As past history clearly shows, the Georgia Board of Regents fails to treat Georgia state universities, such as Fort Valley State University, Albany State University and Savannah State University, in a fair and unbiased manner. Even before the landmark Plessy v. Ferguson case in 1896, these “Historically Black Colleges/Universities” (commonly called HBCUs) were treated in a separate and unequal manner when compared to “predominantly white institutions.”
Many HBCUs were born out of racism. Historically, HBCUs receive disproportionate funding, innovative programs and brick and mortar projects in comparison to their predominantly white counterparts.
We often hear Chancellor Hank Huckaby talk about fairness and transparency when dealing with the University System of Georgia’s 31 colleges and universities. However, he does not speak truth to power. The disparity and patently unfair treatment between PWIs and HBCUs continues to this very day.
For example, HBCUs receive discriminatory treatment in the presidential selection process when compared to PWIs presidential selection process. Chancellor Huckaby and the regent’s decision-making process or lack thereof signals overt discriminatory behavior.
Chancellor Huckaby selected, for instance, an interim president in 2011 for Savanah State University, and a year later he simply appointed that person as president without the benefit of a search committee. Similar to Savannah State, Chancellor Huckaby again selected an interim president for Albany State University in 2012. Two years later he appointed that person as the permanent president without benefit of a search committee. And yet again, he repeated the same process when choosing the recent permanent president of Fort Valley State University without consulting university or community stakeholders.
But at the PWIs, the chancellor took a different approach. Instead of simply appointing presidents, he decided to form search committees, with university and community input, to select presidents at these state institutions of higher learning. For instance, when Georgia Southern University, a PWI, recently needed another president, Huckaby formed a search committee. The search committee performed its due diligence, and now Georgia Southern has a new president. Most recently, when the current interim president at Valdosta State University, another PWI, stepped down to take a position at a state university in North Carolina, the chancellor indicated he would form a search committee to select its next president as well.
Why treat HBCUs and PWIs differently in selecting presidents? Well, from his actions, Huckaby implies that graduates, supporters and members of HBCUs do not have the intellect or wherewithal to select effective leaders. He said as much to a community group, explaining that these institutions had not done a good job in selecting presidents in the past.
Well, this supposition does not hold water. For example, Valdosta State University, would have had two presidents and three interim presidents since 2008. A Valdosta State search committee selected its eighth president on Aug. 1, 2008. This president served the university for approximately two and a half years. After which, an interim president stepped in and served for nine months, with the search committee selecting its ninth president on July 1, 2012. In just three years, that president resigned.
The chancellor selected, subsequently, another interim president on July 1, 2015, who will leave at the end of this June after serving only one year at the helm. Now, Huckaby will have to pick yet another interim president on July 1, 2016. Wow. What a roller coaster ride for students, faculty and staff at Valdosta State over the past eight years.
These blatant discriminatory practices must stop in the year 2016. Given that all Georgia state institutions of higher learning receive federal student financial aid funds, the Department of Education, the Civil Rights Commission, as well as the Southern Association for Colleges and Schools should investigate Chancellor Hank Huckaby and the Board of Regents continued failure to treat Georgia’s HBCUs equally and fairly.
Martin Luther King once said that the “time is always right to do what is right.” Chancellor Hank Huckaby and the Board of Regents should be held accountable for their discriminatory behavior. Furthermore, they should do right by all universities and colleges in the University System of Georgia by allowing them to have a fair and equitable presidential selection process.
Otha L. Kincy M.A., Anthony Hicks M.D., Keith McRae D.M.D.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled the last name of Hank Huckaby in the headline.