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Last updateMon, 26 Aug 2019 4am

Black College Campus Life

The campus life at Historically Black Colleges and Universities is a multi-dimensional, multi-layered, multi-faceted experience that has produced some of the most prolific, productive, and successful citizens of the world and American society. It is as diverse as the skin tones and hues that define African Americans. It is rooted in centuries of patterns of human activity and shared experiences of the ancestors of slaves. The symbolic structures of HBCU campuses represent the proverbial village that many believe is required to properly raise a child and reaffirm our ability to overcome oppression and our long-held commitment to excellence of African Americans.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of freshmen leave home to begin a journey that will be exciting, lifechanging, and will prepare them for successful futures. Yet, in making the choice to attend an HBCU, you are making a very special choice that has been the launch pad for some of the greatest Americans in history. In the twenty-first century, you are also choosing environments that look more and more like America and its cultural diversity. You are placing yourself in an environment that reflects and constantly reminds you of the history of your people and your own greatness.

Because of the low student-to-teacher ratio at the majority of HBCUs, get ready for professors who know you by name and who actually care whether or not you succeed. Your classmates will include people up and down the economic and social ladder—from those whose parents write tuition checks to those for whom student loans and work-study are the only salvation. Your classmates will include the best and the brightest merit scholars, academic superstars, pampered athletes, campus activist and rabble rousers. They will include students who may need remedial instruction, but who are also diamonds in the rough, whose poten-

Black College Campus Life Organic Sense of Community

tial is discovered and nurtured at institutions that build confidence and inspire people to work for greatness.

You can read about it and hear others talk about it, but it won't be until you experience the thrill of freshman orientation, see a group of frat brothers or sorors stepping on their plot, witness your first group of pledges in formation, attend a football or basketball game that is a video shoot and fashion show, or experience homecoming on "the yard" that the "aha" moment will happen for you.

Organic Sense of Community

The HBCU community predates the electronic age, covering many decades of interstate travel by students and alumni to HBCUs for homecoming, concerts, graduation, and other special events. And at HBCUs, it's not the NCAA that reigns. Can you say CIAA, SWAC, MEAC? Our tournaments are more than just basketball or football. They are long-standing traditions that span generations and spawn family reunions, class reunions, and fraternity and sorority gatherings. Homecomings on every campus are always been the beautiful people on parade.

The notion of attending an HBCU ebbs and flows with each generation and some schools have stronger brands and are better-known. The United Negro College Fund has reported an increase in students from the Western states attending these schools. There are parents in states with lower African-American populations who make the argument that they send their children to HBCUs to make certain that they get the "cultural experience."

The creation of HBCU student unions and student organizations on majority college campuses is a major phenomenon in American society, and practically every major college or university has some type of organization designed to foster a sense of community among African-American students. The fact that such organizations are needed for African-American students on major campuses by definition justifies the continued need and relevance of HBCUs.

HBCUs organically offer a sense of community for African-American students, campuses that provide constant reminders of our powerful history of succeeding and overcoming obstacles, and offer an environment where you will challenged. These schools have professors and administrators who will remind you of people from your family and community. There are many untold stories of faculty going the extra mile to ensure a student is reaching their potential, such as the character portrayed by Denzel Washington in the movie, The Great Debaters.

If you are like the vast majority of young people who go away to college, this will be your very first time leaving home and the first time you will make adult decisions. Decisions about how you manage your time, honor your commitments, and take active responsibility for your own future during your matriculation will set the course for the rest of your life. The nurturing and supportive spirit of these campuses gives young people the freedom to make choices, but at the same time provides a network of people who will keep track of your successes and failures. At HBCUs, your identity will be more than just your name and field of study, it will also include what state you are from, whether you are an athlete, or a member of a Greek organization, band member, social club, or organization.

No matter where you choose to go to college, it will be a whole new world, with unexpected twists and turns, and with its own rewards as well as challenges. The people and experiences you will encounter will be many and varied.


Reprinted with permission from The Black Collegian magazine.