HBCUs: Not A Different World Project

The HBCUs: Not A Different World Project (NADW)

“Dr. Ball, your problem is that you want to create new knowledge. We don’t do that here… your job is to produce menial laborers for the communications industry.” These were the verbatim words spoken to me during a more than 2-hour discussion with a former high-ranking HBCU administrator upon hearing my summary of what was at that time more than 5 years of various hostilities created by another HBCU administrator. The words were harsh but honest and meant to explain to me why so much of what I had described was in fact occurring and, more importantly, would never stop. 

So much of the mythology around Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) is propelled by renditions of early defense of the race, to their being pastorals for and incubators of political struggle, and as being epicenters of the study and production of Blackness in popular culture products like Spike Lee’s School Daze (1988) and the popular Cosby Show (1984) spinoff A Different World (1987). Scholarship on the histories of HBCUs, while varied, often exclude contemporary critical investigations which center the experiences of faculty and staff and which seek to explore the ways in which HBCUs mimic neo-colonial institutions in their relationship to state power, industrial complexes, and most importantly, student experience.

This project will develop a kind of “whistle-blower” investigation of the modern HBCU as a 21st century exemplar of neo-colonial education. Beginning with the author’s own decades-long experience and relative protected position as a tenured Full Professor, but also to include dozens of interviews with current and former HBCU students, staff, faculty, and administrators, this NADW project will expose audiences to a much more honest and critical assessment of these vaunted institutions. 

Please submit your responses to the following via email and include “HBCU Project” in the subject. Before any form of multimedia publication all participants will have ample time to review their contribution and/or attribution.

  1. Name (real or that by which you would like to be referred)
  2. HBCU(s) attended
  3. Role (student, staff, faculty, admin, etc.)
  4. Years (optional)
  5. Did the television show “A Different World” or any other form of popular culture reference to HBCUs influence your decision to attend or work there?
  6. Please take as much time/space to explain your experience and to perhaps share one or another quintessential story that exemplifies your experience.
  7. Please add or say anything else you’d like, including asking for clarification or for follow up questions, and please do be willing to have follow up questions asked. 

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