Proposed closing of three of Mississippi’s HBCUs is concerning

Published 11:16 am Friday, May 17, 2024

Here we go again.

Will Mississippi’s African American communities just roll over in acceptance of the possibility of three Historically Black College and Universities being closed? Complacency at this point will be the source of regret for years to come. I for one am in total disbelief that there is not the most resounding reaction to this proposal. Upon first hearing and later reading that Sen. John Polk is sponsoring the new state bill (Senate Bill 2726), which calls for the closing of three very popular, prominent and legendary HBCUs. At this point, I experienced every negative emotion. Alcorn State University, Mississippi Valley State University and Jackson State University have meant more to Mississippi’s African American community than many other institutions in the deep South. While I do not profess or pretend to know all there is to know about this situation, all I have read leads me to conclude that there are those who believe that closing these schools will be in the best interests of Mississippi because there might be a savings of taxpayer money.

Of the number of issues listed as considerations given in the decision to close these schools could be applied to other schools as well. It appears that those responsible for putting this proposal forth seem to have given more credence to a drop in enrollment. Now perhaps more research is necessary because this alone must not be the only criteria used to make such an awful decision. I question if any proposals have been put on the table by Sen. Polk, state legislators and the board of trustees that might keep these schools open and continue to educate and produce leaders.

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We must remember a time in America’s and Mississippi’s history when Black students were not welcome at any white college and other institutions of higher learning. They could only attend HBCUs. It is still in our memory when one Black man had to be escorted by armed guards to attend Ole Miss and they remained for protection. Yes, I am very much aware that progress has been made in that area “for now.” However, it does not look good when there is a proposal to close any HBCU. Seems like a step back. Now that the country’s HBCUs are flourishing, producing top scholars and leaders, someone dreams up the idea that Mississippi’s educational system would be better off without Alcorn State University, Mississippi Valley State University and Jackson State University. If there are serious problems at these schools, why don’t we put our heads together and devise programs to resolve such issues?

Although born and raised in Vicksburg, I am no longer a Mississippi resident. However, I do own property in Vicksburg and therefore I am a taxpayer with concerns about how my tax dollars are allocated. Additionally, I am a 1970 graduate of Alcorn A&M College. Even though I was a returning Vietnam veteran and attending college on the GI Bill, I knew many other students who were not tuition-paying students based on parental or family income. These students were there on some type of scholarship, charity, loans, grants and or work-study programs.  I am just saying that many of us come from low-income families. I was one of these students. Even though I wanted to attend college after graduating from Rosa A. Temple High School, I did not earn any scholarships and my parents could not afford to send me to college. A month after graduation I enlisted in the U.S. Army. This way I could serve my country and send money home to help my family.

All I am saying is that Alcorn State University, Mississippi Valley State University and Jackson State University are much more than HBCUs. They were then and to some degree still are the, “Big House on The Hill,” at the end of the yellow brick road to freedom for many students. Many of these students in 2024 will be the first in their families to attend and graduate college. Today these schools have evolved since I enrolled at Alcorn in 1967. At the time there were no white students and so few white teachers you could count them on one hand. These schools are well known throughout this beautiful country. They all have great reputations.

In conclusion, I request that every man and woman with an appreciation of what these HBCUs have meant to contact your state officials, legislators and boards of trustees to place your objections with mine. I very forcibly object  to the closing of any one of these great institutions of higher learning. I don’t argue and don’t know the fact that enrollment may have dropped a little. However, I do submit that very intelligent people can, if they want to, find ways to keep these important and legendary schools open.

Dr. Lawrence Jointer

1970 Graduate Alcorn A&M College