After Education Secretary Betsy DeVos visited Howard University this month in one of her first official actions, a group of student protesters called for President Trump to be barred from the D.C. campus and for the school to reject federal funding during his administration.
It was a moment that showed the suspicion and hostility some people at a prominent and historically black university feel toward the new president and the Republican-controlled Congress. In the 2016 election, exit polls showed black voters overwhelmingly opposed Trump. But DeVos’s overture was symbolic of a visible outreach from the GOP to historically black colleges and universities, known as HBCUs.
“This is important to me personally,” said Rep. Mark Walker, a Republican from North Carolina who along with Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) plans to lead a discussion with more than 85 presidents and chancellors of HBCUs Tuesday at the Library of Congress. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) are expected to attend, and DeVos will deliver the keynote address. The White House also is said to be planning an executive order related to HBCUs.
On Monday, Trump greeted dozens of HBCU leaders in the Oval Office. Soon after, Vice President Pence met with many of them elsewhere at the White House. “You’ve transformed lives through education and helped to lead our country to a more perfect union,” Pence told them. “The president and I admire the contributions of historically black colleges and universities.” He said the Trump administration is “committed” to ensuring that HBCUs “get the credit and attention they deserve.” (Washington Post)