Historically Black Colleges, students respond to SOE’s comments

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is getting heavy backlash based on her statement about historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

She said in statement they are the “real pioneers when it comes to school choice.”

Many responded in anger, noting these institutions were founded due to segregation and the fact African American students didn’t have other choices.

WREG’s Bridget Chapman went to LeMoyne-Owen College on Tuesday to speak with students about their thoughts on her statement as a whole.

Mutazz McKinney is one of many students proud to attend a historically black college or university.

"Being around so many different types of mindsets and personalities is the best experience for me," he said.

McKinney said he loves the he tight-knit community on the LeMoyne-Owen College campus.

Many HBCUs were founded during times of segregation, but Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos recently said these colleges are pioneers of school choice.

She also said, "They started from the fact that there were too many students in America who did not have equal access to education."

Those statements have received a lot of backlash.

"I think that it does bother me, but most importantly, I think she should try coming to an HBCU herself," said McKinney.

LeMoyne-Owen College released a statement that said in part, "the historical significance of HBCUs cannot be denied or diminished."

For the full statement, go here.

McKinney said what upsets him most is he feels HBCUs aren't viewed to be on the same level as other colleges.

"I think the students here are reaching the same knowledge and advancement as if you were going to University of Memphis or Arkansas Pine Bluff or things of that nature," he said.

Other students agreed that it`s important to acknowledge the full spectrum of HBCUs.

"I think the history of HBCUs is very important," said student Rhonda Willis. "I don't think that we should have like our own little bubble compared to other universities."

Willis said she doesn't know what to make of the secretary of education`s comments, but thinks all colleges should now be looked at as equals.

"In my opinion, a university is a university," she said. "A degree is a degree, so I think HBCUs along with other universities should be all included as one."

Secretary of Education DeVos has since released more statements on social media in response to this.

She said HBCU’s are an important piece of the fabric of American history and their history was not born out of mere choice, but out of necessity in the face of racism and in the aftermath of the Civil War.