The purpose of this paper is to examine The Chronicle of Higher Education, a leading site for higher education news and politics, and its representation of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
Frames are strong discursive tools that can help social actors achieve the following: define and solve problems, shape public opinion, increase the productivity of interpersonal negotiations and “serve as a foundation of public discourse, such as negotiation, on a mass-communication level”. As such, this research is guided by both higher education literature of HBCUs and media framing theories and methods in an attempt to identify potential problems and opportunities for improvement of the presentation of HBCUs nationally in the USA.
This study reveals that when the frames are viewed in concert-funding challenges at HBCUs, status differential between predominantly white institutions vs HBCUs, questionable leadership practices at HBCUs and achievement success, what one sees is an unflattering picture depicted in the Chronicle of Higher Education of HBCUs, as second-hand universities that are poorly managed, outdated and are a drain on the economy. Any one of these themes, alone, is not problematic, but when taken as a whole, their entirety represents a troubling picture – one that is inaccurate because HBCUs have and continue to serve an important role in society: educating African Americans.
This paper concludes with pragmatic implications of the negative findings about HBCUs as well as discusses tactics proponents HBCUs should use to combat the negative depictions.
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