Learning about HBCUs led me to realize that there seemed to be this great point of contention between those who support them over PWIs and vice versa. With HBCUs increasingly experiencing issues with fundraising (especially contribution retention from alumni) in this weakened economy, the argument has been made that more Blacks should steer clear of PWIs to support these schools and build a greater community of Black education. Those on the other side of the fence have argued that with lack of funding, HBCUs are unable to provide their students similar financial packages like their PWI counterparts. They also argue that given our society is a pluralistic one, it is best that Black student attend more diverse institutions to get an honest taste of what’s in store for them in the workplace.
As adults we expect to be able to disagree while maintaining respect for each other’s opinions and decisions. Not too long ago, I came across a tweet that said “A 4.0 at a HBCU is not equivalent to a 4.0 at a rigorous PWI. No shade being thrown but that is the truth!” Well…that was definitely shade. Inaccurate shade, but shade nonetheless. Since we do not have all day, I will not point out the 101 ways in which this tweet was not only accurate but disrespectful to those who have attended and succeeded at HBCUs. But what I will focus on is the lack of nuance in said tweet.
First of all, what does the owner of this statement mean by “rigorous” PWI? I think anyone with a degree will tell you college is nothing but rigorous. The creation of your own schedules, deciding on your major, exams, papers, lectures, and never mind the greatness that is tuition and books. So, every 2-4 year institution can be labeled as rigorous, especially determining what you choose to specialize in. Secondly, has the owner of this thought researched what goes into receiving a 4.0 at any institution of higher learning. A 4.0 means the student basically went above and beyond their coursework to succeed. Their papers and projects were excellent, they attended class regularly and participated, and maybe even visited their professor during office hours. Anyone who receives a 4.0 regardless of their school deserves nothing but praise. With the average U.S. GPA sitting at 3.11, I don’t think a 4.0 is anything to laugh at.
Lastly, the greatest issue I take with this tweet is that it goes with the larger theme that Black-owned/predominantly Black institutions are inferior to white ones. What about a 4.0 at a Black institution makes it less than a PWI? HBCUs have birthed some of the most important figures in history, just like PWIs have. HBCUs stand on a ground of providing a diverse education while maintaining strict curriculums, just as PWIs do. There is nothing that a PWI can offer in terms of coursework that a HBCU can’t. I hope the author of this despicable tweet can hope to tweet with nuance, and basic knowledge of these different institutions, next time she partakes in this discussion.
Valerie Charles is a writer based in Brooklyn, NY. She blogs at GirlAboutBk.wordpress.com. You can follow her on twitter @Vivaciously_Val.