I wasn’t looking forward to the debut of BET’s “The Quad.” As an alum of two Historically Black Colleges/Universities and advocate of Minority Serving Institutions, I was skeptical. The bar for proper representation of HBCUs had been set so high with “A Different World” – and so low with BET’s College Hill – that I honestly didn’t want to watch. But I did.
A few things stuck out to me:
1. Every show can’t be “A Different World,” but one thing they excelled at was using the classroom as the focal point of the main issue addressed in the episode. My favorite character at Georgia A&M is Dr. Ella Grace and I hope to see her role of importance in the series grow, as well as the introduction of other professors. This first episode focused on the education side of being in college in such a limited way, when a lot of the HBCU experience is heavily related to classrooms. The scene regarding race seemed almost like an afterthought in the grand scheme of the episode. I hope that doesn’t remain a constant.
— HBCU Gameday (@HBCUGameday) February 2, 2017
2. I already have a love/ hate relationship with Anika Noni Rose’s Dr. Eva Fletcher. I hate the personal life aspect of the show, but I see how it is necessary to have her as a dynamic character. The relationship strain caused by the distance would have been enough, but the introduction of the relationship with her now current student is a mess. On the flipside, I love her portrayal as a black woman working as an HBCU president dealing with misogyny, jealously, insubordination while being present in her relationship with the students. Anyone who has been to a HBCU where the president or chancellor was willing to walk the yard knows how important that was.
3. Making any form of art focused on minority populations must tow a tight line. A TV show about HBCUs in this age of social media has the responsibility to show both sides of an HBCU – both where HBCUS are like Predominately White Institutions, as well as their differences. In the last year, there have been at least two situations where black students at PWIs have claimed their institutions are “HBCU-like” focusing on the ability to “turn up” and party to “black music.” So far, aside from great moments in episode 1 – namely the Pride Walk – very little was shown to stress the uniqueness and importance of HBCUs.
There is potential for The Quad to be a great and entertaining show. I’m willing to give it that chance. Going forward, I just hope that Black Entertainment Television makes sure this show, like A Different World, does more to help the perception and support of HBCUs than it does to harm them.
Eric M. Price II is a Native of Washington, D.C. and a graduate of Winston-Salem State University Read more of his work at Beats Style Wrote