Paul Quinn College: To Save or Not to Save

By Dr. Marybeth Gasman, Ph.D.

gasman2009Recently, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) voted to revoke Paul Quinn College’s accreditation, noting financial and academic problems. In the same breath, however, SACS acknowledged the excellent work being done by Paul Quinn’s president Michael Sorrell in recent years. Sorrell plans to appeal the SACS’s decision.

The loss of accreditation at Paul Quinn has been the subject of quite a few editorials and news stories over the past week.  Some editorials call for the support of the institution, noting its contributions to the community, nurturing educational environment, and recent progress.  However, other editorials and news stories have not been so supportive and in fact, have questioned the very existence of the institution.

On Tuesday, June 30, 2009, Mike Hashimoto wrote an editorial in The Dallas Morning News asking why anyone should support Paul Quinn College.  He noted that many in the Dallas area, where the small college is located, were calling for support of the institution.  He wondered why.  When supporters claimed that losing Paul Quinn would lead to increased job loss, Hashimoto countered, “there can’t be more than a relative handful of jobs on that campus.”  When supporters noted the diversity that Paul Quinn brings to the Dallas community, he exclaimed, “Diversity? It’s a historically black college so not really.”  When supporters claimed there would be an educational hole in the community without Paul Quinn, Hashimoto stated, “Hole in the community?  Down to 375 students, I’d argue not a very large one.”

Although Hashimoto makes a few interesting points in his editorial, he is not an informed critic of HBCUs.  He knows nothing about these institutions and their history.  He doesn’t understand the role that Paul Quinn has played in bolstering the lives, economy, and education of its surrounding community for decade upon decade.  Hashimoto doesn’t comprehend that the faculties and staffs at HBCUs offer more diversity than most of their “historically white” counterparts.  Moreover, he fails to realize that there is great diversity among Black Americans — being an historically Black college does not mean an institution lacks diversity in any way, shape, or form!  Hashimoto also fails to recognize the unique environment boasted by most HBCUs — one that nurtures and supports mainly low-income, first generation students regardless of the resources on hand.

What Hashimoto gets right is his assessment of the lack of support in the Dallas community for Paul Quinn.  Given the importance of the institution, it is imperative that both the majority and African American communities get behind the small college and support it regularly and systematically.  My good friend Nelson Bowman, the Director of Development at Prairie View A & M University (another Texas HBCU) often talks about “crisis fundraising” and how HBCUs sometimes fall back on this approach when in difficult situations.  In his words, the approach is  “Give us money or we will have to drop the program, go out of business or fail to provide for people who need us—and it’s going to be your fault.”  One need only recall Morris Brown College and its recent financial woes — resulting in the water company threatening to shut off the institution’s water supply.  Support during a crisis is not enough — if people in the community want the benefits of an institution, they need to support the institution regularly.  And the institution needs to ask for help regularly and not just practice “crisis fundraising.”

In 1872 a small group of African Methodist Episcopal (AME) preachers created Paul Quinn College — one of a handful of AME colleges.  These institutions are unique in that they were created by African Americans for African Americans and in that way they are American treasures that need to be held up as examples of African American agency and forethought.  It’s time for those in the community of Dallas as well as the Paul Quinn alumni to stand up for this institution now during a time of need and later during times of prosperity.

I’m hoping that President Sorrell can convince SACS and others that Paul Quinn College is back on track in terms of its ability to educate young minds.  I’m also hoping that he can keep up the good work being done by the institution and that this good work will be recognized by those in the community and especially the institution’s alumni.  Perhaps even Mr. Hashimoto will take notice.

An associate professor of higher education at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr. Gasman is the author of Envisioning Black Colleges: A History of the United Negro College Fund (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007) and lead editor of Understanding Minority Serving Institutions  (SUNY Press, 2008).


9 responses to “Paul Quinn College: To Save or Not to Save

  1. You’re basing your arguments on sentimental reasons. Just because hb colleges have a historical tradition as a class doesn’t mean things generally applying to the class applies to Paul Quinn. You didn’t know anything about Paul Quinn first hand to base your statements on.

    Besides, your reasoning will excuse these colleges from having to justify its existence, the same way other non-historially black colleges are justifying theirs.

    You have also failed to explain why Paul Quinn is diverse. It’s surely not diverse ethnically; it’s a black college. And in terms of diversity in other forms, it has no more of that in other forms than other colleges. You have no info to back up that statement – just emotionally arguments. Talking about diversity – does it take in international students? Rich students as well as poor students? Vietnamese students as welll as monolingual speakers?

    These days college funding is based on statistics and performance. WHy should Paul Quinn be exempted from that scrutiny and be allowed to survive on a historical tradition? Let SACS do its job and let’s not get politics involved in decision making!

