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Two Presidents and a Civil Rights Attorney fighting for HBCU’s

Updated: Oct 6, 2023

It is with immense pride that I got to witness two presidents this week, both crucial in my life, collaborating to secure the much-needed investment in our nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities, as part of The White House Board of Advisors on HBCUs. Working previously for President Joe Biden during his U.S. Senate tenure, and currently serving on the Delaware State Foundation Board under President Tony Allen, marks a full-circle moment of honor for me!

Cathleen with current DelState President Tony Allen
Cathleen with DelState President Tony Allen at the 2023 DelState Convocation

From an orphanage to Delaware State University, my journey is a testament to the transformative power of believing in oneself, especially when others don't. Being part of the DSU family was pivotal; it wasn’t merely an educational journey, but a life-altering experience, surrounded by inspiring leaders who mirrored my image and believed in my potential. Similarly, serving in President Biden's press office early in my career laid the foundation for my ascent of becoming an award winning broadcast journalist.


Delaware steadfastly leads as an exemplar, especially when the majority of the nation’s black land-grant institutions grapple with chronic underfunding. A staggering $13 billion shortfall plagues 16 of the 19 historically Black land-grant universities in the United States, per federal analysis spanning from 1987 to 2020.

Cathleen with President Biden
Cathleen with President Biden

Significantly, Tennessee State University (TSU) has experienced the brunt of this disparity, being underfunded by an astronomical $2.1 billion. Civil rights attorney Ben Crump recently visited TSU, committing to championing their cause and ensuring the due funds are received, even if it necessitates legal actions against Tennessee.


Crump eloquently emphasized, “Education is the great equalizer bridging the substantial wealth gap existing between Black and White Americans.” In an impassioned address to the students, he urged TSU President Glenda Glover, lauded as a “visionary leader”, to rethink her decision to resign.


Dr. Glover, having diligently served since 2013, pointed to the report highlighting funding disparities as the “tip of the iceberg”, leading to her resignation effective at the conclusion of the 2023-2024 academic year.


In response to these inequities, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona and Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack have penned letters urging governors to amplify funding to these vital institutions. As Cardona stated, funding inequities compel many esteemed HBCUs to operate with insufficient resources, hampering essential investments ranging from infrastructure and research to student services.


In addition to Tennessee, letters were also sent to governors of Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.


Interestingly, my birth state of Ohio and my upbringing and educational home, Delaware, emerged as states providing equitable funding to their land-grant institutions. Whether it’s serendipity or divine intervention, my gratitude for my solid HBCU foundation is boundless and eternal. These institutions are not just educational havens; they are beacons illuminating the path for many, just as they did for me.


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