The title of this post has nothing to do with a belief that HBCUs cannot prepare us for the real world. Let’s start there. I just believe that this particular university is not. Because they choose not to be. Also, keep in mind that I’m speaking from my experience as a graduate student.
When professors try to make you choose between having a job in order to have a roof over your head and attending every single class, when they tell you to choose between paying your bills and buying the latest book in your discipline, they are not equipped to cultivate us on the rocky ground which we stand. I personally know of students being told things like instead of working full time, they should consider a work-study position somewhere on campus that would slide them 15 hours per week for something not straying far from minimum wage. You cannot pay rent with that and God forbid you wanna get fancy on us and have a meal or two.
I’ve never had a white professor make me choose life or death based on what I could afford to invest in academically, and I’m quite ashamed to say that this stuff is coming from my own people. At a school that does not fund our education, and does not have financially feasible tuition rates, it’s weird to me that there are members of the faculty who can’t understand why I would need to work 40 hours/week and potentially interfere with perfect class attendance. At a school that has no separate graduate housing, where the max amount of student loans I can receive can’t fully cover a 12 credit course load let alone pay for expenses, you wonder how these people can even think this is functional.
Not equipped to equip me is also when your program’s department chair is yanked out of their position a few short weeks before school begins and you aren’t ever formally notified. You just kinda figure it out when people start referring you to a completely different person for correspondence. I never did figure out who was then responsible for the $5000 they promised me. Not equipped is also when that same department decides to have a Meet and Greet at the very end of the semester when done met each other already through the unifying ways of the struggle.
Not equipped to equip me is when you have to defend having a Black women’s studies program to an HBCU administration.
Not equipped to equip me is when an undergraduate student who wins what is essentially a pageant, is awarded a full scholarship and full wardrobe when they are required to make appearances, but they’re being taught by graduate student “adjuncts” who are in front of the class with growling stomachs.
Not equipped is when a Chemistry PhD student has to bounce around at labs at other universities in the city because we do not have any facilities for them to do their work.
The HBCU is supposed to feed, uplift, and build you up spiritually. At least, thus says the sacred oral text of our people and countless research articles in hundreds of databases. And don’t forget alumni testimony service, where they preach about the goodness of the HBCU and ALLLLL it has done for them.
I did not come to an HBCU to be expected to make something out of nothing, with no guidance, nor sympathy. I did not come to an HBCU to be broke and starving while the big wigs are plump and prosperous. A university such as this is not equipped to equip me for I am too complicated and vulnerable to be pimped and dried out by my “kinfolk”.
Last post in the series: “How I’m rebuilding“.