    Paul Quinn needs to disclose all information on their site, and let its community decide whether to support it. It’s not your business to decide whether the college is good for the community.

    One more thing: If Paul Quinn cannot yield a wide enough appeal to the community and its alumni, then it probably says something about whether the community thinks it needs that college. It’s not up to an outsider like you to urge the community to support something if it does not see the need itself. It’s not fair. You’re asking for someone else to do something. Sentimental talk is cheap and action is dear.

  2. So I’ve read both sides…and I do know that there are all kinds of students from Gambia, Bahamas, England and other countries attending Paul Quinn… they have some caucasian and some hispanic…that’s pretty diverse to me. HISTORICALLY black does not me ONLY black. I havent heard their president mention anything about race…why is everyone caught up on that? The old history is great… it should be celebrated and the more recent history, not so much. But I think these folks want people to judge them on whats happening NOW. It’s apparent that they arent leaning on historical relevance and have inherited something that no one else could have imagined taking on.

    Furthermore, why get upset with the lady who wrote this article…she’s voicing her opinion just like you are.

    Everyone settle down.

  3. James D. VanWright

    I agree that there is nothing to be upset about. As an alumni of a HBCU, Cheyney University, I know firsthand of the struggles they face. Enrollment is often padded just to meet the required amount of students for the university to exist. Some of the practices exhibited by HBCUs have earned them a student body that may not understand the mission of the university. This in-turn gives the university a bad reputation for its academic prowess. These universities cannot escape their reputation although the educations they provide are of quality. Many of these schools lack the financial support systems that are found at HWIs. Reform is necessary; however, losing accreditation isn’t an option.

    Also, many HBCUs are very diverse. Historically Black Colleges and Universities were founded with the purpose of educating minority and African-American students. Although their race may be black, many ethnicities exist at HBCUs. Caribbean, African, and European countries are represented at these universities. All races, socio-economic backgrounds, and nationalities can be found at HBCUs and the faculty definitely will reflect a diverse atmosphere.

  4. Dr. James B. Ewers, Jr.

    Paul Quinn College is worth saving. I don’t understand the critics who call for its demise. HBCU’s like Paul Quinn College have served as a catalyst for many students, both black and white to receive a college education. Kudos to the administration at Paul Quinn College for appealing the suspension of it’s accreditation. It is my hope also that the AME Church will rally to the defense of its school. We need schools like Paul Quinn College now more than ever!

  5. Dr. Ewers, exactly why do we “need schools like Paul Quinn College now more than ever” ?? With only 375 students and two years advance on the crisis, it doesn’t look like the community or the AME church thinks it’s worth saving.

  6. I find it interesting that I never see the real issues addressed, and I never see anything other than sentimental arguments for maintaining PQC’s accreditiation.

    Have any of you read the summary report, or even the summary report form, of the SACS review?

    If you had, you would know that PQC suffers from an astonishing lack of administrative and educational capability that borders on the fraudulent.

    I have personally eye-witnessed the dysfunctionality first-hand, on campus, of the business office. I have witnessed THREE different comptrollers walk in, and right back out the door, of that office because of the lack of control over and misuse of funds.

    Paul Quinn College does not meet the administrative standards of SACS, and should not be an accredited college.

  7. PQC insider:

    Where do I get a copy of the SACS review? Both SACS and Paul Quinn have refused to disclose the report. It must have been bad

  8. I too would like for Dr. Ewers to explain his statement “We need schools like Paul Quinn College now more than ever!” Why would a 21st century black man feel the need to say this? I know that 100 years ago blacks in America actually needed their own schools, bathrooms, water fountains…but that is simply NOT the case anymore. This generation of Americans have tried hard to overcome our racist past, and proping up a HBCU, holding a Miss Black America pagent and awarding schlorships based on the color of one’s skin only serves to keep a racist wedge in America. PQC is apparently wrought with internal problems, which does not look favorably on the black men and women that run the college. If the community has also seen this, and decided it wants nothing to do with such mismanagement, then PQC needs to shut it’s door. It is Paul Quinn College that has failed, not the community.

  9. Furthermore, the author, Dr. Marybeth Gasman is making broad, demeaning statements about the Dallas Morning News reporter Mike Hashimoto, while providing no proof to back up her insults. She states that he is “not an informed critic”, that “He knows nothing about these institutions and their history” that “He doesn’t understand the role that Paul Quinn has played…” and “Hashimoto doesn’t comprehend…” Dr. Gasman might as well have just wrote out her true feelings, that Mr. Hashimoto is a blithering idiot, and saved herself a lot of time. Dr. Gasman lives in Pennsylvania and I think I can safely say she has never been to PQC.

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