HBCU Buzz

To All My HBCU Alums, Here’s Why We Should Support BET’s ‘The Quad’

On February 1, BET premiered a new drama series entitled The Quad. The program executively produced by the likes of Rob Hardy, Felicia D. Henderson, and Charles Holland was met with much anticipation during its first night on BET.

With the show’s heavy promotion during The New Edition story leading up to its release viewers everywhere were anxious to see what The Quad had to offer.

The compelling and melodramatic series follows Dr. Eva Fletcher played by Anika Noni Rose who just accepted a new role as the president of a (fictional) historically black university in Atlanta. The Quad does an excellent job of presenting relatable elements of HBCU life as well as captivating its audience with soap-opera-like storylines.

Anika Noni Rose does a superb job leading the cast as she struggles to resurrect the struggling HBCU. The show contains subplots involving pressing college issues such as underage drinking, sexual assault and the financial struggles of HBCUs.

The Quad lacks the sweet appeal of “A Different World” but makes up for that with its addictively melodramatic plots.

Following the show’s release, some members of the HBCU community were displeased by the depiction of HBCUs in The Quad. Most notably, HBCU President of Hampton University, William Harvey, wrote an open letter to Debra Lee, the president of BET, calling the show a “bogus representation.”

He writes:

“‘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.”

Although Dr. Harvey’s opinions are valid, they are one sided, pessimistic and should be reconsidered.

The Quad is a fictitious melodramatic television show.

The Quad is not a docu-series showcasing the brightest, and best HBCUs have to offer. It should, therefore, be no surprise that the series would possess story elements that are dramatic, alluring and problematic.

There wouldn’t be a plot or storyline if the characters were doing well, making good grades and living a respectable life. That is not television. To create drama, there has to be scandal, conflict, and rigor which The Quad intertwines together in an HBCU space quite well.

The Quad presents narratives that are relevant and relatable.

To say that The Quad is “not accurate; [but] rather…a bogus representation of very important and historic institutions” is simply not true.

The first episode of the series the audience is introduced to the character, Cedric Hobbs who is an aspiring musician from the rough neighborhoods of Chicago. As the show progresses the audience witnesses first hand how Cedric assimilates from the slums of Chicago to his new found life at college. There are so many young black men that can relate to that story.

Often, students excel back at home and are sent away to college in hopes of shaping a better future from themselves and their families. It will be interesting to see how the character Cedric develops.

This show portrays a pressing an issue that should be discussed.

Whether the HBCU community wants to acknowledge it or not, HBCUs are in trouble.

More HBCUs than not are facing critical financial difficulties. One thing that The Quad does well is that it depicts the struggles that many HBCUs face raising funds for their institutions. Who’s to say that some philanthropist would watch The Quad one evening and feel compassion for HBCUs and want to help? No one will be able to watch The Quad if the HBCU community labels the series as bogus and questions its validity.

The representation of the HBCU financial struggle was very accurate and should be portrayed.

Some other issues that are presented in The Quad that pose for rooms for discussion were the issues of gender-based violence and alcohol abuse in college. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center states that, one in 5 women and one in 16 men are sexually assaulted while in college.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reported on their website that about 20 percent of college students meet the criteria for an Alcohol Use Disorder.

Gender-based violence and alcohol abuse in college are problems that should be discussed. The Quad does a fantastic job of showcasing the harmful effects that poor decision making in college can have. Young adolescents entering college will see the narratives rendered out in The Quad and will make better choices after seeing these issues on television.

In Summation, The Quad is a show that if directed efficiently can do a lot of good for the HBCU community. It is important to give these types of narrative air to breathe before labeling them “bogus and inaccurate.”

It will be interesting to see how the show progresses and the positive effects it will have on the HBCU community.

The Quad team has a lot of responsibility on their shoulders, but if handled correctly they can do some serious good. The HBCU Community should support this program and give this melodrama a chance to make a difference.

Chris Sumlin

Chris Sumlin , is a 2017 graduate of Morehouse College. He grew up in Columbus, OH and is a HBCU Buzz Contributor. Chris is a published author, public speaker and covers all the buzzing topics happening in the Atlanta University Center. You should reach out to him at Sumlinchristopher@gmail.com

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