By Paul Holston, Editor-in-Chief
Dear Mr. President,
I write this letter to express both gratitude and concern over the letter that you sent out to the Howard University community on November 9, 2016, regarding the results of the 2016 Presidential Election. Perhaps you are wondering why I would take time to write this letter as opposed to attempting to converse with you in-person. As one of my predecessors William Scott, 1975-1976 Managing Editor of The Hilltop, expressed to then President
James E. Cheek: “I cannot sit idly by with pen in hand while the quiet and often misunderstood Howardite’s voice and concerns go unheard. Mr. President, that would be a gross miscarriage of justice — something that, I’m sure, you would not tolerate — something that I must not allow to happen.”
I took some time over the last couple of days to read line-by-line repeatedly on what your letter expressed to the Howard community, as it is now noted that President-Elect Donald Trump will be taking office in January 2017 as the next president of the United States. While I understand the tone and words you have written within the letter, I must express that the message was both passive and disappointing.
As president of Howard University, one of the flagship Historical Black Colleges and Universities and known as “The Mecca” around the world, I am disappointed as a student to have read your stance within this letter. While I may not fully understand why you decided to take this stance, the tone throughout expresses a lot in where you stand as president of this institution. It is interpreted that the political correctness is loud and clear, which is why I must respond as a student of concern.
In the letter, you express that “this election brought to closure a long and often bitter and offensive campaign.” With being both a Black and Latino student, there is no closure over the decision made by the American people. Ever since President-Elect Trump has been decided as the next president, everyday there has been hate crimes committed all-across the United States, to include hate crimes committed against African-Americans, Latinos, Muslims, the LGBT community, and other marginalized groups. This type of hate will continue to expand not only across the nation, but specifically I’m afraid, near our own backyard at Howard University and across the District of Columbia. I have to question as a student whether you will be prepared to ensure safety and security to my fellow Howardites who live on-campus as the days goes on.
Your letter continues expressing that “In this pursuit, we will continue to the necessary task of making absolutely certain that we preserve the important outcomes of opportunity, equality, civil rights and civil liberties, which were accomplished on our campus by pioneering students, faculty and staff who have come before us.” As a student, I wonder as president of this institution what you, specifically, will do.
Historically, students, faculty and staff have always been at the forefront of advocating for social justice and equality for all who are oppressed both on- and off-campus, and yet, many Howard presidents before you have taken the political corrective stance in order to shy away from this responsibility. As Editor, it is with consideration that the Howard community not only looks to you, but needs you to stand up for us in a proactive manner and in terms of leading this Black institution by example in light of this shake up in the political climate. Especially as Howard University comes to 150 years next year, we look to your leadership in ensuring that we will make it another 50, 100, and 150 years beyond where we are today. Sadly, I am uncertain that you will take a stance besides this politically correct way.
Concluding the letter, you highlight our fellow Howard alumni who have taken the highest levels of public office, such as the Honorable Kamala Harris to the United States Senate, along with Congressmen Elijah Cummings and Gregory Meeks who were re-elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. While this acknowledgement is very admirable and historic to our American democracy, I as a current student am more focused on what is happening here, right now, at this place, on the campus of Howard University.
With this upcoming change in the political climate that is sure to shake up not only African-American communities, but also HBCUs across the nation, I call to ask you as president of Howard University of the following:
- What will you do to ensure Howard University continues to be at the forefront of social justice as exemplified in our motto “In Truth and Service” during these times?
- What is your stance on the possibility that HBCU government funding could be cut under a President Donald Trump administration, especially with Howard University having the highest federal appropriation (over an estimated $220 million) out of all HBCUs?
- If the time is always now, which you have stated as Howard’s 150th anniversary theme, when will it be time to not be politically correct, but morally correct on the stances of this institution?
Editor-in-Chief of The Hilltop & A Concerned Howardite