Friday, October 20, 2023

Alabama A&M struggles under weak, compromised leadership as Birmingham-Southern lawsuit backs state of Alabama into a corner that could get pricey

Daniel Wims, arm-and-arm with MAGA state official Kenneth Boswell.

A lawsuit filed Wednesday shines light on Alabama public officials (Republican and Democrat; White and Black) and their treatment of majority White institutions compared to those that are majority Black. Regardless of party affiliation or skin color, officials tend to make sure White institutions come out ahead of the game, reports longtime Alabama attorney and civil-rights advocate Donald Watkins. The lawsuit, Birmingham-Southern College v. Young Boozer, provides evidence that Watkins is on target.

Under the headline "A Tale of Two Schools: BSC Fighting for $30 Million; Alabama A&M is Afraid to Fight for $527 Million), Watkins contrasts the treatment of mostly White Birmingham-Southern College (BSC) with that of historically Black Alabama A&M (AAMU). Watkins notes that AAMU officials hurt their own cause by approaching matters of high finance behind a shroud of timidity. Writes Watkins:

Birmingham Southern College filed a lawsuit Wednesday against State Treasurer Young Boozer after he rejected the college's application for a $30-million loan under the newly created Alabama Distressed Institutions of Higher Education Revolving Loan Program. The program was created this year in response to requests by officials, alumni, and supporters of Birmingham-Southern, a 167-year-old private, historically White college.

Black Birmingham-area legislators led the fight to save Birmingham-Southern. The city of Birmingham also kicked in an additional $5 million of taxpayer money to aid the financially distressed college, which is walled off in a nearly all-Black Birmingham neighborhood.

In contrast, not one Black legislator has demanded that the state pay the $527 million debt the state of Alabama owes to Alabama A&M University due to 30 years of underfunding this land-grant university. The $527-million debt was calculated by the U.S. Departments of Education and Agriculture. On September 18, 2023, both federal agencies notified Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey of the $527-million debt to Alabama A&M in a formal letter.

Dr. Daniel Wims, Alabama A&M’s president, and Dr. Roderick Watts, the university’s board chairman, have been quiet as church mice about any plans to collect the $527 million. Dr. Wims, a closet MAGA Republican, has privately sent word to his MAGA political friends in Montgomery that he does not plan to initiate a genuine effort to collect the $527 million because Wims does not want to make Gov. Ivey mad at him.

The timidity related to A&M does not end with Wims. Reports Watkins:

Alabama A&M's trustees are afraid, as well. Most of them will NOT rock the boat because they want to be reappointed to the board by the governor and confirmed by the MAGA-controlled state legislature. The cost of their reappointment and confirmation is a de facto waiver of this $527 million debt.

At some point, the university is expected to announce a series of phony debt-collection gestures for the purpose of gaslighting its faculty, staff, students, alumni, and the state’s Black community into believing it is seriously seeking the money it is owed.

Black state legislators have remained silent about the $527 million because none of them has the courage to fight for Alabama A&M’s money. What is more, these legislators NEVER fight for their Back constituents as hard as they fight for White special-interest groups that fund their political campaigns.

Why did Young Boozer reject BSC's application in the first place? Watkins has an explanation:

The real reason the state treasurer rejected the Birmingham-Southern loan request is this: It is difficult to justify the state of Alabama lending a historically White private college $30 million in tax dollars, while refusing to pay a historically Black university the $527 million it is legitimately owed by the state, without prompting the U.S. Department of Justice to file a racial discrimination lawsuit in this matter.

Considering the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 8, 2023, judicial findings of ongoing and widespread racial discrimination by Alabama state officials against Black Alabamians in the Milligan v. Allen redistricting case, Alabama would surely lose in a disparate higher-education funding lawsuit of this nature. The state would then have to pay Alabama A&M all of its $527 million in one payment.

It will not matter to the Department of Justice that Black state legislators aided and abetted the state in discriminating in favor of Birmingham-Southern. In Alabama, it is a well known fact that Black legislators rarely fight to advance and protect the political interests of black constituents.

To borrow a joke from the motion-picture comedy classic Airplane! it looks like state officials and their BSC brethren have "picked a bad time to give up sniffing glue."

As for A&M President Daniel Wims, he already has dug quite a hole for himself at the Huntsville campus, and he seems determined to dig even deeper, reports Watkins:

Absent prompt action by the full Alabama A&M board of trustees to restrain him, President Daniel Wims is poised to implement the most expensive sellout of Blacks in higher education in Alabama’s history.

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