So You Want to Be an HBCU President…

What the hell is wrong with you?

I don’t know what it is about the hallowed halls and scared ground we call historically black colleges and universities that makes so many want to be an HBCU president. For the life of me, I cannot understand why anyone would want one of the most difficult jobs in all of American life and culture.

I get that HBCUs have loved us. I get that they gave us crowns into which we could grow. I also get that for many of us, they have been lifesavers.

That’s why for the life of me I cannot understand why all we want to be is a president.

Many HBCUs have had enough presidents in the last two or three decades to rival their preceding 100-year existence. The high turnover rate can be attribute to several factors: boards driven by politics, ego, and a lack of expertise in higher education, declining enrollments and endowments, disgruntled faculty, students and/or alumni, and other challenges.

Addressing these issues are the top bullet points in the HBCU presidential job description.

When they arise — and they will arise believe you me — folk who chased HBCU presidencies to ‘be somebody’ will find themselves out of jobs before the ink dries on the checks paying vendors for their investiture ceremonies.

Here’s a short list to test your mettle:

  • Are you committed to fundraising — you know, actually raising money.
  • Will you check your friends — i.e. The folk you hired to key roles who ain’t doing their jobs.
  • Will you surround yourself with people who, if necessary, will check you?
  • Are you prepared to grow rich in admiration rather than in dollars and cents?
  • Above all, are you prepared to cultivate mentees to assume leadership roles and to pass the torch of leadership for when you will eventually be fired, or hired at another institution?

If you didn’t answer yes to all of these questions, for the HBCU’s sake, please leave the presidential office alone.

If you answered yes, and still want to be an HBCU president, get ready for the most difficult challenge of your natural-born life.