Our HBCU fellows reported on Louisiana’s goal to increase the number of Black teachers, as well as community-policing efforts at three universities. And, in California, prison closures are rocking the state’s community colleges.

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A newsletter about role of higher education in society — plus Open Campus developments.

‘Their impact is generational’

Today we’re taking you inside two recent stories that detail important shifts taking place on HBCU campuses.

The stories — about Louisiana’s efforts to increase the number of Black male teachers, and HBCU police chiefs’ strategy for connecting with students — come from our HBCU Student Journalism Network fellows Brittany Patterson and Tyuanna Williams.

Brittany’s story focuses on Louisiana, where just 5% of teachers are Black men. Several historically Black colleges and universities are trying to change that.

A few examples: Southern University New Orleans runs a college-prep summer program for male high-school students of color. And, this fall there will be about 25 students in Grambling State University’s Call Me MISTER program. (Call Me MISTER is a national initiative that aims to increase the number of teachers of color in public schools.)

Reporting the story reminded Brittany of her own experiences with Black male teachers. They encouraged her during difficult times in her childhood and that experience inspired her to delve further into the topic. We co-published the article with Verité News, a nonprofit newsroom in New Orleans.

“It also shows the influence that minority male teachers make in general,” Brittany told me. “By one male becoming a teacher, their impact is generational.”

Tyuanna, who attends Claflin University, got the idea for her story after attending a panel about policing in America, held this February at nearby South Carolina State University. The frank discussions and students’ critiques made her wonder: How are HBCU police departments trying to create more constructive relationships on campus?

Tyuanna talked to police chiefs at three HBCUs that are all relying on a strategy known as community policing. They try to create connections with students, and approach situations with patience. We co-published the piece with Capital B.

“The story is important because the relationship between Black people and law enforcement is intense,” Tyuanna told me. “Although officers are meant to ‘serve and protect,’ history shows that interactions with members from the Black community aren’t always so amicable. ”

— Lynn Liu

++ June 1 is the application deadline for our fall class of HBCU fellows. This is a remote, paid, part-time opportunity for student journalists. Apply here. (Know HBCU student journalists who might be interested? Please help us spread the word — more info on the program here.)


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What happens to a community college when a prison closes?

California is closing or downsizing several prisons. As a result, at least three community colleges in the state stand to lose more than 10% of their student enrollment and millions of dollars in state funds, Adam Echelman, our community colleges reporter at CalMatters reported yesterday.

Plus, there are incarcerated people who worry they won’t be able to continue their educations. (This is a concern that Charlotte West, our reporter covering prisons and higher ed, has explored before.)

Take Cerro Coso Community College as an example: Last December, the corrections department said it planned to close the D yard — where Cerro Coso taught more than 35 in-person classes — this summer. And, it would close the California City Correctional Center, another prison where Cerro Coso also teaches, by next year.

At the time, Anna Carlson, the program director for the college’s prison education program, didn’t have much info about the timeline for the closures. And a promise from California’s department of corrections that students could stay through the spring semester “just didn’t happen.”

“Some were able to stay, and some were not.”

— Colleen Murphy

Elsewhere on Open Campus

Protesters gather at the New College of Florida campus in Sarasota on Monday, May 15, 2023, moments after Gov. Ron DeSantis signed three higher education bills that were approved during the 2023 legislative session. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]

From Tampa Bay: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed three bills this week that bring major changes to higher education, Divya Kumar reports. One of the measures expands the hiring and firing powers of university boards, limits protections for tenured faculty members, and prohibits some DEI spending.

From Indiana: Three new laws in Indiana “aim to strengthen a state scholarship program, provide more information about financial aid, and limit colleges’ power to withhold transcripts from those who still owe money to institutions,” MJ Slaby writes for Chalkbeat Indiana.

From Mississippi: The Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees terminated Felecia Nave as president of Alcorn State University, board minutes show. That’s more detail than the board had previously given on Nave’s departure, reports Molly Minta. The board reached the unanimous decision on April 20 — two days after Nave had interviewed as a semi-finalist for the chancellor position at Louisiana State University, Shreveport. (She didn’t get the job.)

Plus, Lance Nail was tapped to be the new provost at the University of Southern Mississippi, despite significant student pushback to the selection.

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