In June 2003, I was interviewed by the Chancellor and members of the Texas A&M System Board of Regents, and I remember vividly being asked, “What would be my main goals if selected as the next President of PVAMU?” My reply, “To build on the University’s excellent programs that already existed and to enhance the overall quality and reputation of the University, would be my top priorities.”
As a scholar of Afro-American History, I already knew about PVAMU’s past, the significant role played by this University in providing access and educational opportunities in higher education, and in making a lasting contribution in all areas of society. Clearly, PVAMU, for more than 140 years, has been an asset.
A key event in the evolution of PVAMU was the agreement by Governor Bush, members of the Legislature, and the Office of Civil Rights, on the Texas Priority Plan. This Agreement led to increased funding. This funding has resulted in full accreditation and a range of new academic programs. These same funds have been used to enhance the beauty of the
University: new housing, landscaping, and the adoption of a new Campus Master Plan.
Key Point: The reputation of a University is built on much more than brick and mortar and even outstanding academic programs. It comes from a number of “intangibles,” things that are “associated” with certain Universities. Or to state it another way, when someone mentions “PVAMU,” I want them to think of excellence, of high quality, of a first class
As President I have done many things to help make this become a reality by stressing “an education outside of the classroom.” My PVAMU Reading List; the commitment to affording our students many cultural and travel opportunities; my themes: “I Believe I Can fly.” And the most enduring theme that captures the essence of what we are doing: “The Best Is Yet To Come.”
For PVAMU to thrive we must attract more students, more diverse students, and above all “students that are prepared for the academic rigors of college”. Accomplishing this goal can be a “tricky” endeavor: we must enhance PVAMU as an HBCU institution; and at the same time, we must attract non-African American students, faculty, and staff. Or to state it another
way, we must maintain certain traditions; and yet grow in other directions.
I am having this statement read on my behalf this evening, because of a very important issue: the right and indeed the need of certain enterprises and business to exist in a society versus the concern of exactly where these businesses should be located. Every community needs educational, recreational, shopping facilities, police and fire departments, and businesses that provide a wide range of services.
Clearly, in every community, including this one, there is a need for prisons, for water and waste facilities, and yes for landfills as well. But here is the “Key Point”: exactly “where” should these businesses be located?
Perhaps the answer lies in whether or not these needed businesses and social services will enhance or distract from the stated mission of the institutions and organizations that already exist in a given area.
Another Key Point: in opposing the existence of a landfill in a certain proximity to the University, no one, which includes our students or me, is making a negative comment about the landfill business. I acknowledge the legitimacy of landfill companies, just as I do race tracks, certain kind of adult oriented businesses, and even liquor stores. But just as these other businesses are not located near public schools, the same should be true regarding the location of a landfill.
Then, there is another issue, which combines the issues of race and reputation. The State of Texas created the University of Texas, Texas A&M University, and PVAMU to be “Institutions of the First Class.” The reputations of A&M and UT are secure. PVAMU’s reputation is much more fragile.
Make no mistake about this, this is a very very important issue, one that was addressed more than 60 years ago by the United States Supreme Court in a case that actually mentions PVAMU by name: the Hemant Sweat vs. the University of Texas Case of February 1950. What did the court rule?
I am in my 13th year as President and while I am proud of the things that have been accomplished, I have another goal: the type of legacy that will be passed on to the future PVAMU. In doing so, I think of two things: first, sowing and reaping. The second is “planting seeds for future generations.” Is the landfill a seed that we want to plant????
I am opposed to the landfill being located five miles from PVAMU. This is not part of the legacy we want to past on to the next generation of PVAMU students, staff, faculty, alumni.
Dr. George C. Wright
President, Prairie View A&M University