Howard Zinn perhaps said it best, “you cannot be neutral on a moving train” and if it is your train that is heading for a cliff, Bulldog football and the Marching 100 are placebos and not cures. After all of the years of historic and recent confusion and consternation around SCSU, the critical question continues “to stand open”: Where is the Plan? Without a vision, the artist produces little. This failure should be indictable.

The recent court decision dismissing the historic quest for equity in the state public school system is but another example of the failure of educational leadership and the dominant influence of the Legislature in educational policy development in South Carolina. Has anyone heard the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education or the State Board of Education, or any African-American professional organization, reciting plans or concerns on these issues?

In spite of the political climate and the very special historical pattern of racial discrimination existing in this state, the fundamental problem today, in my opinion, is a problem of black leadership. If we cannot put our special collective interests in front of our personal egos, goals and ambitions, why should our white colleagues demand more for us than we demand for ourselves?

Where is the plan? Where is the public conversation regarding the role and future of SCSU relative to the educational needs and conditions existing in South Carolina? Where is NAFEO (National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education), SACS (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools)?

Where is the Congressional Black Caucus, where is the voice of SCSU alumni who sit in the state Legislature that cries out for institutional competiveness instead of the creation of survival strategies?

Where is the voice of black educators in this state?

At this point in our history, we should understand that it is not enough just to be in the room. It is not enough to be “the guardians” in charge of our own demise.

The larger problem, let us not forget, is an HBCU problem. SCSU just happens to be one of the most significant “canaries in the coal mine.” Hats off to the determined black leadership in Maryland.

Dr. William Small Jr. is former chairman of the board of trustees of South Carolina State University.

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