Your Uninformed Perception Will Never Reflect Reality: Debunking Common Rumors and Lies about the HBCU Experience

Since my initial collegiate semester at Prairie View A & M University concluded, I decided to return home to Stafford, Texas. Prior to returning home for Winter break, I made a conscious decision to do a variety of college 5constructive things such as visiting my former high school to: (a) consistently exercise and (b) interact with my former high school teachers and classmates to inform them about my academic progress and experience at an Historically Black University.

Returning to my old stomping grounds provided me an opportunity to interact with former friends, invariably our interaction turned toward a discussion regarding what they should expect from the collegiate experience. When I inquired about which colleges they were applying to? I repeatedly heard the same answers: Sam Houston State, Stephen F. Austin, and Texas State. As a proud African-American who willing chose to attend an HBCU over predominantly white institutions, I immediately asked my Black peers why they had not applied to Prairie View A&M or any other HBCU? I never imagined that I would hear such ignorant responses.

I received a host of responses from “why would I want to go to Prairie View? It is nothing but a party school” or “I can do so college 3much better than that place.” I thought that I could not be anymore offended than when a friend told me that “a degree from there means nothing.” However, my ire was raised even more when one of my former classmates remarked “I won’t get a good education there.”  Although each of those answers are idiotic, they are also revealing. They highlight a pervasive issue that flows throughout the African-American community as freely as a raging river. That issue is the failure of African-Americans to support their own businesses, people, and ironically, their own institutions of higher learning.

It is no secret that African Americans do not utilize the financial concept of group operation and collective economics like other groups do.  Most of us do not support black-owned car washes, restaurants, and auto shops with any consistency as they are perceived to be substandard to white businesses. Truth be told, the only black college 4owned business African-Americans consistently patronize are barbershops and hair salons; although the weave that Black women are addicted to comes from non-Black hands. Incredibly, such thinking has infected even my peers who honestly have limited life experiences.

Making matters worse for me is that the misinformation that many of my former classmates hold regarding the ‘substandard education’ provided at Prairie View A & M University is so erroneous that it is laughable.

So as a proud future Alum of Prairie View A & M University, I am compelled to use this space to debunk a few of the more prominent myths surrounding HBCU’s, particularly the one that I attend.

Prairie View A&M University is not a “party school”. Let me refute this common myth, I emphatically state that Prairie View A&M is NOT a “party school”.  It is a school, like any other academic institution that has droves of undergraduates, where parties occur. college 1HBCU’s do not now, nor have they ever had a monopoly upon collegiate parties. However, HBCU’s are neither romper room nor the Las Vegas strip in this regard, they are institutions of higher education.

In regards to the notion that a degree from Prairie View means nothing, let me take this moment to share a few facts.

  • Prairie View A&M University graduates have the highest starting salary of graduates from any HBCU’s.
  • Prairie View is the number one school for producing African American architecture undergraduates.
  • Prairie View is one of the top ten producers of African American engineers.

I’ll close by saying this to future African-American collegians, if you are going to judge an institution like Prairie View A&M, or any HBCU, please do so from an informed Collegeposition. Not via rumor and the innuendo’s of naysayers who tend to vilify anything Black owned or operated. Even a surface level examination will prove that HBCU’s like Prairie View A & M University are providing a quality education comparable to any American University.

Your reliance upon the misinformation of ‘haters’ may very well cost you an opportunity to have the time of your life on an HBCU campus; trust me, I know about what I speak.

Alexander Goodwin


© Manhood, Race and Culture 2015

3 thoughts on “Your Uninformed Perception Will Never Reflect Reality: Debunking Common Rumors and Lies about the HBCU Experience”

  1. Dr. Goodwin,
    I must refute your general assertion. I will not divulge too much information to draw on the fallacies, because I believe in taking care of in house matters in house. But I will point out that among the accomplishments of Prairie View graduates you did not mention the liberal arts and social sciences. Is there a reason for that ?
    Additionally, Prairie View graduates having the highest starting salaries I would say is due in large part to the engineering department and hard sciences, which has a high influx of international students.
    Moreover, I was once told that “attitude reflects leadership” and the administration of Prairie View alone would arise apprehensions in prospective students and questions among current students. All in all, I hear the comparisons of Prairie View to other HBCUs and vice versa. If the misnomers of Prairie View and other HBCUs are to be defeated, then HBCUs need to be able to “hold their weight” against PWIs. If not, I am of the opinion that the misnomers will persist.

    1. Brother Wells,

      This is Alex Goodwin, the son, who wrote this post. Not his father the History Professor.

    2. Mr. Wells,
      I would have to say that your opinion on this subject reflects the same train of thought that this article attempts to combat and makes general assumptions not based on any facts. In order to accurately assess this, we have to keep these ideas in the context of history, factual evidence and common sense.
      Historically, Prairie View A&M has always been a school whose focus was on technical skills and hard sciences (A&M -Agricultural and Mechanical) and has consistent in its production of black professionals. #1 in Texas producing black teachers, #1 in Texas producing black nurses, top 10 in the nation producing black engineers, #1 in the nation for African American architects. No one institution is great in all areas of study, so for you to point out that Prairie View lacks in certain areas while not taking into account that all universities lack in on area or another, indicates cultural bias on your part.
      Also, for the first 100 years of Prairie View’s history, the university was woefully underfunded by the state in comparison to our “sister” school Texas A&M and other non HBCU’s across the state. So comparing the two while on a uneven playing field historically, and nothing being done to make up for those historical inequities would be unfair and not do the major accomplishments of Prairie View any justice.
      Your comments on Prairie View graduates achievement in garnering high salaries is what troubles me the most. Prairie View is 89% African American with a population of only 184 (2%)international students. It is mathematically impossible that 2% of the total student population spread out over 9 colleges is the main reason why Prairie View engineering students receive higher salaries. The underlying idea in your argument is that the only reason Prairie View student receive higher starting salaries is because of outside, non-black influence. That indicates sub-conscious cultural bias on your part. Now let’s say that you were correct in your assumption that there was a large amount out international students contributing to the success of Prairie View’s engineering program and ultimately to the bolstering of starting salaries. My response would be “so what”? Texas A&M, UT, Baylor, UCLA, LSU, etc. have much higher populations of international students than Prairie View, however those schools successes are never attributed to one demographic of another in an attempt to undermine the achievements of hat university. To point out “influx of international students” and attribute it to Prairie View success (which I proved is false) and not do the same for White institutions (which would be equally impossible in many cases) that have larger international student populations, indicates sub-conscious cultural bias on you part.
      Lastly we must look at the medias role in our perception of HBCU’s. The University of Houston and Texas Southern University are in the same neighborhood and are literally across the street from one another. The area is mostly impoverished therefore the rate of crime is higher . It is save to assume that the same crime TxSU experiences, U of H experiences, since they are across the street. However this is not the image that is portrayed. News about U of H consist of academic achievements, sport teams highlights and achievements and new major faculty hirings. TxSU’s newsreel consist of scandal, major and minor crime, and school deficiencies. The same can be said about PVAMU. The media was quick to highlight the stabbing on campus but have never spoken on those positives that I and the original poster have pointed out, and few few of our sports accomplishments. So, of course we would be left with a bad taste in our mouth concerning HBCU’s if you are an outsider and mainstream media and hearsay is your sole source if information. It is up to us to search out facts so that we can separate truth from fiction about our institutions because greater understanding of them leads to greater understanding of self.

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