A group of Cheyney University’s students, alumni and supporters took their concerns about the school to Gov. Tom Wolf’s doorstep.
By Denise Clay
Because Cheyney University is one of 13 state-owned universities, making sure that it gets what it needs to do the best for its students is something that requires a trip to Harrisburg.
So on Monday, Heeding Cheyney’s Call, a group of Cheyney’s students, alumni and supporters, came to Gov. Tom Wolf’s office in Center City to ask for some assistance for the state-owned HBCU.
About 50 people, including elected officials and clergymen, came to show their support for the nation’s first Historically Black College as it fights to maintain the accreditation it needs to, for all intents and purposes, stay open.
Right now, Cheyney is on tenuous footing. A Middle States accreditation panel is waiting for the university to present an action plan to deal with a variety of things ranging from financial woes to established leadership. That report is due on Sept. 1.
Since Gov. Wolf has expressed his support for the school in the past, the time is now for him to show the university what that means, said Michael Coard, a member of Heeding Cheyney’s Call.
“Cheyney is a house on fire,” he said. “He needs to extinguish it.”
Many of Cheyney’s issues are connected to money that it needs, but doesn’t have, to make improvements to programs and the campus itself.
The subject of this lack of funding came up a lot during the rally. To City Councilman David Oh, it’s something that makes Cheyney, and by extension the Black community, scapegoats of a sort.
“The school is underfunded and because it can’t do certain things, that’s used as an excuse to say that the African American community can’t solve it’s own problems,” he said. “We can’t allow this to happen.”
If Cheyney is allowed to close, a large chunk of history is going to go down with it, said State Rep. Stephen Kinsey, an alumnus of the school. It’s important to maintain that history for the next generation of students, he said.
It’s also important to remind the Commonwealth System of Higher Education that Cheyney’s supporters are also taxpayers, Kinsey said.
“It’s clear and simple,” he said. “Cheyney is our school. It’s part of the State system. It’s our responsibility.”
Before pledging $20,000 toward scholarships for Cheyney students, State Sen. Vincent Hughes, Democratic chair of the Senate Appropriations committee, assured the crowd that the message is getting through.
As part of the budget that the Senate recently passed, $8.6 million in additional monies was proposed for the Commonwealth System of Higher Education, Hughes said.