The following two-part essay proposes a new agenda for the WHI-HBCUs during President Obama's second term that that would make the most of the President's reelection victory by building on the achievements of the WHI-HBCUs during the President's first term. Its new agenda would be guided by two mantras ==> "Teaching with More Technology" and "Leveraging Our Networks." The first epitomizes the proposed agenda's most important goals; the second embodies its most important strategy.
A. Existential Threats
Institutions of higher education in the United States are threatened by the convergence of two powerful forces: the financial aftermath of the Great Recession and IT-based disruptive innovations. For many HBCUs these threats will pose overwhelming challenges to their continued existence. Fortunately, President Obama's reelection provides the HBCU community in particular and black higher education in general with a reprieve from a hitherto unimaginable catastrophe that would have ensued had Governor Romney been elected in 2012; but this reprieve has a four year time limit.
Four years is only a long time for the very young, e.g., for our students. But those of us who are old enough to know better should regard President Obama's narrow popular election victory as a call to arms. If we don't mobilize our limited human, physical, and financial resources to overcome the long-term threats posed by the Great Recession and disruptive innovations, an election victory in 2016 by a comparably hostile political regime will become an instantaneous disaster.
And a word about "disruptive innovations." These fundamental challenges to the status quo provide incredible opportunities for institutions that are wise enough to adopt them, but imperil the survival of those that don't. (See Christensen and Eyring's discussions in The Innovative University, Jossey-Bass, 2011.) Unfortunately, as things now stand, the persistence of a shifting "Digital Divide" makes it likely that many HBCUs will become victims of these imminent upheavals. Hopefully, the next four years will provide sufficient time to reposition most, if not all of them.
B. Functions of the WHI-HBCUs
Three of the most important functions of the WHI-HBCUs are as follows:
- Advocate for more support for HBCUs from the participating federal agencies.
- Publish an annual report of the financial support provided by the participating federal agencies to the 105 officially designated HBCUs
- Host an annual conference of the leadership of the HBCU community and high level officials of the participating federal agencies
- Black higher education is likely to have access to fewer resources in the coming decades than in the past; more specifically, state support for most public HBCUs is likely to decline as part of a broader decline in state support for most institutions of higher education.
- It is therefore imperative that we embrace innovations that will enable us to make more productive use of the resources we already have;
- The most productive innovations are likely to require the greatest disruptions to our current operations;
- To be specific, the most disruptive/productive innovations are likely to require the application of Intenet-based information technologies, a/k/a "eLearning" to our core teaching processes as well as to our administrative processes;
- HBCUs and other minority serving institutions (MSIs) should accelerate their efforts to achieve economies of scale by greatly intensifying their current efforts to collaborate and share their limited resources; and most importantly
- HBCUs and other minority serving institutions (MSIs) should greatly intensify their use of social media and Internet clouds to leverage their overlapping student, alumni, faculty, staff, and administrative networks to achieve more effective sharing and collaboration.
C. Specific Components of the Proposed WHI-HBCUs' Agenda for President Obama's Second Term -- Part 2