The board debate and staff layoffs have sparked intense questions within the university community. Some have taken comfort from Rand’s letter. Others wonder whether there are more problems yet to be unearthed.
Gregory Jenkins, a physics professor, said he learned of the Higginbotham-Brooks letter June 8 via e-mail as he was on a research visit to Senegal in west Africa. He said he worries about spending cuts. “We’re going down a slope,” Jenkins said. “I don’t know why. It just seems like things aren’t steady yet.”
He added: “We want the best for our university. We want the reputation to be maintained. We want families to know ‘Hey, when you send your kids to Howard, they’re getting a quality education.’ ”
Anthony Miller, a student government leader who graduated from Howard in May with a bachelor’s degree in economics, said he trusts the university leadership.
“There’s a lot of work that needs to be done,” Miller said. “Howard’s not without its problems. But these problems are not new. We have a good future ahead of us. . . . I don’t think for a moment that Howard would not be around in three years. That’s not real.”
Chris Washington, a 1992 Howard graduate and president of the university’s alumni association, said he was disappointed that the Higginbotham-Brooks letter became public. But he said he wanted to capitalize on the moment to push graduates to get more involved with their alma mater. “They’re fired up,” Washington said. “They can’t believe this is happening.”
James E. Silcott, of Los Angeles, is a Howard donor and 1957 graduate who served on the board of trustees from 2003 to 2009 alongside Higginbotham-Brooks and Rand. He said he was shocked that the vice chairwoman was so outspoken in her letter. “She’s always been demure and quiet,” he said. Silcott said he agreed with much of what she wrote.
“There’s a lot of alums out there that are sitting on their pocketbooks,” Silcott said. “They’re not going to give Howard any money the way things are being done.”
Michael L. Lomax, president and chief executive of the United Negro College Fund, known as UNCF, called the Higginbotham-Brooks letter “intemperate” and said he had “great confidence” in Ribeau’s leadership. Lomax said his daughter is transferring to Howard this year from Agnes Scott College in Decatur, Ga. “I have every confidence she is going to get an extraordinary education,” Lomax said.