Sitting here reading and looking at this whole Talladega College participating in the inauguration parade and fundraising, all I can think of is, we have sold out for far less, but at what cost to participate in this “marketing fiasco”. Working in higher education is not for the faint at heart, but is truly a calling that few can do and remain on a true course of being genuine in your purpose. This means not worrying about jockeying for positions to get or receive greater accolades and ‘coins’ at the expense of stepping on co-workers or better yet students trying to get there, having the ‘captain save a student’ mentality because they are just too pitiful to do it for themselves, or I want to feel like I serve for a greater purpose, but that greater purpose is me. I can go on and on, but trust me there are folks that work for that purpose and some who are on the other side of the spectrum. Some of us, truly get ‘life’ working with the students, watching them grow through leadership and maturing, and just growing as men and or women. We empower them to be the captain of their dreams. We teach them anything worth working for is worth having. We guide them to deal with situations and to prepare for future situations. Some of us even have the mentality that someone did it for me and I will do it for them. Figure that!!
Isn’t it our purpose in higher education to elevate our students and show them that there is a world outside of their comfort zone? But when I listen to the president of Talladega College all but represent or allude to the fact that all of his students have never been outside of Alabama and that this is an experience for them, I tend to call “BS” on that. (Although this may be true for some, then what have you done before to make sure they have “other” experiences that take them outside of Alabama?) Instead, what I did see is a person that took an opportunity to exploit the very students he serves to get a short-term gain with no long-term outcomes for the continued history of this HBCU. I don’t blame the students because they are nothing but a pawn in this marketing fiasco. I am almost certain that once they graduate they will become amazing members of our society and the world. But their participation will have the lasting association of being known as the group of students who entertained at a racist (is he really “our” president) event that is supposed to be a peaceful transition of power for “our” country. This is tokenism. To be a known token, seems to be the trend these days. The trend to coon for attention, if not for just 30 seconds of fame, is gaining traction in 2017. Will the students participating in this “historic” event even increase enrollment at Talledega by a minimum 50% and increase retention by 20%? In fact, what was your donor giving to the school prior to this? Was ‘this’ really your rallying call to give to your school? Seriously I am just wondering.
Now some would say what point do I have to make, as an HBCU graduate myself and a fellow advocate and worker in higher ed? My point is, don’t exploit your students for a short-term gain. Don’t use them to increase your value “to” the university. The reality is the students increase the value of all who work for and with them. Like the title of this post says: When your purpose has turned into a selfish guide at the expense of others. Our students matter, and we should create and expose them to varying experiences that enhance them personally, not just for the university. Someone once told me that everything in education must have a purpose. There should be learning objectives, but I am having a hard time understanding what the “learning” objective that matters in higher education played in this deal.
Like I said, I was well-played marketing wise. Someone already said “If people didn’t know about #Talladega or #TalladegaCollege before, they do now.” But will you know the college later? Like Saturday, Sunday, Monday, you get my point.