Her parents did not have the money to send her to a prestigious University so, being her one and only child, I wanted to fulfill her wishes as best I could. My mother, like many other people, views Howard as a top flight institution of higher learning. So essentially, she’s just happy I’m up here and not wasting my life away like many of my peers back home in Memphis, TN.
When I first arrived at HU for freshman week I viewed this University as the premier American institution for educating Black people. Honestly, no other college on the planet has as many historically significant accomplishments linked to their alumni as this school does. Also, being located in the heart/hood of Washington, DC, what better place to attend college for a political science major interested in the progression of his people than Howard U. For all of these wonderful reasons to attend such a divine institution, the true reality of the situation of present day Howard is disheartening.
Starting with the Math department. The Howard University Math department is one of the biggest embarrassments in the history of American education. I would say that I know a little something about history being a history minor but the history department isn’t much better. I’ll save that subject for another day. Let’s get back to Math. I presumed that Howard, being the premier university that it is, would have set a high standard of excellence for its Math teachers, as well as any others. I took the recommended entry level Howard Math course, Algebra 1, because I had already heard about how incredibly deficient the department was & I wanted to be safe. Nearly every student in my freshman year Algebra 1 class had to go to war with our “professor” on a daily basis. His style of teaching could be described as insufficient and inadequate based upon the amount of money his class was costing us per credit hour. When we attempted to question the professor he was often surly, senile acting, and grumpy which gives off a bad vibe to a group of freshman students who weren’t the best at Math. Some students would simply be afraid to ask questions & others just simply stopped trying. It was a very sad experience. I barely squeezed out a “C” in his class while I had been challenged more & had excelled better in higher level Math courses in high school! Meanwhile, every other grade for that semester was an “A.” Something is wrong with this picture, and for entire class to do poorly, which we did, we collectively understood that this wasn’t because we weren’t applying ourselves.
I take it upon myself each semester to attend not only the classes on my schedule, but I attend other classes that I may be interested in taking during later semesters. I might sit in a Dr. Carr class in between my scheduled classes and then sit in a random class with a friend of mine to end my school day. One day, I sat in on a Calculus class to get a gist of what I might have to deal with next semester because as a political science major, we need at least two Math courses to graduate. I sat in the back of the class one day with two other students who attended it regularly, and needless to say I was extremely disenchanted. The professor stood at the board with his back to the class the entire time. He would just write various formulas filling the board while he whispered to himself in a foreign language/accent. When students asked questions he seemed generally offended. He discouraged any sort of social connection with students. I asked the two students beside me if this was an everyday thing & they said “Yes, he does this every class, never answers any questions, then he gives us tests and quizzes.” I was shocked.
We pay so much money to this school for quality & this is what we get in return for our investment? There were only 10 students in the room including myself. So this professor made a consistent, conscious decision to educationally and intellectually disenfranchise the most valuable students in the country. There are not a lot of Howard students who are actually happy to take Math, and judging from there being only 9 students in this man’s classroom that day, at least they cared enough to sit through torture every time they came to this Calculus class. I have seen far too many extremely bright Howard students completely dumbfounded by the lack of quality, competence, and sheer professionalism displayed on behalf of the Howard University Department of Mathematics. Think about it. Howard University attracts the best and brightest students from all over the world. If its Math department can’t even teach them how to count properly & on a heightened intellectual level, then what is the department good for? These are the brightest Black minds we have as a people! People come from all over the globe to be here! Howard University, it’s administrators, Board of Trustees, and President should be nothing short of embarrassed. My high school in Memphis attracted the brightest minds in West Tennessee who wanted to have an excellent learning environment & receive a quality education from passionate professors.
It is disappointing that students come from all over the world for Howard University’s false advertisement regarding its programs of study, lackluster quality overall, and its deficient administrative staff. Then people wonder why Howard student won’t give back to the University. If you treat Thurgood Marshall badly while he is here why would he want to give back to Howard? Honestly, the administration wants to run this school like a business, but its services are horrible. The administration wants to purge people left and right but fails to properly educate during the little bit of time they can AFFORD to be here during these tough economic times. “President Ribeau, this is Julian Kyle Lewis, does your administration really need all of those bonuses? Give me a break good brother.”
Please, don’t get me wrong, the majority of Howard’s programs are top notch & there are many hard working, accomplished professors who deserve tons of praise. I’m simply saying that the Math department could take some steps to up their game in many aspects. They could offer more grad student, teacher assistant-like support to professors who feel overwhelmed or who aren’t really getting through to their students. The department could implement tutoring programs for every level of Mathematics offered at the University to help students receive better outside help. It would also be beneficial to encourage young professionals skilled in Math to come teach at the University or volunteer to teach at the University just to gain some experience in the classroom teaching Math. Sometimes younger teachers tend to engage the students more effectively than older teachers. Also, the department could invite other math professors & experts in the field to put on workshops & seminars to enlighten Howard’s professors & students on various teaching & learning techniques in the field of Mathematics. These are just a few things that might help the overall state of affairs within the department.
In conclusion, the reality of the situation is that this school is struggling professionally and financially for many reasons. Many have called upon President Obama & other lawmakers to advocate for HBCU’s to receive more government funding. Howard’s government funding has actually been decreasing year by year as inflation shoots tuition prices through the roof. There is a problem here though. If I was a Black Congressman in the United States & Howard came to me asking for more money, I’d have to sit down and think for a second. Has this school’s administration proven itself responsible enough to manage the funds that they do have? No they have not. Are the school administrators, trustees, & past presidents receiving huge amounts of money from the school currently? Yes they are. Are students fed up with the school’s administration? Yes they are. So as you can see, even being the most open minded of Black Congressman even I, a future Howard grad, would have a hard time answering this call from Howard for more funding. Should I vote to financially contravene the brightest students our people have because they lack a credible, institutional leadership body to advocate on their behalf nationally? Or do I vote to increase the school’s govt. funding and watch its leaders & administrators fight over the money, squander it away, hide it, & keep it from who it was originally meant to help, the students? I’m unsure. So I’ll pray on it & make a decision in the morning. God Bless.