Breaking Brown

April 29, 2012

Maybe We’re Screwed

Maybe We’re Screwed

A week or so ago, I posted this about Stanford, in relation to HBCUs:

Stanford prepares their students for success. No, not what you’re thinking . Not by just teaching history, the A, B,C’s or the 1,2,3?s, but by teaching their students to innovate. Then, once those newbie innovators become successful, they 1) come back to Stanford to finance the dreams of the next crop of innovators 2) hook Stanford students up with the who’s who of Silicon Valley. Want a meeting with the boys and Twitter? They got ‘chu.  This from The New Yorker:

The campus, in fact, seems designed to nurture such success. The founder of Sierra Ventures, Peter C. Wendell, has been teaching Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital part time at the business school for twenty-one years, and he invites sixteen venture capitalists to visit and work with his students. Eric Schmidt, the chairman of Google, joins him for a third of the classes, and Raymond Nasr, a prominent communications and public-relations executive in the Valley, attends them all. Scott Cook, who co-founded Intuit, drops by to talk to Wendell’s class. After class, faculty, students, and guests often pick up lattes at Starbucks or cafeteria snacks and make their way to outdoor tables.

On a sunny day in February, Evan Spiegel had an appointment with Wendell and Nasr to seek their advice. A lean mechanical-engineering senior from Los Angeles, in a cardigan, T-shirt, and jeans, Spiegel wanted to describe the mobile-phone application, called Snapchat, that he and a fraternity brother had designed. The idea came to him when a friend said, “I wish these photos I am sending this girl would disappear.” As Spiegel and his partner conceived it, the app would allow users to avoid making youthful indiscretions a matter of digital permanence. You could take pictures on a mobile device and share them, and after ten seconds the images would disappear.

Spiegel needed some business advice from campus mentors. He and his partner already had forty thousand users and were maxing out their credit cards. If they reached a million customers, the cost of their computer servers would exceed twenty thousand dollars per month. Spiegel told Wendell and Nasr that he needed investment money but feared going to a venture-capital firm, “because we don’t want to lose control of the company.” When Wendell asked if he’d like an introduction to the people at Twitter, Spiegel said that he was afraid that they might steal the idea. Wendell and Nasr suggested a meeting with Google’s venture-capital arm. Spiegel agreed, Nasr arranged it, and Spiegel and Google are now talking.

Correct me if I’m wrong, and I hope I am, but is this happening at any HBCUs? Morehouse? Spelman? How about at my alma mater, Howard University? And does the new JOBS Act, which is all about start-ups, provide funding for an HBCU initiative that mimics Stanford’s?

Before you get all high and mighty and start telling me about how we are the progeny of kings and queens, just answer my question. Because if we’re not doing at our universities what Stanford does at theirs, then we’re losing the future, and if we are,  then the past – all those kings and queens – don’t much matter.


And a day or so ago, I noticed this in the comments section:

I pray they never do what Stanford does. The more important question to ask is, “Can HBCUs do what need to be done to liberate and sustain Black people”? Morehouse College gave us MLK and Spike Lee. Stanford can not do that.

If this opinion reflects mainstream black thought on this issue, and I pray that it doesn’t, then we’re screwed, because this is batshit crazy.

Although it is true that HBCUs shouldn’t be 100% reactionary, meaning black colleges shouldn’t always ask “what are white people doing?”, they still operate in a world with, and thus must compete alongside – you guessed it – white people. This nonsense that hearkens back to MLK and Spike doesn’t answer the question of how we make our universities competitive in a world with giants like Stanford. We must compete. All this other stuff about MLK and Morehouse or Toni Morrison and Howard, is going nowhere. In fact, it’s going backward. And life never is about yesterday.




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