Hampton President Sends Letter To BET Admonishing Portrayal Of HBCUs In The Quad

February 17, 2017  |  

While many of us can appreciate a bit of reality TV or messy but very real dramas (hey, TGIT!), some portrayals of Black culture and life on television are frowned upon as subjects for television shows and public consumption. We learned that Black sororities and fraternities are included in that fold when VH1 was met with an onslaught of backlash over the short-lived project, Sorority Sisters. And now, those who have attended historically Black colleges and work behind the scenes at them are a part of it as well, and they’re taking issue with BET’s newest drama, The Quad.

The Quad

Hampton University president William R. Harvey sent an official letter to BET’s Debra Lee sharing his distaste with the project. The three-page letter was obtained and shared by HBCU Digest. He called out quite a bit about the series after watching the first episode, stating that the show is a “missed opportunity on the part of BET to send positive messages about these historic institutions.” He also said that it could have instead put on display the thriving and influential colleges that don’t get much attention but accomplish great things:

“Devoid of any reference to academics, The Quad is about a president who is promiscuous, trustees who are unwilling to deal with a rogue band director, and a band director who condones criminal activity on the part of his drum major,” Harvey said. The Quad will lead many to believe that HBCUs exist because of their marching bands; that our presidents are unethical; that our boards are dysfunctional and have misplaced priorities; that our faculty, students and administrators are driven by sex, alcohol, marijuana, low self-esteem, parties and a preoccupation with music; that it is acceptable to disrespect women; that university policy can be set by a band director; and that there are no standards of conduct or penalties for bad behavior. This depiction seems more analogous to a disgruntled, adolescent and unrealistic point of view that some may have. It also feeds a false narrative about the irrelevance of HBCUs.”

The Quad, which premiered February 1 on BET, is about a fictional HBCU called Georgia A&M University. We follow its new president, Dr. Eva Fletcher (played by Anika Noni Rose) as she tries to manage the school, deal with the staff (including a very disrespectful marching band head named Cecil Diamond, played by Ruben Santiago-Hudson), and her very complicated personal life (including her daughter, who is a firecracker on campus). The show seems to be doing pretty well with critics and in the ratings so far, but Harvey is not a fan.

“With much success, HBCUs work extremely hard to attract the very best faculty, students and resources to our institutions,” he said. “All of our work and success could potentially be harmed by the shameful portrayals of our institutions in The Quad. What student would want to enroll in an institution like GAMU? Who would want to teach and do research at such an institution? What philanthropist would give to this type of institution? What families would send their children to institutions consumed with such negative behaviors? It is already a difficult task convincing others of what is important, right and good about our institutions. The Quad makes this task even more of a challenge. Some even say that it its a conspiracy to damage the image of HBCUs.”

Harvey said that it’s his hope that students, graduates as well colleagues of his around the country use their voices to share what it’s really like to attend a historically Black college or university. In his opinion, The Quad‘s take on it is faulty and possibly dangerous.

“We cannot afford this kind of storytelling,” Harvey stated. “It amounts to the type of ‘fake news’ that is prevalent today. You see, all that most people know about HBCUs is what they see on television. What I saw on BET on February 1st was not accurate; rather, it was a bogus representation of very important and historic institutions.”

Have you tuned in to The Quad so far? Do you think Harvey is overreacting or do you agree that the story paints HBCUs in a false light that could hurt them in real life?



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