The whole debate that Predominately White Institutions (PWIs) are better than Historically Black Colleges or Universities (HBCUs) and vice versa is nerve wrecking to me. I attended both since I’ve been in college.
The first school that I attended was Georgia Southwestern University (GSW), which is a PWI. At GSW, the majority race I saw all around me was white people and some blacks. I obtained my first bachelors there in psychology with a minor in history.
Unfortunately, I decided psychology wasn’t for me, so I decided to attend college a second time. I applied to Georgia Southern University (GSU) and Savannah State University (SSU). While attending GSW I heard many of my friends of color talk about HBCUs.
At the time, I didn't know what an HBCU was but found out later what it stood for. I’m not going to lie; my first pick was GSU. I got accepted after all. The only thing I had a problem with was housing (not enough rooms). Since then, I chose to attend SSU and decided to get my second bachelor’s in chemistry.
My first day at SSU was way different than my first day at GSW. I saw nothing but people of my skin tone and a few different ethnic groups, but I knew at the end of the day, it would be worth it.
Now my experience between the two are complete opposites but some similarities as well. One thing is I met all my lifetime friends that I still have now from GSW. I’m still adjusting to SSU, so I have not found that friend that I go to the mall with, but I do have several people that get me.
The biggest difference between PWIs and HBCUs that I have noticed is the people that work here. Believe me the faculty can play a role in how college goes as well. For example, I was once a Biology major and the science department was not what I had imagined.
The professors really made it hard for students, in my opinion. I studied every chance I got and still couldn’t pass the test. I even took Principles of Chemistry four times! I failed each one and I hated chemistry.
When I decided on chemistry at SSU I was terrified, but I was placed in a beginner’s class and that's what helped me. I had a professor who truly cared and wanted me to succeed. That is really what I have noticed about HBCUs and PWI faculty.
SSU faculty is amazing and caring and show concern while my PWI not so much. They also have more wisdom and speak to us like we are their own children. I’ve noticed that the black students at PWIs look down on HBCUs calling them "the ghetto" and having no class, yet they are the ones who attend our homecomings because PWIs homecomings are nothing like ours.
I’ve also heard HBCU students say blacks who attend PWIs think they are better than them, but I don’t think that is all true. I do find that PWIs are much harder to get into than that of HBCUs unless you include the ivy league HBCUs, but I don’t think it makes a person think they are better. The experience at an HBCU is far more life changing to me than at a PWI. I say this because you're around people you can relate to where you feel at home and not like an outcast because of your skin color.
During my junior year at GSW, only the white fraternities have frat houses on campus and only the white sororities have dorm hallways that is decorated nicely and their own personal recreational room.
I was told by a student who was in a sorority that the only reason why they accept a black girl is because she is their “trophy.” It can only be one black girl at that. It was a Saturday night and I was hanging out with my friends in our dorm room, other students wanted to go to the frat houses and party.
I always refused to go down there because I know how racist white boys can be when they are intoxicated. Well one girl came back mad and I asked her what was wrong. She said that they wouldn’t let her or her friends in, and that they told them to leave “nigger.”
I was shocked and told her to tell the president, but she said that the president is one of them and he wouldn’t do anything but try to save them. I knew not to go, but I never thought that would happen. The white students are more reckless at PWIs.
Many more incidents have happened that made me mad even when I joined a black sorority, I saw people’s real colors. Also, black fraternities and sororities are more appreciated and loved within the HBCU communities than PWIs.
All in all, I think both have its perks and downfalls. No school is perfect. The first time I heard my HBCU history professor speak knowledge and my advisor encouraging me to continue that he believes in me, I knew I had found home.
Going to GSU would have been like my first experience in college was average. However, I do feel that the black community needs to stop downplaying HBCUs due to its “blackness”. They fail to realize there is more love at an HBCU than PWIs. They are more welcomed here and can find its not as bad as they think.