Tokenism? Humboldt State Hires First Black President Amid Crisis

Why is it that companies and institutions that do not have a history of Black people in positions of power, suddenly appoint Black when they are in the midst of public relations crisis? I noticed this trend some time ago and I can point to several examples.

Dallas Mavericks Names Black Woman CEO Amid #Metoo Scandal

..A blistering 43-page report chronicled two decades of toxic workplace culture in the team’s front office. The report, compiled by investigators hired by the Mavericks, had prompted owner Mark Cuban to announce that in lieu of paying a fine to the NBA, he would donate $10 million to groups dedicated to stopping domestic violence and developing women leaders in the sports industry. The media’s response was mixed. Some saw it as a staggering sum given that the NBA caps fines against owners at $2.5 million. Others saw it as a small price to pay for the damage that had been done to the team’s reputation.”

Dallas Mavericks Names First Black Woman CEO amid #MeToo Scandal

USC Names Black Woman Interim President Amid Sexual Misconduct Allegations

“USC’s President was forced to resign amid sexual misconduct allegations about USC’s longtime gynecologist. The USC Board of Trustees on Aug. 7 appointed engineer and businesswoman Wanda M. Austin PhD ’88 as interim president.”


Uber Names Black Woman As Chief Brand Officer Amid Scandal

“A little over a year before Bozoma Saint John became the first chief brand officer at Uber, the transportation company’s best hope to rehabilitate its tarnished image, she hailed a ride from the Four Seasons hotel in Austin, Tex., to a nearby business dinner.”

Is This the Woman Who Will Save Uber?

Humboldt State University

Most students are proud to shout out their alma mater. It gives them credibility, shows they have invested in higher education for themselves and it gives a sense of belonging. My experience at Humboldt State University will forever leave a sour taste in my mouth, however.

Initially, the taste began to set in because of HSU’s recruitment practices. After luring students of color from inner cities, we are left to fend for ourselves in an unknown space, on a campus where you could count Black professors, staff and faculty on one hand.

When a student was murdered (the second Black HSU student in a 17-year span and they both received no justice) I saw how uninterested HSU’s president Lisa Rossbacher was to his mothers quest for justice. I was so blown away.

You could send your beloved kid to a small, secluded town and the president is more concerned about keeping up the schools already shaky reputation and community relations/partnerships than justice for a student.

After two long years of coming to Humboldt State almost every month, his mother had to accept her sons degree from this same woman who never joined her in the fight for justice for her slain son.

Photo: HSU Journalism Student

Now, this “Black man,” former military, has been appointed and is being hailed as the first “Black” HSU president. HSU normally would not be checking for any Black person to head the school. I always felt HSU’s stakeholders wanted to keep things running how they have been historically.

Thus, too many outsiders, especially those considered radical or progressive, can not be put into positions of power because a shift in power and practices may come about.

Which is honestly needed for the school.

When reading through HSU’s new president’s educational background, it’s mainly business and educational management. So he is a businessman. Not a sociologist, which is what HSU desperately needs more of to help them truly serve their most vulnerable students.

I do not want to be THAT Black person denying someone their Blackness but does HSU mean the first NON-WHITE president because this man does not look African-American to me. HSU most likely picked the new president not only because he is “Black” but he is not too dark-skinned and is lowkey racially ambiguous. This makes HSU’s stakeholders more comfortable with him being non-white as head of the school. Whoopie Goldberg Black would not be tolerated.

The committee picked someone whose Blackness is not too threatening (paper bag test) and a person whose Blackness makes them more comfortable. The fact he is ex-military is another aspect that probably put them at ease. They don’t have to worry too much about this man in a leadership position with Malcom-X type ideologies.

Tom Jackson, Jr., and his wife, Mona, are looking for places to live in Humboldt County. (Jose Quezada — For the Times-Standard)

My hope is that despite these chess moves on HSU’s and the broader CSU system’s behalf, this man is able to provide much needed institutional shifts to make HSU a comfortable place for all students of color, especially Black students, whose retention rates have always been alarming at HSU. More Black faculty members MUST be hired comparable to the staff of HSU, not just the student body.

I pray this man is not another Black person who comes to HSU’s campus and is appointed to leadership roles, only to pledge their allegiance to the university, rather the students. Too often because we are not represented proportionally in these spaces, Black people within higher education view students as the enemy who voice concerns and objections over their experiences.

Too often Black faculty and staff disregard student input although you are a student going through the institution. These Black (and other faculty) folks feel they have all the tools and knowledge on how university’s are supposed to work because they have PhD’s, yet nothing really changes.

Siding with students, too often puts Black and other faculty and staff of color at odds with the university and livelihood is the most important aspect of the whole equation. Hence, Jacquelyn Bolman.

Photo: The Times Standard

Read More: David Josiah Lawson’s Mother Accepts Slain Son’s Diploma from Humboldt State

Humboldt State University showed me that Black Lives do not matter in small white towns and the shame of graduating from such an institution continues to haunt me daily.

“The California State University (CSU) Board of Trustees has appointed Tom Jackson, Jr., Ed.D., to serve as president of Humboldt State University (HSU). Jackson currently serves as president of Black Hills State University (BHSU) in Spearfish, South Dakota.

“There are few institutions that are as closely tied to the success of their respective communities as HSU. A degree from HSU can lift the life of the person earning it as well as the lives of their family, and those degree holders drive the success of the entire North Coast,” said Jackson. “I welcome the opportunity to work with HSU’s talented faculty and staff, alongside community members, to ensure that those life-altering opportunities are expanded for current and future students.”
Jackson becomes the eighth president of HSU and the first African American to serve in that role. He will join the campus in his new capacity in July.

Jackson succeeds Lisa Rossbacher who will be retiring at the end of June 2019 after serving as HSU president since 2014.

Dr. Jackson has been an inspirational leader who has demonstrable success at the highest levels of university administration,” said CSU Trustee Peter Taylor, chair of the HSU search committee. “Throughout his career, he has been a champion for access, quality and student success, all hallmarks of the HSU mission.”

Jackson has been president of BHSU since 2014. He has held other leadership roles within higher education including vice president for student affairs at both the University of Louisville and Texas A&M University-Kingsville. He has also held administrative positions and served on the faculty at McMurry University, California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, the University of Southern California and St. Mary’s University.

Jackson earned an associate’s degree from Highline Community College, a bachelor’s degree in business management/personnel from Southwest State University, a master’s in counseling/student personnel from Shippensburg University and a doctorate of education from the University of La Verne. A first-generation student, Jackson is also a veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard Reserve, Army National Guard, Texas State Guard and Indiana Guard Reserve.

About slausongirl

Slauson Girl is a South Central native who has a love for journalism, history and all things Hip-Hop. She holds a B.A in Critical Race & Gender Theory & a Minor in Journalism.

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