Commentary by: Richard Gibson, Jr.
Can HBCUs Help Change the Political Landscape in 2012?
Yes they can!
The 2012 election cycle is critically important for HBCUs and all that is associated with the same institutions…students, faculty, administrators, alumni. All parties therein must step up their participation in the political game in 2012. There are political forces in the country that wish to turn back the hands of time for all the gains achieved over the last forty years.
What’s at stake for all that is affiliated with HBCUs. Lets start with financial aid. Ninety percent of all students that attend HBCUs receive some form of financial aid. For most, the bulk of the aid comes in the form of the federally funded Pell grant program. As this piece is being written, there is a white hot debate on-going in the Congress about the future of the Pell grant program. Republican members of Congress want to completely eliminate the Pell grant program. It is my estimation that the program will survive this round of debates, probably with some deep cuts inflicted.
However, after the 2012 elections, should the Republicans gain control of the U. S. Senate and the White House there exist a real possibility that the Pell grant will be eliminated. The elimination of the Pell grant program may spell doom for some private HBCUs as their enrollment numbers will drop perilously. Some face the possibility of closure, while publicly unded HBCUs may find themselves at the risk of being merged into larger predominately white public universities.
Indeed, there are other large issues that will impact the Black community as a result of the 2012 elections. But for HBCUs, the issues stated above are critical.
So how does the greater family of HBCUs get involved in the 2012 electoral process. First of all, know that President Barack Obama successfully captured the White House on the efforts of a well organized ground swell of core groups that registered hundreds of thousands of individuals that previously had not voted, or had not voted in several election cycles. These same groups also participated in one of the larges t “get out the vote drives” ever held in history of this country.
In 2012, the HBCU family must become either directly or indirectly part of this the process for making sure that progressive-minded candidates are elected to office.
The efforts made on behalf of progressive-minded candidates and President Obama in the 2008 elections did not go unnoticed by Republicans and conservative forces in the country. Immediately after the 2008 presidential election, they began to come up with strategies to reverse the victories of 2008 and the progressive gains made in the interim period since the election.
One of the key strategies they have been successful in implementing as a result of the mid-term elections when many conservatives took control of governor’s offices and legislative bodies was to change the election laws.
In several states new or modified election laws will make it difficult to conduct mass voter registration drives. Some of the laws appear to be throwbacks to 60’s when poll taxes and reading comprehension rules were used to block people of color from registering to vote.
The key to overcoming these new “walls of resistance” is to read and understand the regulations associated with the election laws in your state and local municipal jurisdictions.
There are two ways in which the HBCU family can participate in 2012 electoral process. One, join an existing voters registration organization. Or two, become an entrepreneur of sorts, and start a voters registration organization.
Understand clearly, there are elements in this country who are working hard to put back up the “walls”. Yes, “walls” that we thought were down and forever removed.
You Must Get Involved!
Photo Credit: Dion Hose, WHNT NEWS