Outrage After Letter Suggests HBCU Merger

By Cash Michaels

Contributing writer

Supporters and alumni of both Shaw University and St. Augustine’s University (SAU) are alarmed about a June 17th letter to the “Falcon Nation” from Brian Boulware, Chairman of SAU’s Board of Trustees, where he alleges the Raleigh business community is pressuring both historically Black universities to merge so that Shaw U’s 28 acres in downtown Raleigh can be used for future commercial and residential development.

In the four-page missive, Boulware alleges he, Interim SAU Pres. Marcus Burgess, Shaw U Pres. Dr. Paulette Dillard and other administration officials from both HBCUs recently attended a dinner with leaders of Raleigh’s business community.

In attendance were a television station owner, a former editor of the local newspaper, a prominent local developer, and executives of another local higher educational institution, Boulware wrote.

WRAL-TV and WTVD-TV in Raleigh have identified three of the business leaders present at the dinner as local developer Smedes York, former News and Observer publisher Orage Quarles and Capitol Broadcasting Co.’s CEO Jim Goodmon.

After exchanging pleasantries, the owner of the television station stated, “Let’s get to the bottom of this: Raleigh doesn’t need two black universities. We need the two to merge. I don’t care what you call it. However, we need them both on SAU’s property because we need downtown land to expand the development footprint.”

Boulware’s letter continued, I turned to the other university’s president in attendance and asked, “Do you agree with this?” She responded, “I’m going to reserve judgment.” I later learned that her Board Chairman had floated the idea of a “merger” to the former SAU Chairman three or four weeks before the dinner, which he didn’t take seriously.

Additionally, the local developer stated, “You have no leverage in this situation. You need to consider this as an option.” The developer informed us that the Raleigh business community shared similar sentiments, thus limiting our access to financial resources. Following a tense dialogue, rejection of the proposal, and the conclusion of dinner, we left promptly. The next day, an article and a news report highlighted the financial challenges SAU and other regional HBCUs in NC faced. Shortly after that, a targeted campaign against SAU ensued.

Jim Goodmon, as chairman of Capitol Broadcasting Co., owns WRAL-TV, along with several other successful television and radio stations across North Carolina. Goodmon, though confirmed to be at the dinner, has not confirmed as making the alleged remarks of the “owner of the television station.”

The same with real estate developer George Smedes York, former Raleigh mayor, and family construction company executive. York did cause controversy several years ago for suggesting that a Black-owned YMCA in Raleigh that was important to Southeast Raleigh wasn’t needed and should be closed. He felt that all Y attendees should be using another, white-owned YMCA facility in the city.

Again, York was confirmed to be at the business dinner, but not confirmed to have been quoted by Boulware.

The third business leader confirmed at the dinner was Orage Quarles, former publisher of the News and Observer newspaper, the leading newspaper in Raleigh.

Quarles, who is African-American, reportedly told WTVD-TV that he attended the business meeting because he “…cares about the community.”

However, neither Goodmon or York have publicly confirmed that they were there.

SAU Boulware’s allegations sent shockwaves through the communities of both SAU and Shaw U, with many alums taking to social media and saying they resented business leaders saying that Raleigh “…doesn’t need two Black universities.”

“This is exactly what we’ve been talking about since 2008, “ opined The Friends of Shaw U on Facebook. “…billionaire developers are wheeling and dealing with the [Shaw] administration and the board to completely eliminate our existence along with all the Black people who live in this neighborhood.

“And so, here we are,” posted a Shaw U alumna named “Lauren.”

“Not alumni, students, faculty, staff, parents or other constituents think it’s a good idea that Shaw & St Aug merge.”

“The DEVELOPERS are saying, “we have a vision for Downtown. It’s going to be GREAT!  But first, let’s move these Negros out of the way.”

Another Shaw U alum blasted the school’s administration for allegedly not being straightforward about its future plans for the campus property.

“If they were REALLY interested in growing the university, they would SAY SO. Not only are they willing to sell out - they are going to do it at the expense of obliterating our history.  The board has a history of enriching themselves. Does anybody really think that they’ll stop now? Shaw is sitting on a property that is worth well over a billion dollars.”

The allegation is explosive because Shaw U is already embroiled in controversy for seeking a rezoning of its 28 acre downtown campus to lease pieces for development in order raise revenue to keep the school afloat.

Many Shaw U alumni, however, do not trust the plans as currently rolled out, fearing that the school will lose control of its property, and with it, preservation of several of its historic buildings.

Meanwhile, across town, SAU is fighting to stay open after losing its accreditation, being millions of dollars in debt to vendors and the federal government, and facing numerous lawsuits from former employees. SAU officials say they hope to sell off some of te school’s 105 acre property to satisfy what it owes.

Some of SAU’s critics have expressed doubt about Chairman Boulware’s version of events, alleging that his letter is just a distraction from the allegation that he has used the school as his own “personal piggy bank” since taking over last January.

Boulware vigorously denies this in his four-page letter.

After carefully reviewing the complaint that The Save SAU Coalition members had filed, I assure you that this complaint is an inaccurate characterization of my service on the SAU Board of Trustees, specifically the statement that I was using SAU as a “Personal Piggy Bank,” which is untrue, Boulware wrote on the first page.

He has also made it clear that SAU is not interested in merging with with Shaw U.

What happens next in this controversy will be interesting. The original purpose of the business meeting was to secure funding for ShawU and SAU, if not secure a commitment to further funding from the Raleigh business community.

But according to Boulware’s letter, the local developer stated, “You have no leverage in this situation. You need to consider this as an option.” The developer informed us that the Raleigh business community shared similar sentiments, thus limiting our access to financial resources.

Notwithstanding the preceding, we all have Falcon pride, and the Falcon is wounded, Boulware stated in his Falcon Nation letter. Now is the time for all who love SAU to unify and restore it to its pinnacle. Together, we stand; divided, we fall.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *